Birds fly, fish swim, I get high. I am simply incapable of living a drug-free life. That’s all there is to it. I’ve tried everything. I’ve worked the steps honestly and enthusiastically. I’ve gone to long-term treatment — 12-step based and alternative. I don’t want to get high. My life is hell. I invariably hurt everyone I come in contact with. The world at large would be better off if I never existed.
This is what I used to believe.
After ten years of failed sincere attempts to get sober, I was convinced that I was doomed to die a junky. My inability to stay sober had nothing to do with a lack of desire or willingness – I wanted nothing more than to stop shooting heroin, but would invariably go back to it. It didn’t matter how many times I got arrested, was robbed, or woke up in the hospital. It didn’t matter that my best friend OD’d and died in my apartment. By the end, I had stopped asking why I couldn’t stay sober, and resigned myself to the fact that living a healthy life simply wasn’t possible. In fact, when I came-to in the hospital this last time, I wasn’t interested in even trying to get clean. My family and friends compelled me to try one last time and I grudgingly agreed. Today, I’m four years sober and I’ve never been physically, emotionally and mentally stronger. Everything that I’d heard was possible has come true — I don’t live in fear of relapse. How did I get from there to here?
Find a Reason
The first step was finding a reason to give sobriety another shot. For me, it was eventually believing my friends and parents. When I couldn’t believe in myself, I found motivation and strength in their love and concern. Pretty quickly, small wins added up — a couple of days sober turned into a couple of weeks, running a half mile turned into running two. I was able to find pride and hope in these accomplishments, and my motivation started to shift internally. This didn’t happen overnight. It took patience and work, but my accomplishments slowly stacked up until I was able to believe in myself. Success builds on itself, and confidence grows — in this way, each day I got a little stronger, and each day was a little easier than the last.
Very early on, I found a group of peers and mentors that I was able to trust. This was paramount, and I credit their help with a lot of my success. Unlike other attempts, I wasn’t surrounded by the people I wanted to be with, but the people I needed to be with. In the past, I had always insisted on being around people who shared my worldview. I found that what I needed more than being with people I felt comfortable with, was being around men who could support me, hold me accountable and inspire me — men who I believed and trusted enough to follow their direction.
Invest in Your Body
One of the most profound lessons that these men taught me was that my physical well-being is inextricably linked to my emotional and mental well-being. I had never put stock in the importance of caring for my body. I became mindful of my eating and started to run and workout. Beyond giving me more energy and strength, these activities empowered me. They taught me that I was in control. When my body told me to stop running, I was able to push on. When my head told me to eat some ice cream, I was able to eat an apple. If I was able to do this with exercise and food, why couldn’t I do it with drugs?
Finding an initial reason to try again, surrounding myself with healthy men I could trust, and tending to my physical health are only three of many areas I focused on to change my life. Above everything, it’s important to know that radical change is possible. It’s a cliché, but if I can do it, so can you. There’s no doubt in my mind. People will tell you that you failed because you were not ready or didn’t try hard enough. This is not true. You are not the problem. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. You simply need the proper tools and information.
If you or your loved one is struggling and has lost hope, know that change is truly possible and seek help from people that understand you.
Image credit: skeeze
Keith W has been in recovery from addiction for four years. Keith works at Tree House Recovery and dedicates his life to helping others recover.