My name is Steve, and I'm an addict.
Those words tumble from my mouth without a second thought these days, after years of struggling to accept their reality.
The first time I said those words, sitting in a treatment center much like Cornerstone of Recovery, they seemed foreign as they tumbled from my mouth. It felt like an admission of defeat, a scarlet letter I’d forever wear on my chest. Little did I know that I was embracing the concept of surrender.
In my active addiction, a word like “surrender” was a synonym for weakness. It meant giving up, and that was something an addict like me couldn’t bring himself to do, because the idea of life without drugs, without a chemical suit of armor to shield me from emotions and people and circumstances, was unfathomable. For years, I existed in that place of comfortable familiarity, eventhough my familiar was miserable. Finally, I came to a place where the pain of staying the same outweighed the fear of change. The scales tipped, and I took my first tentative steps into an unknown future.
I came to learn, over time and through a program of recovery that reshaped me into the person I am today, that my identification as an addict helped save my life. I've been a drug addict for ... well, probably since the first time I put a mind- and mood-altering chemical in my body, back when I was 17 -- 29 years ago. Fortunately, through recovery and the grace of God, I've been a recovering addict for more than 15 years.
My journey began two years prior, when I went to treatment for the first time. I went to keep a job; I had no interest in anything other
than stopping the desire to put a needle in my arm. And because I wasn’t willing to face my addiction head on, I relapsed shortly after leaving that program. It would take another treatment stay and a detox program, before I came to realize that recovery was about more than just putting down the drugs. If that’s all there was to it, anyone could do so and walk away. I had to address the reason they kept calling me, and why I was powerless to answer that call.
What I found was a recovery community that has become my family, one forged in a common pain so overwhelming it erases all differences. What I’ve gained are blessings that would have seemed impossible to my younger self, in those dark days of shooting up in gas station bathrooms just to keep from going into withdrawals.
By surrendering, I gave up fighting a demon more powerful than my self-will and self-determination. By surrendering, I flourished. I rebuilt relationships that were in tatters – personal and professional. I embraced my recovery, started life anew and began working on the things that were wrong on the inside, issues and problems that can't be fixed by seeking emotional comfort and solace in chemicals, no matter how potent or powerful.
Today, I’m a father. A husband. An employee. A homeowner. A friend. I’m a responsible, productive member of society who hasn’t lost touch with where I came from, because I know that the road can always circle back to that place of dereliction and degradation. My recovery has taken from me the desire to use drugs, the cravings and the thoughts that were, at one time, the only thing that mattered. I have money in the bank, keys to my mom’s house and brothers and sisters in recovery who are truer friends than anyone I used to get high with. I have not one job but two, and I have a desire to give back to people and to my community instead of taking, always taking, because no matter how much drugs I used, it was never enough.
I don’t have to live like that anymore.
My name is Steve, and I am an addict. It's not something I planned on becoming, but it's something I live with, every day, and I’ve even found, over the years, some gratitude for the person that I am and the life I lead. My life is beautiful today, so indescribably amazing beyond the wildest expectations I ever had as a sick and suffering addict. And the most wonderful thing about my life? It’s available to anyone. An addict, any addict, can stop using … lose the desire to use … and find a new way to live.
It’s not always easy, but nothing worth having ever is, and I promise, with all that I have and all that I am, that it’s so very, very worth it.