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The moment when we decide to take our first stride toward recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs is profound. A ray of hope has appeared on the horizon. These beginning hours and days are crucial segments of time capable of moving us toward a long-lasting, unconditional recovery path. Those of us in recovery know full well that this initial decision to seek help from the perils of drug and alcohol abuse is only a beginning. There are no guarantees that Day One will promise Day Two or Three. However, all positive actions we inaugurate to better ourselves in any way, to free ourselves from the scourge of addiction, has a starting point, a dawning to a new way of life.

What is vital during this initial stage is an internal desire to change our existence for the better, a personal choice to honestly face ourselves – bravely and directly. Whether you think so or not, you are at the most critical crossroads of your life – a crossroads where many have succeeded and begun a new way of living, alcohol, and drug-free. There are others who sadly meet this critical juncture and either continually struggle with the overpowering siege of their addiction, or fail altogether. Often this failure, unlike losing a football game or not receiving that promotion you were hoping for, ends in ruin, hurting others, sickness or death. And, let’s face it, right now with this opioid epidemic seizing the lives of so many in our world today, fatality is becoming an all-too-common occurrence.

No outside person can genuinely make you turn away from addictive substances. There may be a spouse or significant other, family members, your children, friends, and colleagues who would be overjoyed and relieved if you were to become sober and clean and maintain this state without the dreadful relapse. But, the real decision is ultimately in your hands and calls on an inner desire and commitment, even if you feel your motivation is weak or wavering during the initial stages of abstinence. There is, without question, plenty of exceptional and empathetic assistance awaiting you – everywhere. I sincerely mean it when I say that some of the most fabulous, enlightened, and compassionate people I have ever met have been in recovery meetings. Young or old, the life wisdom that is apparent in the souls of those committed to a recovery path, is extraordinary. These people know what it means to work through the internal demons, the initial struggles of pulling off their treacherous substances and with the help of others, find a way to distance themselves from their addiction, One Day at a Time. Most AA meetings around the globe recognize and compassionately support the first 24 hours of sobriety – as it is indeed that important and substantive – it can be your jumping off point to a new way of living. Anyone on this planet that has one, two, three, ten, 25 or 50 years of sobriety can look back to when it all began with that ‘Day One.’

Proceeding from these first few moments of attempting to free yourself from addiction is no easy task, that is for sure. As mentioned above, our society is facing an immense opioid epidemic which dreadfully includes a multitude of overdoses and deaths. The pain and sadness suffered by families and friends associated with such daily tragedies is overwhelming. Even recently, individuals I had become close to in various recovery meetings have succumbed to an overdose and died.  Tragically, they had been exhibiting promising, hopeful signs as they toiled with their addiction distress during the early days and months of withdrawal. Seemingly, out of nowhere, a relapse occured, and a backward path ensued, followed by the dreaded overdose and death.

Is there hope to be found? Can we somehow help those in immediate need while at the same time alter this tide of human destruction? My answer is an emphatic “yes!” Yes, we can do better. Yes, we can start to change this downward spiral of addiction. Let’s get very real now. There is hope only if we first have faith and a level of confidence that change can happen. Our beliefs must follow with direct action on all levels of our society. Communities everywhere need financial assistance to offer the critical care to those attempting to abandon their alcoholism or addiction.  Is that happening now? Only to a degree, but there is some momentum occurring as the public becomes more aware of the extensiveness of the problem.

I firmly believe that there are inherent, systemic problems in our psychological culture. We must start addressing why so many people are turning to alcohol and drugs. Until we begin to see the underlying anxiety and stresses that are causing so many people to find an attempted relief from their inward distress, we are not getting down to the real issue at hand. The fast-paced, striving to succeed, competing for that grade, that school, that college, that promotion, that successful life, has so many negative qualities that many are falling off the band-wagon – and, landing in a dreadful abyss.

It is not because people are weak. And, it is not merely that one person was born with a predisposition toward addiction while another is not. This myth must end if we are to make progress. There are genetic components that play a role – I am not dismissing this fact or trying to diminish it either. Many people who fall into the state of addiction are highly sensitive to the world around them. They are feeling high anxiety and often depressed. Many have not found healthy ways to adjust to the contingencies surrounding their life and inadvertently start drinking alcohol or using drugs to cope. Addiction appears in every segment of our society. Virtually no group is immune to its grip.  

Finally, is a fundamental issue we are facing in our world today, how we individually define ourselves as a person, a human being? It is vital that any person feels a measure of nurturance and compassion in their daily life? And, if this caring does not come from anyone on the outside, does this person contain the tools, the inner thoughts, and sentiments that can offer genuine sustainability toward themselves?  Are we able to love and have compassion for ourselves? Do we possess the personal abilities and proficiencies to alleviate threatening anxieties and fears in healthy ways? I know from my own experience and hearing the stories of many others that our inability to care for ourselves is at the very root of our rationale to turn to drugs or alcohol.  Many people, successful people, feel that they must continually succeed and add to their visible, external portfolio to secure an identity that gives them their temporary status. However, there is so much more to life than just a catalog of accomplishments a person has accrued. What is the underlying cost of such success? Success in life is not the real issue here. If one’s internal supportive dialogue is absent, and the ability to emotively and compassionately sustain one’s inner being is lacking, a person may very well be missing the needed ingredients to maintain an emotionally healthy life, and, prosper within.

If we are to have hope for this generation and future generations of people in our society, we must exhibit the courage to face this urgent addiction crisis head-on. Also, we must be open to a full examination of how we bring up our young and observe what internal tools we all need when it comes to meeting the challenges living in this world. Finally, we must demonstrate a resolve to assess our existing system of values thoroughly and deem what is indeed worthy and essential, moral and ethical, healthy and compassionate. There is so much more to look at as we try to handle the addiction crisis.  

Ultimately, it all begins with us – each one of us – as we turn toward a new life of Unconditional Recovery through hope, hard work, and community with others.  There is hope – spread the word!  Until next time . . . stay positive, hopeful, and resolved.