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If you’re struggling with addiction of any kind, right now, in this moment, please consider choosing this day to embark upon living clean and sober. Just ponder the suggestion for a moment, and the better and healthier life possibilities you are keeping at bay through your continued use.  And, if I may suggest, try seeking out from the enormous array of established, sympathetic, therapeutic services, the help and support you need – resources that are in direct proximity to you, right now. I could go on and on with compelling arguments purporting why such a decision would be the wisest and healthiest one of your life. Unfortunately, when caught in the midst of drug or alcohol addiction, it is so hard to see outside that secluded and opaque window. The obsessive cravings besiege your entire existence, and you live each day within a mere shadow of real life-presence. All energy is spent trying to obtain your next bottle or fix while attempting to keep your crisis hidden from others. It’s a dark, narrow cell of confinement, and it is thoroughly painful and will continue to be until the decision to change is made.

Do not fool yourself with any of the temporary ‘pleasures’ or ‘relief’ you experience in those first moments following your most recent consumption. You are being duped, in a big way. I know, if you allow your honest self to resonate for a moment, you will agree. I’ve been where you are now, and so have many others who are thriving today without using or drinking. But, there is that great abyss that you must first cross. Again, please take note that there is at this moment, incredible, excellent support ready to help you across this chasm of detox and entering a recovery program. The decision can and must be made by you. 

Believe me, when I say, that embarking upon the path of Unconditional Recovery, or your first day of sobriety is not as far away or out-of-reach as your mind and body are telling you. The resources we have today to detox, get clean and/or sober are phenomenal. What lies beyond the great abyss is more attainable than you might think. Many have crossed this daunting void, successfully, and so can you - now. Just consider, please, while you read ahead. Giving up alcohol and drugs can and will be the most wonderful decision you ever make.

One of the principal rationales individuals employ not to seek the help so urgently needed is the belief that you will endure shame, embarrassment, and humiliation when others find out about your dilemma. The truth is, you probably will. 

Those of us in the recovery community know much about this fear, and it’s often a topic of discussion at meetings. There is excellent material attempting to educate society about the perils of addiction; particularly understanding addiction as a disease, like many other types of diseases such as diabetes. I applaud these efforts helping to enlighten people and finally facilitate bringing ‘addiction’ out of any closet of embarrassment or shame. Due to the current opioid epidemic, this need of familiarizing the public with a better understanding of all forms of addiction is urgent. But as an individual, you will probably feel shame once you begin to heal and that’s normal. The degree of guilt you may feel will subside, especially when surrounded by the healing support of others.  

Remember, we all tend to be highly critical of ourselves – anyone is – whether dealing with addiction issues or not. When starting on the recovery path, there ensues a healing process – a result of taking responsibility for yourself and your past actions, and becoming honest with yourself and others. Is this challenging and tough at the outset – yes, it is. But, it is also very relieving no longer allowing the endless lies to engulf us. We eventually will naturally wish to make amends to those we have hurt, and that will probably involve some embarrassment and self-effacement. Acquiescing towards an internal state of humility is a good thing and feels quite organically nurturing to our inner being. It also means you are on the right track. It is worth mentioning that ‘humility’ is an often misused and misunderstood word. During recovery, we learn the true essence of this state of humility, and it is quite inspiring and uplifting. It is also an essential ingredient to being human and finding our true self away from our false egos.

Many people do not suffer from any form of alcohol or drug abuse. And some of these individuals are likely to point the finger at someone who is struggling with addiction. They might try to infer that an alcoholic or addict brought the problem onto themselves, it is their fault. Some may claim that such a person is weak and merely suffering the payback of their deliberate decision to use. While I too, understand this misconception and was sometimes the brunt of such an attitude, especially during my early recovery; I would like to appeal to the better nature of such people and implore them to consider a kinder and more compassionate and informed approach to anyone struggling. There remains a great misunderstanding in our society today regarding alcoholism and addiction.

Our world today is struggling with many forms of despair and hopelessness. When I think of conditions such as poverty, unemployment, unthinkable, daily acts of violence, disease, economic inequality, the overall cruelty of man against humanity, it is overwhelming and challenges us to the very core of our human existence. I am not an alarmist nor did I ever try to justify what caused my addiction to alcohol – I take complete ownership of what I did and what happened to me. That’s me, that’s who I am – I blame no one, not my parents, not my upbringing, not my spouse, my friends or my next door neighbor. I do not blame myself either. Words such as blame, pointing the finger, justify, guilt, shame are words associated with this disease. I have found great compassion for my struggles and what happened to me in life. I see how and why I descended into alcoholism. I am not ashamed of it – not now. I have found a profound forgiveness for myself and a real sense of healthy humility. Believe me, when I say, I plunged to the bottom depths of life itself, physically, mentally and spiritually. I am someone who can honestly say; I hit rock bottom.

So, what exactly went wrong with me? How did I travel the path I did, with certain notable, yet modest achievements along the way, then descending into the throes of addiction, causing suffering to me, of course, but also hurting my loved ones? What happened? Suffice it to say, life happened. I was sensitive to the outer world and became disillusioned. I had a good, sharp mind, but never learned how to quiet my mind and suffered greatly from anxiety, then depression. The only anecdote I was familiar with was using alcohol and marijuana. My somewhat innocuous use over the years gradually progressed to a more unhealthy lifestyle, and finally, I traversed through the painful stages of abuse and finally full addiction. I was not aware of what my alcohol use was doing to me – I never thought of giving up the one thing that I thought was helping my nerves – are you kidding?

My story is like so many other stories I hear from those who are in successful recovery today and continue to expand their lives free from the false belief that one must use ‘something’ to get through a day. Our society is at a critical crossroads, and I believe that people are much more sensitive and vulnerable to the many challenges of the world around them. Often, our egos conceal so much of our emotions and sentiments, not only from others but ourselves.  We are taught to appear strong and resilient and to push ourselves even when our inner being is struggling, anxious or in a condition of dis-easement. Our outer lives can often become estranged from our interior, spiritual self, and I see this as one of the paramount causes why so many people wish to alleviate their fretfulness and suffering through the use of drugs and alcohol.

I can wholeheartedly and sincerely assert that compassion, kindness, and understanding are the ingredients that can help at this time. We need less finger-pointing at others, we certainly need fewer secrets, and without question, we need to stop branding others with derogatory labels. If you are someone who is struggling today and feel ashamed or embarrassed by your current condition, take heart and know that a helping hand is just that phone call away. You can have, and you deserve a better life, free from the scourges of addiction. For me, now that I am living clean and sober, life is much more about giving to others and helping others. The great poet, fiction writer, painter, and thinker, Rabindranath Tagore said it best, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold; service was joy.”  Until next time, reach out to help yourself or someone . . . One Day at a Time.