National reports estimate over 25 million Americans have a substance use disorder. This includes illicit drugs, prescription medications, and alcohol. In fact, when it comes to alcohol it is estimated that one in eight American adults have an alcohol problem.
I found sobriety in the summer of 1978. I had been severely addicted to mood altering chemicals for six years. I hit bottom, went into a Substance Use Disorder treatment center, and started practicing a recovery program in August of 1978.
One of the difficulties I have with staying sober is that I like to drink. I also like my drugs: Valium, Percodan, and other opiates, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. For me, drinking and drugging is forever natural. Being clean and sober is forever unnatural. Even though my sobriety date is July 4, 1989, and I have been sober for 11,173 days, a day at a time, sobriety has never become natural for me. I rely on the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous and I do what it says to do.
Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that I am powerless over alcohol when I drink it. Step One of Al-Anon tells me that I am powerless over alcohol when other people drink it, or when other people want to drink it. Both treatment programs, and The Retreat (which is not a treatment program) are powerless over alcohol and addiction when the people in them want to drink.
In the early 1970’s I drove a taxi in New York City. The fare meters were mechanical, not electronic. They were driven by two moving cables. One cable measured time, and the other measured distance. Whichever cable moved faster drove the fare. If the cab was stuck in traffic, the fare still went up, driven by the “waiting time”. If the cab was moving briskly, the meter went up, pushed along by the distance driven. That image comes to mind when I think of gratitude and resentment.
“A Recovery Community Organization (RCO) is devoted to providing services to and tearing down barriers for those suffering from a substance use disorder. It is a
grassroots community-based organization staffed by people in recovery."
I received my three-month medallion on October 22, 1978. I was fifteen, sober and I was thrilled. To add to my excitement - weeks earlier I had scored tickets to see Bob Dylan at the St. Paul Civic Center on October 31, 1978. This would be the first time that Bob Dylan would play a concert in Minnesota in 16 years. The concert had sold-out immediately and I had managed to get tickets. I was stoked. I was three-months sober and I was going to see Dylan.
Watching someone you love struggle with addiction or alcoholism is extremely painful. I often liken it to watching someone dig a deep hole.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with a woman embarking on recovery that is traumatized by abuse in some way, shape or form. I think we can all agree that the word abuse riles up a certain distain in each of us. But have you ever thought about yourself as the abuser? Ouch, tough question and I bet most would say no way! However, the same women I talk to are also abusers of themselves. This is not an accusation I state lightly as I am also an alumni of abusing myself. I am talking about negative self-talk, self-hate and self-loathing. Regardless of its origin, I believe we are all guilty of this on some level. I used to beat myself up with demeaning and horrible statements when I didn’t live up to my unrealistic expectations. Calling myself a stupid this or an incompetent that. Even for an accidental toe stubbing! Can you imagine if you stubbed your toe and I hollered at you that you were a total moron? Have Mercy, that’s not even logical or remotely loving and respectful!!!! My friends….is this not verbal and emotional abuse? I had to ask myself, would you say these things you claim about yourself, in your head, to another living human being? Heck no!! So why is it ok to have this running commentary in our heads and spirits about ourselves? It’s not!! Its verbal, emotional and mental abuse towards ourselves and by ourselves. And it’s not ok!
When I first came into the program I stumbled upon a few formulas for sobriety. Now I’m not a numbers guy and I’m really quite math-phobic, but this was simple math that made sense to me. My first formula was - put as much time into your recovery as you did into your addiction.