Joe L., 33 år, Afhængig
I was really lucky I cleaned up early in life. I was 21 years old when I came into the rooms and I was tired, I was worn out from using drugs, smoking dope and drinking on a daily basis.
I started using on a lark, a dare from a best friend who said that I was too chicken to smoke a joint and drink a quart of beer.
I was fourteen at that time.
I did both of those that night and I never looked back, because the thing I wanted most in my life from then on was more of that fabulous feeling that a quart of beer and a joint gave me.
After seven years of using and drinking I found myself at the end of the road with addiction.
I was no longer using to feel euphoria I was just using to feel some semblance of normality.
I'm clean today because of intervention, treatment and a half-way house.
After using for awhile, using got so expensive, I became an entrepreneur.
I started dealing so I could have drugs around me all the time.
I really loved drugs at that time.
My favorite drug was Marijuana and by dealing, I thought I would get a chance to sit around and smoke all of the bowls and joints I wanted.
To me that was as good as it got.
I liked everything about the using game, right up until the end.
Then it got bad, really bad.
I started losing friends to drugs and alcohol.
One died from puking in his sleep.
Another died from head injuries he got from drinking and diving into a swimming hole.
Then my best friend died in a plane crash.
During that time I also did things that even today still make me sad to admit to I got scared when my friends started dying and once in awhile I tried to quit but I was never able to stay stopped.
I'd quit for an hour, a day, even made it a week once, but I always ended up using again.
Then I started having negative feelings about myself and my own abilities.
I hated the paranoia.
I hated looking over my shoulder all the time.
I really hated not trusting my friends.
But addiction had already robbed me of everything.
I had no morals or values to live by anymore, and using was the only priority I had.
All I had was drugs, alcohol and darkness.
I became so paranoid that I successfully drove everyone away and found myself in the terrible place no one wants to be in--I was alone.
I'd wake up in the morning and start using and keep using throughout the day.
Finally I hit bottom, I spent one terrible month and it turned out to be my end.
My little brother tried to commit suicide in my home and my father sent him off to a treatment center in New York.
Back from there Dad then sent him to Minneapolis, Minnesota for treatment.
During his family week was the first time I ever heard of the idea of the disease of addiction.
I had heard of Alcoholism but never addiction.
I knew I was no lowly Alcoholic, a Skid Row bum type of person.
I knew that was something I'd never be, I used drugs.
During his family week I knew I was addicted and that I had to stop using.
Back home in Montana after my little brother's family week, I was met at the airport gate by two friends.
I'd given them money to buy a large quantity of Marijuana and they were there to pick me up and pass off my dope.
I'd planned on not using after facing some things in my brothers family week, but that night was the first time I really knew I had no control over my addiction.
I went to the bar with my friends planning not to use but instead of using I ended up drunk.
Back home I felt terrible and was terribly depressed about what had happened that night.
I sat down in my chair with the Marijuana that I'd bought and started rolling big fat joints.
I fought with all my will power not to use as I rolled up six joints and started smoking them.
I found a full bottle of Vodka and drank that.
I found some pills and ate them.
I kept smoking the joints I rolled and then passed out.
I woke up in stupor with my friend shaking me.
He had such a look of horror on his face.
I tried to talk to him but couldn't, I was too far gone even to communicate.
Next thing I knew my parents were there and I was loaded up into their car and taken to my parent's home.
I'd messed myself and puked on myself during that night.
I was not in good shape but that was the last night I used.
That was June 10, 1979 and for that I'm still eternally grateful.
Since I've been in the program, Anonymous Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, I've been so blessed.
I've seen miracles and because I've been around and seen the miracles I know miracles happen for me also.
I came to the rooms in terrible shape. I was unemployable and now I'm employed and have a good life.
I was unworthy of love and now I'm married and have three wonderful children.
I was socially inappropriate and did things that were unacceptable, now I'm respected by my family and peers.
After speaking one night at a speaker meeting in Oklahoma City Oklahoma I had a woman come up to me and say something that changed the course of my life.
"Joe, please let us love you, until you can love yourself!"
I looked at her and felt my insides give way.
I was caught.
I'd been hiding in the program watching the miracle of the program work for everyone else, and believing that the miracle would never happen to me.
That girl looking at me knew my secret and she tossed it right at me to deal with it.
Suddenly it was time to get to work and start believing the miracle of the program would work for me.
That night I finally asked the man who I didn't want as a Sponsor to be my Sponsor.
It was the smartest thing I could have done.
Thank God he said, "yes."
That was the night I started the miracle of working through the Steps in my life. From that night on my life started getting better.
As I write this I have over twenty-three years clean, I'm still working the Steps and I practice the traditions of the program in my every day life.
Does that mean I'm bullet proof?
No, God knows I still have problems, but I've great tools today to deal with the problems rather than picking up drugs.
I was so young and battered when I came to the rooms of recovery.
I was beat up and I was tortured by guilt, shame and remorse.
Now after years of repeating the Steps, spending time with my Sponsor and working with others I am leading a life I never thought possible.
I honestly thought I was going to be an old hippie sitting on his stoop smoking the best bowl of pot money could buy, with my trusty dog wagging his tail at my feet.
The hawks would be playing in the turbulence above me.
That scene would play out in my mind but reality was different.
I only used behind closed window shades in a dark room by myself.
I kicked my dog and hated birds for the noise they made.
But with step work and good Sponsorship I've grown up.
I've made the amends that needed to be made and I make the amends that come up during the day as I encounter other human beings.
Because of the life I live my wife and children live in a home where the program works.
I've seen the flip side where wives, children and loved ones only see where the program doesn't work.
That's why at the end of each year I sit down and examine my life, I need to know that I'm a better person at the end of the year than I was in the beginning of the year.
In the twelfth step we are asked to do some serious things with our lives.
Those questions demand answers.
I've had the blessing of a spiritual awakening because I did what was asked.
I worked all the Steps and I continue to work them each year.
I carry the message in my daily life.
My family, friends and the people I bump into each day see someone who is trying to carry the best message I can carry that day. When I meet people I share the excitement I feel for living and how grateful I am that I'm here today alive and living a life I never believe possible.
The hardest thing to do is the last.
Practicing the principles in all my affairs.
That is difficult, but I've learned how to practice the principles and that is one of the main reasons I sit down at the end of the year and look back.
Since I've worked the Steps and had the spiritual awakening I can work the principles in my life and because of that I get to be a better person.
I'm no longer the junkie looking for a fix or something to steal from you. I'm no longer the pathetic lump of living flesh that only took from life.
I've grown as a person and I can give back to society.
Society no longer needs to fear me and because of that I no longer need to fear society.
Thank you to the program and the fellowship for my life.
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