My journey to addiction recovery isn’t all that unique. The longer I stay around recovery programs, the more I hear the same plots that lead to addiction and subsequent recoveries.
The personal details are the filling out of the stories that, objectively, have the same beginning, middle, and end. The plot details change from person to person, but once you hear enough of them, the arc becomes cliche.
Below I outline the details of my addiction and recovery in an even more cliche chronological order.
I grew up in the Southern USA in a middle-class household. I attended decent schools and made friends. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age. My caring parents whisked to a specialized school that focused on reading and writing treatments for dyslexia. After attending that school for two years, I no longer had a problem and went back to mainstream public schools after that.
Otherwise, nothing remarkable stands out from my childhood. I did not feel deprived of much and faced no severe trauma or violence.
It was only around the 8th grade that I started noticing my feelings about life started turning darker. I cared less about performing for good grades. I became more reckless in my behavior, often taking bets to perform self-destructive behaviors, such as eating extreme amounts of candy, catching hornets by hand, and staying up all night for video game sessions. I got a rush from recklessness which I no longer gained from the more normal things a young adult did like sports, community, or friends.
Early Teen Years
It was around the 8th or 9th grade that I had my first drink. It was a turning point. It felt like a missing piece that added back the exhilaration for life that I gradually lost.
With drink, I could talk through the night with strangers, feel at ease with myself, and lose any fears about the future.
It didn’t take long before I was drinking as often as I could or even at school. Any healthy goals I had toward getting good grades or doing well at my part-time job fell by the wayside in favor of preparing for more drinking. I performed only the minimum that was necessary to keep my parents and teacher off my back.
As my drinking and using escalated, more problems piled up. My family became aware of my substance abuse. Treatment centers followed, and I fell behind in school.
Many teachers thought I was too bright for the level of courses I was taking, but I stuck with them because I didn’t need to study as much or spend much time on homework, allowing more space for drinking.
A few run-ins with the police ultimately led to my first 12-step meeting. Therapists had suggested it before, but I ignored their pleadings. I wouldn’t say I liked AA at first. Everyone seemed oblivious and on pink clouds, and I had a hard time believing that they were ever as bad off as I was.
So I picked up several white chips and sat several meetings to please others. Then I barely attended and returned to my usual haunts.
Around the time I turned 21 was when I became aware that I was in trouble. My mental health deteriorated a great deal; I had lost all my friends; and was unable to attend college classes or hold down a job. This time of disorder was the first time I had a moment of clarity: I knew that I could lose my life if I kept on this path.
This was also the first time I prayed for help out of desperation and no sense to whom I was praying.
I went to a meeting purely of my own will for the first time. I had no one else in mind that I wanted to please on that Saturday morning at a clubhouse. I arrived on time and spoke to a guy afterward. I got his number and asked him to sponsor me. The earlier attempt at AA had taught me enough that a sponsor was essential, so I instinctively knew what to do when I came back this time.
Thank God I kept this willingness long enough to hold on. The first few years were an emotional storm. I had days and weeks when my nerves and depression were so bad that it was hard to leave my room.
However, I went through the steps thoroughly with my sponsor. Gradually things improved. I handled a full load of courses in college, completed an internship, and graduated in a reasonable time frame.
I started to look forward to going to meetings. I knew that there were many true friendships I had built. My network of friends knew what was going on in my life and my true feelings. I didn’t have to hide behind a mask around them because we were strangely happy to be “screw-ups” trying to live our new sober lives together.
After college, I got a job at a tech startup and built up career skills that would last a lifetime. I studied the liberal arts in college but had a knack for computers. Still, I had a lot to learn, and the startup gave me the space to do that. I have stayed in the tech industry since then, tasking on various job titles.
And here is where I stand now, 12 years sober. I am grateful for the many voices who suggested AA and allowed me the opportunity to learn about 12-step recovery early, even though I wasn’t ready at first. They spared me years of extra misery.
As mentioned on the About page, I started the site as a way of spreading my message. I try to share from direct experience in my own life or from the knowledge shared by addicts and alcoholics I’ve met along the highway of recovery. I often feel like I can’t get my thoughts down on the page fast enough! I hope the posts benefit you and your understanding.