You Can’t Throw in the Towel
I am an addict in recovery for addiction to alcohol and opioids.
I was born in Castro Valley, California in 1967 to an unwed mother. My parents began dating during their senior year of high school in Oregon. After high school my mom went to work for an insurance company and in the fall my dad moved about an hour away to begin college and study engineering at Oregon State University. Eventually my mom got a job working on the college campus and moved closer to my dad.
In the spring of 1967, my mom became pregnant with me and my parents started to make plans to get married. My grandfather told my dad that if he married my mom, he would not help him financially with school. Without that help from his parents, my dad would not have been able to finish college with a family to support. My dad told my mother that he could not marry her, that he wanted to but he could not do it now.
By the fall of that year my mom and her family moved to California and in November I was born. For the first few months, my dad wrote frequently and would send money to help with my expenses. To my mom, the letters were upsetting and she could not figure out why he wanted to know how we were doing when it seemed like he had turned his back on her when she needed him most. She asked my dad to quit writing and did not hear from him again until the beginning of 1969.
Sometime in the spring of 1969, we took a visit back to Oregon and at 18 months I was meeting my dad for the first time shortly before his college graduation. My parents were married in September of 1969 and we moved to Washington State where my dad had already started a job. Before getting married, my grandpa told my dad that if he married my mom, he would never see his son again. This time, my dad was willing to take the risk of going against his dads wishes and married my mom. My grandpa did not attend the wedding of my parents.
Later in life, my mom wrote me to explain this period of our lives. She closed the letter by writing “Sometimes it’s not meant for us to understand why people are the way they are and we must make peace within ourselves that we can live with and go on from there”.
While in counseling, my mom wrote in story form the events that took place the day I was born. In it she writes “Nearly 18 years have passed since that November night in 1967. It was impossible for me to know then that his father and I would eventually marry. Working to resolve the guilt we share has proven to be our hardest task. We want to share with our son the reasons for the choices we made and the joys and sorrows we have experienced because of those decisions. These feelings are hard to express so we gloss over stories of his early years to delay the explanation he deserves. I want to believe the life and love we have given him is compensation enough for cheating him out of the undeniable right every child deserves – the right to be planned for, prayed for and wanted”.
After my parents married and we moved to Washington, my upbringing and family life growing up was pretty normal. My father worked for the same company for 20 years before being laid off and my mother worked off and on while my sister and I were younger eventually working full time as we got older.
My sister was born in 1973 and currently is a school teacher with a husband and 2 children. We were never really close and at the age of 14 she moved to California with my parents. I often wonder if we had both lived at home together longer, would we have developed a closer relationship. When we are together we get along great although our conversations are very general and superficial.
I don’t remember my parents ever discussing finances or arguing about money. We were not extravagant with spending money but we always seemed to have everything we needed. By the age of 9, we had moved 3 times all in the same general area and each time into something larger. We did lots of activities and short trips as a family always by car and often relatively close to home. Most of our extended family lived in Oregon and we would visit them often. Looking back at it, I’m sure this was done because they were affordable activities and it would either minimize or keep my parents from going into debt. About every 4 or 5 years we would take a bigger trip to someplace like Disneyland. These trips were always planned for and budgeted.
Neither of my parents were big alcohol drinkers. It seemed to be a rare occasion that I can remember my mom drinking. My father has always been a beer drinker but it always seemed to be in moderation. I remember him always having a beer or 2 after getting home from work and visiting with my mom while she was making dinner. I can’t remember a time that I ever saw either one of them drunk or become physical or verbal with each other as a result of drinking. Not knowing anything about alcohol, what it was or how it could affect you, I can remember thinking from about the age of 12 that drinking beer everyday was normal, would not have an effect on you and it was just something you did.
I always looked up to my Dad and still do to this day. Whenever I was hurt, needed a shot or needed stitches, I always wanted my Dad to be there. I knew that if my Dad was there, I was safe and even though I didn’t want to do it that everything would be alright and he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me.
What I saw in my Dad was what I wanted to be growing up. He was a hard worker both at his job and at home, enjoyed family activities, always there for our activities as kids, could fix anything and was a good teacher.
My dad was also very strict with a strong type A personality. Everything had its place and there was only one way to do things. These behavior patterns I applied in my own life and would later regret. It wasn’t until I started working the steps of recovery and taking a hard look at myself that I realized how miserable I was living that way and how miserable I was making others feel.
We attended church on a regular basis. Early on, my father did not attend with us but eventually woud start going on a regular basis. From a young age I was always involved in various youth groups and other church related activities. Church and religion were never really discussed at home and my only exposure to God was from the church. As I got into my teen years I really started to question God, what he stood for, what it meant to be a Christian and how I was supposed to believe in something or someone that I could not physically see or touch.
Around this time, I really started to lose interest in going to church and expressed a strong desire to my parents to no longer attend. As a kid, I watched my Dad have the ability to choose rather to attend or not so why couldn’t I? This was never an option and feeling like I was forced to attend just made me dislike and resent it even more. I only viewed attending youth group activities, camps, etc. as a social activity and an opportunity to spend time with friends.
Once I was out of the house, I immediately stopped attending church and had no desire to attend or give it another chance. As an adult, having my parents periodically suggest that we should attend church and have our children in youth programs just made me want to push religion further and further away and stuff all of that resentment and anger further and further down.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to go from elementary school through high school without ever having to change schools and graduated with several people that I had known since kindergarten.
Beginning in elementary school I was always involved in sports and other activities. I played soccer for a few years, tried football, took tennis lessons, swim lessons, was active in cub scouts and played basketball. Throughout these activities there were always other kids and parents from my neighborhood involved as well. All of the families knew each other and we could always rely on each other if somebody needed a ride or got hurt. My parents attended all of my games when possible and were always supportive of me playing sports and being involved in other activities.
Playing basketball was my passion and I played from elementary school through my freshman year of high school in a recreation league. Throughout these years there was a core group of about 5 or 6 other boys that always played recreation league as well and we were always teammates or competitors. Some of these boys lived in my neighborhood and we would get together on occasion outside of basketball. In my freshman year of high school I tried out for the high school team along with the other boys that I had been playing with for years.
I did not make the team that year and I was crushed. I remember the coach telling me that if I continued to practice hard, I stood a good chance of making the team my sophomore year. I played recreation league basketball again that year minus the 3 or 4 boys who I had played with for years that were now on the high school team. After that season I stopped playing basketball, never tried out again my sophomore year and coached middle school boys for 2 years before giving up on basketball.
On occasion I would still connect with the boys on the high school team outside of basketball but without that connection of being teammates, those relationships began to disappear. Our basketball team in high school was very good and as the years went on, the players become very popular with other students and became what I perceived as the “It crowd” or the “Cool group” that you wanted to give the appearance of belonging to or fitting in with. I started to become very jealous of them and felt lost that after all those years of playing together and growing up together I was no longer a part of that core group. In our senior year they won the state championship playing the state tournament in the same area that our NBA team played in.
During that state tournament I attended every game and although I was very happy and excited for them to win the championship, inside I was devastated and felt lost that I was not out there with them being a part of that celebration and the praise they were getting from everyone.
By my senior year of high school, I was constantly in battle with my parents over what I perceived as unfair expectations and demands against what I thought I was entitled to as a 17 or 18 year old. My parents would only allow me to drive a vehicle to school one day a week. Outside of that I either had to take the bus or get rides from other people. Not wanting to ride the bus, I would try my hardest to get rides from whoever I could. Some of these people were actual friends that I had for years and others were from people who I really didn’t care about and didn’t really want to be friends with but they could drive and were willing to accommodate my needs.
Around this time is when I began to drink. What started out as casual drinking slowly turned into being a part of every social activity. I don’t remember my parents ever talking to me about the negative effects of drinking or drinking underage. I was able to hide the drinking from them and if they were aware of it, it was never discussed.
During this time I decided that I no longer wanted to live by their rules and decided to move out. For a while I would bounce around from friend to friend for as long as their parents would let me stay or until I thought I had found a better situation.
My girlfriend at the time had a good friend who came from a wealthy family that lived near her and that we would occasionally spend time with. As a result, her parents allowed me to move into their house and instead of having to sleep on a couch or on the floor, I actually had a bedroom. Her parents worked allot and were rarely home which gave us allot of opportunity to do whatever we wanted. Although her friend didn’t work, her Dad would routinely deposit money into a back account for her that she could use at her discretion with no questions asked.
At one point I needed money for a minor repair on my car that I did not have. While talking to her friend about it one day she agreed to give me the money for the repair. I was working after school and on the weekends and offered to repay her the money as soon as possible.
Instead of wanting the money repaid to her, she offered to forgive the loan if I would have sex with her. I agreed without hesitation and this quickly turned into me having unlimited access to her bank account in return for having frequent sex. We would have sex almost on a daily basis after school followed by me going to work and then spending time at my girlfriends afterwards. This pattern of using people and situations for my own personal gain and benefit would continue for years.
In 1987 at the age of 19 my parents decided to move to southern California due to my Dad starting a new job. By this time, I had completed my first year of community college, had a job I enjoyed and was content with not disrupting my lifestyle.
The company my dad had worked at for the past 20 years had shut down and the property was sold to the Navy for a new naval base. Leading up to this time, my best friend who grew up next door to me with 4 siblings was about ready to move into a brand new house that his parents had recently built that sat on the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the sound below. About the time the house was completed his parents got a divorce and living in this large brand new house was my best friend, his mom and his brother. Rather than move to California with my family, I moved in with my best friend determined to remain in Washington. Due to the size and location of the house, it quickly became the place to hang out and party at. My friends’ mom was enjoying her new found single life and was rarely at home especially on the weekends. She also would buy us all the beer we wanted. There were friends constantly in and out of the house, unlimited alcohol, plenty of girls and no consequences for our behavior.
One summer afternoon sitting outside on the deck with a girl I was interested in, I was drinking wine not from a glass but directly from the bottle I had just opened. Eventually the girl asked me how much wine I drank on a daily basis. Needless to say, she already had red flags going up and any possibility of a relationship had quickly ended.
My friend eventually went into the service and his mom, brother and I moved into a small duplex. After that move, it didn’t take long for me to wear out my welcome. I moved into an apartment with 2 friends and immediately a wild and crazy lifestyle ensued fueled by copious amounts of alcohol and casual sex. One of my roommates told me one day that another person had mentioned to him that they didn’t think they had ever seen me without a beer in my hand. Should this have been a sign or warning? Perhaps, but at the time I wore it like a badge of honor.
I started dating a girl that I had known from High School and in February 1989 we were married. She had gotten pregnant our senior year of school, had a son and now I had a ready-made family. I don’t know if I was looking for something to fill that void of not having my family around or if I was looking for a way out of the crazy lifestyle I was living, but the marriage was doomed from the beginning. Within a year of getting married, we were divorced. While going through the divorce process, one of my friends had told me that they had placed bets on how long they thought the marriage would last already knowing that it wouldn’t. When I asked why they didn’t tell me their concerns, his response was “would you have listened”?
One day at work a new employee walked through the door and I immediately was taken aback by how beautiful this girl was. I would end up training her on how to perform the new job and we started to spend quite a bit of time together. While going through the divorce process we started dating off and on and I also began to enjoy my new found freedom of being single again.
Karen and I eventually moved in together and lived with a friend of mine for 6 months. We were having fun, always partying and really just living a care free lifestyle. As our relationship got more and more serious, we decided that we wanted to live on our own and when our lease was up moved into our own apartment.
After moving into our apartment, Karen’s boyfriend from high school started calling to talk to her and would call often. I tolerated it for a while but eventually told Karen that it was bothersome to me and she asked him to stop calling. Years later with the power of social media, they connected on Classmates. Although she would communicate through Classmates with other friends, she would communicate mostly with him and the conversations were more personal than they were with others. When I expressed my feelings about this, she again stopped communicating with him. They would eventually find each other on Facebook and on occasion would communicate. While we were struggling in our marriage in 2013 and had started the divorce proceedings, I discovered that she had been calling him again. This cycle throughout our marriage would make me feel inadequate as a husband and I often thought that her returning to him was a real possibility if she was unhappy or if our marriage failed.
While dating, Karen told me that she had been sexually molested as a child by her father. That was about the extent of our conversation on that topic and it was rarely brought up. Now that she is in counseling to deal with the abuse, it has been a real eye opener to see the effect that it had on her, her relationship with our children and our relationship as a couple.
In July of 1993 Karen and I were married in a beautiful ceremony at a marina overlooking the water below. We both thoroughly enjoyed planning the wedding and everything went exactly as we had planned.
My grandmother did not attend our wedding due to the fact that she had attended my first marriage and did not see the importance of attending a second one. This put a strain on our relationship that still continues to this day as it was her that helped raise me until my parents married and we had always been close.
Within our first year of marriage, we started new jobs at the same hospital, bought our first house and became pregnant with our son Taylor who was born in February 1995. Planning for the arrival of our son was a great experience. We decided on a theme and would often go out on the weekends looking for items to go into his room. Family and friends were also excited for us and very supportive. He was the first grandchild for my parents and the first great grandchild for my dad’s parents.
Taylor was born in the same hospital that we both worked at and we got the royal treatment from the labor and delivery staff while Karen waited to go into labor. At one point I left the room to go get some food from the cafeteria. When I walked back into the room I found hospital staff working on Karen and her being on oxygen. I was not prepared for that and had immediate concern for the health and well-being of my wife and our son.
Due to the complications and Karen not dilating much, it was decided to do an emergency C-section. I was in the operating room holding Karen’s hand while they worked to get Taylor out as was able to cut the umbilical cord after he was delivered.
Karen continued to have complications after delivery and was in recovery for quite a while. Once Taylor was cleaned and stable I was allowed to hold him. I held on to him for 2 – 3 hours straight until it was alright to see Karen and she could hold her son for the first time. I don’t know what came over me but nobody else was going to hold him until his mother could.
I began to find myself being board in my job and feeling like I was just going through the motions. At the time I had also starting taking classes at night at the community college in hopes of finishing my degree. We discussed several options and decided that I would start looking for another job and that we would be open to relocation thinking we would remain somewhere out west. Taylor would soon be starting kindergarten and if we were going to move, we wanted it done before school started. We wanted Taylor to have the same experience in school that I had of not having to change schools and graduating with people that he would have known for years. Today because of this, his best friend is someone he has known since age 5.
It didn’t take long to find a job in my current field working out of a corporate office and having to travel. In March of 2000 I left to start my new job in Nashville leaving Karen and Taylor behind to deal with selling our house. Fortunately, this did not take long and in June they were able to join me. So much for remaining out west.
At times the move has been difficult with not being close to our family and friends but overall it was a good decision and has afforded us things and opportunities that we otherwise might not have had.
My opioid addiction started innocently in about 2006 with Tylenol 3 with codeine from a friend of mine to help with severe headaches. He quickly became my supplier for a number of years, introducing me to other opioids and sharing his prescriptions with me. On multiple occasions he would send pills via FedEx to my place of employment. In my addiction, I never thought or cared about what could happen if I was caught receiving narcotics via mail.
In April of 2012 I suffered an ankle injury resulting in a severely bruised and swollen ankle that could not be diagnosed. It took 8 months and 3 orthopedic surgeons to find someone who was willing to do exploratory surgery without a diagnosis. At the time of my surgery, my ankle was still bruised and swollen. After seeing the second orthopedic surgeon who also had no diagnosis, I walked by a pain clinic on my way back to work. Innocently I thought, “You know what? I wonder if these guys can do anything for me.” No longer was I reliant on my friend to get me pills although I continued to ask for them and he was happy to share. Now, I was getting a new prescription every three to four weeks. I started on hydrocodone which I had already built up a tolerance to and by saying, “Well, that didn’t work” they would prescribe stronger medication. By the time I went to rehab in December 2012, I had a prescription for morphine and OxyContin from the pain clinic which I would take at the same time without giving any thought or concern to potential consequences.
In addition, I had a prescription for Valium from my primary care physician. What started out as taking the Valium according to the prescription, eventually lead to abusing this medication along with medication from the pain clinic. The pain clinic was fine with me taking Valium on top of their prescriptions. When urine tests at the pain clinic came back positive for something they weren’t prescribing me—which was against the rules—they never cut me off. When I got out of rehab I called the pain clinic to cancel an appointment I had scheduled and told them why. Three weeks later they called me back asking if I wanted to return as a patient.
In August of 2012, I had 2 auto accidents in a one week span while under the influence of alcohol and pills. The first accident I do not remember having. The second accident was a single car accident which I remember having but do not know what caused the accident or how I damaged my vehicle. After the second accident my wife demanded that I stop drinking which I did cold turkey the following day. I believe with alcohol out of the picture my actions and behavior while on opioids became more noticeable and prominent.
The turning point was my wife finally telling me that I needed to stop drinking alcohol. For the longest time I was a social drinker. I could have a beer or two in the evening after work and be content. Very rarely was I a hard alcohol drinker. At some point I flipped the switch and it was no longer just beer and wine, it was a lot of hard alcohol. I once marked a line on a bottle of tequila to indicate how much was in the bottle before going out of town on business convinced that I alone was not drinking all of the tequila. When I got home and checked the bottle, it had the same amount of tequila in it as it did when I left. When I would leave work at the end of the day, it was common to stop at a convenience store and buy a beer or two for the ride home.
I would do anything to alter my feelings and numb myself. I travel a lot for work and I wouldn’t think twice about getting to the airport to fly home, have a couple drinks before boarding the plane; and then continue to drink once on the plane. There would also be times I felt like I had to stop to get a beer or two to get from the airport to home because I had been drinking all day. I felt like I had to keep drinking to stay awake and be able to function.
My addictions lead me down a very dark and destructive path that without sobriety would have most likely resulted in loss of family, loss of job, loss of my life or the life of someone else while under the influence.
As soon as we would sit down on the couch in the evening after dinner to watch TV I’d fall asleep. I’d fall asleep at the dinner table. I would sweat in the night or not sleep through the night. I had every excuse under the sun such as “I had a busy day at work”, “I’ve been gone all week, and I’m tired”.
In December of 2012, I went out of town for business. The phone conversation that first night out of town was an ultimatum from my wife saying she didn’t want me to come home until I had done something about the pills.
The thought of going somewhere to get treatment or get help never entered my mind. In my mind I was not an addict and did not realize the seriousness of my addiction. By the end of the week, my wife agreed to let me come home while I figured out what I was going to do. I was severely emotional, didn’t know what to do and was scared to go home fearing nothing but yelling and arguing.
On my way home from the airport, I got off at my exit from the interstate, pulled into a gas station and called 911. I had 2 bottles of pills in my car next to me and I threatened to overdose on the pills hoping to never wake up if I didn’t get help from someone. The police and Fire Department arrived and I was taken to the ER and eventually that evening transferred into a rehab facility.
I was in rehab for a week and, honestly, I don’t think that was long enough. I think it was good for getting me off of the pills and getting me through that detox phase. I followed up with an outpatient program at the same facility for a month, meeting for 3 hours a night, 3 nights a week. Looking back, I wish my inpatient treatment would’ve been longer or it had been followed up with a stay in some type of rehabilitation home. I remember thinking “I wonder if this is how a soldier feels after returning from war and not knowing they have PTSD?” Coming out of rehab, my wife and I were both in shock and didn’t really have the tools in place to deal with recovery. She was understandably angry, upset, hurt and betrayed.
Quite some time before going into rehab, Karen stopped wearing her wedding ring due to it needing a repair. I would tell her to get it fixed and she would respond that she didn’t want to spend the money. Eventually I stopped asking her to have it fixed and started believing that it was not important to her and therefore our relationship was also not important to her. Throughout this time, I continued to wear mine.
While in rehab, she told me one evening on the phone that she had put her ring back on and that as a sign of love and support we would each kiss our rings every evening before going to bed. Being in that vulnerable low point in my life, this was huge and encouraging.
After coming home from rehab, she stopped wearing her ring again. To me this was devastating and I didn’t know what to think or how to react. I was truly broken and soon stopped wearing mine as well.
I started attending AA meetings and my wife Al-Anon meetings, but rarely communicated about the meetings. Neither one of us made it a priority to seek out counseling right away. Our relationship was strained enough where we didn’t know what to do next or how to interact with each other which had a negative impact on our relationship. We were barley speaking and fighting allot. I can remember thinking that once our kids were out of the house we would wind up divorcing.
Our fighting and arguing became more and more frequent and would often escalate into shouting and screaming at each other. One evening the argument turned physical and resulted in my ripping Karen’s shirt and leaving bruises on her arms.
In March of 2013, I began having an affair with a female co-worker and was unfaithful to my wife. I knew in my mind and in my heart that this person was not good for me. I felt like god was punishing me for all the wrong I had done and placing me with this person was my punishment. Karen filed for divorce and we would end up spending $9,000 on attorney fees.
I relapsed with alcohol and on one occasion drove while drinking with my son, his girlfriend at the time and my grade school aged daughter to an ultimate Frisbee game my son was playing in about 45 minutes from home. After finishing that bottle of wine, I left the event and bought more alcohol which I proceeded to consume after returning. At some point my son called Karen and informed her I had been drinking. Karen would end up driving to where we were at and our son drove his mother’s vehicle home with his girlfriend and our daughter while my wife drove me home in my vehicle. This event prompted Karen to obtain a restraining order preventing me from operating a motor vehicle while our daughter was present.
Our son was in his senior year of high school and would be graduating in May. Although we had filed for divorce and the environment in our home was extremely toxic at the time, we had family who would be coming into town and staying with us for the graduation. Our impending divorce was not a secret to our family. This added stress would prompt me to get another prescription for valium. Karen confronted me on the valium and I would eventually dispose of what remained down the toilet. As a result, I have been sober since May 21, 2013.
Shortly after everyone left following the graduation, Karen began to talk about wanting to see if there was anything left that could potentially save our marriage. We agreed that we would put a hold on the divorce proceedings, start counseling individually and work on our relationship. We both agreed that while the divorce may still happen, if we didn’t address our own issues future relationships would suffer and the patterns and cycles would continue regardless of who we were with. It was about this time that we started attending Celebrate Recovery. The rest of 2013 was difficult but at the end of day, we both knew what we were working towards and remained committed. It was during this time that Karen told me the real reason she had stopped wearing her wedding ring was because it no longer fit her finger and she embarrassed to admit the real reason for not wearing it. We would eventually end up having the ring resized and a larger diamond put in.
Hebrews 12:14-15: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
In my ongoing recovery, I still struggle with guilt and shame and at times low self-esteem for the harm and hurt I’ve put my family, friends and co-workers through.
Today I am most proud of rebuilding my marriage with my wife and having a good relationship with my children. As of July 2014, we have been married 21 years. Through all of this, my wife has been my biggest supporter and cheerleader and for that I’m very grateful and thankful. If the roles were reversed, I don’t know if I could’ve been that person.
We started attending the People’s Church in Spring Hill on and off and on holidays shortly after they moved into their new location and in 2013 started attending on a regular basis. Finding the People’s Church has been a tremendous experience and we could not imagine attending anywhere else. Now when we have to miss a service, we feel like we’ve missed out on something and are eager to get back.
The biggest thing that has helped in my recovery has been going to church as a family on a regular basis, accepting Christ into our lives, having a sponsor and accountability partners, working the 12 steps and getting involved in a Celebrate Recovery program with my wife.
Psalm 116:5-6: The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Proverbs 11:14: Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.
In the spring of 2014 our son came home from his freshman year of college. We knew that his grades were poor and that he would not be returning for his sophomore year. As a family we agreed that to have him come back home and attend community college in the fall would best the best answer and would allow him to regroup and get back on track.
After being home for a short period of time, I found alcohol bottles under his bed in a backpack. Knowing that he had been drinking while away, I assumed this was just left over alcohol. I poured out the alcohol, threw away the bottles and did not confront him on the issue.
About a week later while vacuuming his room, something told me to check his desk for anything else that may be hidden. Behind a locked desk door I found a shopping bag with various pipes and other drug paraphernalia in it. Also in the bag was a small lock box that was also locked. Inside the lock box was a small scale and a small bag of marijuana.
When I confronted our son about what I found, he denied that it was his and claimed that it was somebody else’s, left behind in his dorm room and rather than leaving it for the school to find decided to bring it home. Soon after, we found out from various friends and his soon to be ex-girlfriend that it was his and that not only was he using, he was also selling while in school to support his social activities.
Initially there was allot of anger and resentment between my wife and I. Being that I am an addict and had abused drugs, I had tremendous guilt and feelings of being responsible for his choices. Thankfully we both began to reach out to others for advice and support. Because of this, we were able to come together as a team, address it and agree on a plan of action as a united front. I was also able to come to terms with the fact that because of my poor choices that I may have been a factor in his decision to use but that I did not make him use drugs and that it was his choice to use.
We enrolled him in an outpatient program and wrote up a contract outlining what our expectations were going to be in order for him to continue living at home. The contract was tough and non-negotiable but at the same time it was not unreasonable. Most of the consequences for failing to meet the terms of the contract would result in him having to leave our house. We were not going to enable him by bending on the contract nor where we going to let his poor choices affect our home life, destroy everything that my wife and I had worked on and accomplished over the last year in our recovery or have a negative impact on his younger sister.
After returning home from a family vacation, he informed us that he did not wish to live under the terms of the contract and was going to move to Cookeville and live with his new girlfriend of 1 month. This choice resulted in him not having a vehicle to take with him, being responsible for his own cell phone bill and all of his living expenses. While it has been tough at times and an adjustment for all, it allowed us to continue to work on our recovery in a positive environment and also maintain a positive environment for everyone at home.
We have always kept an open line of communication with him, been there for him when needed and at the same time with boundaries in place have maintained a loving and positive relationship with him. With these boundaries in place, he has never asked for money or financial help and we are not enabling him in the choices he is making. He also knows that at any time he is welcome to move back home but that it would also require him to abide by the contract.
I am thankful that although this happened, it happened at the time that it did. Had we not been involved in Celebrate Recovery, working on our own recovery and having accountability partners and sponsors in place, we would not have handled this situation the way we did. Without this in place, it would have driven a deeper wedge between my wife and I, our marriage and we also would not have the positive relationship we currently have with our son.
After being sober for about a year, I really started to have strong feelings of wanting to give back, help others where needed and not be ashamed of my addictions and my recovery. Our family has since participated in the Operations Hope Christmas boxes, delivered meals to the needy on Thanksgiving and has supported organizations like Hero’s in Recovery. My wife and I now volunteer our time to help with the youth groups on Sundays during worship and have even begun to be a foster family for dogs until a permanent home can be found for them. All of these are things that while in my addiction and more importantly without God in our lives; we never would have considered doing. Being able to give back and help others has truly been a blessing to our family and I believe has brought us closer together.
Celebrate Recovery is not just for chemical or alcohol addiction. It can be for anything: eating, co-dependency, anger, abuse, etc. Finding a church like the People’s Church that is so accepting of broken people, never turning their backs on them and welcoming them into the church family as members, volunteers and workers is truly amazing and definitely makes you feel like you have found a safe place to worship Jesus and not have to hide or cover up who you are.
Having faith in God and knowing that he loves you unconditionally has been an enormous help to me in my recovery. Knowing that Jesus forgives everybody for their sins is an amazing and freeing feeling.
Psalm 107: 1-2: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.
If you are struggling with an addiction and are just starting your journey into recovery the best advice I can give is to get “plugged in” somewhere. Get yourself a sponsor and accountability partners. Immerse yourself into your recovery by faithfully going to meetings, church, counseling or finding a program like Celebrate Recovery. The help is out there, you just need to find it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s amazing once you start on your road to recovery the doors that open for you, the people you meet and how much better you can feel about yourself both mentally and physically.