12 STEP CHAIR
My name is David and I am a member of this program. Let me begin with a brief background of myself.
I was born to two hard working honest people. Who had no vice in their lives, and were married till death did they part. Who in turn provided the best upbringing they could in a safe and sane environment. This in a day and age when the environment was any thing but.
I was born in 1964 and it took me 40 years to realize that my battle with addiction started about the time I was introduced to solid food. The progression of my illness went something like this; the first substances I was unable to moderate after a period of unchecked use were; sugar, salt, cholesterol, and fat.
Sugar I remember pulling out the drawers in my mom’s kitchen to use as a ladder to get on the counter to get at the sugar or chocolate milk mix. The sugar I would eat by the mouthfuls or honey straight from the container. The chocolate milk mix I would bring down and make chocolate milk so thick it was syrup. Then drink till I was ready to throw up. Salt I would eat straight from the shaker or I would have some food with my salt.
Now I remember my parents telling me that this was not good for me, also I remember thinking why would we have it if you could not eat it. What I did not realize was eating it in moderate amounts would be ok as long as you could eat it in moderate amounts.
So in disregarding the truth told me by my parents I effectively started what I consider to be the most dangerous part of this illness a lack of awareness of it or blindness to it. The blindness that would later cause me to think that life had somehow cheated me and I would be better off dead!
As for cholesterol and fat I will get to those later in my story as I get to the now of my recovery.
Now I have addiction in my life for sure but I am unaware of it after all I am just a child.
I was always attracted to the smell of stuff; either, glue, and gas. So at about 7 or 8 years old I started sniffing gas. Because of the intense rush, this progressed quickly to sniffing it till I would wake up on the ground then I would get up and do it again lets say 10 to 15 times. In the midst of this I had my first moment of clarity. I remember thinking that this has gotten out of control and I can not stop myself from doing it once I get started. So the answer was not to take that first sniff. At the same time I knew I would have to overcome addiction in my life. Keep in mind I am about 8 or 9 by now and have never even heard of A.A. or addiction before. But dieing is so unreal to me at this age that I kept testing this thought with many other substances for about 28 more years.
Next we move on to alcohol, pot, and cigarettes. I have heard it said that pot is the gateway drug for me by the time I smoked pot the gate was busted off the hinges! Anyway I did not like alcohol at first, it made me sick more often than not but in those days a man was not a man unless he could hold his liquor. If I mixed pot with alcohol it gave me the spins and I would get sick. It did not take me long to figure out that if I smoked the pot first I would be ok; the trick was not to get so drunk that I forgot that.
Now about the cigarettes, to me this was the hardest drug to get addicted to, it was downright nasty. But in those days a man that could hold his liquor was that much cooler if he smoked cigarettes. I sure am glad that today the things that I find cool are not harmful not only to me but to life as a hole and that they add to the health and well-being of all life!
So at this point I am about 10 or so and from there to about 16 I tried acid, coke, speed, downers, uppers, or any thing else that was available but nothing with any regularity except pot, alcohol, cigarettes, fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. At the time to me those substances would not hurt me, the blindness to the truth once again. So anyway now I am 16 this is about the point that the blindness starts to noticeably take an active roll in my self-destruction. The result of this was now heroin is added to the list of addictions that are (in my mind) not harmful or ok to use. So I did my first shot at 16 and heroin became my main addiction on top of the list of addictions I considered not harmful for about two years.
This is when I started to get what I wanted out of it, now my body is building a tolerance to all this stuff. Now I can hang with the best of them, slam heroin drink and smoke all day and night if I wanted to. In that day and age this was acceptable behavior, no one I hung out with seemed put out by this behavior except my parents. But by this time I was far from doing anything they suggested, I was just getting started and I knew what was best for me or so I thought.
So I used this way for about 2 years in which time I became a blackout drinker and quite addicted to heroin. How I was able to maintain any type of employment throughout this period of my life is nothing short of a miracle. To put it mildly after 2 years I was loosing ground fast and had to stop using heroin. I managed to do so by substituting downers, of which I was able to obtain quite readily. It was also at this time that I discovered caffeine as a new addition to my hodgepodge of addictions of which progressed for about 3 years.
At this time I am 21 and I got married bought a house and my first son was born, also at this time I managed to quit smoking, I did this by doubling my pot smoking and by this time the downers had gotten out of hand so I started the process of changing over to a new main addiction. At the time nothing was available so I slowed down and smoked more pot, I had also managed at this time to slow down on my drinking.
Soon acid became available, I had made some money selling pot so I started using acid regularly for about a year.
Then one day my pot connection suggested that I try some of his new product which turned out to be cocaine. The progression of this new main addiction went fast, at first I made a lot of money selling coke, but then I learned how to rock it up, in no time I was only selling enough to re-cop so I could smoke about an ounce a week. With this addiction I was able to notice my mental capacity dwindling fast so I just stopped and went back to acid as my main addiction.
That lasted well into using speed which started soon after the coke. Just snorting and smoking for about 4 years at which time my marriage started to fail. My attitude on or off the dope was about as negative as it could get and I lost my job because of it. At that point I did what any hardcore dope fiend would do, I stuck a needle in my arm for the first time in about 10 years.
Soon after that I tried to end my life, but succeeded only in hurting everyone who knew and loved me and effectively loosing my mind.
After coming out of a coma I thought everything was fine, but the first time I shot up I knew I was insane. The problem with being insane is you think everyone is lying to you and it is a conspiracy to drive you insane. Even though a big part of me knew the truth I chose to ignore it and over the next 6 to 8 years the big part that knew became the smaller part.
Throughout this period of my life I suffered through visual hallucinations and intense episodes of paranoia. These led me to driving my wife insane with false or maybe all too true accusations about her whereabouts and activities. Also my concern with the safety of my children in the midst of this slowly added to my insanity.
This reached a point that we got into a fight, which resulted in my being arrested for spousal abuse. To make a long story short I was convicted of this and sentenced to 2 years in prison. At witch time I started smoking again. And because I would not or could not stop using 2 years turned into 51/2 years inside. Out of my 6 year commitment (2year term 4 years on parole) I only gave them 6 months clean on the streets. The other 31/2 years I did inside on violations. It took me 6 years to complete the 4 years on parole because I ran or was “at large” for a total of 2 years, with a total of 8 trips to prison.
After that I managed to stay out of prison for about 1 year. During which time I had made the decision to stop doing all drugs and alcohol. In that instant the auditory hallucinations started, voices inside my head, they would range from my best friend to my worst enemy, from the devil to GOD. It was also about that time that I discovered that the visual hallucinations were not as severe if I did not use.
At the same time the paranoia was worse and resulted in my being caught with a gun and sentenced to 16 months in prison. During which time my health started to fail, my kidneys hurt all the time, and I had blood in my urine.
This was about the time that my mental condition was at its worst and I came to the startling revelation that if I killed myself the insanity would carry over into the afterlife with me. I was going to have to address this problem in this part of life to be ok again.
So I turned it around and started to examine my life from all angles. To my dismay I discovered that I had become so toxic toward life that it was no wonder that it was retreating from me. I got to thinking about the work I had done over the years. First I was a mechanic then I became a carpenter. After examining this for a long time I discovered a profound message in it, do what a mechanic does and fix the problem before you do what a carpenter does build, (a new life).
So the first thing I needed to do was fix the problem, what came to mind was quit smoking and get into shape. So I quit smoking again on July fourth 2002. This was much harder to do the second time but I managed to do it. As I slowly lost the craving for tobacco I watched my caffeine addiction become unmanageable and I knew I was going to have to stop that too.
Being a drug addict I expected to get better at once, it did not happen that way. I was still having health problems but I did manage to get a decent work out program going this despite not feeling like working out at all.
Shortly before I got out of prison I was told that I might have cancer and I would be going to the hospital instead of home. I refused the hospital and was glad I was going to die. I figured life would forgive me if I took drugs to be comfortable in my final days. So when I got out I started using meth, heroin, and alcohol. Once I got going I thought that I could go the hospital and get more drugs. I tried this and they said I was all right and I was not going to die. At this I was pissed now that I was strung out again I was going to have to face the prospect of living! So it was back to fixing the problem. The easiest way for me to do that would be to go back to prison. This all took place in a 60 day period. I got out in October 2002 and went back in December 2002, for a 10 month violation. During which time I abstained from using drugs, where I was sent there was a lot of dope!
I worked out as best as I could and started to consider what I eat as a potential source of addiction or health the choice was mine. So I began the process of learning about nutrition. At first I was overwhelmed. I did not know how I was going to change a lifetime of bad eating habits.
Then remembering the steps, and the process, but applying those principals to the new knowledge of nutrition, I began to have power over my bad eating habits. This also increased my awareness of my overall state of health, and how my diet affects it.
With this in mind I got out of prison for the last time, 10 trips all told. Today I am glad to say that I do not think that it is ok to go in and out of prison until you die or catch 25 to life as I did before.
So before returning to my old life, and doing as I always have before, I surrendered to my creator. I gave away what was left of my possessions, packed tent sleeping bag, and as many clothes as I could carry on my bike, and rode to the parole office. Where I was told that I would be staying at The Union Gospel Mission, I would be applying for general assistance, as well as getting on the waiting list to get a bed at The Salvation Army. I did not question her or argue I just did what she said.
At the Department Of Humane Assistance I was told I could stay on G.A. until I got S.S.I., of which they would see that I got, so long as I was being honest with them. My thoughts at the time was complete and total surrender to GOD, if I was not as honest as my memories would let me be I would not be able to take advantage of the help and resources available. I got into The Salvation Army soon after that. Where I learned that only those who so chose remain homeless, and those that will do the best they can until such time as they can do their best will receive above and beyond what is needed to regain their self sufficiency, as well as reemerge with society successfully.
It was about this time I had a year clean December 31st. 2003 so I did what any good alcoholic would do I got drunk to celebrate. Today my clean date is January 1st. 2004. I entered recovery on January 9th, 2004 and attended well over 400 meetings in that year. I completed Pathways 8 week intensive drug treatment class. I received 2 certificates of completion from Changing Courses an anger management class facilitated by Claudia Diaz. I would like to say that this particular class is and will remain one of the greatest learning experiences of my lifetime! I would also like to say that Claudia Diaz is one of the most awesome people I have ever met!
In the midst of this I had to move out of the Salvation Army, so I camped out for 2 months. My parole officer did not like that at all. For most of the time I stayed in an abandon warehouse with about 25 people.
To say that it was off the hook is an understatement. Insane is more like it. Alcohol, pot, crank, crack, and violence were the standard day or night, and sleep did not come easy. On the good side we had electricity, bathroom, television, radio, coffee pot, toaster oven. During this time I did not find it necessary to use or drink and the opportunity of learning to cope with those that do did not go to waste.
My parole officer kept pressuring me to give up the location of my camping spot. This I did not do because even though my life was harder than it had ever been, being clean made being free and homeless better than my best trip to prison. So I moved out, but about this time I interviewed for Quinn Cottages and was informed that I would be moving in but I had to wait for a cottage to open up. Salvation Army was more than helpful and let me stay there until I moved into Quinn. During which time I did more than was required of me in volunteer work and learned a lot about charity.
Finally I was called to move into Quinn Cottages. By this time I had 6 months clean and a good working program. Life was starting to react to me in a positive way, but upon entering into Quinn I was informed that I would not be able to continue my program because for the first 3 months I would have to meet program requirements of Quinn. This was not an easy task but a place to live has priority over program. As it turned out it was a good lesson in patients and very beneficial to both Quinn and me. It turned out to be an example of how life makes a place for you if you show up consistently over a period of time.
Anyway I was able to prepare and facilitate an 8 week class on nutrition in about a month and a half. The good thing about this is that I was so well prepared for doing this that I was astounded with myself. Also I was not nervous about doing it at all. And this from a mechanic / carpenter the transformation was nothing short of a miracle.
Also I learned the truth about being the instrument of my creator’s good will. In order to get well from drug and alcohol addiction, I needed the knowledge provided in the pages of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to give me the power I lacked. Not just for myself, for anyone my creator would help through me. For this to work its beat I have learned that I need to keep my house clean. By not trying to fix the world only my reaction to it, and approaching life in a healthy fashion, or with a positive state of mind, by this I mean prepared to face anything that comes my way with a positive response or no response until my growth affords me a positive one. Now I want you to understand that between just wanting to live, and having this kind of posture, there was a huge amount of recovery involved. The trick for me has been not letting my ideals and feelings get in the way of his good will!
As this level of growth was achieved the amount of awareness I dedicated to drug and alcohol recovery became less and less, as I acquired knowledge / power over my addiction. In the past this is the point that I would fall off. I am already conditioned to dedicate this much awareness to recovery in general, so instead of relaxing, becoming complacent, and ultimately returning to old behavior, I needed to expand into safe, beneficial, and therefore healthy areas of life. By this I mean I had to seek it out! The trick for me has been to hold on to the amount of awareness I already dedicate to recovery, but shift my focus to the next area of my life that needs attention. I had already quit smoking but needed to stop abusing caffeine, eating too much, and eating the wrong foods. It was at this point that I put The Big-Book down, looked over my fourth step to see what area of my life needed attention next, and picked up a big book on nutrition.
It was called The Nutrition Almanac, and in it I found the knowledge to increase my awareness of what is good for me to the point that I have power over my bad eating habits. As well as knowledge to gain good ones and help others do the same. After all my knowledge of recovery need not be restricted to just drug and alcohol recovery. Also I discovered that the library has books to help me increase my awareness to the point that I will not be able to continue any unacceptable behavior even if I wanted to. Also I have found that as long as I am honestly working on my recovery I am not going to backslide because I am dedicating more time to a recovery that is not drug and alcohol oriented. I just keep remembering that knowledge is power over lack of it!
Today I find putting anything in my body that it does not need, or can not use for fuel, causes the same spiritual malady as drugs and alcohol did, except it is on a less severe level.
I also realize what all of these substances I have been unable to moderate, to full blown addicted to, have in common, they all will contribute to my untimely death! The difference today is that I am not blind to the fact that it is present in my life. The more willing I am to learn more about what works naturally with my body, and what does not, helps me to not only see through what was once a blind spot in my mind, but also helps me keep this new found sight! And with this new sight is a new thought process in which I look upon ingesting any harmful substance as an act of asking to have death in my life. And I feel that I should be responsible for knowing the truth about anything I come into contact with and my actions should reflect this!
My battle with addiction is always changing. The front was at drugs and alcohol, but slowly moved away as I began to win the fight, to nicotine and caffeine, then on to my oldest addictions sugar, salt, cholesterol, and fats. Now sugar and cholesterol can be eliminated from my life, salt and fats cannot. But awareness of there presents combined with strict honest regulation is a goal that can be achieved. This is where the focus of my recovery is directed today.
Also I find that knowing what is bad for me, has opened up a new gate, to what is good for me. This was my tapping into the inner source of strength or power that has virtually cut out the blindness to the truth. But without the knowledge that is power from the outside, The Big Book, my sponsor, the fellowship, The Nutrition Almanac, combined with, reading, listening and taking suggestions, participating in, as well as studying and the practicing of these, the inner source has nothing to work with. Let me put it another way, when I thought that sugar, salt, cholesterol, fats, gas fumes, drugs, and alcohol were ok, the door to death was open on my life, and my life was leaving me ever so slowly. Now just knowing and thinking that this stuff is not has helped me close that door. But it is the knowledge of what is good for me that has opened the door of life and lets it work through me. The more I learn and practice the more it will work through me. It is infinite in the possibilities for growth, and my life becomes a positive influence on everyone I come into contact with!
Today my thoughts and actions no longer say that I am willingly trying to hurt myself. This brings me to my mental condition. I am diagnosed with severe schizophrenia, this means that all of my senses are disrupted I see, hear, taste, smell, and feel things that are not real in our reality. Unfortunately they are all too real in my reality. Needless to say I like our reality much better. I have lost much of my vocabulary and articulation and my ability to recall memory long and short term only works minimally at best and sometimes not at all. Those things I cannot change. Obsession is also a very prominent issue with me. But as I get closer to the light my ability to manage my schizophrenia and eliminate my obsessive compulsive behavior increases. The things I can. Life has never been so hard for me, as it is now, but life is better now, then it has ever been, and I successfully manage my mental illness without meds. Thank you GOD for the wisdom to know the difference.
How are you working on the addict?
How are you changing the way you react to life when it affects you negatively?
What does the newcomer mean to you?
It has been my experience that the level of a person’s spirituality, or the amount of dedication they have to their religion, can be measured by their approach to life. It has also been my experience that if the ability to measure ones own spirituality is used honestly to continue to grow into a part of life, then it stays with you in full strength. I have also found that using it to judge or measure someone else causes it to lose its potency or priority in my life.
Using myself as an example, in my rebellion against the upbringing of my parents, I learned to make bad choices in my life which I continued to make for 25 years. I used to think that this is who I am and this is all I will ever be,(stationary, stagnant).
Today the person I am becoming, (and I will always be becoming a person, this leaves my approach to life open to unlimited possibilities or continued growth), anyway the person I am becoming teaches me that the old approach could not have been further from the truth.
So by applying the recovery process to all areas of my life to find the areas that lack truth, I am developing a new approach to life that should continue to grow beyond my passing from the here and now.
Note: Brother David gave me a CD-R Disc and I moved it from there to here. He is a wise man and has much to offer all of us who are serious about their sober progressive recovery, spiritual growth and becoming more and more of true humane being! ~ Peta 5-13-2007