*Allow me to introduce myself. I am the disease of your addiction. I am cunning, baffling, and powerful.
Russ was one of three elderly men I met at my first AA meeting in Rhinelander. He passed away on August 6 and was a gazillion years sober. Russ had come very close to dying several years ago during a period of depression resulting in failed suicide attempts. Thankfully he was around for many years and his story of recovery has been a monumental part of my life
A few weeks ago, one of our former residents was not so lucky. He did die from his disease. Alone and living with the four horsemen of terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair every single day.
When I leave my home the last thing I see as I shut my back door is a beautiful Serenity Prayer wall hanging from the mothership of treatment centers; The Betty Ford Center. This was presented to me by two amazing individuals when they moved into their own homes. Both of them were recently hospitalized because they are losing their battle against their disease.
Since we opened our doors we have seen 21 individuals leave to move into their own place full of hope and a strong resolve to never drink a drop or use again. Not one them was able to stay sober for any length of time. A few of them drank the very day they left to move into their own place.
All of these individuals have something in common. They did not consistently go to AA or NA meetings, work steps, or believe in a power greater than themselves. Before I continue I must make it clear that what you are about to read is strictly my opinion and thoughts as a grateful member of AA.
Now, I said Russ died sober and he did. He was sober for many years when he decided he knew it all and didn’t need meetings. He entered the world of dry drunkenness complete with anger, depression, and hopelessness. As he put it, he was ready to “off” himself but went to the “looney bin” instead. After he was deemed sane, he began going to as many meetings as he could and became the man I met so long ago. His experience and my failed attempts at sobriety were all I needed to convince me that meetings mattered. The rest of them were aware of AA/NA meetings and working the steps, but for whatever reason chose not to do either. I won’t presume to know that I know why they made that choice. What I do know is that the disease of addiction is always there and waiting patiently to be invited back into one’s life.
*I hate all of you who have a twelve-step program. Your program, your meetings, and your higher power weaken me. I can't function in the manner I'm accustomed to.
Alcoholics and addicts need to be vigilant in order to keep their disease in remission. Some diabetics take insulin to keep their disease under control. Schizophrenics who hear voices take medication to make the voices stop talking to them. Alcoholics and addicts have meetings, steps, and faith in a higher power. It is not a tangible remedy, but it is one that has worked for millions of alcoholics and addicts.
If one doesn’t take steps to keep their disease in control, the addicted brain will tell an afflicted individual that they have been sober for so long and are doing so well that, “You don’t need any of that hokey AA stuff.” It will convince you that you have “licked” it using sheer willpower. After all they have been sober while living at Frederick Place. What their lying in wait disease fails to mention is that they have to remain sober to stay here, and it is a lot easier to abstain in a zero tolerance facility than it is when you are on your own. For those who state they don’t like meetings, I never force the issue because I hated having the issue forced on me. I share how meetings have changed my life and recommend going. If someone is an atheist or agnostic, I let them know, whether they are an alcoholic or an addict, that there is an entire chapter in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on the subject and suggest they read it. If one is embarrassed or ashamed I tell them it takes more courage to ask for help than continue to struggle on their own.
I am fortunate to have experienced two types of recovery. The first being one without meetings, steps or faith in a Higher Power. For that I was rewarded with numerous relapses that eventually led me down a path of four years of drunkenness and waking up with the aforementioned four horsemen. My second recovery journey has consisted of meetings, steps, and faith in a Higher Power for which I’ve been rewarded with almost 11 years of continuous sobriety, peace, love, self-respect, self-esteem, strength, and so many more things I wouldn’t have if I picked up my old friend Bud E. Wiser and welcomed him into my life again.
I was a tad selfish when choosing the subject for this month. I needed a place to vent my anger and frustration toward my disease. I needed to process recent events and get my ego in check. I needed to be reminded through my own words that what I have done to stay sober does not necessarily mean it will work for others. Most importantly, I needed to share in this forum in hopes that my words may reach someone who is struggling as our departed resident did. By reading this you have allowed me that opportunity and I thank you.
*from the poem
I Am Your Disease
, author unknown