I remember sometime after being admitted to the hospital for treatment of my chemical addiction I believed that drugs and booze were my problem and that once I was free of them, I would be “just fine”. I mean it made sense didn’t it? Prior to drinking and drugging I had some problems…who doesn’t? But overall, I didn’t get REALLY messed up behaviorally until I started using. So upon entering treatment and the fog beginning to lift slightly, I got my first glimpse at the disaster, otherwise known as “Rebecca” and summarized that it should be easily fixed, all I needed to do was not use drugs.
Under The Influence
Well, needless to say, that was nowhere near the truth. For one thing, I had been regularly under the influence of mood and mind altering chemicals beginning at the age of 15. Prior to 15 I was just beginning 9th grade and fresh out of middle school – having been raised in a modest middle class home, in the same neighborhood, attending the same school system, with all the same friends and attending the same church all of my life until that point. There was not that much trouble to be exposed to, much less get into, up to that point. What ‘s more, 13-19 are the “teen years” where kids generally learn all sorts of living skills, like socialization with their peers, coping skills with anger, fear, etc…and problem solving skills.
The Real Problem
Here in lies the first part of the “real” problem….during the majority of those developmental years, I had discovered the use of mood and mind altering chemicals that seemed to take care of problems I did not yet have the experience or maturity to know how to handle. Rather than learning those vital skills, I instead took a shorter easier method and simply learned how to use those chemicals to do for me what I didn’t know how to do. (i.e. ~ Anger or Fear…using chemicals made them go away; Socialization hurdles…using chemicals gave me the confidence to make friends or the numbness to not care; Problem solving…using chemicals made me not feel stressed about problems in my life and enabled me to ignore them for a time).
The second part of the “real” problem being faced was that I LOVED being under the influence! Although on the one hand I believed that the chemical use was my only problem and that by removing it I would magically somehow be just fine…there was the other hand, where chemical use was also the only solution by which I’d had any experience as a teenager. I not only couldn’t imagine living life without being under the influence…I had no idea how to, even if I had wanted to ~ which I really didn’t!
So I went through multiple treatment and recovery programs with one relapse occurring after the first two years sober. I did, a few months later, eventually get clean and by grace stay clean…but it was a REALLY devastating blow in my early recovery as those same behaviors began to rear their ugly head, (sometimes even worse new ones than I even had in my addiction), and I was TOTALLY clean from all mood and mind altering chemicals!
I went to talk to my sponsor, horrified at my behavior and fearful that this was somehow a sign or an omen that I wasn’t “really” recovering and that I was headed for relapse. I mean, if I was really serious about my recovery, wouldn’t I be making good decisions and doing the right things? Weren’t chaos and confusion the byproducts of active addiction, or at the very least a lack of desire for personal recovery? What a relief it was as it was explained to me that the problems I was having were not a “sign that I wasn’t serious”, but rather a sign that I was a human being with relatively ZERO life skills, that drugs and booze were actually not my real problem, but rather that “I was”. The dope and booze had helped me to live with myself for a while until even it quit working.
Now that I was in recovery, I would have the opportunity to address the real problem, which was “me” and to learn how to apply the steps, which would show me how to become fully dependent on a Power greater than myself, would enable me to do just that. It was explained that my self-centeredness and self-direction were what had caused me to have this inability to “live life on life’s terms”. Being clean and sober means now having the opportunity to “learn” how to live without the use of chemicals one day at a time and to receive the gift of finding out that those things in my life that I had such regret and shame over, are the VERY THINGS that enable me to make a difference in the lives of other people!
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© Rebecca Balko 2016