WakeUp Carolina is sharing a six-part weekly series, “Turning A Mess Into A Message,” guest authored by Keegan. He has decided to publicly share how a tragic incident led to his recovery in order to hopefully provide someone hope that there is another way to live. This is Part 3 of the series. If you haven’t yet, please read Part 1 and Part 2 beforehand and then return to Part 3.
September 7th, 2022
To be completely honest with you, recovery is a tough business. Getting clean and sober has proved to be one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. However, I have learned in life that the most rewarding things are never easy. Throughout my active addiction, there were plenty of times when I had a fleeting thought like “okay, enough is enough” or “I need to change something,” but it was never backed by any serious action on my part to do anything. It really wasn’t until the evidence of my actions and how they affected others was plainly visible to me, and the pain of the wreckage I caused became almost unbearable that I really made a semi-decision to want to get clean. I say semi-decision because all I knew was that I wanted the pain to stop and I wanted things to get better in my life. At the time, I really couldn’t see how I could go on living knowing what my addiction had led to and how my actions had affected others. I’ve heard many people say over the course of my recovery that “your bottom” is only as low as you allow it to go. Meaning you DO NOT have to lose everything in order to make the decision to get sober. What a revelation. I honestly wish I would have been able to comprehend that concept a lot sooner than I was able to. Unfortunately for me, it took me almost to the point of no return before I had an inkling of desire to get sober.
Early in my journey in recovery, during my days of treatment, I still was not 100% sold on the fact that I wanted to be sober. To give up booze and drugs forever seemed like a daunting task. Personally, I had to be peeled like an onion, layer by layer. People would say things during group therapy, or meetings that would almost slap me in the face like a ton of bricks, almost like God was sending me a wake-up call. One of the most important things that I found early on is that I only need to be trying to find similarities to the people around me in recovery, any meetings, or wherever for that matter. When I start trying to pick out the differences, that is when I become close-minded and nothing that is said is going to relate to me or be helpful (at least in my mind). If you can take only one thing away from this post; let it be that in early recovery you only need to look for similarities between you and other recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, especially when you are trying to get sober for the first time. What this concept did for me was that I began to develop an open-minded attitude. Once I was open-minded I began to take people’s suggestions on how to do things, and most importantly how to live life sober. Slowly over time, my desire to stay sober became greater than my desire to get high or drunk, but it took continuous action on my part. The most important aspect of which I believe was to surround myself with people who had more time in sobriety than me and lean on them for guidance and support. Also, I had to ask for accountability. What I really needed was multiple people who were willing to call me on my crap and tell me when I was off the beam. This allowed me to pinpoint areas in my life where I needed to work on.
Being an addict or alcoholic does not mean we get rid of drugs and alcohol and everything gets magically better. Yes, you will begin to physically feel better but the problem is within us in our minds, we addicts and alcoholics have a distorted way of thinking. The disease of alcoholism is a two-prong illness, a mental obsession, and a physical allergy. The best way I have heard this described is that for us addicts and alcoholics, to think or to drink is to die. Personally, I need guidance in pretty much every area of my life. I have learned the hard way that left to my devices I will burn all bridges and tear everything down around me, wait for the dust to settle, and then wonder where the hell I went wrong. I also learned that I need people to be tough on me. A little tough love and correction went a long way for this addict. If you pat me on the back and tell me “everything will be okay, just do better next time…” that will go in one ear and out the other, and I will be right back where I was if not worse doing the same thing over again!
What got it to stick for me was wanting the pain and misery that came with my addiction to stop, and wanting to make amends for the wreckage I caused. However, that was just a start. Things started getting better in my life, I was no longer fearful of everything, I had a sense of peace in my life, and I was confident that things would be alright. NO MATTER WHAT! Which is crazy for me to say that I am currently in prison. But my life is way better than anticipated and I have hope for my future today. People in AA always say “Don’t leave before the miracle happens” and man, I am sure glad I stuck around. For me, that miracle is wanting to be sober and being okay no matter what, having friends and family trust and support me, and being peaceful and loving myself. That is amazing. Three years ago, I hated my own guts, but now I love the person I am today. So I will say to you, what all those “crazy people ” (what I used to call them) told me, please don’t leave until the miracle happens.