I sit in this warm room surrounded by the bravest, most passionate people I have ever seen. I am now a familiar face and certain gentlemen greet me and ask me questions which I welcome.
Just a short time ago the man speaking had been sleeping under a bridge. Hard to imagine. He is articulate and emotional. This guy could be a motivational speaker.
He’s about 45 and moved to tears he’s so thankful to be alive.
He expresses how grateful he is to the other brothers in the room, fellow addicts, for taking him in once he made that step to find recovery. I can barely keep from crying myself.
This is a large group, at least 50 people, if not more. No one has to shush anyone and they respectfully listen to each other talk.
More than once I have been moved to tears as they tell their stories and work the step of the night. Stories that I cannot share, names I cannot speak due to the pledge of anonymity.
Such a strange and complex illness. So stigmatized. It’s amazing some of these men are alive. They are so normal looking in recovery– save the fact that some of them are missing a limb or teeth from their addiction or time on the street or jail.
The man talking feels badly he cannot help the other men who are addicts out there now living like street dogs, sleeping on sidewalks. He knows some of them might die from their illness. Exposure, accident, overdose. The illness of addiction.
He knows they have to take that first step, they have to say they want help before it can happen. Like he did.
Other men in the room express their deep sorrow as it relates to having stolen from relatives and friends to feed their addictions, something that their brains told them they had to have. Cravings so strong it made them give up everything to have that next fix before they could take it no more and found recovery.
They are very remorseful. If it weren’t for the other men in the room, their nakedly open confessions and support, they would all implode from the sheer shame of what their drug of choice drove them to do.
And you think this is a lifestyle choice?
Their illness squashes their self esteem
Society places additional shame.
We haven’t ever treated addicts like people with an illness
We’ve treated them, this population especially like they are worthless.
Just another addict.
But on this night I see otherwise. They are letting each other know they matter.
I see passion and love in the most unlikely place I ever expected to find it. They find it in each other and the few of us that support their efforts, the special guests of family and friends.
Remember, many of these men have nothing. It is where the most destitute go. Still, more of them have no family and they are forging new bonds of friendship in recovery because the old ones would draw them back into a life they don’t want to go back to.
Most of them will lead a secret life of recovery knowing that society sees their illness as a “weakness of moral character” when in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen stronger people in my life.
Literally, they are fighting for their lives and right now for some of them that live here, recovery is their full-time job. It was either here or a grave. They will fight the urge to relapse at times their whole lives. It’s a constant struggle to stay on track.
Some of these guys have been through the program 3 or 4 times –desperate for it to stick on this journey. Still, others are years out, they have jobs and have come here to find support and offer hope that you can have a life and a job.
Why am I here? I am here in support of a young man who has just entered recovery. A friend of my son Charles who died by suicide and suffered from depression and addiction.
Everyone should go to an AA or NA meeting once in their life
It should be a requirement. If you love an addict, you must go.
Look online for “open” meetings. That means guests (non-addicts) are allowed. But don’t go if you are not ready to listen and learn. Judgment does not live in those rooms and your judgment is not welcome there.
Hope is offered here in abundance. And although I have not stood directly in those shoes, I am honored to be welcome here to witness their awakening.
One thought on “Looking at the other side of addiction”
Thank you so much for this moving article. You made me reconsider some of my views and realize how quickly I often judge others. I’m so sorry about Charles. I continue to admire how passionately and effectively you are using his story to help others. You are making a difference in people’s lives. God bless you!