Moving Forward

There are few things as difficult as being asked to move out of your mother’s house following a relapse. I faced that hardship today. I moved in with mom and dad in 2008 following a period of drinking and getting high. I was about to be homeless. I had resigned from a position as a paralegal in Philadelphia, and was working as a house painter and carpenter’s helper in Bethlehem, PA. I met someone who smoked marijuana on a daily basis, and gave in to his suggestion that I needed to “relax a little.” He handed me a pot pipe. From that day on, I smoked weed every day. Morning, noon and night. Didn’t take much at all to get me to pick up where I left off years ago when I quit drugs and alcohol and started attending AA meetings.

My weed smoking habit grew to more than a quarter ounce a day. I stayed away from alcohol for nearly five years, but was constantly getting high. I found I could not function without marijuana. I was unable to fall asleep, and was plagued by panic attacks. On one occasion, I fell victim to severe anxiety while shopping for groceries. I had to leave a cart full of groceries and run out of the store. I could not predict when these attacks would happen, and was at a loss to explain them. But marijuana seemed to stop the anxiety. It was also beneficial for my back pain and muscle spasms. I joked that pot was my natural muscle relaxer. What I didn’t realize was that I was self-medicating. That I had an undiagnosed underlying mental illness. I was tormented, and yet had no idea what was bothering me.

I continued to “try” sobriety a number of times over the years. I truly believe I was troubled in my spirit by my behavior and my lack of conscious contact with God. I often would make the comment to myself that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. Although I had this fleeting thought, I lacked the power and the commitment to do anything about it. I am sure I felt somewhat hopeless. If only I could have reached out to God at that time. Something kept me powerless. These periods of temporary sobriety would last a few months to a few years, only to slip through my fingers.

This continued on and off for quite some time. I eventually stopped getting drunk and high, but I began abusing opiates and anti-anxiety pills. This happened despite my attending church and claiming to be delivered from addiction by Jesus Christ. I started teaching weekly Bible lessons at a local county prison, testifying that I was in recovery. I gave lessons on fear and love and living in the Spirit. At times, I was aware that I was living as a hypocrite. I kept praying to God to keep me out of trouble. I tried bargaining with the Lord. “God, just let me get through this day and I promise I will never abuse pills again.” I wanted to quit on my own terms. Striking a bargain with God is one thing that never works.

So I am at a point where I am moving forward. I finally feel a sense of hope regarding my future. My relationship with God has been strengthened by my becoming humble and honest. It’s obvious to me that I cannot resist the temptation to use drugs when left to my own devices. I am powerless. I am prone to live in the flesh, feeding my sin nature. The Big Book tells us that no human power could relieve us of our alcoholism. It goes on to say, “But there is one who has all power. That one is God. May you find him now.” It feels so good to be able to return to the spiritual path I walked years ago, before giving in to my self will run riot. It is time I stop living in fear, trying to escape from life by anesthetizing myself, and running from responsibility. No matter what has happened to me in the past that might have lead to abusing drugs and alcohol, I realize I am responsible for my own recovery. I cannot try managing my cravings on my own. It doesn’t work.

Thanks to my higher power, Jesus Christ, my impulse to use drugs or get drunk is suppressed. Recognizing that I need a power greater than myself is at the root of my being able to change and to resist impulsive behavior. I have been given yet another chance to live. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to move forward.

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