My mom was bi-polar with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It was a rough combination. I am sure it must have been terrible for her, acting out based on pure emotion, but it hardly seemed that way. She’d lash out about some minor something or other, or perhaps nothing at all, and then forget it moments later as if it never happened. She didn’t realize just how much it was affecting me or maybe she just didn’t care, or didn’t have the capacity to care. Who knows. Regardless, it was really rough growing up in that household always walking on eggshells, so to speak.
My dad deflected at times, at others he escaped into his alcoholism, leaving me and my siblings to fend for ourselves. Then one day he was gone, just picked up and left. He couldn’t handle my mom anymore, I get that part. But leave us all alone, abandon us? How’s that fair? I didn’t ask to be born, let alone into this nightmare.
It’s no wonder I started drinking and getting stoned. It coincided with my dad’s departure, I must have been around 15 at the time. Looking back, I understand that my dad’s addiction played a role, addiction’s genetic after all. Plus, I needed to escape, just like my dad did, at least when he was still around. I miss him, I hate him – how can these feelings possibly ever resolve?
Things, of course, got progressively worse, they always do. Mom kicked me out of the house by the time I was 17. Truth is, I was glad to be gone. I didn’t have the courage to do it on my own. I preferred to be drunk or stoned and sleeping till noon with a roof over my head and a full pantry in the kitchen. I’d now need to care for myself. However, at least I didn’t have to worry abbout when crazy might explode out of nowhere like an old car back-firing off in the distance.
I tried a few jobs but couldn’t keep them as I bummed around from couch-to-couch at friends’ homes. That clearly only lasted for so long. It wasn’t a permanent solution. I had none. No plan, no idea of where my life was headed, other than living from high-to-high. Then I ran out of couches. My drug use only got worse as I began shooting up daily to numb the pain, nicking odd trinkets here and there that I hoped people wouldn’t notice missing. I needed some way to pay for my habit. There’s something completely sobering about waking up on a park bench with a gun to your head as someone steals the last of your measly, meager possessions. I pissed myself in fright and handed the things over, then cried like a baby when he left. Out of pure desperation I turned to NA. I soon discovered that was everyone’s default setting in NA – desperation.
My first meeting was awkward and uncomfortable, I knew absolutely no one and wasn’t exactly sure I wanted to be there. I’d found the place online. I showed up a few minutes early, still considering backing out, when someone noticed me. “First time, huh?”
‘Was it written on my face or something?’ I thought to myself. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Been sober 20 years now, sort of developed a sixth sense over time. One day you’ll know what I mean.”
James took me under his wing as my sponsor and I heard some unbelievable stories that first night, some of which put my experiences to shame. At least I thought so. Then it occurred to me, ‘I’m not alone, I can do this thing.’ I left that meeting with the most intense sense of freedom I’d felt since I could ever remember. It’s hard to describe it. A burden was lifted from my shoulders. “I’m Alex and I’m an addict.” I admitted that. And, there were plenty of people just like me, willing to accept me with unconditional understanding.
As I continued to attend that regular meeting, and added several others, I became fully aware of the theme. It’s one that played out time and again. Our stories all differed in one way or another. For some people, my story was actually the horrifying one to get them thinking, ‘wow, if he can survive and thrive, then I can too.” That’s the beauty of recovery. We’re all different, yet all the same. That common denominator, addiction leading to desperation, bringing us to meetings and then back to hope. Hope. Could we possibly live without that? The final common denominator that keeps us sound and sober in our recovery.