After my sit down with Melody*, I quickly realized that I would have to write a two-part series, having been such an intense meeting the first time around. I decided that part 2 will deal with the aftermath of recovery and the benefits of the Narcotic Anonymous.
The NA program is the only thing that helps me stay sober. There are five pillars to the program:
- The meetings that an addict goes to;
- Finding a sponsor who has been through the program and stayed sober for at least a year;
- Step work: a number of steps that you have to work through that helps you work through the emotions;
- Higher power: which can be anything, something bigger that you surrender to. Something that enables you to understand that you are not completely in control of your life. That at the end of the day, there is something bigger within you. Something that helps you get to a place of humility and that helps you realize that there are many things in life that we have to surrender to. It helps with the understanding that life will happen as it will, but that doesn’t mean that you are just seamlessly wandering through life on your own. There is something bigger within you that can take care of things, and when things happen that are outside of your control, you don’t need to fret and worry. There is a higher power in control of things. If you battle with the concept, it doesn’t have to be God. It can be anything even if it is the NA meetings.
- Service – giving back to others.
These pillars are, in the end, what keeps you on track because addicts will not change overnight.
There are things you need to do and put in place for you to live a clean and fulfilled life. One thing that people don’t understand is that addicts will always be addicts and just because the drugs or alcohol or sex are not present anymore, something else will take its place, and that is called “addiction replacement.” Some people hoard, some people shop, some people binge-eat; you cannot remove something as big as drugs and alcohol and not replace it with something else.
One of the things they teach at NA is to attend 90 meetings in 90 days because, life happens, and as it happens, addicts struggle to live life on life’s terms. We freak out. However the second you go to a meeting, you gain perspective, you’re able to talk about it, there is a sense of comradery, you don’t feel alone, and it’s from there that you find a different way of thinking and living.
The meetings are anonymous; I think some people battle with the idea of talking to strangers because there is a stigma of shamefulness surrounding addiction. There are no specific requirements. The only requirement is that you must think you might have a problem and that problem is hindering you from living your desired, alternative life. That shameful feeling has to do with your own shortcomings; recovery has a lot to do with accepting yourself just as you are, facing yourself, and meeting yourself. When you are able to meet yourself, you are able to forgive yourself, and when you forgive yourself, that is when you are able to stop judging yourself so harshly. When you are feeling guilty about what you are doing, then you automatically assume that others know too.
The great thing about these meetings is that there are also open meetings, which are for anyone. So, if you feel uncomfortable going to a meeting, look for an open meeting on any one of the NA websites for one closest to you and attend it.
Being an addict and being in recovery means taking personal responsibility and owning your stuff. That means looking at yourself far more than looking at someone else; you are constantly taking inventory of your feelings about things and your reaction to things and your decisions. You don’t recover by constantly shifting the blame.
I’ve been sober for almost four years now and looking back I feel like I don’t blame people for drinking and using. I don’t condone people who use and are living a balanced life; if anything, I envy them. However, for me personally, for my life and the life that I am living in now, it just isn’t worth it to try and live that way again. When I think of drinking and using, it makes me sick to my stomach. Not because I think it’s a disgusting habit, but because I know how I would feel the morning after and I am not interested in feeling like that ever again. It’s like trading a very short-term high for spiritual fulfillment, contentment, self-love, and self-respect.
When I think of using again, it reminds me of a time where I would rather have been dead. When I play that story out in my head, there is just no way that I am going back there again. That said, an addict is never really free of the desire to use. There are days when I don’t play the story out in my head and when having a drink feels like a fantastic idea, but that is where the program and your sponsor comes in. Choosing not to relapse is a choice you make because you know, as a recovering addict, what you get out of being sober. If I get back out there today, I will lose everything I have and worked so hard for. It becomes more and more worth it the longer you are in recovery. The urge is never “fixed.” An addict will stay an addict, whether it is to drugs or chocolate, unless you work the program.
The truth is, or at least my truth is, that I would never have been the person I am today if I hadn’t been brought to my knees by my addiction. I wouldn’t have had the full life that I now have. I’m not saying you have to use and recover to get here; I am saying that I don’t miss anything that I’ve lost during my addiction because if I didn’t lose it, I wouldn’t be the spiritually fulfilled person I am today. The problem is not the drugs or the alcohol – it’s you. The fact that you are using drugs and alcohol to escape yourself is the reason why you abuse them. You need to address all these emotions that you have, no longer brushing them aside.
Everybody needs the program even if it is just for fulfillment. Everybody is, to some degree, an addict. We all have that something that we use to fill a void or to validate us. Fulfillment comes when you realize that you are not perfect and accept that fact, but don’t stay idle in that imperfection.
*Name has been changed
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