When you’ve sunken into the deepest depths of addiction, you feel completely alone. No one could possibly understand. No one wants to help. They only want to judge.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Even when I couldn’t deny my addiction, I didn’t get help. I was ashamed, and I couldn’t bear the condescending tones and pitying looks I was sure I’d get in rehab.

Fortunately, I had a moment of clarity. It was a cold winter day and my bones were frozen to the core, and I ran into my old high school rival.

At the time, I was living on the streets. I hadn’t seen a shower or a mirror in what felt like forever. My stench was enough to put anyone off, but I can guarantee I looked even worse than I smelled.

It was a simple, “What happened to you, man?” that changed my life.

What did happen to me? If I keep this up, I’m going to die. And soon. This was no way to live.

The disease of addiction

You’re probably well aware that addiction is a disease. But you should also know that it’s about the trickiest disease anyone can have. It’s the only disease that tricks you into thinking you’re fine.

Even at my worst, I thought I had some control. It’s completely laughable now, but that’s addiction.

My addiction really took hold in my early 20s, so I just convinced myself I was one of the cool kids. I wasn’t like those other jerks who wore suits and had 9 to 5 jobs. I did whatever I wanted… except we all know that’s not true. I was a slave to addiction.

The importance of family

When I finally decided to get help, I knew I need someone in my corner. I knew just the person.

I called my dad to tell him I had a problem. He could have laughed at the Captain Obvious moment, but if I had to guess, I think he probably shed a tear or two of happiness. He might just get his son back after all.

This was by far the scariest moment of my life. And that’s saying a lot.

I wanted to turn back as we stepped across the threshold of the rehab center. A cold woman named Cheryl took my information as she barely looked up from her clipboard. I told my dad we were making a mistake. This place was going to be full of Judging Jerrys, I just knew it.

“We’re doing this,” was all he said.

The “we” in that statement was comforting and infuriating at the same time. He wasn’t doing it, I was. But at the same time, I knew he’d do it with me if he could. For better or worse, I had to do this.

A rocky road to recovery

The physical detox was intense, but it only lasted a few days. Then the real work began.

I met many people during my 30-day stay, but one stood out above all others. A counselor named Steven was my champion from day one. I honestly don’t know if I’d be here today if not for him.

He fought for me, and he fought with me. I hated him sometimes, but he always pushed for what was best for me – even when I pushed back.

When someone believes in you, you can tell. The reverse is also true. I also met some jaded people who seemed sure that I’d be back. I understand that it’s a tough job, but one or two of those encounters was almost enough to shake my confidence. Thankfully, I could always go to Steven for support. I knew he had my back.

I don’t know if he understands just how instrumental he has been in my recovery. Does he know that he saved a life? That’s the most interesting thing about addiction recovery, in my opinion.

America’s addiction epidemic has touched so many lives that you’ll probably have an opportunity to turn someone’s life around, much like Steven did for me. Your attitude towards their struggle can make such a profound difference in their lives – for better or for worse.

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

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