I am a recently recovering drug user. A few years ago I was with some “friends” who were transporting a large quantity of methamphetamine and they (we) got arrested. It was a miracle I was granted probation rather than the more likely ten years of prison time I was anticipating. I am currently employed and have a new girlfriend. We are living separately, but we are talking about me moving in with her and her four year old daughter. I know the normal route to continued sobriety is being in a 12 step program, but I just don’t like it. We are in a city large enough to have a lot of NA programs to choose from, and I have been to a number of them, and they still don’t click with me. I am grateful for my new life, and I want to finally succeed. Do you have any ideas for me about what to do to keep happy and drug free?
Dear Life Lover,
First off let me share my excitement and enthusiasm for your new life. As we both know, many people we know never get this opportunity to love the beauty of life. You are not only something of an exception, but you are also graced with an appreciation of this gift.
Early drug use is often a “boost” to life. Later, it mutates into a weird way of avoiding the negativities of our lives. Then it’s a catch-22: being strung out creates such great turmoil that people use to somewhat forget about this crappy life they’ve created. No one has the absolute solution to this super sad problem, but, as you have noted, genuine involvement in a 12-step program has a good percentage of success. However, as you stated you don’t do well with this program, you’ll need to find your own way. As I have a pretty lengthy background in recovery issues, I offer you the following suggestions:
- Be aware of the numerous and new “highs”. For example, being in love. How can we express our love and appreciation? The wonder of a child loving and trusting us? What cool things can you teach her? How about the extreme beauty of the change of seasons (except Texas summers of course)? Include indulging in local trips. Around here, we have a fabulous State Park, an Enchanted Rock and a Swinging Bridge, to name just a few. Get loaded on beauty and being amazed. It’s a cool high.
- Rather than run or escape from stressors, turn towards them and embrace them. Although suffering sucks for every single person, it is inescapable. In doing so we learn to be brave and problem solve. This is a tough one, as plenty of lost drug users (alcohol is obviously included) are extra-inclined to use in times of stress. Start viewing some suffering as painful but potentially enriching. A comparison would be hard physical workouts. They make you sore as hell, but the end result is a somewhat buffed up human. Suffering is an occasional workout for our heart and soul.
- Work at not becoming blasé at being amazed at the things you see and feel being straight: sixth month or sixth year. Recovering or not, my personal perspective is that in the 21st century of zombieland, many folks walk through life working, sleeping, texting, watching TV and going back to work again. In working at always trying to be amazed, we are so much more aware of the gifts we are constantly given. It’s the best high of all.