“I like being free”: How SUD Recovery Leads to Freedom

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — September 17, 2020 — 4 min read
Robert* started misusing prescription medication around the year 2000. With the help of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and his involvement with his church, he has been in recovery for nearly 10 years. Here he shares his story to help others see the freedom in working toward recovery:

What substance use (addiction) are you in recovery from?

“I abused prescription drugs. I started with Ritalin and Concerta to give me energy and, I thought, to keep my mind sharp. And then I used Ambien at night to get sleep.” (Both Ritalin and Concerta are prescription medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.)

Did you receive any services that supported your recovery?

“I could not have made it without NA. I felt I was alone in how I felt and in what I was going through. But in NA, I found a group of people who understood exactly what I was going through. It was really bizarre to sit in my first few meetings and have perfect strangers telling my story when they shared what they were going through.”
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What was the moment you decided you needed to make a change?

“It was my son’s graduation from high school. May 2011. My wife wanted to give my son some of his ADHD medication before he drove the car. And she found that I had taken every one of them. She kicked me out of the house for the night. I slept in a hotel that night and started NA the next day. At least 90 meetings in 90 days were required. I ended up going for about six months before I missed a day.”

Tell us about your recovery journey.

“It was not easy. I didn’t sleep for the first three to four days. I don’t think I spoke at all for the first week or two of meetings. I remember after my first meeting I got lost going home. I thought I would never find my way back to the house. I said to myself, ‘I know I’m northwest of my house. If I keep going southeast, I will find a landmark I know.’ So, I just kept watching the compass in my car and eventually made it. It really freaked me out.

“But in the end, it was the support of my wife and the love of my two kids that kept me going. I didn’t want to disappoint them. And I wanted to be a husband and father they could be proud of.”

Do you have a support network, and what role has it had in your recovery journey?

“Yes. In the beginning it was NA. Now it’s my church.

“Most of my early adult life, my Christian faith kept me going. But as the drugs took control, my faith was forgotten. After a few years in NA, I found my spirit again. And I felt God’s love through Jesus Christ rise in me again. He was always there, I just had numbed my soul with drugs for so long that I couldn’t feel him.”

How do you stay strong during the toughest days?

“I try to remember the people I wanted to get clean for. My family needs me, and I need them.”

How do you celebrate recovery milestones?

“I used to celebrate them. Now I just celebrate each day as best I can. And I try to remember the misery my life had become by the end. I may do something next May—that will mark 10 years.”

What did you learn from your experiences before recovery?

“Due to my own addiction, I have learned that anyone can suffer from this disease. I was a Sunday school teacher and a deacon in the church. And if it can happen to me, it could happen to anyone.”

How would you describe your life today?

“It’s just life. I have good days, and I have bad days. My wife has been through her own medical challenges. And if I had not been clean, I might have lost her for good. So, I stay clean to help her. Today I know that no matter what life throws at me, I never have to use drugs again.”

What is your advice for people who might want to start their recovery journey?

“I say: What do you have to lose other than the misery you’re in now? You are worth saving. Give it a year. And if your life is not 100 times better, you can always go back.

“You have to truly give it all that you have. Put as much energy into staying clean as you did getting high. You will find that life is good again. You will find life is even fun again. No one in NA or any other recovery program can promise you riches or even personal success. Life is still life, and it will beat you up sometimes. But NA can promise freedom from addiction. You don’t have to be a slave to the drugs—that’s what an addict is. We are slaves to the drug. And I like being free.”

*The name and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of this individual.

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