By Paul Emile;
I was born into a violent, alcoholic home. When the clock struck six, and my father wasn’t home, I knew there was going to be hell to pay that night. My earliest memories are of my father coming home drunk, throwing plates, swearing, slurring, beating my mother, and threatening to kill her with the shotgun in the apartment. I remember being terrified of losing my mother, terrified of being killed.
My strategy of protecting myself was to hold my breath, so my father wouldn’t hear me in bed, and therefore wouldn’t realize I was there. I felt like a coward realizing I could not help my mother. I felt bad about not being able to help her. I was traumatized as a child.
Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’m 55 years old.
At a young age, I had low self-esteem. I never felt good enough for myself, or anyone else. I had behavioral problems in school. I caused chaos for my teachers and classmates. At age 11, we moved, and I was not able to adapt. I felt unwanted, and suffered tremendous loneliness.
In order to try and comfort myself, I started using food as a ‘substance’ , primarily junk food: chocolate, ice cream, potato chips, candy. I started drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes at age 12. This gave me a feeling like I could let go and try to fit in. I became good at consuming alcohol, and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for the next twenty eight years.
At age 13, I started smoking marijuana. I experimented with cocaine, L.S.D., and hashish in my teenage years. Thankfully, I was afraid of needles. At age 15, I became sexually promiscuous. At the insistence of my first love, I stopped smoking marijuana at the age of 17, but started drinking on a daily basis.
All of this substance abuse masked the pain I suffered as a child, and was suffering as a teenager, but it only made things worse.
I tried to commit suicide at age 17 by overdosing on a bottle of painkillers. At 19, I deliberately slammed my car into a steel barrier. I was serious about wanting to stop the pain. Thankfully, my Higher Power had other plans for me.
After a considerable amount of work, I’m able to forgive my parents today. I’m able to have compassion for them, have understanding of where it is they come from, and love them as they are. I’m also able to forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made and have done my best to make amends to the people I’ve harmed.
A big part of the reason I’m able to do this is the 12 Steps recovery programs
Although I would have been suited to attend Al-Anon or Al-Ateen – a 12 Step program for people affected in any way with a practicing alcoholic; Narcotics Anonymous – a 12 Step program for people with addiction to drugs; or Nicotine Anonymous – a program for people addicted to nicotine, the 12 Step programs I’m part of are Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.
Some other 12 Step programs are Gamblers Anonymous; Love and Sex Addicts Anonymous; Online Gamers Anonymous; and Debtors Anonymous.
If a person is addicted to something, chances are, there is a 12 Step program available to help that person be free of the addiction. I also attended a rehab center for alcoholics five times between the ages of 19 and 24.
As a result of the 12 Step programs and receiving treatment at a rehab center, I received the gift of 30 years of sobriety, received 14 years of being cigarette free, am in my fifth year of abstinence from using food as a substance, and have been receiving the gift of maintaining a 136 pound weight for more than two and half years now – one day at a time.
I cannot take credit for this. I attribute these miracles I experience on a daily basis to the Grace of God. Of course, it’s necessary for me to do the footwork like go to 12 Step meetings, work the 12 Steps on a daily basis to the best of my ability, read the literature, pray, meditate, and help others who are continuing to suffer from addiction.
I’m not a religious person. I’m okay with, and respect those that are. I do my utmost to be a spiritual person. 12 Step programs are spiritual in nature. We are free to choose our Higher Power as we are moved to do so, and this is one of the most freeing experiences I’ve received in 12 Step programs. When I came to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the age of 19, I was a proud atheist. The members told me that was okay.
I was afraid to be there, but grateful I went. I remember attending my first meeting, full of fear, but after listening to the speaker, I felt I truly understood for the first time in my life. For the first time in my life, I felt I wasn’t alone in trying to deal with my inner demons. I knew I belonged with these other people who were similar to me in that we shared the same addiction. In time, I came to experience that we would share the same solution.
As an adult in recovery over the years, I’ve experienced my share of ups and downs. Some of the highlights is being in an ongoing process of recovery from substance abuse, experiencing the birth and growth of my daughters, establishing fulfilling relationships, experiencing travel and adventure, learning to live a minimalist lifestyle, and helping others. Some of the low lights have been the loss of my son, and a failed marriage. Such is life. I’m continuing to learn how to live life on life’s terms, without abusing substance.
Today, I have a wonderful relationship with my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God. I’m completely free of all substances. I’m happy and joyous beyond words, experience a great deal of peace, am in the best physical health of my life, and on the vast majority of days, I feel free of any craving, or compulsion of substance – one day at a time, one moment at a time.
One day, I looked around the room at a 12 Step meeting, and saw a couple of members named Joy and Grace. I thought about it, and realized my name is Freedom. I’m free to be able to feel all of my feelings without wanting to numb them. These are the best days of my life. After a process of thorough and fearless soul searching, I know who I am today. I can love, and accept myself as I am. I can allow myself to be loved. I can love others.
At the age of 19, I started reaching out for help and I continue to do so. I cannot do it alone. Over the years, my Higher Power has brought so many wonderful people into my life to help me, and this has made all of the difference in my life, and in my being! By the Grace of God, I’m able to do this for others.
So this article is an extension of the love and compassion I have for people suffering with addiction. Addiction and mental health issues are the plague of these modern times. Being in the abyss, wanting to take one’s life, is common among people who suffer with addiction. I’m hopeful sharing part of my life will give people hope and courage. There are millions of recovering addicts all over the world. I am one of them.
I am hopeful this article will help people receive recovery from the deadly disease of addiction through 12 Step programs and live a life of health, happiness, peace, and freedom on a consistent basis.
Love and Peace.