If someone had told me in 2008 that I could make it five years sober, I would have laughed in their face. Yet, on October 21, I did make it. And, I’ll tell you exactly how I did it.
For ten years straight – right in the prime of my life – I indulged my darkest desires. Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s character Dr. Jekyll, the more chemicals I consumed, the darker I became.
Stevenson’s fictional tale is well known of course. The kindly and respected Dr. Jekyll ingests a chemical concoction that transforms him into horrible Mr. Hyde. The more the good doctor indulges his addiction and escapes into Hyde, the more powerful Hyde becomes. Yet he can’t stop. Inevitably the elixir stops working altogether and he is Hyde for good. Isolated, paranoid, miserable… he ends his life in the same way many chemically dependent people die each year; some intentionally, some unintentionally, all unnecessary.
Addiction can be defined as the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in 1886, but timeless are the concepts of addiction which it illustrates. If only Dr. Jekyll had been introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous.
It wasn’t until the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930’s that alcoholism was thought of in terms of a disease rather than a lack of willpower. AA was the first to view alcoholism as having two components; an obsession of the mind together with a sort of metabolism difficulty called an allergy of the body. The obsession guarantees the alcoholic will keep drinking even when they don’t want to. The allergy dooms the sufferer to death, insanity or jail.
These concepts, once considered radical, are explained in great detail in the AA bible, called the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (now in its fourth edition). Initially the big book was used by alcoholics and addicts. As Alcoholics Anonymous grew in popularity, Narcotics Anonymous was formed and published Narcotics Anonymous (now in its fifth edition) written specifically for addicts. The wisdom contained in these books are identical. Each, however, contains different personal stories by alcoholics or addicts. Other more recent texts include Cocaine Anonymous, and Marijuana Anonymous.
I remember vividly how a close friend gave me a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous big book many years before I got sober for good. On the inside front cover he inscribed: “To my dear friend Keith. Read this book. You will find wisdom and freedom.” What a nut-job, I thought, as I tossed the book to the bottom of my closet where it stayed undisturbed for eight full years.
Unfortunately, no amount of time would cure my addiction. Eventually I was Hyde (i.e. high) all the time. Everything good about me was stuffed so far deep down inside that I feared life was over. With nothing left to lose, I rummaged through the closet and pulled out that damn book. Then a funny thing happened. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I had stumbled upon a step-by-step instruction manual for being happy; no chemicals necessary. Over time, the twelve-step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous became the solution to my problems. What an idiot I was! Chapter 2 of the AA big book is entitled “There is a Solution.” Could it have been any more obvious?! Though the solution to my problems lay on the closet floor for nearly a decade, thank God I decided to give it a try.
Are you a good person with a bad disease, like me? It’s never too late. Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life and are still the solution to all my problems and yours. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?
Keith Angelin, MBA, CADC-II, CNDAI, is a Master’s level, board-certified alcohol and drug counselor, and nationally certified intervention specialist. Prior to entering the field of substance abuse counseling he spent two-decades as a leading marketing executive in the health and nutrition industry. He can be reached at (949) 939-9222 or by visiting www.InterventionRx.com.