I had a good life; I was raised with morals and philosophies. My loving family left me wanting for nothing. All I knew was love and I had a place in the world, even when I was young.
But at some point, I started to feel disconnected. I was overcome by wondering what the meaning of my life was.
I wanted to feel something different. I wanted to escape reality. So I started drinking.
I was 12 years old.
Eventually, I moved on to marijuana, and then pills. I always had this voice in the back of my mind – I’ll never get addicted. I’ll be alright, I know I can control it.
I found out that no matter what, you will lose control. You don’t have a choice. The pressure kept building. I felt this obligation to fulfill the American dream …. I just didn’t have the drive or vigor to do it. I wanted to quit, but I always needed some substance to sleep, to function, to feel normal.
That’s when I started using heroin.
It was cheaper and I didn’t have to do it as often as I had to do pills. It gave me freedom throughout the whole day – something I’d been looking for my whole life. I was able to live and it didn’t matter what I was doing. I didn’t need to worry about if things felt right or if I had a purpose in life.
I didn’t realize my problem was my mind when I was sober. It didn’t let me rest; I couldn’t be still. I wanted to be a good son, friend, brother, everything. I wanted to stop using for all the people I loved in my life, but I just couldn’t.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in a jail cell, punching the wall until my hands were bloody pulps, that I awoke. I thought I was tough … until that moment made me realize I couldn’t control this.
This will only lead to more pain.
I’ve always relied on something to keep me happy – alcohol, pills, drugs. And it wasn’t working. It wasn’t enough anymore.
The way I’m going right now is going to end. And it’s going to end with me dying.
In those moments I realized who I was underneath my addiction. I saw the connection to my true self.
That was my surrender moment.
I’ll never forget what the cop who arrested me said as I left jail that day: “This isn’t you. This doesn’t have to be your life. You have to get well.”
I went straight to inpatient treatment, and the staff changed my life. They changed how I felt. I was always so untrusting of people, but I couldn’t deny this feeling from them; they were looking into my soul. They knew me without really knowing me – they didn’t know all the bad things. Just my desire to get clean.
I began to trust. I got involved in the fellowship and started working the 12 steps. I let go of things that blocked me off for years, everything that was in the way of me feeling free. I was no longer walking around on autopilot. I was finally living.
Every day isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better.
Now, I work at RCA. My goal is to pass the 12 steps and their meaning on to every single patient. I help patients reach deep inside and find out what’s blocking them from peace. When we aren’t at peace, there’s a bigger chance of relapse.
Addiction is a reactive state, it’s a survival instinct – it’s a symptom of something else going on. And I want to help patients find out what that is.
I work with gender-separate groups and individual sessions. In the groups, we talk about specific ways to use the Big Book to break down each individual step. I focus these groups on reminding patients that it’s not about willpower – it’s an illness that tries to write who we are in our minds. We can’t give addiction that much control.
In individual sessions, I break down the steps even further and try to change each patient’s mindset, which is often: I’m the bad guy. I can never love anyone. I can never have a purpose. We dive into the fears and resentments that have been carried over the years and work to set them free.
I take each patient through the steps, one by one, and show them what it means to make amends, how they can have spiritual practices in their lives, and how they can apply this to their recovery. It’s all about practice and action.
I know what patients have gone through, regardless of the circumstances, because I know what that fear feels like. I know what relapse feels like.
The turning point in my life was when someone described exactly what I went through and how I felt, and how that fear controlled my life and made me feel lost. I thought someone gets it! And he’s in recovery. That saved my life and has now become my purpose.
I tell patients there’s a way out of this. I’m the best example. I tried a million different ways and it never worked – until I finally accepted help.
The past doesn’t define you. You can feel change. There’s always a way out.
Peter Krespan, Recovery Instructor at Recovery Centers of America at Bracebridge Hall