In recovery, we recovering addicts count time. Initially, we count 90 meetings in 90 days. Very soon we start to feel the power of gratitude and we keep counting because “counting” reminds us to continue to use the power of gratitude. In the early days of recovery, I remember the comfort from hearing Jack (another recovering addict with more recovery time) speak about seeing the fulfilled promises of recovery in his life. Hearing of his recovery from his voice, built hope in every insecure soul in the room. Several years ago, Jack passed away too soon in a motorcycle accident. I am grateful that I still hear his voice when I read the “Promises.”
Today, I get to count year seventeen (17) since I last used my drug of choice. Sometimes I count privately and sometimes I count publicly. Today I count publicly- not because I want an “attaboy.” The truth is – most of the people who will read these words have been drug free their entire lives. Rather today, I count publicly because I believe the honesty of my past, helps maintain the integrity of my future. Part of me also hopes I might help build more hope like Jack did for me.
Seventeen (17) years ago, there is no way I could see a future that included serenity – let alone a life that includes the level of joy that I receive from living among family, friends and community. The Gospel of Luke tells us the story of the Prodigal Son. I love the words of the Scripture which say “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran” to his son. However the Prodigal Son had to walk those earlier steps to create the image his father saw which caused the glorious reunion.
Today I am grateful for the promises of recovery which followed those early steps. Below is an article I shared 3 years ago which tells a little more of my struggle with addiction and recovery.
“Where’s Waldo?” Meets Recovering Addict – Published May 3, 2016
Not long ago, I attended a support group for recovering addicts. Previously this group had been my “home group” and I attended nearly every day. I arrived early and was sitting in the room, thumbing through my phone, waiting on the meeting to begin. Three (3) “newcomers” entered the room and asked me if the recovery meeting had been moved to a different room. I smiled and explained that we were all in the right room. I am one of the many faces of a recovering addict.
My path to drug addiction occurred 17 years ago when I was in my thirties. On the night I first used what became my “drug of choice” – cocaine, I was a thirty-five (35) year old reasonably successful attorney from a small town in western Kentucky. My father was a local minister and also worked for the local power plant. He and my mother did good work on raising their family of five. That particular night as I watched the UK/Vandy football game at Commodore Stadium, I had no knowledge or thought that I was about to embark on a journey which would quickly result in my addiction to cocaine and ultimately result in some pretty significant legal consequences yielding an opportunity to live with the government for a minute (lame attempt at hipster type talk).
After the football game, several friends whom, I had known since high school wanted to visit “Music Row” in downtown Nashville. It sounded fun and I wanted to go, but I had worked hard that week and that day – I felt I was simply too tired to go. I did not want to be “the sleepy friend” that slowed down their fun. I told them I would meet them for breakfast in the morning. A solution to the low energy crisis was proffered by my friends. At that point, I had no knowledge that my friends were recreational cocaine users. At that moment and in that environment, it seemed like an edgy but safe experiment. I suspect knowing what we all know now, those friends wish they had not offered the experiment. Obviously, if I could choose to avoid the experiment, I would as well. What followed was additional use in an effort to accomplish more. More of everything. More work, more play, more fun, just more.
My journey to “rock bottom” was a speedy course, and when I got to “rock bottom,” I did a couple of “face plants” just to make sure I really was at “rock bottom.” My arrival at “rock bottom” and the journey of recovery has been a fairly public course of events. The consequences of my addiction included a 10 month stay at a federal prison camp located on an Air Force Base in Alabama where I completed a 9 month drug rehabilitation program. It always surprises me when I encounter individuals who do not know that part of my story. I am very willing to talk about addiction and recovery and often do speak about addiction and recovery.
I think the decision I made earlier this year to campaign for our city commission with specific agendas (including bike paths, sidewalks and a more transparent analysis as to how our city should embrace its future with regards to its presently unregulated electrical power grid) makes the issues related to my past addiction, consequences and recovery relevant. To ensure the voters of Paducah obtain necessary and relevant information on the candidates, I sat down with the Paducah Sun for a long chat about addiction, recovery, local politics, sidewalks, local electrical power rates, bike paths and the need for addressing the issues with the City Hall building. In that interview, I provided the following statement:
“For an approximate twenty-seven (27) month period during my thirties, I struggled with drug addiction. There were legal consequences and as a result, I got the opportunity to live with the government for a little bit and while there, I completed a nine (9) month drug rehabilitation program. While it was a very hard and humiliating time in my life, I thank God for it. I am grateful that I will turn fifty-two (52) this year and it is my desire to share a story of grace, recovery and hope with my life.
Actor Robert Downey, Jr. is inspiring to me as both an actor and as a recovering addict. I have followed his recovery in large part because he and I are the same age and the timing of our legal troubles coincided almost precisely to the day. With regard to recovery he said:
‘Job one is get out of the cave. A lot of people do get out, but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal.’
I strive each day to make these words true in my life as well.
Closing comments about the image with this blog and the title to this blog – the image is a group selfie taken with an i-pad, back when i-pad’s were the “new thing.” My father died in 2012. I am so very grateful for the support he and mother gave me – real modern day “Luke Chapter 15” (Prodigal Father/Son Story) stuff on their part. Little Allie Jones is growing into a beautiful young lady and a father could not have a more supportive daughter. We deeply enjoy a community of parents and friends in Paducah, Kentucky.
About the title of this blog, the disease of addiction continues to move through our culture and often the addict may not appear as we have been conditioned to expect – thus the “Where’s Waldo?” feature of addiction. The chemicals and the prescriptions change with generations. However the hope of life after addiction lives and moves through our culture. I am sure glad that “hope” found me.