I’m starting today in a city that represents a great deal of pain for me. It is a city I called “home” for almost two decades. It’s also the city in which my life so quickly unraveled due to my addiction.
I used to love it here. Friendships, or at least what I thought were friendships, were plentiful. It seemed that I couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone I knew from church, the club, or some civic organization. It was home.
Of course, when the disease of addiction grabs hold of one’s life, everything becomes a sacrificial offering at its alter. Family, friends, associates, and yes, even home must be sacrificed. Addiction demands complete obedience, unwavering devotion.
I seldom come here, and that is by design. The painful memories haunt me. Along with those memories comes fear. Fear that I’ll cross paths with one of those old friends or associates. Fear that the emotions of the past will prove more powerful than my recovery. Fear that somehow, returning here will suck me back in to those darkest of days. Days when, in the end, all I really wanted was to die.
Many of those fears came rushing at me as I walked into the lobby of my hotel for this morning’s time of prayer, meditation, and writing. The memory struck me out of the blue. This morning, as I write these words, I sit directly across from the seat I was in on the day I first shared with someone here in “my hometown” that I am an addict.
If I had any hopes from that phone call, I cannot remember today what they were. Empathy perhaps? Or maybe understanding? A little concern?
Whatever my hopes had been, I know that they were not even close to the anger, fear, and hurt that resulted from that phone call. Before long Kent’s secret was out. Knowledge of my addiction spread quickly among family, friends, and neighbors. No longer was I welcome in my home. Nor at the club. Certainly not at church. After all, I was an addict. Someone to be feared. I became an untouchable.
Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?
Well, at the time I believed it was. I thought my life was over. In fact, deep down inside, I just knew that my life was over. I knew that any hopes of joy or happiness were gone. All hope was gone.
I’ve never been more wrong! Certainly I’ve never been so happy before at being wrong! Hope did return. As did joy and happiness.
The fact is, I discovered a life that was beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a life that is not only full of hope, but one that is full of redemption. A life in which I never have to feel the pain of utter hopelessness again.
In Narcotics Anonymous, one of the cliche sayings we hear is “never alone, never again.” Like most of the cliches I heard when I first found the rooms of NA, I had a difficult time accepting this one. I scoffed at its cheery simplicity. My inner cynic said “yeah, right.”
The funny thing is, that like each of those cliches, I have come to experience the “never alone, never again” of the NA fellowship. The cliche has morphed, becoming not just a promise, but a promise fulfilled.
This trip has been made so much easier because Amanda and Shaun accompanied me here. As a fellow recovering addict, Amanda knows firsthand how difficult it can be to return to those painful memories. When she learned of my need to come back, she instantly suggested that she and Shaun join me. So, the three of us, along with our newly adopted dogs, Bev and Bubu, loaded into the car and made the trip.
There is no doubt that I draw strength from the fact that I share my life with a wife who understands. Hopefully I offer the same kind of understanding to her as well. I can’t imagine making this journey without her.
That said, even if she could not have joined me on this trip, I would not have been alone. The fact is that on most of my trips my family cannot join me. At such times, the promise of “never alone, never again” goes with me. I find meetings of the NA fellowship wherever I go. Opportunities to make new friends. The experience of feeling at home. Of being welcomed. Of knowing hope.
There is another cliche turned promise from NA: “I can’t, but we can.” Once again, the struggles that I thought were insurmountable have proven possible to overcome. With the help of others in the program, I am learning to face life’s challenges with an attitude of hope, even optimism.
As I have written this morning, another cliche has become a promise fulfilled. “Pain shared is pain lessened.” As I’ve set here writing, sharing the pain of being in this place, that pain has all but been removed. My focus has shifted from the hurts of my past to the miracles of the present.
When I sat in that seat across from where is am seated today, just a little over two years ago, I could never have imagined the freedom I would find. In that chair, Kent knew only fear and desperation. In this chair, Kent knows happiness, joy, and hope.
Have a remarkable day!