My Road to Recovery: Surrendering One Drug at a Time

My name is Tony and I am a recovering addict.  My drugs of choice included alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, Percocet (pain reliever) and Demerol (muscle relaxant).  I have been free of these substances since November of 1988 – but I do not count myself completely sober.  Since January of 1991, I have been prescribed psychotropics (first for depression, then Bipolar).  I have taken these as prescribed, except for one attempted overdose in March of 2008, when I took a handful of Clonazepam and a handful of Clozaril.  I would now say I have almost 25 years of recovery and just over 5 years of “supervised pseudo-sobriety”.

After graduating from Hanover, I moved to Bloomington with enough money to cover food and rent for the summer, hoping to get a job and start the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing in the Fall.  The only work I found was a gig selling plasma at a local Blood Center and I soon discovered that a diet of beer and cigarettes wasn’t enough to sustain my iron level, so I was even fired from that.  I became disillusioned with the prospect of writing commercials for a living and ran out of money in mid-July.  So, I moved into my father’s basement.

I was determined to work and the Percocet and Demerol I was taking caused me to sleep so much, I decided to give them up.  And I did.

I got a job at a plastics factory packing grocery bags into boxes and putting them onto skids (for 12 hour shifts).  On my days off, I traveled back to Bloomington – mostly to drink, listen to music and meet with friends.

I moved out of my father’s basement – into a downtown Columbus apartment.  I had a mattress on the floor for my bed, a wooden crate for a kitchen table and another one for a writing desk.  I met a guy on the streets who came from Berkeley.  He gave me some pot in exchange for a place to sleep.

One day, he invited some friends over.  There was a young woman there with her infant son.  They sat around getting stoned while her son cried in the corner.  I took the child for a walk, found out where his grandparents lived and delivered him in my truck.  I never smoked pot again.

But I was still drinking heavily, and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day.  I went through a very dark period, feeling lonely and depressed.  Much of the contemporary literature I was reading only reinforced my sense of purposelessness.  Somehow, I ran across the book A Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and found in the darkness a ray of light.  I was inspired to pick up my Bible again and started to read Old Testament stories of the prophets.  I felt a sense of calling and enrolled in seminary – not planning to become a minister, but to simply sharpen my sense of purpose.

My first year of seminary, I drank more beer and smoked more cigarettes than ever before.  But as summer approached, and I was facing a stint as a chaplain at a women’s prison, I decided to stop drinking.  I attended AA meetings and began working the 12 steps.  It was rough at first (and this day I will still crave a beer), but with God’s help, I managed to quit.

This left only one drug – nicotine.  And that was the hardest to give up.  I had several aborted attempts – reminding me of Mark Twain’s saying, “I have no trouble giving up smoking.  I’ve done it thousands of time.”  Finally, after nearly hacking up a lung after a failed effort to play basketball, I threw away the last pack in November of 1988.

I was drug-free.  Now I could face my demons head-on.

 Depression Painting - Depression Fine Art Print - - Pachek

“Depression Painting – Depression Fine Art Print – – Pachek” from  Coleen Uyehara in MH ~ Depression & Suicide

5 thoughts on “My Road to Recovery: Surrendering One Drug at a Time

  1. Your determination and courage is inspiring Tony. I am blessed to have been led to your blog. May the years ahead be filled with grace and peace. May you know the love and joy that can only come from Jesus Christ. May you know the fellowship and guidance of the Holy Spirit. May God our Father watch over you and lovingly protect you.

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