I have been in the program now for over 5 years.
About 18 months of that was a mess of regular relapsing, then I started actually putting in the work after a particularly nasty relapse and I’ve been clean for about 3 and a half years.
So I know compared to a lot of people in this room I’m still a baby.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the mess but in brief: I grew up in a good home with a great family. I was always a high achiever which unfortunately nurtured a huge ego.
In my 20s my life was on the up-and-up but then I started drinking more than most people and life started to splutter a little bit, then I finished university and was progressing up the corporate ladder when I started getting drunk even more and then life started to stall, then I started using drugs and life started going down the gurgler real quickly and I found myself in a very scared, lonely, isolated and dark place.
My life had gone from very big to very small. I’d gone from a billion possibilities to a billion impossibilities.
That’s my story before recovery.
What I really wanna talk about is what happened after I found this program. One promise of freedom from active addiction and a great deal of magic, sparkles and flaming colours.
Firstly, the disclaimer: It’s been my experience that I have to put in some serious repair work on myself before freedom from active addiction can happen, and only once that promise takes place do the gifts start to flow.
When I first came in I was just not willing to do the suggested things.
I would go to a meeting or two but I wasn’t living recovery. I wasn’t doing service, I wasn’t connecting with other addicts, I wasn’t using my sponsor or doing step work.
I really just wasn’t willing to go to any length, yet.
So I’d relapse again and again but my relapses were getting worse and my life getting darker until finally, the penny dropped and I found myself in that place that our literature talks about where we just felt deep down… ‘enough’, I’m done.
For me it was at a busy Central Train station on a Tuesday morning heading to work and I remember seeing around me the sea of humanity with all this energy and colour but feeling so alone and grey in my heart.
As I said, I found myself in recovery a very fearful and angry person, living in a very small world.
For the longest time I had this impending sense of doom that something terrible is just over the horizon and it’s coming to get me and everything in my world is gonna fall apart.
For example if I went into work and there was a note on my desk asking me to see the boss I would automatically think there must be something wrong.
Then I would start to think up all the hypothetical reasons why the boss might want to see me.
And then I start thinking up all the hypothetical excuses for myself so before I know it I’m caught in this ridiculous fear spiral where I’m imagining hypotheticals on hypotheticals on top of more hypotheticals.
And it had been that way all my life.
And I didn’t know it at the time but that is self-obsession and fear, the core of my disease, manifesting itself long before I could say the words ‘I’m an addict’.
What those self-obsessed fears will do is they take my big world and everything in it and bit by bit, everything that causes me fear is jettisoned from my life and my life becomes smaller and smaller and smaller until it fits into this little tiny box.
And the life in that box isn’t a life worth living but I like that tiny box because it feels like I can control my life better. And the illusion of control is very comforting to me.
But a consequence of doing the 12 steps is the gift of a spiritual awaking whether you bloody-well like it or not, and I can’t have that spiritual awakening without first getting that other great gift of this program – faith.
And faith is the key.
Faith allows me to take that little tiny box, break it open and face my fears, and start doing those impossible things and start making my life big again.
I am an evidence-based person – I love me some logic and if you’re gonna tell me that by working those 12 steps and this program that miracles can happen then you’re gonna have to prove it first. Otherwise you’re just talking shit.
And that’s exactly what people did for me until I could eventually see the miracles for myself: I have a friend who’s lost someone very special to them and they went through a hell of a lot of pain but they got through it without using.
That’s a miracle.
I have a friend who was told in grade 9 that they were too stupid to continue high school, so they dropped out and became a drug addict, then got clean and is now kicking goals at university.
That’s a miracle.
I have a friend who’s professional life fell apart in addiction, then they go clean, faced some serious fear and completely changed their career and now their working in a field they never thought possible.
That’s a miracle.
I have friends who were told they would never, ever have their kids back in their lives, then they got clean long story short and now they are.
That’s a miracle.
You ask these people if they think that’s a miracle, and they’ll say yes.
I have received many gifts in recovery.
Now when I take that leap, I don’t so much fear the fall as long as I can at least say I tried. Where the old me would choose to run, more often than not I choose to stay.
I have fallen in love with someone I consider my equal and not my hostage, and it is as terrifying as it is marvelous.
And I have people around me today who can celebrate all my joy, and who’ll be with me though any of my pain.
I have friends, family, career, and love all because I’ve allowed this program to take that little box and explode it into something amazing and I think I do a great disservice to myself and to my higher power if I treat my recovery as anything less than the miracle it is.
I don’t want a life today that is just different shades of monotones and monotony. I have tried that and it’s not worth it.
I want my life to sparkle and I want a life lived in screaming fucking colours! And you know what? I think that’s what my high power wants for me as well.
There is a lot of fucking colour and magic that happens in this thing I belong to called the fellowship.
There I was at Central train station… and for a longest painful time before that, stumbling around on the edge in a cycle of relapse about to fall off into jails, institutions or death (probably death for me).
When recovery reaches out and pulls me back and says ‘hey, I know you’re in a whole lot of pain right now and you want to leave, but why don’t you and I have just one more dance?
Just one more dance just for today?
And the magic is that three and a half years later I’m still here dancing, with you guys. And from that comes a lot of gifts.
This program has been like a lightning bolt to my chest, and it’s jolted me awake with just a little magic and sparkle.
It’s a magic that I cannot create of myself and I need a higher power to do that, and the fellowship that connects me to that higher power.
I am grateful for all the gifts and For all the magic and sparkle and colours I have in my life today.
By ‘Sparkles’ (Nickname)