BY: Marc McMahon
Ever since coming back in January from a 3-month relapse I have been thinking about how I have been conditioned in recovery, by my chosen recovery programs and their beliefs. Which in turn I adopted as my own without ever really giving them much thought. Or maybe I am trying to figure out how I really do feel about the whole relapse being part recovery thing. I have always been of the school of thought that said relapse in recovery was a sign there was a weak spot in your program. That you were not taking things as seriously as you ought to, and I would even on most occasions depending on my own grandiose level of self-righteousness. Question whether or not I thought you wanted to really get sober at all.
That is called taking someone else’s inventory, correct?
When I relapsed this last time I had a lot of time to think about these things, to see if the way I had always felt about this situation was still my truth today. I had to figure out in my mind and my heart whether or not I could in good conscious come back from my set back and start writing about my recovery again. This had to be settled and it did not matter to me what anyone else had to say about my situation, I had to settle this once and for all within my soul. Either I figure out a way to come to terms with this, see it in a new light and start writing again. Or I keep my current belief system intact, continue to tell myself I can never write again due to this, and put the pipe back in my mouth, my head back in my ass, and take my bruised ego and broken spirit to the nearest bar and have me another drink.
At first, my old beliefs on this subject held strong and I had resigned to fact that it was a done deal for me. Never again would I write another article on this subject because how could I? I had just relapsed after all, my credibility as a writer on the subject of sobriety/recovery was shot and there was no getting back. I had to start all over, I had just become a newcomer again, right? That is what I had been taught, so that’s what I believed, or did I? A newcomer I thought, I have been trying to stay clean and sober for 21 years straight, learned more than many ever will so how is it I am a newcomer? This thought, on that cold, crisp winter day this past December caused me to really take a good look at my situation.
So I set my self-pity aside, stepped outside of myself and began to make an honest appraisal of the man I knew to be Marc McMahon. Had I lost all the knowledge I had learned about this disease? Had all the information that had been crammed down my throat from 10 inpatient treatment stays suddenly vanished. Did I relapsing this time take me back to the place I was when I first decided I needed help back in 1996? The answer to that question came to me immediately and without a doubt, hell no! I am far, far removed from newcomer status in my opinion.
I was addicted to crack cocaine and continually homeless except for treatment, hospital, or jail stays from 1996-2010. There were a couple of sober living attempts and a couple jobs on a horse farm or at the race track with the horses where my housing was provided. But, I could not stay employed more than 3 months tops in that time frame due to my drug use. Then in 2010, I did a year of I.O.P. treatment in downtown Seattle at a street ministry center there. By the grace of God, I managed to loose the taste for crack cocaine and stayed sober 2 years before starting my methamphetamine career.
Since I decided I needed to quit using meth. in 2014 I have stayed clean the better part of each of these past three years. Never quite getting a whole year at once but out of these past 3 years, I have probably used a combined total of 6 or 7 months. Every time around I am gaining more clean time. I know that the programs of recovery we all know and love call that relapse, but I call it Miracle.
Is it ideal? Definitely not! Unacceptable to many just like it used to be for me. But out of almost a sheer desperation to want to be able to continue to write on this topic due to my belief that my experiences can help ease others pain and make their walk a little easier. I was able to look objectively at my situation and out of that came this belief that I will stand strong on not only today but for the rest of my days to come. Which is, where is it written in stone that one step back has to be a sign of defeat? Who says that I wasn’t brought back to that place so I could learn the thing I missed the first time. If only those who are recovering perfectly as a figure of speech get the voice, then who is the voice for the majority of us who are recovering imperfectly like me.
Who speaks for them? Who gives them hope that is tangible and relates directly to their current situation. Where is the person they can say is just like I but just won’t give up, and if they can keep getting back up then damn it, I can too? They continue to try and recover but keep relapsing, While the ones they look up to continue to thrive and gain more and more clean time which for some I am being told completely distances themselves from the ones they had hoped to recover like. Bringing back the guilt, shame, and worthless feelings they were trying their damnedest to escape.
That belief brought me back to my laptop and gave me the courage in mid-January to write my first article in 3 1/2 months. It made perfect sense in my mind and still does that I continue to write and share my experiences in hopes that they may benefit others. I was fearful that people would shun my work, talk behind my back, and not follow my blog anymore. Boy was I wrong, people have not only welcomed me back, but my audience has increased significantly since I came back from this. The number of people following my blog increased to where my blog in its 7 month is ranked #2 in its category according to gotop 100.
Having the courage to challenge my old beliefs on this subject allowed me the opportunity to come back and reach a larger audience. The good book says “what the enemy intended for your harm God will use for good. For those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” I believe this is my purpose, and I believe my H.P. is confirming that. With all that being said the way I am recovering is not cool, its tragic! I hope everyone gets it their first time, the way I think about this today came out of self-preservation. I could not afford to allow this to bring me down, I may have never made it back, never! If you are new at this what I am explaining here is not your excuse to relapse.
Relapse is not cool, and it does not have to be a part of your story o.k.?
If though you have found that after countless attempts at this over the years and having had given it your all each time you end up like I not ever stringing together any significant amount of clean time I would like to offer another thought that helped me through this. I know of a large number of us who fall into this category. This is what got me through and I believe it also to be a truth for me today because the numbers will back it up if anyone cares to do them.
For some, it may be that this is how our recovery is going to be. I have been at this 20+ years. So based solely on past performance there is a very strong statistical probability that this very well could be the way my recovery is going to continue to look, (I hope not but past performance here.) If that is the case then how do I deal with that, how is it I am going to view myself. Am I just a dumbass failure who can’t ever get anything right and why even bother trying anymore if this is truly going to be the case. If it’s going to be this way my first question to myself when I attempted to get clean again this last time 8 months ago was do I really want to be a part of this life then? Yes. I said. Then came this relapse and the thought was if it’s going to be this way always do I keep trying? Yes!
So then what becomes important then is how will I treat myself if and when I fall again? The answer I believe is very, very gently. We are trying, we could be getting high saying oh well that’s just not for me and taken the easy way out but we chose to fight! That speaks volumes, you guys. So for me, I believe that everything happens for a reason. Like the big book says near the back pg. 416 ish depending on the edition. “I am convinced that nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” Believing that then there has to be a good reason why we are having such a time at gaining some sort of continuous sobriety, has to be!
My belief says there is a reason and a purpose in it for me and if there are no mistakes in my Gods world then that reason and purpose has to be a good one. So how can I make good of the misery and pain of 20 + years of hardcore addiction? I would ask yourself the same question. Who is to say you are not someone’s voice that cannot speak for themselves. Who is to say that there is not one person that you will meet and share your story with who gains hope from it and it saves their life? Who is to say that you did not go through all of this just so your H.P. could use your sacrifice to change the lives of many. So that one person’s struggle can be many peoples hope, How awesome is that.
Remember “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake” Failing forward and taking the experiences gained from going through our own personal nightmare and using them to hopefully stop someone else from having to see so much of their own. Use that as your purpose until you can find one that fits you better, then it wasn’t all for not and the world becomes a better place then it was just the day before. Be blessed!
About the Author: Marc is a 48-year-old Author, Speaker, and Soldier in a war to loosen the grasp that Substance Abuse has on our society. He is a Father, Son, and friend to all those seeking refuge from this incorrigible disease. Marc resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where he enjoys, writing, hiking, and kicking the disease of addiction in the teeth, every chance he gets. As Marc always likes to say, “be blessed, my friends!”