April 1, 2014

Today, I acknowledge my sobriety date (April 1, 1991)

After my fall, I went back to the place I knew, which was far away from the town I grew up in, and far from the streets of New York City. I went back to a place, which was away from the impulsiveness and the temptations; it was away from the madness, the personal demons, and far away from me.
Arriving before noon, I watched the sun shine over the views of tree-lined mountains, and over the old red barn, the tiny pond, the huge, muddied field where the cows used to roam, and over the house where I used to live.
Snow melted along the side of the dirt roads and the smell of spring was on its way. And there in the moment of comforted sadness, I felt as if I had come home.
This was the view I saw on a daily basis. This was where I learned to shed the cloaks of my old images, and release the habits. I learned about God. I learned about life and I grew.
I grew from a scrawny, longhaired, boy into a young man.
This is where I was stripped of my status—I was removed from my own deadly routines—and furthermore, this is where I was introduced to myself and sobriety.

Away on the farm, I built solid friendships. We always said we’d keep in touch. We always said we’d never forget each other or the lessons we learned there, and at the time, I’m sure we meant it.
But I never forgot…
How could I forget the early morning barn crews, sleeping on steel-framed bunks, which creaked in the middle of the night because of young, newly sober boys, removed from their atmosphere, and of course, how could I forget wearing signs around my neck, getting shot down, screamed at, and degraded in front of a small community of people?

In the hardest memory, and the roughest times, I was taken from the comforts that almost killed me. This was no easy task and I fought back; I rebelled and I argued. But I also became sober.
For the first time, my eyes were opened. I was able to see without feeling uncomfortable, or admit to feeling without being afraid.
There was no one looking to con me. There was no one looking to steal, hurt, or push me in the corner of a small prison cell. On the contrary, there was fellowship. There was family, love, acceptance, and understanding.

I never forgot the months I lived on the farm…I never forgot the counseling sessions, or the friends I knew that left and went back to their old life. And like everyone else on the farm, I swore I would never forget who I was and that would never happen to me. However, my memory was not always prominent.

Back to the world, I was left to my own devices. There was no one around to remind me of my program; there was no one to call me out on my spiritual laziness, or my bullshit. And more, there was no one to say even the simplest things. Things like, “Hello,” or “How are you,” and actually wait for an answer.

Slowly, I withdrew. I began to feel the old feelings, which kept me sick for too long. My attitude changed and so did my behavior, which, in the world of addiction, is never a good thing.

They say the devil knows us better than we know ourselves. Perhaps this is why temptation is so seductive.
My demons know me very well. They know how to whisper and where to hide their lies. They know how to make me listen and change my thought process.

I began to shed the lessons I learned—or maybe I just covered them or drowned them in denial. Becoming raw, I felt the stings of insecurity. I felt the anger again; I felt the awkwardness, and the confusion. Suddenly, the things I knew and the lessons I learned became foreign to me and it was not long before I found myself at a drug spot off of Rockaway Parkway.

I relapsed. I gave back what I once took and held so dearly.
I let go of my achievements. I let go of the lessons I learned as well as the respect I had for myself, and while on a 24hr binge, I crawled across the planks of a hardwood floor, looking for tiny white flakes of powder.
My lips were burned with blisters from the glass pipe. My skin was pale. And my eyes; my eyes were possessed by the cocaine demons, and hauntingly wired.

This is why I went back to the farm. I went back because I fell.
I went back because I knew they cared. I knew they understood my addiction, and I also knew they would tell me, “It’s okay,” and “You can get back up now.”
“You don’t have to fail again.”

If it were not for the people I lived with, learned from, and loved; if left to my own devices, or had I never been separated from myself, and introduced to God the Father as I understand him, I would have never become sober.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.”
(That’s from Matthew 10:16)

If any, this passage describes my sobriety very well

My life and my sobriety belong to me and no one else. Over the years, I have been met with obstacles. I have gone through hard times. I have lost and I have struggled. I have been offered and I have been persuaded to turn back and forget who I was.
But even if I did forget, this would only be temporary, and fate would quickly remind me of who I was and how easy it is to fall backwards.

Thankfully, I haven’t fallen backwards in 23 years.

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