Success is never an accident . . .
In exchange for its title, it delivers its share of failure and mistakes. It comes with bruises and battle scars—it comes with fears and concerns and it often comes with casualties, as well as losses. These are called lessons . . .
Success is a decision. It is alive, like you and me. It lives and it breathes. It needs nourishment to grow, just like we do. Success is far from free and it is even further from effortless. It is deliberate. It is intended. It is planned, and above all else, it is worked for.
In return, success is willing to match our levels of intensity.
“You get what you give,” I was told.
There were close to 40 of us in a room called the Fishbowl. The Fishbowl is where we checked in for our morning attendance. Someone (usually a newcomer just in from the street) would read “How it works,” which is the first page in the fifth chapter of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book.
(That’s the A.A. bible for those who don’t know)
It begins, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program.”
Each morning, I went to the Fishbowl to announce my attendance. I sat in one of the blue chairs that lined in rows from right to left. The walls and ceiling was white. The hardwood floor was somewhat glossy and the entrance was a soundproof, sliding-glass door, which, I assume is why they called it the Fishbowl.
When the counselor on duty called my name during, I answered by counting my time left in treatment.
I did this for 30 days. I started with, “29 days and a wake up,” which meant after 29 days; I would wake up and be released.
I did this for my entire stay. I answered my attendance by counting all the way down, to “Four and a wake up.” Then it was three, then two, and on my last morning, when the counselor called my name for attendance, I was able to say, “Wake up!” which meant that was the day of my discharge . . .
It was my second to last day of treatment. I sat in a group of what we called “Repeats.”
A repeat was someone that had already undergone treatment and needed to repeat the program. That was me. I had been to this facility before. I was also in two other facilities but I had yet to thoroughly follow the path or completely give myself to this simple program.
Each treatment facility had its own schedule and routine—but the schedule was easy to work around, and I learned how to manipulate the system.
I have often heard other patients compare drug treatment facilities to jail. However, I failed to see the comparison. There were no guards on duty. There were no locked gates or barred doors. There were no fights; there was no warden or officers standing in a watchtower. There were only drunks and ex-drunks. There were people looking to get sober and people looking to get over. At that point, I was still unsure which person was me.
I was unsure if I wanted to stay sober. I could not comprehend life without something to help calm the nerves or settle the internal arguments that continued inside my head. I was young at the time and what else do young men do if not drink hard and live fast?
The counselor told us, “Look around.”
Everyone looked around and smiled their half smile as if we were about to undergo another seemingly pointless treatment exercise.
“Take a good look,” said the counselor.
“Look at the guy next to you.”
“Look at the guy across from you.” He told us.
“I want you to look around the room and then I want you to think about something.”
None of the patients seemed to take this seriously.
The counselor asked, “It’s funny, right?”
He even smiled and then let out a slight laugh.
He flipped one of the chairs backwards and then sat on it with the backrest of the chair at his chest. He smiled for a second, but then his face lost its sense of humor and his tone changed in an instant.
“How many of you plan on staying sober.”
We all raised our hands.
“How many of you think everyone in here will stay sober?”
The counselor stood and told us about the statistics of our success.
“One out of 33 will make it.”
I had undergone so much in my 30 days of treatment. I survived suicide. I grew painfully tired of feeling as if I were a failure. I was tired of feeling angry. I was tired of feeling alone or distant from the rest of the world.
That morning, I heard some of the other patients talking about me.
“That kid won’t make it down the road.”
They said, “He’s either going to be dead or in jail. There’s no way that kid will ever get sober.”
They did not know I could hear them. But I did.
I remember my chin sinking to my chest. I felt foolish. I felt laughed at. I felt unloved and uncared for.
I also felt determined to prove them wrong.
When the counselor repeated the statistics, “There are 40 of you in this room. You do the math!”
His voice was loud—almost pleading with us to listen to him.
“Only one out of 33.”
“What you have to do now is ask yourself, ‘which one do I want to be?’ Ask yourself, ‘Am I going to be the one, or am I going to be one of the 33?’”
That was the day I made my decision. I was tired of feeling like a failure. I was tired of being a loser—or a junkie and thief. I decided not to be sick anymore. I decided to give in. And since, rarely had they seen a person fail who had thoroughly followed their path,” I decided to follow. I decided to be the one . . . and not one of the 33
I am not sober by accident. I am sober by decision.
I am sober because of my effort . . .
Success is never an accident. It is the most intentional action we can achieve. In return for our time, struggles, and dedication, success gives us a sense of accomplishment, which is something that no one could ever take away.
So what you need to do now is decide who you want to be.
Where do you want to go?
Ask yourself, “What am I willing to do to get there?”
and think before you answer
because whatever your answer is will determine how successful you will be.
Are you ready?