Deep Powerlessness

When I was two years clean and sober, my much-loved stepmother died suddenly, of complications following a minor surgery. I received the news while I was sitting in a CMA meeting. My phone vibrated, and knowing she was in the hospital, I went outside to answer it. It was my father. His first words were, “Susan is dead.”

“Susan is dead.” I was devastated. How could this be? She was so full of life and warmth, with a huge circle of friends and family who loved her. It seemed impossible, and so shockingly sudden. I had just mailed her Christmas present the day before. I was shattered.

I was fortunate to be deeply immersed in the fellowship and in service when she died, so my support network was in place when this sudden loss shook my life. The same things that had allowed me to stay sober would become the tools that carried me through. The Twelve Steps, my Higher Power, service work and commitments, my sponsor and the support of the fellowship were the answer to this, just as they were to my addiction.

During the initial weeks, my sponsor reminded me: “It’s not just drugs we are powerless over.” I wished I could fix it somehow, or turn time back and undo it. It was clear that I couldn’t control death; it comes in its own time. I was powerless.

Unmanageability reared its head too, as I tried to help my father cope. (He was deep in his own issues with alcohol, and his grief greatly exacerbated that.) My unmanageability around her death manifested in believing I could “get him sober.” My sponsor pointed out the insanity of that idea, gently reminding me that I was powerless over other people; that I could only control my own choices.

The pain and inability to “fix” this convinced me I had to turn it over, let go of trying to control the situation, and that my Higher Power would carry me through without the numbing effects of crystal. Drugs had always been how I coped with difficult feelings, but now I had to walk through this fully present.

There were times I longed for that escape, but I knew that it would only be temporary, and that when came down I would still be in grief, but with my life in shambles as well. I realized that the only way out is through. If I used, I would only delay my feelings, not erase them. Like a physical wound, if my grief was left untreated it would fester and could destroy me.

Just as the steps guided me to face the reality of my choices and actions, I realized I had to face what had happened, turn it over to my Higher Power, and to walk through my feelings with honesty and presence.

I’ve been clean and sober in CMA for nineteen years as of this writing, and in that time have also lost my mother and stepfather, two dogs, and a much-loved friend and sponsee, who died sober, of heart disease.

When my friends and family died I found it comforting to help with work in the house. Sorting their things, donating clothes, and going through family memorabilia was hard, but I realize now that it was service work. It also helped me process the loss, and “make it real” for myself.

If you stay in the rooms, it is very likely that someone you care about will go out and possibly die. That powerlessness is uniquely painful. Knowing that our spiritual solution works and seeing people we love move away from recovery is very, very hard. I have to go to my Higher Power in these instances, and turn the loss over. The illusion of control may return, and the more I entertain the idea that I can “keep someone sober” the more unmanageable my life and feelings become. In these situations, there are times that all I can do is to repeat “God, I give you ___________.”

In these times, I found it useful to put myself deeper into service. I may not have been able to save that friend, but I can still carry the message.

While it is natural to want to isolate when grieving, I found it important to get out and get to meetings. The AA Big Book says, “Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” This is true in times of challenge and loss as well as when things are going well.  

Recovery has taught me that nothing is for certain in this world, but one thing I can control is my choices. Today I choose to work my program, to remember my loved ones fondly, and turn my attention to how I can be of service. I know that I have been given a precious gift. I keep that gift by sharing it with others, which is one of the greatest joys in my life. Today I can live in my feelings with a grace I never knew possible in my addiction, and choose to carry the message of recovery.

The Phoenix

He lay naked on the living room floor of our one bedroom Studio City apartment with a sheet covering his pearl white body. I sat on one side and held his hand while my sister stroked his forehead. At last he was at peace. I, on the other hand, was a complete basket case. I was bargaining with God not believing what was happening. This was the day Paul left this world. It was also the day I came back to recovery.

It was late afternoon in April and I was home. I didn’t go to work that day because I was fired the week before. My husband Paul was asleep in bed and I was doing whatever I could to keep busy and ignore my thoughts and emotions. I was going through a dark period in my life. Paul was extremely sick, I was hopelessly addicted to methamphetamine, and things that offered stability in my life were slipping away. All I could do was stay high, stay busy and ignore the realities I was facing. The darkest moment of this afternoon was quickly approaching. It was the day Paul died.

Paul and I had a special bond that was challenged in the early years of our relationship due to my addiction to meth. I originally found the rooms of CMA, and got clean. I managed to stay clean for just over eight years. In that time, we lived a fairytale romance. We married and moved to a house in the suburbs—domestic bliss. These were some of the happiest moments of my life. Nothing could get between us and everything appeared perfect.

I relapsed in March after 8 blissful years. I wouldn’t see another sober day until the day Paul died. I tried many times to stop but was continually dragged into the darkness of my disease. I was aware Paul was extremely sick and his condition was not improving. I relied on crystal to cope with my heartbreaking reality. At least this is what I used to tell myself to justify the return to active addiction. And then he died. So now what do I do?

Survival is all I had after losing the most important person in my life. The day Paul died, I was struck sober. I never returned to methamphetamine. I wasn’t certain about sobriety. I reached out to my sober family and started my journey one more time. I received an outpouring of love and affection from friends and family. I returned to therapy and started attending CMA meetings. That little voice in my head told me I couldn’t grieve without the help of the people that meant so much to me.

In my first year, I decided it was time to do the Steps again. My sponsor, Bill C., met with me on a weekly basis and we started the process all over. I had to get honest and surrender—a step one action. When I’m in my addiction, I have a tendency to develop an interesting relationship with the truth. During that year of using I slowly lost my soul and self-respect.

When it came time to do my inventory, Step Four, I was ready. It takes unyielding courage to look at resentments and examine character defects. I felt betrayed by so many people and institutions, I was beyond ready to put it down on paper. I was, for the first time in years, able to see how pride and anger were my greatest of character defects. I had no idea.

The first time I worked the Steps, I didn’t pay attention to spiritual principles, and the idea of perseverance (spiritual principle behind step 10) was not on my radar. I learned that, had I practiced spiritual principles, I might have stopped the insanity a year earlier. That said: I had to go through my journey to get to where I’m at today. Relapse is a part of that.

Paul’s death changed the course of my life. I learned I’m a compassionate man who cares what happens to others. When he died, I lost my husband and my job. I had to face my peers and tell them I only had a few days clean and sober—that sucked. My shame was overwhelming. The negative voices ridiculed my sobriety and made me second guess anything else positive in my life. I learned to look at life through a different lens.

When I think of those first few months of recovery, I visualize a phoenix rising from the flames. As Paul left this earth, I headed in the same desolate direction. I wasn’t deliberately trying to hurt myself but a reality check dictated otherwise. When Paul died, a piece of me went with him. I didn’t realize I could recover from that loss. I discovered that grief required its own recovery. Not only did I recover, but it was as if God gave me a second lease on life. I had a new awakening.

When I was sober the first time, Paul would continually remind me that if I were to use again, he’d have to leave me. In early recovery I felt guilty for his death, because, in a way, he did leave. I know now that his death and my getting sober are not necessarily synonymous. I had a strong foundation back in the day, and if I carried on using as I was, I most likely would’ve found my way back to recovery. The courts, illness, guilt; any one of those factors could’ve done it. I have a tendency not to fare well over extended periods of time when I’m using crystal.

The Twelfth Step says we will have a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps. I learned what that means. Once I stopped waiting for the clouds to part; I recognized the freedom that comes from doing a moral inventory and sharing it. Awareness of my character defects and the ability to change my behavior, making amends for my wrongs, and a daily spiritual practice—all this was required for my spiritual awakening.

The problem isn’t grief, it’s not allowing myself a chance to grieve. The problem isn’t anger, it’s not recognizing and allowing myself to feel and understand this emotion. The problem isn’t intimacy, it’s not allowing myself the opportunity to get close and share my life with others. Recovery has afforded me the chance to enhance and experience all these feelings.

I have not returned to the use of meth or any other drugs to cope with my feelings. I truly live my life on life’s terms. I’ve come to realize that if I’m content and happy, this is enough for me. I remember glimpses of my life with Paul while I was using. I traded paradise for a parking lot.

My life has taken on many changes since getting clean. I went back to school for drug and alcohol counseling and changed careers. I discovered I need love in my life as I have an abundance of love to share. That said, I met a beautiful man and remarried. I get to be an uncle today with nieces and a nephew who respect me. I joined a fitness team and started eating healthier foods.

Most importantly, I discovered me. I have new goals and dreams, and I remain teachable. I am 50 years old and grateful for my life today. It took a lot of work to get here, and there is a long highway ahead. As long as I’m willing to grow, I will live a life free from my demons. I am truly a phoenix rising from the flames. Paul is in my heart and I know the life I have today is the life he wants for me—eternally.

Sex, Drugs and Recovery

So I am handcuffed and face down on a mattress in a grungy Motel 6 along I-70 on the outskirts of Denver. The officer of the West Metro Task Force and I are exchanging the usual pleasantries of “F-You”, “No, F-You!” My girlfriend had left shortly before to return items paid for with manufactured checks to cover our delinquent hotel bill (which had prompted the police presence). She would be arrested upon her return for the stacks of fake IDs and checks she had created. The officer, scanning the room, observed a container for a fireman’s breathing mask and smugly stated that was probable cause for further investigation. My admission that the container was full of my sex toys led him to state that was also probable cause for further investigation. Back to the pleasantries. Curiosity got the better of me and my reluctant probing lead to the response, “The use of meth heightens the desire for sex but diminishes the ability, and in time toys are needed to achieve climax.” More pleasantries followed as we continued to wait.

Fast forward two years and I had spent the last 12 months in recovery, started having sex after a period of abstinence, and discovered that my ability had diminished significantly. The thoughts of that police officer were followed by “Son of a___!” and the disgust of realizing he was right.

From the beginning sex was an unhealthy experience for me. At a shamefully early age I experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour from older kids, some wanted but most unwanted. This was followed years later by sexual activity on my part without much regard for the consequences. The stunting of my emotional growth had begun with my extensive use of drugs, also at a relatively early age. Sex became a way for me to feel love as something other than a concept I was incapable of understanding.

Discussions with older people on the subject and research into the act of sex helped to develop a prowess that increased my frequency of sexual encounters. The reputation that followed caused some partners to shy away but it attracted many more. The conquest was on! At the time this seemed boastful but in retrospect it was the early groundwork for a life of manipulation to boost my shallow ego.

For years to follow I had many relationships and many more sexual partners. Even while in a committed relationship, if I saw an opportunity for a sexual encounter I took it. I became a skilled liar and led a double life. I used the word “love” as a means of procuring sex. I remained in relationships long after I grew disinterested in my partner just to continue having sex. I would string partners along until I found another partner and would often continue both relationships at the same time. There were times when I began to feel guilty but I pushed those feelings out of my mind with more sex and drugs. The problem became my solution.

My drug use shifted from club drugs to meth. As my life deteriorated from bad to worse, any semblance of normal sexual behaviour gave way to a compulsive drive towards unsafe sex with just about anyone. There were few other straight men in the group that I used with and the female members were either unattached or unconcerned with the boundaries of a monogamous relationship. My life was miserable but I revelled in it anyway.

A string of arrests and convictions for a variety of crimes and the shame of a complete moral breakdown forced me into the rooms of recovery. The fog started to lift and I found myself walking the path of the Twelve Step Program through the fellowship of CMA. I began working with a sponsor and he recognized my character defects around sex and intimacy immediately. I saw others using the rooms as their little black book and it seemed inappropriate. My sponsor suggested that I abstain from sex for at least a year while I worked on myself. Given my past, I wholeheartedly agreed it was the best course of action for me.

My step work helped me see I had been using sex the same way I had been using drugs, to fill a spiritual hole in my life. I realized that in my sick mind I equated physical love with emotional love and the harm I had caused to others was great. My sponsor told me he would love me until I learned to love myself. This was uncomfortable at first since I truly hated myself, but in time I relied on him to help me through the challenges of early recovery. I began to understand why I viewed sex as a tool rather than an expression of love. I made amends to those I had hurt through my thoughtless attitude towards sex. I formed an ideal for future personal and sexual relationships from experiences in the past. In time I was able to stand in front of a mirror and say “I love you” to myself without wincing or turning away. Here was true progress.

Years of risky sex and IV drug use haunted me and I sought professional help to ensure I did not have any health concerns. After submitting blood samples and waiting for results, which was similar to waiting for a judge’s verdict, I was informed I did not have any communicable diseases. I felt like all the members of a firing squad had miraculously missed me.

Armed with a clean bill of health, a year without sex, and a new found understanding of myself, I ventured forth. My relationships would all be mature and lead me to happiness, right? Not quite. My first relationship was of a sexual nature but I was honest about my intentions with her. She unfortunately was not honest, and I ended the relationship after she confessed to having herpes well after we had been together. The next relationship started out fairly well but when confronted with the realization that I did not love her, I ended it responsibly. At least I was learning.

This was also the time that I was faced with the issue the West Metro Task Force officer brought to my attention. I could not perform as I had in the past. I again sought professional help and learned that the inhibiting factor was either physical or mental. It proved, in fact, to be a bit of both. The use of little blue pills increased my ability, which increased my confidence, and in time they were no longer needed. Although embarrassing, I shared this experience at my home group in hopes that it would help others that found themselves in this same situation.

I was in my late thirties and started dating again. This was humbling but I looked at it as an opportunity for growth. I kept it light, remained honest, and prayed a great deal about situations as they presented themselves. If, after a few dates, I did not find myself truly interested in the person, I would simply express to them how I felt. I did not have sex unless the relationship was moving towards a commitment. I felt as if I had picked up emotionally where I had left off when I started using drugs. I began to feel whole.

After two and a half years in recovery, I met someone that I was drawn to immediately. We had an easy way with each other and began spending all our time together. I was honest about my entire past from the beginning of the relationship, and she, in turn, was understanding. The ideal I was able to form for relationships while working the Steps helped guide me as I cautiously started down this path. We fell in love and sex was an expression of that love. We are mindful of each other’s needs but we do not use each other for sex. It is the healthiest relationship I have ever had. We have challenges but work through them together. Sex is important but it is not the focal point. We have been married for five years. She is my best friend and we happily walk this journey, hand in hand.

A Jail Story

My name is Danny and I am a crystal meth addict.

It was July 25th. I was just sentenced to 364 days in the Dade County Jail followed by ten years of probation – no early termination. I was two years sober when this sentence was negotiated between my counsel and the prosecutors – much more desirable than the seven-year minimum mandatory. I was arrested two years earlier for trafficking crystal meth. Well, that was the charge but really I was just an addict that attempted to sell meth, unsuccessfully of course. When the sentence was read and I was remanded into custody, a wave of emotions hit me.

The hardest thing I have had to do in recovery is turn to my family and friends in open court and say goodbye for the next several months. I was flooded with sadness that I would be leaving my family and friends and terrified of what awaited me in the coming months. I had been in jail before. The first time it was just for a night. The second time was for about ten weeks. That time I was coming down off of crystal. Nevertheless, I was terrified.

I was taken to the second floor transient holding cell. Inmates came and went, either bonded out or moved to a permanent cell, but I was still there days later. I remember an officer asking who had been sentenced and was willing to work. I raised my hand immediately and was taken to a new holding cell for inmates waiting for a job assignment.

Eventually, I ended up in the E.K.U. – East Kitchen Unit – as a trustee to work in the kitchen. I held multiple positions while I was incarcerated. My first job was the feed line. I think we got up at 4 am to start serving breakfast. We came in for a few hours and then back out to serve dinner. Lunch was bologna sandwiches that were prepared with breakfast.

Working certainly made the time pass faster and helped keep me sane, but what truly kept me connected was my friends and family. My loving sponsor, Rodrigo C., visited me weekly with friends, and my family came on the other visitation day. These visits were the highlight of my week; it gave me something to look forward to. I will forever be grateful for this selfless act.

My time in there was challenging. I was in a cell with sixty something other people, which meant sixty something other personalities. We ate when we were told and slept when we could. Sleeping was hard. I never thought, once I got off of crystal, that I would ever say that. If it wasn’t an officer coming in to pick up the crew for the next shift, it was the nurse coming in with meds, or the next officer coming on duty counting everyone, or just rowdy inmates. It was always something. Fortunately, I had a Big Book that was sent to me by one of my fellows. They sent it from AA publishing because that was the only way the facility accepted it.

The Big Book was the closest thing I had to a real meeting. We didn’t have AA or NA at the main jail, only church, which I occasionally attended – just about anything to get out of the cell for a bit. I’ll admit, I didn’t read the Big Book often, but whenever I felt like I just couldn’t get through another day I would open it and read for a bit. The story “Acceptance is the Answer” – that one was a regular. Nothing changed for me as far as prayers were concerned. It was the usual “God help keep me sober” and Third Step prayer in the morning, and “God thanks for keeping sober” at bedtime. Oh yes! “Help keep me sober” and “thanks for keeping me sober” was certainly needed in jail.

Some might think that being in a cell with an officer 24/7 meant there were no drugs but I certainly found otherwise. There was heroin and pot. I remember taking a shower and a group of guys jumping in to smoke some pot because I guess the steam from the shower and whatever they were spraying would mask the odor. You would think that, as a gay male, I would have enjoyed a group of guys coming in the shower with me but I have never ran so fast before in my life. I literally ran out of the shower in fear of getting caught – they don’t ask questions in jail. If you are with them you are guilty and I wasn’t willing to give up the time off. I was earning five days off my sentence for every month I worked. I removed myself. I guess this is where “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which use to baffle us” comes into play.

That wasn’t the only incident.

I was folding laundry in the cell – by this time I had been promoted to House Man, i.e. laundry boy. It paid more, a whopping $10 a week I think, or maybe $15. Like I said, I was folding laundry and when I looked up I noticed a guy masturbating in the shower staring at a female officer. As soon as he noticed me, he tried calling me into the shower. I think he was a seasoned prisoner because he was obviously straight and obviously didn’t care that I was a man. Had I obliged, this would have been another incident where my time off could have been revoked had I gotten caught. Don’t get me wrong – the thought and fantasy of jailhouse sex in the shower was really tempting, but I wasn’t willing to lose my gain time.

It certainly was rough in there. I had to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and my birthday in jail. I remember getting a present for my birthday from one of the other inmates, his name was Todd. We knew each other from the street. It was a box of Honey Buns wrapped in newspaper. What can I say? We made the best out of it.

As my time in there got shorter and shorter, I began to get anxious but I knew it was going to be all right. You see, I was fortunate. My Higher Power put certain people in my life that would help me get through it all. My boss, Maria knew my whole story and when she saw me go to jail she said she would hold my job for me until I got out. I also had my family and friends waiting for me. I knew I just had to push through and get to the other side.

That is exactly what I did. A little over seven months after being sentenced, I was released with credit for the time I had originally served plus a reduction of about 35 days for the time I had worked. I know now as I knew back then that I don’t think I ever would have made it through those months had I not had previously worked the steps and laid down a solid foundation. I don’t think I ever would have made it without my Sponsor and all the friends he brought to visit. Nor would I have made it through without the prayers of my fellows and letters I received. For that I am eternally grateful. The Big Book and my Higher Power were also huge players in helping me get through. It is true what they say, sometimes the only thing between you and that next drink or drug or whatever, is your Higher Power.

Danny T.
Miami, FL

I Was Being Robbed

I was being robbed. The man in my house was robbing me. I run into the street, banging on a neighbor’s door. No one answers. Another door. No answer.


Finally, the cops came, thank God.

While doing their job clearing and securing my house, they find drug paraphernalia and the drugs. They start by talking to the other man that was in the house and heard his side of the story. They decided to take the both of us to the station to sort everything out. Once we arrived, he went into one room and I went into another. For some reason one of my hands was cuffed to a bench. I was confused over this and DEMANDED an answer.

“WHY are you doing this to ME?”

Little did I realize at the time, they were restraining me because they had been called about a man with a gun. How did the police know to come? The man in the house had called them. Why didn’t he just leave? Because he couldn’t. I had slashed three of his tires so he couldn’t leave.

Why?! Because - I have a Winchester 30-30 rifle in one hand and a bayonet in the other. It is 5:30 on a Sunday morning, and I’m running up down the street with no shirt or shoes on, stark raving mad after having been awake for 4 days high on crystal meth.

I was in that room cuffed to the bench for what seemed like hours, getting increasingly madder and madder and yelling at the cameras in the ceiling. Eventually four cops came into the room. I will never forget the next words out of their mouths:

“Sir, you are being charged with…”

And they started to read a list of eight or nine charges against me. Still, in manic disbelief, I resisted the truth.

“WHAT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I was the one being robbed!”

After the embarrassment of being fingerprinted, my hands, feet, and waist were fully shackled. Then, the mugshot! With that shameful flash of the camera, I flashed back 15 years…

I am having my picture taken in my Army Class A military uniform. I looked good and felt great in that uniform. I was in top physical condition and at the top of my career. Within a few years, I would retire from the Army as a Sergeant First Class after 20 years of proud service to our country. I had marched in Memorial Day parades and was revered at my local VFW. And now, I am being shuffled into a courtroom for an arraignment, as an emaciated, strung out mess with delusions so fantastic that I believed them.

As I faced the judge, and the charges are being read out loud in a courtroom filled with strangers, I’m crying my eyes out. The court officer begins to read charges of: terroristic threats, possession of weapons with intent, involuntary servitude, false imprisonment, simple assault, criminal mischief, possession of controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

As I listened, the reality of the situation finally starts to register and the denial and disbelief gave way to horror. I was going to jail, and I wanted to die…

I was stripped of my civilian clothes, had the cavity search and a medical exam, then had my intake into the jail done. I was given a suicide suit crudely named, THE TURTLE SUIT which was nothing more than a large piece of padded material with Velcro strips on it, so I didn’t hurt myself. This of course meant I was headed to the psych ward. The handcuffs went back on, and I was assigned a cell. As I was shuffled down the hallway to my cell, the Velcro on the turtle suit wouldn’t stay fastened and was falling off me. Here I am among strangers in a jail watching me stumble half naked down a hallway toward my awaiting cell.

Once the door shut and locked behind me, overwhelming exhaustion and despair set in. The lights were on all day and night 24/7—I was on a suicide watch. I could only muster up enough strength to get up and get my food at the cell door when it came. I felt total despair – how was I ever going to get out of this situation? My life had become so twisted and distorted. The thoughts of my family flashed through my still racing mind. I had burnt every bridge I ever had with them as it stood. Suicide seemed like an answer…but frankly I was so broken and hopeless I couldn’t even manage trying that. Besides, I was being monitored 24/7 by the guards.

I have no idea how long I had been in that cell – was it a few hours…was it a few days, I just didn’t know and I didn’t care… eventually someone banged on my cell door – the ward psychiatrist. He was there to see his newest patient. We briefly talked about my condition and care, then he told me he would be back tomorrow, and we would talk some more. His manner was firm but not ugly, on guard but not combative. In the midst of my despair, I at least felt like I had someone and something to look forward to, his daily visit. As alone as I felt, I had an ally, even though I didn’t feel like talking to him or anyone else. I barely wanted to be around myself.

There were other inmates that were assigned to watch me through the slitted window of the cell door to make sure I didn’t try to hurt myself. After a few days of detoxing, I slowly started to talk to my babysitters as they were called. They started to convey to me what to do to survive in jail. First, be responsive and respectful to the guards on duty. I stayed humble, I was respectful to my babysitters and the guards. Second, act like I was part of life again. The quicker I did so, the quicker I would get regular jail clothes instead of the turtle suit I have been wearing. I would make my bed, clean my cell and stayed alert. The fog started to lift, and before I knew it, I was permitted to be taken off of suicide watch by the psychiatrist which meant I was given regular jail clothes to replace the turtle suit. Definite progress.

As I sobered up, one fearful thought nagged at me – what is going to happen when people in my neighborhood hear what I had done? How was I going to look my friends and neighbors in the eye again without shame?

It was breakfast time the morning after coming off suicide watch, the cell door opened. In stepped a guard. “Do you know who I am?” the CO said. “No,” I replied.

He proceeded to identify himself to me. He was one of the volunteer firefighters who knew me from marching in the Memorial Day parades that I was in. As soon as I placed him, I became horrified at the thought that there was a guard that worked in this god forsaken jail that knew me. He was someone from my neighborhood. That overwhelming feeling of fear and shame just gripped me. There was that possibility that he would be sitting gossiping about me at the very VFW I marched for. But sitting in jail, I could do nothing about it. Little did I know at the time my story had already been covered by the local newspapers. What was done was done. And I had done it.

I was no stranger to the judicial system by any means. I had racked up several DUIs over a 20-year period and knew the system well. The usual sequence for me always went like this: jail, lawyers, money, summons, hearing, rehabs to appease the courts, probation and fines then back on the streets. But, this time it was different. Thanks to the keen eye of the psychiatric staff, a miracle happened when the doctor saw something in me that I had never realized. While trying to interview me about my military history I would become very withdrawn and silent.

After a couple of sessions, he asked me, “Do you know what PTSD is?”

I said, “I’ve heard of the term before but I’m not sure just what it is.”

“I think you have it,” and he started to explain to me what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was. “You don’t need to be in a jail,” he said, “you need psychiatric help for PTSD.”

That diagnosis afforded me a bed at an army medical center. While there at the rehab, I met other vets who had some of the same problems and symptoms I was having. In therapy, I mentioned how the smell of burnt oil or plastic would trigger severe memories of my combat experiences. I would immediately have this overwhelming feeling of fear and want to flee the area. I would isolate at home and drink. Most of the time I just drank to pass out, I didn’t want to dream, I wanted to suppress the nightmares and recurring thoughts of war.

When I went to AA, I could relate to some extent. Alcohol was my first love, but once I ventured into crystal meth use, it took precedence over alcohol. When I found crystal meth, I thought I had found my best friend. The effect of the speed would allow me to stay up for days and bypass sleep and the nightmares, night sweats, and panic attacks. I was hooked. I already knew the consequences of meth use from earlier rehabs but I chose to do it anyway.

I gradually gravitated to CMA because I could relate more to what was being shared there — the things I was hiding from, the paranoia, seeing things and people that weren’t really there — I could relate to all these things. It seemed like CMA dealt more with what was going on in my life. I felt like I had a home.
In CMA, one of the topics we talk a lot about is sex and how much a part of our using that was. In AA they didn’t talk about all the places the drugs took us, and the “I’ll never do that” stuff, lying to friends and doing things I would never do on alcohol because I wanted crystal more than I wanted alcohol. In CMA we go into that in depth.

It wasn’t until I was ready to let go of my pain, that the psychiatrist and I could continue to work through the pain. I had the choice to suppress the information and shortchange myself in the long run; however, his interest and compassion outranked my insanity and insecurities.

After a few months in the Army hospital, I left and truly started my journey in sobriety. I attribute the work I did there and the work I’m doing today, as a key to my sobriety. The worst part of jail was the sitting and waiting – waiting for food, showers, visits from anyone, staff or relatives, waiting for that door to even open to be in the communal area, waiting to even be able to interact with others. But, for me, just that one relationship I made with the psychiatrist was the one my spirit needed to awaken me and truly start to live. I’ve come a long way from living in that shithole in South Philly and eating condiments for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I had spent all my money on drugs.

The best part of jail was the camaraderie among some of the staff and other inmates. I learned that I am not alone – ever. That we need one another. That I can feel a connection to another human being, even under desperate circumstances.

Once I re-entered society, I started going to fellowship meetings at a local community center to continue working on my alcoholism. It was at this community center one day that I noticed another meeting letting out just before our meeting.

“What meeting is that?” I asked a fellow.

“CMA – Crystal Meth Anonymous,” he replied.

I needed to find out more about this meeting. After all, it was crystal meth that landed me in jail and brought me to my knees. Instinctively, I attended the next CMA meeting. At my very first meeting, I knew and felt I was home. For the first time in my life, I could relate to people. I felt safe. So, I made it my home group. After going to several meetings and listening to what people were saying, I found a great sponsor. I found someone I felt comfortable with and I could relate to. I thought I was unique, and nobody was like me or would understand me. But once I found this sponsor, I found out I wasn’t unique and that we all were sent down the same dark path. He could relate to the paranoia, the sex drive and the insanity. This made my recovery easier just to be able to talk about things that I didn’t think I could tell anyone about. Me, this big burly military guy! My sponsor was able to tell me I wasn’t as unique as I thought I was. He pulled things out of me I thought I couldn’t express to anyone before, the things I was too ashamed to tell anyone.

So, after getting a sponsor, I got right to work on the Twelve Steps and into service. I try to help others who still suffer from crystal meth. I have sponsees that I’m taking through the Steps. I find that to be the most rewarding part of my sobriety. Today, I live one day at a time and stay in service, helping the newcomer who is struggling. I try to take as many commitments as I can. I started off by doing service at my home group, and then at the VA hospital. I took some commitments, told my story for H&I, and then branched out into other roles, like H&I chair and serving as Delegate for our Area.

I have also been able to create a network of places to send people: sober houses, halfway houses, etc. I gathered a network of recovery friends. My recovery network helps so I didn’t need people, places and things from my past. A lot of young people are getting out of rehab and are afraid to talk about it. I can tell my story and make them feel like they’re among friends that understand. I still stay plugged in with the vets and the VA hospital. I still feel like I have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to walk around like I know everything, because I don’t. I don’t want to ever think that I “have this” because I don’t. I’m just one drink or drug away from losing everything: my recovery, my family and my dreams.

It’s been over four and a half years since that horrible morning. Today I look back at that life I had been existing in, not living in. No more!! Today, I live…one day at a time.

Teachable Moments

Switching careers can be exciting and frightening for anyone, but for a recovering addict, it can be particularly stressful. I worked in the investment management industry for eight years before the market went sour and my position was eliminated. With no prospects on the horizon and thousands of candidates competing with me for the few opportunities that were available, I had to reevaluate my goals. I decided to leave the corporate world and become a high school chemistry teacher. I had family and friends in education who encouraged me to follow my dreams, but they did warn me there were pitfalls. I got into a program for people in midcareer transitions subsidizing the university work and certifications to become a New York City teacher, and was lucky to land a position at one of the best high schools in the city. I was ready—dreaming that I’d be an inspiring role model and shape the future of America. Little did I know that I was also about to get schooled on the importance of my own program.

First lesson: Honesty. Do your homework and know what you’re walking into! I entered school on the first day, starry-eyed, thinking that my teaching methods would quickly improve and I’d soar to new heights of inspiration and innovation. I know now that my expectations were too high and my ego was running rampant. I was forgetting the principles of my own program, especially honesty and acceptance. Teaching in a city school is very hard work, no matter how good the school is; I hadn’t been honest with myself about how difficult it might be. Reality hit like a ton of bricks: teaching four sections of high school chemistry including lab is grueling and tedious, especially in an overcrowded urban school. My students were great, but the sheer amount of work quashed my idyllic visions rather quickly. Forget my grand dreams: I struggled just to keep my head above the rushing tide.

Second lesson: Humility. I knew there were issues in the city school system; but the rigidity of the bureaucracy took me by surprise. A couple months in, I got sick and took a day off, ensuring to get and submit a doctor’s note. I was called down to a meeting with an assistant principal who admonished me for calling in sick on a Monday. I’d done everything by the book, but even so, a letter was being put into my file that would follow me until the end of my days. Was that unfair? I certainly felt it was! Did I have any recourse? Some of the more experienced teachers told me that as a new teacher, I needed to keep my mouth shut and try not to take off any Mondays or Fridays. It was only after I had stopped teaching that I wrote my resentments down and examined my part in it—I wasn’t accepting of some of the system’s unwritten rules, or willing to work on a Monday even though I was sick. If I’d written this out then, I might have realized that teaching was not the right career for me. At the time, I was still committed to my students and loved teaching chemistry, so I trudged along.

Third lesson: Open-mindedness. The feedback I was receiving from my students was quite positive; many said chemistry was their favorite class and I was their favorite teacher. Most of them did quite well on their quarterly exams. I must be doing something right! Right? Not according to the administration. The principal called me in: She said I was hired not because of my demonstrated teaching skills, but because of the enthusiasm I had for my subject and the innovation I brought to my demo lessons in the interview process. If I didn’t improve, this informal assessment could easily become a formal review. Despite the blow to my ego—and the dismissal threat bearing down on me—I was determined to succeed in my newly chosen career. I absorbed their constructive criticism and started attending other classes to learn about the pedagogy of more experienced teachers, and tried to apply their techniques to my methods.

Last lessons: Willingness, Courage, and Faith. The program tells us that by surrendering and admitting defeat, we become stronger and gain so much more. The stress under which I was placed was breaking me down emotionally and physically, and I was forced to resign my position a mere three months after I had started. I was back in the same position I had been in just a year before: reevaluating my goals. Returning to the principles of my program, I realized I’d had the willingness and courage to take a chance, and though I failed in my attempt, I stayed sober. This experience tested my ability to live life on life’s terms, to put my sobriety first, and to have faith that I’d be taken care of. Most important, I learned that falling flat on my face is not the end of the world as long as I get right back up and keep coming back to spiritual principles. And that is a very teachable moment.

My First Addiction was Sex

Late spring semester of my college freshman year, the phone in my dorm rang.

“Can I speak to David?” the gruff voice at the other end implored.

“This is he.”

The voice at the other end then offered to perform oral sex on me. A sexual act that I had been fantasizing about for years, but not knowing how to approach guys, it only lived in my mind… and in the pictures I downloaded to my computer from digital bulletin boards.

I had known for years that I was gay, but the internalized homophobia and self-loathing I felt through my high school years was compounded by the need to be “normal”. And by “normal” I mean straight, or at least being perceived as such. The summer after graduating high school, I had insinuated to my mom one night that I thought she was disappointed in the person I had become. The following morning, I found a two-page handwritten letter on the kitchen counter about how proud she was of me, about what a good person I was, about how I was smart, kind, compassionate, and loving… and how she hadn’t screwed up raising me since I was straight. After all, this was the early 1990s, a scary time before antiretroviral meds when AIDS was still an epidemic. There was no way I was coming out to my parents like I had been planning before college started.

That day in the dorm almost a year later, it seemed like the clouds had parted and a beacon of light was finally shining down on me. I was a gay man. Oh sure, I told the guy I was straight but just curious, because after all, I wanted that experience. But soon, we were meeting regularly in the dorms, in the woods, underneath the railroad tracks. He even put out a booty call the day I was moving back for my sophomore year… with my parents still in the room! I fell in love with the higher education I was receiving.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I stayed on campus for a research fellowship. The dorms had recently been upgraded with the latest tech—ethernet. Being an awkward technogeek misfit, I could not have asked for a more perfect scenario. What I felt uncomfortable doing face to face in the bars and clubs, I could easily do behind the virtual barrier of a computer screen. Cruising the online bulletin boards, I discovered internet relay chat (IRC). My initial intention was to connect with other gay men, become friends and perhaps find a boyfriend. I wanted to experience what it was like to go on a dinner date. It wasn’t very long before I found a guy who I really connected with, who lived fairly close and had a car. We didn’t have webcams yet, so we couldn’t exchange pictures. We went out to dinner, and though the conversation flowed nicely, I didn’t feel any sparks between us. He treated me because I was a “poor college student” and in my mind, that was reason enough to go back to my dorm room to have sex. After all, I had only been with one guy before and life was supposed to be a buffet where I could sample all those fine cuts of meat, right?

But I actually didn’t get to explore that much before I started seeing someone. I guess you could call him my first boyfriend, but he was more like a sugar daddy. He was cute, 34 years old, and a lawyer. He drove a Mercedes. He had a nice apartment and an awesome dog named Roger. He always treated me to dinner and to shows; he even offered to buy me a car repeatedly, but I refused. I spent many nights at his place and we’d lie in bed naked talking after going for the gold. After a few months, he told me he loved me. I told him I felt the same way, but saying those three words made me feel uneasy. I had so much more life to experience. We talked about how after graduation, I would find a job close by and move in with him. Perhaps I kept refusing his offer to buy me a car because I would feel obligated to do just that.

During this time, I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I began the process of coming out, first to my good friends. The process was scary, but they were overwhelmingly supportive. In fact, they were more concerned that in my first sexual experiences I wasn’t using protection though I was tested regularly. But their support made me more confident in myself, and my new reserves of inner strength and fortitude made my “boyfriend” jealous. He soon tried to forbid me from seeing my friends; he refused to meet them, even though they wanted to meet him. He wanted to be the only one to validate me; his controlling nature had reared its ugly head. Seeing his true nature gave me the courage to break up with him. My only regret was I also had to leave Roger.

For my senior year, I convinced my parents I had to have a car to work with my lab partners, who lived off-campus. That 10-year-old Camry opened a whole new world! No longer did I have to invite married guys on the down low during their lunch breaks to my cramped little dorm room to bend them over the creaky bed frame. No longer did I only have the chat rooms to talk about what it would be like to sample that smorgasbord. My fantasies could become my reality; I experienced the freedom of being able to hook up with whomever, whenever I wanted. It didn’t matter if it was 10 o’clock at night or 10 o’clock in the morning. If you sounded hot, I would drive to Philly or to Baltimore or even D.C. I got what I wanted, even if I wasn’t that into you. Driving all that way, I could overlook a little issue like that; I would just imagine I was having sex with Kevin Costner or Bruce Willis.

As graduation approached, I started to tire of hooking up. That was quick, right? Despite my “extracurriculars”, I graduated in the top 100 out of a class of about 4000—and second in my engineering class. And I realized I wanted more for myself. I wanted to find love. I felt torn in two: I loved sex and hooking up, but my trysts were leaving me emotionally and spiritually empty. Yet my first attempt at a relationship was dysfunctional at best.

I knew that the journey to find love was fraught with heartbreak and disappointment, so once I started graduate school that fall, I decided to split my efforts. I would decide on whether I wanted sex or a date before I went online. I was pretty successful at keeping my two lives separate, mostly because guys that I dated wouldn’t last more than a couple of months. I was still traveling all over God’s green earth for that ultimate hookup I hoped would turn into the love of a lifetime. But I was also branching out. After coming out to everyone—including my parents—I found I could flirt with and come on to guys out at clubs. I had a really strong connection with one guy I met, Jamie. Our bodies were so in sync, we made love five times the first night. This had to be it! I had found my soulmate. Then he decided to go back to his ex, and I was devastated.

Deciding love was hopelessly out of reach, I threw caution to the wind and stopped playing safe. This was the year that the first retroviral meds were approved, the miracle drugs known as protease inhibitors, and a whole crop of websites and chat rooms popped up where guys were interested in bareback sex. I enthusiastically joined the fray.

Over the next couple of years, I had two objectives: finish up grad school and play raw with reckless abandon with as many guys as possible. My focus turned away from my previous haunts of Philadelphia and suburban Bucks County and toward the infinite possibilities of New York City. Many a Saturday night I spent in the shadowy corridors and back rooms of sex clubs seeking validation to fill the void inside by countless meaningless encounters. Dating and finding a boyfriend were the desperate pipe dreams of the innocent and the naïve; I was becoming wise to the ways of the weathered gay soul, to use and to be used for as long as I could get it. And when I least expected it, along came Michael.

About two months before I finished grad school, I went on a job interview. It started out like many I had gone on before: first I met with human resources, then the hiring manager, and then a few of my potential colleagues. Michael was the last person I talked to. He was handsome, with tousled dark brown hair and sparkling blue-green eyes, and I definitely got a vibe. But surprisingly, it was the eyes that did me, those kind eyes. As he reviewed my résumé, he recognized a nonprofit I had volunteered for was one of the oldest gay rights organizations in the country and mentioned he had attended the annual drag contest the previous fall. The interview quickly evolved into a discussion of my work with the organization along with flirting from both sides. I got his number… but not the job!

Michael and I started dating a couple of weeks later, and within a few months, we got serious. One promise I had made was if I ever was so lucky to find love, I would be completely honest with him. And I was. I told him about my sexual past and he accepted me unconditionally without judgment. He taught me what love was supposed to be—being there for each other through thick and thin, working through the rough patches to make us stronger, and sharing moments we would always hold onto. Still, we took our time to become intimate because we knew that a solid foundation meant we had to be connected in every way, not just physically. I’m not saying we didn’t test those boundaries. We were really attracted to one another, but we held off on having intercourse. We got tested after three months of dating, and again after six months. Both times, we came back negative for everything, and at that point, we were ready. All that waiting made me realize what I had been missing—it was the emotional and spiritual connection to another human being that made being intimate so fulfilling.

About a year and a half into our relationship, Michael suggested we move in together. We started looking for apartments the weekend of my 27th birthday, but a week later, my world was blown apart—literally. When an airplane flew into the building where Michael worked. I was able to reach him after the first plane hit; I told him I had a bad feeling and that he should leave work. He said everyone was told to stay put and not to worry. The last thing I told him was that I loved him.

I had never really been into drugs. A little bit of pot in college and some cocaine during grad school. I only used poppers when I was in the sex clubs for a quickie. When I hooked up, if there were drugs around, I used a bit to enhance the experience, but my primary focus was my partner—or partners—and being sexually adventurous. Trying out something I had never done was always a great aphrodisiac. But after Michael died, I fell back into old patterns of hooking up indiscriminately. But even raw unbridled sex wasn’t enough. I needed something more, something to numb the gnawing pain inside. The wound was too deep this time. I had always heard that sex on crystal meth was unlike anything else. But I was always afraid—I had been warned: One time and you’re hooked. But eight months after Michael’s death, I sought this substance out. And about nine years after my very first sexual experience with a guy, I had my first sexual experience with a guy and crystal meth.

I could go into the details of my story, how crystal meth replaced the indiscriminate hookups to fill the void inside left by Michael’s death. How I quickly realized meth was becoming an issue. How I put the drug before anything else, my job, my apartment, my family and friends, my life. I could go into how after a week of shooting up without sleeping, I got pulled over by the New Jersey State Police on the Turnpike and hallucinated that they were all naked and wanted to have sex with me. How even getting pulled over and sent to outpatient rehab didn’t stop me from using again. But if you’re like me, a crystal meth addict, you probably have similar stories.

I was an expert at compartmentalizing my life into two sides: the “normal”, socially acceptable version and the wild crystal-obsessed sex pig. I promised myself that the two would never meet. That is, until my parents had to come to the police station at 2 o’clock one morning to pick up their mess of a son. Here was their pride and joy, their Ivy League-educated boy with a respectable career who, by all appearances, was a resounding success at life. He had been reduced to a blubbering sleep-deprived mess with track marks up and down his arms. It was the police who told them I was HIV-positive. I spent four days at my mom’s place. I promised I would get the help I needed and that I would stop, promises I made all with good intentions.

I came into the rooms of CMA a little more than a month after my run-in with the police. I had been attending outpatient rehab four nights a week; after each month sober, we were allowed to substitute a Twelve Step meeting for one of our three-hour outpatient sessions. But the end of year was coming up, which meant long hours at the office, and the demands on my time were too much. I dropped out of outpatient rehab, but kept going to CMA meetings whenever I could.

Anyway, I thought I knew better than what I was hearing at the meetings. I never mentioned the stash I had left over from before I was pulled over. I had saved it for the time when I thought I could use again. Before long, I was back where I had started, crashing, depressed, calling out of work. I had thoughts of killing myself. Then I got a text from a fellow, Scott S. He hadn’t seen me for a while and wondered if I was OK. I was about to text back, “Yes, I’m fine.” But I hit backspace a few times and told the truth: “No.” I took the train from my place in Jersey to New York and met him at that Friday beginners’ meeting, where I was broken, ashamed, a complete and utter wreck. The drug had replaced sex as my addiction.

I had several more relapses over the next year and a half before I realized that there might be something to that message of recovery CMA was attempting to convey to me. I found a sponsor who gave me some structure: call every day, meet every week, prove you are serious about this program, and we can start working the Steps after ninety days clean. With him, I got nearly a year clean before I decided to switch to a prior sponsor and start the Steps over. I worked the Steps over a calendar year from January to December and celebrated two years sober during that time.

Working Step Four, I thoroughly examined my motives for my compulsive behaviors and realized that even before I had picked up the phone in my dorm room all those years ago, I was an addict. Crystal and sex were just the manifestations of the true issue, my warped mind and thinking. I had been impulsive as a kid, but looking back at my childhood, I could see other symptoms of the disease, mostly with overeating or indulging my sweet tooth a bit too much. I was an addict then, I am an addict now, and I will always be an addict. But now I have a solution.

Having experienced both indiscriminate anonymous sex and a loving intimate relationship, writing out my sexual ideal was simple. I know I need to feel fulfilled and connected with my partner. I need to be able to bond with them physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I want intimacy to be an opportunity to communicate what each other needs and desires. Most of all, I want it to be fun; relationships last when you know how to have fun. Michael taught me that, and we always had fun, no matter what we were doing. Being committed to each other was another thing Michael and I had, and though experiencing that again would be wonderful, it isn’t in my sexual ideal today. My ideal includes being able to communicate our wants and needs, and really knowing my partner beyond the surface. The connection and communication is much more important than finding my next boyfriend or husband; that’s my idea of a fulfilling intimate experience.

We’re all human, which means that we’re not perfect. Even though I’m in recovery and have stayed sober for several years, I sometime act out sexually on occasion, maybe once or twice a year. But where I was seeking validation when I hooked up in the past, now it is merely a release of sexual tension. I am trying to date which sometimes leads to awkward silences and frustration when I’m not able to connect. But that is life on life’s terms. Recovery has taught me to let go and to practice the principles of the Steps in all my affairs, which definitely includes dating. When my Higher Power sees fit to put someone in front of me whom I truly connect with, it will happen. A common saying in the rooms is, “The opposite of fear is faith.” That holds true for my recovery from crystal meth, as I put my faith in this fellowship and my program. But when it comes to my sexual ideal, whether or not I find love again is irrelevant. What guides me along my spiritual path for this part of my journey is hope.

The Gift Of Time

Anyway, this particular Saturday I was pacing back and forth; lots of pent-up energy gnawing at my brain.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  I was staring into what used to be my "tweaker" room (now a guest bedroom) when I noticed a radio controlled airplane my younger brother had given me.  A wave of resentment swept over me as I remembered it.  He gave it to me saying how proud he was of me, that I had finally gotten clean.  He was such a hypocrite.  He was high at the time himself.  I had put it together. I didn’t even try to fly it.  I didn't want to give him the satisfaction.  How weird is that?!

“Why not?” I thought, “Let's give it a try.”  So I headed to a nearby park.  The park had a large paved area with 4 basketball hoops, enough room for take off and landing.  When I got there no one was playing basketball. There was a bunch of kids playing soccer to the right of the courts. Some kids were throwing a frisbee next to that, and on the other end were a number of families picnicking and throwing water balloons.  

“Surrounded!” I thought. Feeling self-conscious I headed towards the courts.  Already, I felt dozens of eyes on me as I carried this bright yellow plane towards the center of all this activity.  One little boy caught my attention.  Maybe 9 or 10 years old, he was watching the kids throwing the frisbee around.   Then he'd run back to his mother who was lying on the grass by some trees.  She'd shoo him off, with a wave of her hand, as if to say, "Go play."  He'd shuffle his feet a bit then go watch the soccer players for a while.  Then back to his mom, she'd shoo him off again and with tears in his eyes, he'd reluctantly go watch the kids throwing the water balloons. This went on for a while, and I gradually began to identify with this kid, who was stuck here but didn't belong.  Neither of us fit in.  Meanwhile, I was having a terrible time with this plane.   I couldn't get it off the ground more then 2 or 3 feet before it'd nosedive back to earth, much to the delight of everyone around me.

I was getting angry with myself for being too stupid to be able to fly a little toy airplane, and was transferring my anger towards that woman for making her child try to play where he didn't fit in.

Finally, after one more nosedive into the ground and a bunch more laughter from the bleachers, I was about to give up when I noticed this little boy watching me.  No longer near tears, a look of amusement on his face.  I motioned to the plane.  He looked at his mom.  She waved to him, okay.  That was all it took.  He grabbed the plane and brought it to me, just beaming.  So I showed him how to straighten up the wings, and we tried it again.  Well, at least I didn't have to go get the plane every time it crashed, but I still couldn't get it off the ground.  And I was still the object of everyone's laughter.  Finally, I looked at the kid and held out the controls to him.  He ran across the court in a flash.  After a quick demo, he took the controls and right away the plane took off and flew about 50 or 60 feet before crashing into a tree.  There was a roar of cheers from all over.  This little boy was ecstatic as he tore off running towards the plane.

Then, an extraordinary thing happened.  The soccer ball came rolling across the boy's path, and he gave it a kick that sent it sailing across the soccer field and into the street.  And he just kept on running towards the plane.  As he was returning with the plane, he was near tears because the plane's wing was torn.  I assured him that it could be fixed and it wasn't his fault.  I was just amazed that he flew the plane on his first try.  That was when two of the boys who were playing soccer came up and asked him if he would play with them.  I was forgotten as he ran off with his new friends.

I had mixed feelings as I headed towards his mother, glad that I no longer was the object of everyone's laughter but still angry.  This lazy woman never even got up from her spot.  Let a perfect stranger, and an old man at that, play with her son?!  I was ready to tell her a thing or two when I saw the crutches.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at her face.  Tears were streaming down her face as she mouthed the words "thank you" to me.  I knelt down beside her, both of us crying, both of us saying thank you to the other.  She told me her husband had recently died in an auto accident, and she was still recovering.  Her son had withdrawn into a shell, so over the last month or so, she brought him to the park every Saturday, hoping he would make friends. This was the first time anyone had even noticed them.

She touched my arm and said she'd be forever grateful, that I was so kind, and on and on.  I felt like a real jerk, ashamed how self-centered I had been. I shared how I, too, was grateful.  Her son had pulled me out of my state of depression and selfishness.  I walked away that day having felt the hand of God on my soul. I finally had a sense of what everyone had spoken of—a feeling of what God was all about.

I thank the fellowship of CMA for the amount of clean time I had.  If it wasn't for that, I never would have experienced all the emotions I felt that day.  I finally understood what they meant when they said to give it a chance.  Stick around until the miracle happens.  They say the hardest gift you can give yourself is the gift of time.  I say it's the greatest. 

It's Me, It's Me

We had a couple house-sit for us while we went on vacation. Vacation! That's something new and different! Other than a quick camping trip now and then, or a dart tournament on a weekend when I was out there tweaking, I hadn't had a real vacation in almost, well, ever!!! Two whole weeks on the road and a 10 day cruise to Alaska - what an experience! Absolutely fantastic! But that's another story.

Anyways, our house-sitting couple had locked themselves out of the house 5 days before we returned. We walked into a house with dirty dishes stacked up in the sink, and ants had taken over the kitchen. And I do mean they had taken over, there were thousands of them. Funny thing about ants. Once they find food it takes a long time to stop them from returning. (must have been a lot of food in that sink :o)

Being the tweaker that I am, of course I had to make my own ant poison. A strong solution of ammonia and water with just a bit of dish soap in a spray bottle and they were history. But they would come back - and I mean 2 and 3 times a day! There was a crack in the wall and a line of ants would form just as soon as that solution dried. After a few days of this, I guess Stockholm syndrome must have set in because I started to sympathize with the poor buggers. They were so determined. Relentless. Constantly, quietly marching to their death. All in the search of food. I even started to admire them, these living creatures, God's creatures, with a single minded and unwavering quest, searching for life. Wait. Stop. What am I thinking? I have the right to have a clean kitchen. No bugs, no insects, no crawly things in my house! It's my house, not theirs! Mike! Get a grip!!!

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Voices of the Fellowship

The Literature Committee always welcomes submissions from fellows relating their experience, strength and hope. These personal stories will be published as collections for the benefit of the entire fellowship. Please contribute your own experience with the Steps and life in sobriety by clicking below:


Below are selections from the stories of members of Crystal Meth Anonymous.
The first two stories are from members - a woman from Denver and a man from New York City - 
who share how they "practice these principles in all of our affairs".

My First Addiction Was Sex

Late spring semester of my college freshman year, the phone in my dorm rang.

“Can I speak to David?” the gruff voice at the other end implored.

“This is he.”

The voice at the other end then offered to perform oral sex on me. A sexual act that I had been fantasizing about for years, but not knowing how to approach guys, it only lived in my mind… and in the pictures I downloaded to my computer from digital bulletin boards.

I had known for years that I was gay, but the internalized homophobia and self-loathing I felt through my high school years was compounded by the need to be “normal.” And by “normal” I mean straight, or at least being perceived as such. The summer after graduating high school, I had insinuated to my mom one night that I thought she was disappointed in the person I had become. The following morning, I found a two-page handwritten letter on the kitchen counter about how proud she was of me, about what a good person I was, about how I was smart, kind, compassionate, and loving… and how she hadn’t screwed up raising me since I was straight. After all, this was the early 1990s, a scary time before antiretroviral meds when AIDS was still running rampant and completely unchecked. There was no way I was coming out to my parents like I had been planning before college started. 

Read more: My First Addiction Was Sex