Hope for Tomorrow

     I came across this picture the other day and began thinking about what it meant. Hope is a word that everyone knows all to well, especially when you have been going through a struggle. As a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, there have been several times that I have given up on the idea of hope. There was no hope for me. I was in a continual downfall into the bottom of a bottle, and no matter what, I couldn't find my way out. The problem was, I was not really changing my heart concerning the matter. I was always pretty remorseful when it came to drinking each time that I got caught drunk. I vowed to my friends, my family, and even myself that I would be done with alcohol and start a new life. Looking back on these occurrences, however, I didn't truly believe it. At the very back of my mind, I always knew that I would drink again.....someday. Even if it was ten years down the road, I thought that I would get to the point where I could once again handle it. I would reach the point where a drink or two would be enough and I would be able to stop. This way of thinking is extremely dangerous. It never took long to get over the regret and remorse of each downfall. A few weeks would go by and I would feel that I was doing great. I hadn't had any cravings or desires to drink, so I would feel that my recovery was successful, but is wasn't. This is usually those feelings of being able to drink again one day would resurface. I had always believed that I could drink again when I was doing better, and now I felt that I was. Just like that, I would give myself another chance. I had the desire to change and to do better, but I was still heading down the same path. When I look at the picture of this sign, I see how overcoming this, or any addiction MUST be. You have to take another path. You can't simply continue down the same road and expect anything to be different. When attending AA/NA, you read the 12 steps at the beginning of every meeting. The very first of 12 steps read is as follows: "we admitted we were powerless over our addiction -- that our lives had become unmanageable."
Again, that step states that we are "powerless over our addiction". Once we become an alcoholic or drug addict, we truly have no power over our actions concerning our addiction. This goes back to the age old saying, "once an addict, always an addict." For most of my life, I had very mixed feelings about this saying. I felt that there was a point where an individual could reach recovery. They could once again handle whatever the substance was and not have any issues with it, and so naturally, I thought this was always the case for me. What I have come to discover is that there is no such thing as a recovered alcoholic. There is, however, such a thing as a recovering alcoholic. I began to look at addiction in the same way I look at many diseases out in the world today. I will use the case of hypothyroidism, because I was recently diagnosed with this particular one. Hypothyroidism is a a case where too many or too few bodily needed chemicals are produced by the thyroid. I now have to take a pill every day to regulate my thyroid levels. As long as I take my medication, there are no problems, however, if I stop taking my pills, my body will begin to experience the same problems all over again. I have to stay on top if it for the rest of my life. The same can be said about addiction. You have the power and the ability to overcome addiction and live a happy, and a sober life, but the problem is never 100% gone. It is the exact same as the issue that I have with my thyroid. As long as you are taking steps to remain sober and live a clean life, you can go day to day with little or no problems. But once you remove the steps needed, or once you decided that you are "able to handle it", the disease will resurface will all of its same old ugly symptoms. 
There is no cure for hypothyroidism, and there is no cure for addiction. The best we can do is manage the disease each day of our lives. I now agree whole heartedly that once you are an addict, you will always be an addict. I know that I will never be able to handle alcohol again, I have to remind myself of that each day of my life. I know that if I ever take a sip again, I will slip and fall again. It may not happen right away. I may be able to drink for days, weeks, or months doing just fine, but eventually, I will go down that same road again. Just as pictured in the sign at the beginning of this post, you must make a 90 degree turn in the road. Just as I am diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and will have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life, and I am an alcoholic, and I will have to monitor and stay on top of it everyday for the rest of my life as well. We must treat our addictions as seriously as we would any other medical concern. While there are a number of curable diseases, there are many that result in a life long journey of treatment, intervention, and monitoring.  Addiction is no different; it requires regular involvement to maintain positive progress and sobriety. We are now on a new road, a road to recovery. There will always be those dangerous side roads and detours that we must watch out for, but as long as we stay focused on what we are doing and where we are going, we can move forward in life and leave the past exactly where it belongs, in the past.

Written by Brent Clark

Sober for Life