As I write this column, I am grieving the recent loss of a friend to alcoholism. What makes this event more painful is the fact that it clearly illustrates the importance of recovery over abstinence, the very theme of my column.
After spending 5 months at a rehabilitation facility, my friend returned home on pass and, by all accounts, did well. He was so proud of his sobriety and felt ready to go it on his own. He went to several local meetings, remained sober, and called me, his sponsor, regularly. However, when he returned to the rehab center, he presented to his counselor his plan to immediately leave permanently (self will). When confronted about that, he became angry and displayed addictive behaviors that worried his treatment team. They were correctly concerned that, while staying sober, he wasn’t embracing the program of recovery and recommended he stay longer.
He quickly checked out against their advice and returned home. I met with him, as his friend and sponsor, to explain my concern. I asked him if he would have stopped chemotherapy early if he were being treated for cancer, and, of course, he said he would not. He failed to truly understand that alcoholism/drug abuse is a fatal disease. Two weeks after returning home, he was found dead in his bed with multiple empty liquor bottles nearby.
Staying clean and sober is difficult. It requires a daily effort to stay abstinent, but that effort is exponentially easier if one remains in real recovery. The 12-step program is a proven method for maintaining a successful recovery, and I emphatically recommend it. Attend meetings, read recovery literature, meet with your sponsor, do service work, practice prayer/ meditation, live the program! Your life may just depend on it.
As I’ve heard in the meeting rooms, if one is afflicted with the disease of alcohol/drug abuse, there are three possible outcomes: get locked up, get sobered up, or get covered up. Unfortunately for my friend and many others, the outcome was the latter. Please don’t let that be yours!