Abstinence and Recovery – A True Story

At South Pacific Private we have used the abstinence approach for 26 years and are continually amazed by the recovery stories that return to us as clients leave treatment, join a 12 step fellowship, and start working the steps as a relapse prevention strategy. We have a sign in our reception that says ‘Expect a Miracle’ when they leave on the way out the sign reads ‘You are a Miracle’. The following Recovery story is from one of those miracles…

One Man’s Story with the 12 Steps

“I have a picture of myself sitting on a bed, the room is as only an addict can get it when life’s falling apart, I have Blue Black hair, a punk T-shirt and Leather Jacket on, and jeans that people would pay a lot of money for these days to look that worn. I was looking up at the camera, head turned, elbows on knees, seated on the bed. I have a crazy smile, a smile that was trying to cover an early life time of sins up. There was a time I thought I looked great when I looked like that, I was thin, pale white, and had a romanticised view of addiction, but I was dying.

I woke up one day knowing simply I couldn’t lie anymore, not to myself and not to my family. I started telling the truth, firstly to my mum, who booked me into the family Doctor, next to the Doctor, who booked me in for an assessment, and then finally to the assessing officer, who booked me into treatment. That night I was taken to my first 12 step meeting.

It was suffocating.

I didn’t know I was self-centred at the time; those lessons came later. On the night the main thing I remember is that when people spoke, I felt as though I understood. I felt as though people understood me for the first time. I didn’t know others had the same pain, fears, shame about who they were.

In the beginning it’s the 12 step slogans that an addict remembers, it’s all you can remember in the stress. ‘Keep coming Back’, ‘It works if you work it’, ‘Easy does it’ and so on. At the end of that meeting I was approached by two people and one had 30 days the other had about 90. It gave me hope.

That week I was taken to three more meetings, and there was a ‘Hospitals and Institutions’ meeting, where members came and shared their story. I related. It was like someone had followed me around and taken notes. I was told to take the cotton wool out of my ears and put it in my mouth. I didn’t like it, but they were right. I started listening and following the suggestions. I got phone numbers, I bought the literature, and I got a meetings list.

They suggested on leaving treatment that you do 90 meetings in 90 days. When I first heard this I really did think to myself “how do you fit that in?” It was only when I got home, and woke up that first morning, and after I’d had a shower and breakfast, I didn’t know what to do! I was a full time addict in the end, so that had consumed all my time. I got out the meeting list and was at a meeting that lunch time, and then that evening. I ended up doing two meetings a day and three on Sundays. It was an amazing turn around.

In the end I really started to enjoy meetings, I liked the stories, and I started to listen to what the people said when they talked about ‘working the steps’. I heard that you needed a sponsor, someone to help you work through the steps. I picked the guy at the meeting that had the most time in recovery; I knew that I needed a lot of help.

I bought the steps book and basically became a recovery nerd, but I made recovery cool. It was a spiritual program, and I saw a lot of people get hung up on that. I knew that I believed in something, but I did not really know what. The program told me that once I had surrendered in the first step by admitting I was powerless, and that my life was unmanageable, that the second step challenge was to admit that I was crazy, and that I needed to be restored to sanity.

I wasn’t ‘running down the street frothing at the mouth’ crazy, I was ‘I think I can repeat the same mistake and expect a different result’ sort of crazy.

27 years of continuous sobriety later, I cannot begin to tell you the wonderful journey that it has been. It has been a roller coaster, as layers of the onion were peeled back; therapy, firstly about relationships, family, to looking at men’s issues. It took me back to University, and onto a whole other career. The 12 step meetings are not recovery. They are where recovering people go to tell their story, and share how they work the steps in their daily lives, and the benefits that it brings them.

The most asked question of an old timer in the recovery movement is, “Why do you still go to meetings?”

I simply state for the growth, the fellowship, the laughter, the lifestyle. It’s no different than someone attending church for their guidance and solace, or someone joining a gym to maintain a healthy fitness; once you stop going, you lose that fitness.

A grateful addict is someone that is in good shape of maintaining their recovery. I am a grateful addict. It has given me a life free of addiction, and has given me a program that has given the freedom of the bondage of self. You see, abstinence does not equal recovery. It just means you stopped. Abstinence, plus a 12 step program, means freedom, greater than you have ever known.”

Think You Might Have a Problem?

Supported by most health funds, treatment at South Pacific Private is designed to meet the individual needs of each client and offers the best possibility of recovery, facilitated by a multi-disciplinary team of Psychiatrists, GPs, Registered Nurses, Clinical Psychologists, Therapists and Case Workers.

If you would like to speak to someone who understands the challenges of addiction and mental illness, and who can discuss your particular situation and treatment needs, please reach out to the team on 1800 063 332 or email us at info@southpacificprivate.com.au for a confidential chat.


Want to Share Your South Pacific Private Recovery Story? 

You can remain completely confidential. Just reach out to us on prmanager@southpacificprivate.com.au. We would love to hear from you and your story could inspire others to take that first step.

You can also find us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

*stock image used.