10 years ago my life changed directions as significantly as it ever had. I closed the door on a downward spiral that lasted almost as much time as I have put behind me. I remember the first time I realized I had made a terrible mistake and then watched helpless while I was trapped inside a monster hellbent on destroying life. My own and any I encountered.
What it was like
It is hard to remember exactly. I remember life changed fast. I remember coming out of college into a world that was not what it was a year before. While in college seeking employment was not a big priority because so many companies were recruiting. People were leaving college early to start careers the jobs were so plentiful. Then the economy changed. I happened to be a college athlete so I quickly found work as a personal trainer. Rent was due, phone bill was due, real life had started. All things considered it was an incredible time. Working 60+ hours per week and it felt like life was off to a good start, but it wasn’t exciting. I still liked to spend time with close friends. I hadn’t seen them very much while away at college and I missed them. This was pre-internet so the distance was pretty real. I was looking for excitement, and they were addicted to it.
Next thing I knew things were even better than they had been before. I was getting ahead. All appearances were of a success in the making. Then 9/11 happened and all of a sudden the world was different. There was this disruption that really changed the landscape. I remember sitting in lines that stretched for miles for gas. Nothing truly apocalyptic in hindsight but more than enough excuse to lean in on an addiction, and I did. In a big way.
The first few years were just slow dancing in a burning room. I knew everything was sliding away and I remember feeling like it was no use. By the time I had realized I was trapped under ice there was to hole in sight to climb back out of. It all seemed so fun, then it just seemed like trying to stay one step ahead of real life. 4 short years later and things were in complete ruin. The next 5 years were going to be lived from the perspective of someone who has lost their chance with the world. The military wouldn’t take me. I couldn’t get hired anywhere, not that I would have shown up if I did. I was an absolute parasite and didn’t value myself enough to have even the slightest amount of hope.
2007 to 2010 was a rollercoaster of efforts to get right with the world. Some succeeded, some failed miserably, and I put together very little time sober. The time I did manage was not sustainable. I was not comfortable in my own skin and couldn’t be honest with myself or the world.
2010 was my rock bottom. July in Phoenix is a brutal time of year. Exhausting heat and nobody in the mood for my bullshit I was finally loved into help. It wasn’t that I saw hope or a way out, I was just so tired. It was always so loud and so stressful. For a life so miserable it is lost on me what I feared missing out on. The excitement was gone almost as fast as it had started. I went North. The next two years were intense, brutal, rewarding, punishing, happy, confusing, and worth it. I have never leaned on that crutch again. So many of the ones still stuck never made it out. I grieve for them all. It hurts so many.
What it’s like now
My life is exciting again. Rewarding even in the most trying times. The world isn’t any less crazy, and I am not even sure if I am either, but I’m here. I’ve made things right where I could. I try not to dwell on the amends I haven’t made. My past still haunts me from time to time, but today it has been 10 years. I am surrounded by love and I am able to return it in kind. A gift that recovery dos give is that my most unstable days today are far more stable than my best days before. Cliche alert but it’s true. I still procrastinate but I don’t run away. I still feel the pressure of life in an unpredictable world but I don’t numb myself to it. I am far from perfect and honestly don’t even aspire to be. I feel life and allow it to bat me around as it sees fit, but I get my shots in too. I get up and dust myself off and try to act every day as someone who is making the most of their second chance at life. Here is to 10 more years.