January 8, 2021. This day felt like the cusp of another turning point in my life. I was administered the COVID-19 vaccine after almost a year of complete chaos, social unrest, and uncertainty. Shortly after, in my car, gazing out at all the white tents, face masks, and people distancing themselves from one another, I thought to myself “hopefully this is some kind of semblance of the return to normalcy in life again.”
But then again, I have not always been this hopeful, and my life had been far from normal. Reaching back to just a few years ago, my life had been turned upside down by another unseen illness, the illness of addiction.
In February 2018, coming off of a decades-long run of alcoholism and crippling drug addiction, I checked myself into detox at The Healing Place, a treatment facility for which I am now employed. I would spend my next six and a half months there soaking up experiences, information, tools, and the resources required to stay clean and sober in this world filled with drugs and alcohol. The most important things I learned were to keep it simple, don’t pick up – even if my ass falls off, and if it does, put it in a bag and take it to a meeting. Insurance on my sobriety is to be of service to others, and to continue working with another addict or alcoholic. Continuation is key. I have to go any length to stay sober – and I was taught a program of action that works 100% of the time, in fair weather or foul, as long as I keep the willingness to continue.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, life as we knew it had grinded to a halt. The world around me seemed like a storyline from a dystopian novel. Lockdowns. People were fighting over toilet paper. The city was on fire. Armed militias and protesters began to fill the streets. Reality had become the strangest fantasy. The world had shut down. In-person recovery meetings were canceled, and the fine dining restaurant I had worked with for years closed its doors for good. This presented grave challenges and halted my daily routine in recovery. By early April, I had already lost one friend to addiction and overdose, and by the end of December the number was almost too much to count. I had to find new and creative ways to communicate and stay active in my recovery. Human connection is what keeps our recovery alive and well.
Luckily, I had picked up a few shifts working in detox, which kept recovery in front of me, but I was more concerned about what others were going to do for theirs. We have to stay plugged in. Something had to be done. I had heard about online meetings, but I was skeptical, because I thought the experience would be different and just plain and simple not the same. But, I was also told early on in my recovery that I had to be open-minded and willing. I was told to follow good, orderly directions, so that meant no in-person meetings for a while. So, with the help of others, I helped set up and facilitate my beloved home groups online as a form of service work. To quote Louisville’s own, The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” To tell the truth, online meetings have been one of the silver linings that the pandemic has presented us, bringing addicts and alcoholics together from miles apart, states and countries away. I have connected with more people, and more people have reached out for help than ever before. The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but if you look at it from a different perspective, it has shown us how much we need each other and taught us a great lesson in human resilience.
I view addiction and recovery as my strength today, because we have a program and a support group that other people don’t in times of uncertainty like these. We have lived through plenty of hard times before. We are used to battling an unseen illness. We have deep personal experiences with loneliness, death, isolation, chaos, uncertainty, personal powerlessness, and turmoil, which we can share with others. Recovery has taught me that what we cannot get through alone we can get through together.