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Helping Others in Active Addiction


"Too much, too fast, so sad, my bad.
By the time I was in high school I was a dedicated existentialist with nihilist leanings, an atheist, an initiate of the anti-war/civil rights movement, and a wanna-bee artist. Also, a druggie & an alkie in the making. Spirituality was not in the equation.
Short history of use: introduced to alternative mind and body sensations, pre-teen, via rye whiskey, old school cough syrups, glues/thinners. Later added on pot, all psychedelics, speed, coke, and a one-time foray into snorting heroin, which was laced with strychnine, so that was the end of that. Stuck with everything else and started upping the alcohol.
In my 20’s my environment and lifestyle was unadulterated NYC “street”. I lived immersed in NY ‘60’s culture & the art/music crowd, with a slight detour into the periphery of Bklyn’s mafia world. The less said about that, the better. If I was into name-dropping, wow-the stories I could tell...the Warhol crowd was especially “interesting”. My life was fun, it was dangerous, it was disgustingly decadent, and I have no regrets. I had a blast, but there was that painful deep dive into issues of social justice and the modes of oppression. Finally, I had to escape NY. By my 30’s I was divorced, raising a child, and sucked into a nightmare. I was trapped in poverty and in a severe, prolonged, battering relationship. Skipping the gory details, the fall-out includes (present tense) brain damage for me, and mental health impairment for my daughter. Hitting bottom was ugly and painful. The “wreckage of the past” included suicide ideation/attempts; bad-bad parenting; homelessness; alcoholism; drug use; etc., etc., and one saving grace—I got into art school, earning a BFA.
Then I was introduced to NA and AA (final SD 1983). My initiation was much like the rush of the first drink and drug—it felt miraculous, and I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I finally got out of the abuse, with the help of others. I jettisoned a career in graphic art and continued for a Master’s degree in the treatment of addiction (ADERP).
In the 80’s/‘90s I clung to my 12 step groups for sanity and survival. I gave back by serving in most capacities over time. I worked as a clinician in every substance abuse treatment modality, public and private. Efforts of pride included designing programs to infuse concepts of 12 step recovery in difficult settings, such as an old school TC (therapeutic community/Richmond) and a regional jail (Emporia). I trained staff on domestic violence-induced PTSD (barely beginning to be addressed with Viet vets), participated in the formation of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center, rooted an HIV/AIDS outreach program in a hostile climate, and secured much grant funding for public SA services. I could not have done any of this without “the fellowship” and those simple, free, meetings in all those church basements!
Having researched and absorbed just about every bit of info about the psychology and spiritual awakening of the 12 steps, I began to use the specialized therapy I was receiving for complex PTSI to heighten congruency with my program of recovery, to maintain a balanced “whole person” lifestyle. In addition, the writings and insights of E. Kurtz, T. Gorski, and H. Tiebout are central to my remaining a recovered person, with a daily reprieve due to a fit spiritual condition and an effective relapse prevention plan. This has enabled me to diffuse the estrangement from my daughter, three decades into it. We will Zoom later this evening!
I moved to the upper Northeast in 2002 and worked managing a federal block grant for the public behavioral health system, primarily targeting peer support services. Without my program of recovery, I would never have made it to retirement. I have returned to making art, via a home-based ceramics studio. These days I am a 12 step “loner”, in the sense that I don’t do meetings up here anymore, but I do work a daily program and maintain online 12 step involvement. My attitude of gratitude is solid."

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