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Life on Godís Terms

Looking back at all of it now, no longer in denial, itís a whole lot easier to see - that I, too, am an addict. I came to NA - or NA came to me at an H&I meeting on Friday night in a hospital for adolescents. It was a psychiatric hospital but I told myself that I was in drug rehab, because that sounded so much better to me. I think it helped to think of it that way, because so many of my friends had been to rehab, and came back "rehabilitated" - using only certain drugs and earning a period of normalcy; and therefore, I would also be able to use certain drugs, too.

In Book one of Narcotics Anonymous it says that "most addicts will see that control is impossible, the moment it is suggested." Not me. I didnít see it that way. I saw the converse, though. I heard that I would never have to use again against my will. That sounded good to me because I had. This is the reason will power never worked for us - addiction makes us use against our will. So to be in a program of complete abstinence seemed so crazy that it just might work. It took suggesting surrender from people who had surrendered, for me to see that surrender might work. I saw that surrender was possible.

Before coming to NA, I had been to family counseling with my family. Being the good manipulator, as many addicts are, I merely crossed my eyes and arms and pointed at everybody else. Problems in the family? "Everybody elseís fault." Later, I dealt drugs, wrecked cars, ODíd, was arrested, and went to out patient drug counseling. The counselor told me to "change people places and things", to "not use no matter what", and to make some new friends. They did not tell me about NA. I learned about urine tests and found "freedom" by using drugs in a way to taper my dirty urine down to Ďday zeroí where there would be no drugs in my urine. I didnít get clean because I didnít think I could be clean - I didnít know what clean was. But my urine was Ďcleaní and I got out of there. I kept up the front that everything was OK and continued to use.

I realize that I am a product of a good family. I used to think that my family had codependent problems, but in reality, they had very natural responses to having an addict in their house. The last 18 months of my using was insane for my family, having to hide their belongings and never quite knowing what kind of conversation they might have with me. Mostly, I had been using hallucinogens and smoking cocaine, so I only checked in with reality, but like I said, I really thought everything looked OK on the outside. On the inside everything was in considerably different condition - - I loathed myself and what I had become - a junkie, a liar, a thief, a drug dealer. I found that I could no longer hold it together and cared less and tried much less about whether holding it together could be done. Everything fell apart.

I went on the crash diet. I went from 140 lbs (64 kg) down to 108 (49 kg). Iím 5í 11" (179 cm). On my 18th birthday I came home early, told my parents I was tired, went up to my room and cried myself to sleep, because I was tired of using and because I didnít think I could continue use like I had been and because I didnít think I could live like that for one more year - I didnít think Iíd live to be 19. Perhaps I cried , "God help me." Those would be strange words from someone who said he didnít & wouldnít believe in God.

The pain was very real, but after that it was business as usual - I used for 5 more weeks, because I knew no other way. I didnít know addicts got clean and I didnít think I was an addict. I found myself on Valentines Day, interviewing at the treatment center, at the insistence of my mother. I lied about everything and I went home. And then it snowed and my mom said, "You have got to go to the treatment center or get out. Go live somewhere else." So I asked all my friends. They asked their parents and the answer came back, "No." I didnít have a place to stay and I thought about living outside in my tent - hell, I had it set up in my bedroom to check itís condition - and today I really feel that the snow really made a difference. The weather never made a difference about whether I would use or not, but that one day, it mattered whether or not I would get clean.

I think a lot of the reason a lot of us use again is that we donít get in touch with the cost of using. We remain in denial of the cost. Yes, the price of a fix may be $2 to $100, but the cost is always far greater. I took a good look at the cost, and for me, it would be in dying. I donít know all of what they told me at that first meeting or the subsequent ones before my release, but I know if I had the smallest spark of desire, itís been fanned into a roaring inferno since then.

I thought I was different when I got here. I thought the fun was over and I would have to settle into a miserable existence of these stupid NA classes and not using drugs. I thought NA would mean NO. My disease told me so. It also told me that Iíd just had some bad luck and the real good times were soon beginning. Iíve learned to talk back to my disease, "Ha ha. Keep coming back - just not here."

Iím not really sure how it was explained to me - living life the NA way. I know it says in our literature "We seemed to be incapable of living life on itís own terms." It probably seemed that way to others, but we werenít living life on just itís own terms - we had the terms laid down by our disease. And today, we donít have to live life on just itís own terms, either. We can have life on Godís terms. Iíve learned: what God has in store for us is better than we can even imagine.

I donít really know how to explain how an opening was made for me to believe in God - a Higher Power that I believed in. I believe working the steps was the key. I came to meetings, watched you people, listened to your changes, stayed clean no matter what, and I looked in your eyes. I looked in your eyes because deep down I know that none of us can really stop and stay stopped. What I saw was truth. What I saw was God.

The reason I got a sponsor and worked the steps was because I heard that if I didnít do the 4th one right, Iíd use again. The reason I got involved with service was that if I was going to stay clean, I was going to be here. If I am going to stay here, I had better be helping out. By helping out, I saw what was happening to us - what happens to people who hold the reservation that they could wean themselves off of meetings & what happens to people who stay close and help others. I learned that NA was not just a place to get my attendance sheet signed, not just a place to share my joy and pain, but something of hope to carry in my heart & new ideas for my head and that when I leave the meeting, I take NA with me. Itís a way for living. Itís not a quick fix - like I would have wanted - but a process. It works, though and sometimes it works real slow, but results count. Today, I wouldnít have it any other way.

In the time, since that first NA meeting, I have been clean, finished High School, been out on dates, been to the prom, been to concerts, been to college, held a job, owned my own car, paid my rent, been re-united with my family, carried family and friends at funerals, been the best man in my brotherís wedding, been to conventions, gotten raises at work, been unemployed, was present for the birth of both of my daughters, felt love - both for and from others, been through break-ups, cried in public, parented children, traveled abroad, moved to a new area, been in a custody battle, gotten married, struggled through life after a serious car accident, and much much more of life - much more than I ever expected. I felt the feelings and I didnít use any drugs over any of it - the good or the bad. Iíve gone through life, not around it. I think many recovering addicts in Narcotics Anonymous can and will be able to sum up the message of hope and the promise of freedom in a very similar & real way.

I know that the proof of the program shows in the way we live. I know that clean time speaks for itself. If you don't think clean time is important - GET SOME. I was skeptical that NA would work when I first started attending meetings - mostly to get out of trouble, then for coffee, entertainment, and cool people to hang out with. Today I've got over 16 years clean - complete and total abstinence - with no interruptions - including weekends and holidays. I'm acceptable responsible and productive. I've been so served by NA and pretty much done everything under the sun - held all group & area service positions at one time or another and some regional positions including convention chairperson, served on a couple minor world committees, spoken at meetings & area and regional conventions all over the US and 3 other countries, been a member of email NA group, and hosted a web page with speaker tapes - to give back to NA. I don't know for sure if I helped anybody, but it's me who stayed clean. My 3 children have no idea how great the NA program is. They have no idea, that without NA, they simply would not exist. Maybe my step-son would, but life would definitely not be this good.

Iím in a relationship today - itís with a God of my understanding - a loving, caring, greater than myself kind of God. I pray by talking out loud to God. I meditate by listening and keeping an open mind. That relationship with God has taught me how to have relationships with people. I try to be loving and caring - to be myself. I try to listen and keep an open mind. I have a prayer for the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship, that we could be a worldwide Fellowship - so that no addict seeking recovery need ever die. God, please take care of us all.

March 25, 2003 Edit
Mike Realslow