What am I doing I thought to myself as I sat in that depressing room. Why am I here? I’m only 21. I was about a month sober. 46 days, as I had just graduated from my 45-day rehab. I was up at the ungodly hour of 9 AM, surrounded by people decades older than I, talking about serenity, a word that meant nothing to me. My first 12 step meeting.
I felt like a puzzle piece being forcibly wedged into the wrong spot. In the weeks after getting sober, the thought would frequently cross my mind: I’m too young for this bullshit. In my opinion, I wasn’t a “real” addict. My addiction seemed pretty tame compared to what they described. I had never been arrested for a DUI, never overdosed and woke up in a hospital, never got around to doing a week-long coke-fueled psychosis, never been homeless. I couldn’t relate to them, my addiction was different. I just felt like shit all the time. I smoked and drank because it was all I had. I wasn’t a danger to myself, I had just resigned to the fact that my life had no meaning. And truth be told, I was terrified that I would have to give that up. I would never be able to go to a bar with some friends or smoke a joint after work again for the rest of my life. That’s all I had to live for. What does a sober person even do? Crossword puzzles and watch Jeopardy? It was a nightmarish thought. I was only 21, I didn’t want to live like my grandmother. I wanted to leave and go back to the way things were. All my friends drank and used drugs, I couldn’t understand how I was different. There had to be another way.
But the magic happened the next afternoon. I went to my first outpatient meeting. I sheepishly entered the small room with about five other young people in recovery and a counselor. I sat down, still stewing in anxiety and resentment, introduced myself to yet another group of strangers. As we went around the room describing our lives and experiences, I noticed something strange; they all seemed comfortable. In fact, they all acted like they wanted to be there. They were smiling and joking and having a great time. I couldn’t believe it. What makes them so thrilled to be here? What are they getting out of this? How could anyone want to be sober? For the next hour, as I observed this ridiculous phenomenon, I realized something profound. Somehow, they all were comfortable with themselves. They didn’t need to escape from life like I did. They didn’t need to be an addict for 30 years to want to change their lives, they realized they had a problem and wanted to change.. And despite everything, they were happy. I wanted more than anything to have what they had. That was the day I stopped merely being sober and became a person in recovery.
I wish I could say that I dove in straight away and that my recovery was all uphill from there, but that would be false. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. I had to change from the bottom up. For me, recovering meant looking inside myself and finding the root of my behavior and choices. It meant overcoming childhood trauma. It meant finding who I really am. It was not an easy feat by any means, and I resisted at every turn.But with the help of my recovery community, I was able to slowly progress, inch by inch. It was not long before I began to notice changes. I no longer spent my time in treatment watching the clock, I was engaged and enjoying myself. I was not only able to be helpful for the people in treatment with me, I was able to be their friend. The feelings of despair, anger, and self-pity were no longer as loud in my mind. I began to feel the serenity that was described in that first 12 step meeting. Of course, I had my days where the serenity would fade. It would be unrealistic to expect every day to be good. But when I fully committed, when I gave recovery my all, my life seemed to have meaning again.