Addiction Recovery – there is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction, addiction treatment and addiction recovery. Yet those who have the disease of addiction (whether to illegal or prescription drugs or alcohol) and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Recovery.
Addiction Recovery – It’s real, it happens to real people, and it happens all the time. It is my great pleasure to introduce Herby Bell, today’s Face of Recovery.
How did your addiction start?
I came by the brain disorder and disease of addiction honestly, as my father was an impaired physician who died of the disease (suicide) and many other family members with addiction issues.
Of course I swore off drugs and alcohol after learning how it destroyed my Dad’s well being, but then began drinking at the age of 13 or so, after discovering how great it made me feel.
Alcohol became a staple in my life and to this day I remember that frame of mind long ago traded for something better–that I could not possibly live without it. Not much about the culture or family life made much sense to me until I drank a little personality…until I could get comfortable in my own skin by drinking and then later, using a wide variety of drugs to chase the longing just to feel “normal.”
As we learn in recovery circles, it gets weirder and weirder as we continue to look for answers in substances and behaviors to quell that longing–to feel normal. And as some of us lucky, diligent, responsible ones learn, it gets better and better when we stop the substances and behaviors and learn to live all over again. We learn that normal is different for each of us as we fall back in love with our own unique, quirky, human selves.
What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober?
In keeping with how it inevitably happens, a critical mass of weirdness and life’s unmanageability occurred and I attended my first AA meeting May 2, 1986. But alas, I really couldn’t reconcile hanging out with people who seemed to be genuinely happy and hugging each other all the time. I mean, who did they think they were?…Happy, I guess. I wasn’t ready. There had to be another way.
It took me another 8 years to test the limits of my family, my career and myself to finally surrender on May 2, (hmm…) 1994. This, after numerous attempts to get and stay sober with varying degrees of “half measures.” Finally a wise addiction treatment specialist looked me in the eye and said, “Herby, you’re full of, (I’ll use a euphemism) #2. I’d heard it before but I really heard it this time. I was ready and thank you my dearly departed Dr. Richards–there is another way.
Do you do anything differently, today?
AA is a cornerstone in my life now as I love the community, the transparency and as we say, the “honesty, openness and willingness” to stay connected one day at a time.
I have also learned to “eat well, move well and think well” with ongoing practices in good nutrition, exercise and health care including emotional hygiene or a good mental health practice. I have to practice being well or I will default to treating sickness. If I don’t get away from the basics, I don’t have to get back to the basics. It’s well worth it.
What is your life like, now?
I feel and think better and more clearly than ever before in this 19th year of my sobriety and wouldn’t trade any of it from the awful, terrifying wake up call, to the way I take great care of myself today–I would not trade it for anything.
I am currently a practicing chiropractor specializing in addictive and compulsive disorders and feel as if I’m doing the work I was born to do. I sincerely believe I could never have known this without “surrendering to win”, as recovering people like to say.
Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction? How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?
I have ups and downs like everyone else in life, but I do not think about addressing them with unhealthy substances or behaviors. I have too, too much to lose–my health, my wife, my three sons, our precious pets–my life.
I am a very fortunate, grateful and healthy man and I am willing to share or speak to anyone who is still suffering with this devastating brain disorder and disease. There is a way out that has delivered a life to me beyond my wildest expectations.
For families: The recovering addict is just part of the systemic disease of addiction. It is a family and cultural disease. Research has shown that families who pursue treatment, (counseling, Al-anon, etc.) foster the addict’s long term recovery while creating a more communicative, healthy family environment and life. If we’re not all part of the problem, there is no solution.
Thank you for asking.
And, thank you, Herby, so very much for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 18 years RECOVERY!
Herby also invites you to find about more about his current work with Recovery Health Care.