There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction 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 Treatment and Recovery.
It is my great pleasure to share Trevor McDonald’s story in today’s post and thank him for joining the Faces of Recovery on BreakingTheCycles.com. Trevor can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; via LinkedIn; or through his Website
How Did Your Addiction to Alcohol Start?
I was in college and I was always stressed, constantly overwhelmed, and I started using alcohol to escape. I guess it started socially – I would drink with friends, always drinking a bit more than them. The difference is that they were drinking alcohol because they were having fun, I was drinking it because I wasn’t.
It didn’t start to get bad for several years. Or at least I didn’t notice it. Then one day I look up and I’m drinking every day. At home, after work, at the bar. It just didn’t end. Of course, I lied to myself for a long time. “I can quit any time I want to”. I didn’t learn until years later that this type of self-deception is actually a normal part of addiction. I tried to stop the first time when my wife asked me to. When I couldn’t, I hated myself. I was sneaking alcohol behind her back – meanwhile pretending that everything was fine.
What was the turning point for you – the start of your addiction recovery?
I knew I had a problem a long time before I realized I had to quit. I had to hit rock bottom, I lost everything, my job, my house, my wife. It was a hard thing to face – being a 30-year-old who has to go live with his parents because he can’t get himself under control. My mom and dad stipulated that to stay with them I’d have to detox. They helped me so much, researching my options, finding a clinic, even booking everything for me.
What was your initial treatment?
Like almost everyone, I used the 12-step model to help overcome my addiction. After I went through detox I went to therapy – I learned a lot of things, like how to recognize my triggers and how to cope with them, how to handle stress, and how to approach my addiction like a disease and not like a character flaw. 12 step was incredibly helpful for me because I had people to talk to. I feel like a big thing was that I was always held accountable. My group made sure that I stayed sober, that I stayed grounded and didn’t try to blame slipups on anyone but myself. They made me recognize that I’m not the most important thing, that asking for help is okay, and that I’m in control of my own destiny. I didn’t think so at first of course. But I went anyway – I had to try something. And then one day, sitting listening to a garbage collector talking about how powerless he felt every time he was around alcohol, I felt like he might as well have been talking about me. I started being more active, sharing, discussing, pushing and being pushed. And it worked.
Do you do anything differently, today?
I’ve been out of recovery for 2 years now but I still attend meetings. I still work to live by the 12 steps, taking personal inventory, admitting my wrongs, working to change myself before problems become bad. I’ve also taken up mindfulness and I feel like that helps a lot.
What is your life like, now?
My life is pretty great. I’m back with my wife, I’ve been working at my current job for a year. I see my parents on the weekend. I’m happy. It’s such a weird thing to say because it eluded me for all those years while I was chasing it as an alcoholic, but I really am.
Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance misuse problem or an addiction?
If you’re struggling with an addiction, don’t give up. It’s hard getting over addiction, but you can do it. Get help, talk to people. Substance use changes your brain and you need help if you want to get your life back. Everyone I know who’s gotten better has been through that shift of realizing they need help and eventually getting it. Don’t be afraid to ask.
How about anything you’d like to share with their family and friends?
Be there, be supportive, even when they don’t deserve it. You could be the difference between someone you love making it into recovery and them not.
What is the best part of your recovery?
Realizing I could be myself again. Learning how to be happy. Taking pleasure in simple things. When you’re addicted, the only thing that matters is alcohol and it’s incredible to rediscover life again.