My Message for the New Year

The following was adapted from a post originally published in 2014 and still rings true today…

The media is filled with stories about the tragedy of meth addiction and paints a pretty grim picture for the recovering meth addict—the odds aren’t good, the road seems rarely traveled successfully. From our perspective: what a load of media hype (read: bullshit). Let’s give them this: life addicted was indeed grim. But that was our story while addicted. It’s NOT our story in recovery. It’s NOT our story while living a meth-free life. My hope is that the new year reminds you of the great possibilities your recovery has to offer. So what is “recovery”? To answer that, let’s look at what recovers:

1. Our Brains Recover

As pointed out in the a previous blogpost, the data from new scientific studies on the brain’s healing from meth use is very good news. A quick recap: When tested, meth users who were abstinent for five years or more and non-meth using control subjects had similar neurochemical levels. In short, after 5 years the brain usually shows no sign of meth destruction. In another study, a group of meth addicts were compared to a control group of age-matched non-meth users.  Just upon quitting, the meth addicts performed far worse on measures of cognitive performance and neuropsychological functioning, as well as emotional distress. But, after a year of continuous abstinence from meth, these subjects performed comparably to the healthy control subjects.

2. Our Careers Recover

If you started using meth when young, you most likely never got the opportunity to start that career path you’d once imagined for yourself. But I personally know dozens of people who have recovered from meth use and gone back to finish high school and/or college to work in a field they love. If you started using later in life (like I did), you most likely torpedoed your career, perhaps beyond repair (like I thought I had). But I know many former addicts who have reclaimed their once-thought lost careers (just like I did and, btw, everyone loves a comeback). And, on the flip side, I know just as many recovering addicts, who went on to wholly new and promising careers – often jobs more satisfying than the ones they had before becoming an addict. Sure, we usually have “recovery jobs” for a few years – those easier and simpler jobs that allow us to focus primarily upon our recovery in that first difficult year or two. And perhaps this recovery job will grow into something more career oriented, or get you through school, but either way there’s no rule that says you can’t dream big again career-wise (at any age).

The simple fact is the longer you stay clean and sober, the better your skills at life and work become and the more opportunities you have presented that you can capitalize upon – because you are clean and clear headed. It just takes time. Your career, like Rome, can’t be built in a day. But give it a few years of clean time and you’ll be amazed at where your life goes. This is one of the many reasons it’s good to go to CMA or other recovery-based meetings: because there you will hear the stories of just such successes. You’ll hear of addicts who were just as bad off, or sometimes even worse, than you who have now made new lives for themselves. I know of one homeless addict who went from driving a shopping cart to a Mercedes. Sure it took her well over a decade of hard work in her new career of real estate to achieve this, but she did it. And I mention the fancy car as a symbol, not an end in itself. What’s most important is: today she is respected by her clients, coworkers and friends. And she respects herself.

And next time you hear someone talking about what a group of losers we meth addicts are, our only future being further destruction and demoralization, you might direct them to the story of Luvo Manyonga, the silver medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, who hails from a poverty stricken township in South Africa. Just

If you are new to recovery and a career that brings passion to your life seems so far out of reach as to be laughable, cheer up. That’s merely your brain today. Your brain a few months and then years from now will be much healthier and able to take on responsibilities that now you can’t begin to imagine. Stay clean and you’ll be amazed.

3. Our Relationships Recover

Here’s a big one. Our relationships can recover. Perhaps not all of them. It’s a sad truth that usually some relationships don’t survive our addiction to crystal meth. But what can definitely recover is our ability to have open and honest relationships once we get clean and sober. When we were using, we couldn’t be trusted to show up and participate in what it takes to be a good spouse, parent, child or friend. We were wed to the drug. But once we got some clean time under our belts, we learned to show up and be responsible. We could again be counted on in times of crisis. (In my experience, the recovered addict is often one of the more solid people to have around in times of crisis just because she has survived living hell before, and so has a larger perspective on life.)

But great things can happen in our lives once we get clean and demonstrate, over time, that we can live life free of meth. Those who had rightly learned to distrust us often come to love and trust us again. And rightly so, there, as well.

4. Our Spirituality Recovers

A friend of mine, whom has gone on many a call to empty out a person’s home who died of a meth overdose, tells a familiar tale. When he gets to the dead addict’s home, he almost always finds at least three things – first, pornography; second, drug paraphernalia; and, third, books on spirituality. Why are so many meth addicts interested in spirituality? I think it’s because, while using meth, our connection to that higher power (however you define it) is blocked. Certain other drugs have a history of being used in connection with the pursuit of spirituality (peyote, acid, marijuana) and there’s a healthy debate about the validity of that, especially for those of us who are addicted to others substances such as meth.

Also, I think that most of us can agree, meth takes us to a dark place where the light of spirituality doesn’t shine. Where else do you find white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Satan worshippers (and, oh yeah, these skinheads are also gay), where else but the shadowy underworld of crystal meth slamming? As we recover from our meth addiction it’s quite common, more common than not, I think, that we find ourselves actively seeking to rekindle some kind of authentic spiritual connection. Often this comes at the local church or synagogue, but just as often it’s a less organized more private affair. Either way, our deep longing to reconnect with a spirituality based on loving kindness usually grows the longer we stay clean.

Even for those former addicts who are atheists, many will tell you they still have a strong sense of spirituality – or something close. It may be defined as a connection to a goodness in humanity, or to self awareness, or some other path that doesn’t involve a deity, but it’s a path of seeking nonetheless.

 In Summary:

The truth is: we can recover and we do recover. Many have done it before us. Many will after.

This coming New Year, 2017, is your time. Join life. Join in recovery and leave the former darkness of your using life behind.

The message for the New Year of 2017 is: You can do more than just quit your addiction to crystal meth – you can recover a life that’s truly worth living!

Peace to all of you my friends and fellow travelers along the Great Path. It’s an honor to travel along with you.