Many people struggle with an addiction to alcohol or drugs because they are trying to escape themselves. When they enter recovery, they’re confronted with who they are. This is a vital step of getting well, getting better. Here, Rich Fenderson, a Recovery Support Specialist at New Freedom Academy in Canterbury, N.H., shares his story of getting well, reuniting with himself, and how the process has helped him help others on the same path.
Addiction runs so much deeper than drugs or alcohol…
The addiction thing runs so much deeper than just the drugs and the alcohol. People use to escape themselves, and in order to get to the root of use, you have to get to the root of yourself, through your version of spirituality. I struggled with the spiritual aspect of the program initially, and somebody told me that God would rather I seek the truth than seek God. That was something I could wrap my head around. The spiritual aspect forced me to get real with myself about who I was and who I wasn’t. That’s what the 12 Steps did; they stripped away everything I wasn’t, so that all that was left was me.
My attitude was toxic
I’d been presenting myself to different people based on what I wanted from them and what I thought was the most effective way to get it. If I wanted your respect, I presented myself as a tough guy, even though that’s not really who I was. If I wanted you to feel sorry for me, I presented myself as a victim. What I was found out eventually was that walking around with that attitude was just toxic. I poisoned the air wherever I went. I was so angry and so bitter and I just wanted everybody else to feel that way, too.
When I got honest with myself…
So when I got honest with myself about that, the chip on my shoulder that I used to walk around with just went away. A lot of the guys that I was up there with (inpatient drug rehab at GRC) ended up having experiences like mine, in spite of themselves. And it’s so because all that is really required to succeed is an ability to be honest and follow directions. And if you do that, whether you want to get better or not, you’re going to.
Society’s has to get honest too..
Society is similar. If society wants to recover from this substance use epidemic, we have to do the same thing; get honest with ourselves. We have to do this collectively, as a whole. We have to get honest with ourselves about why this is happening. Because it’s not the drugs themselves. Heroin has been around forever. Crack cocaine has been around forever. And yet, we’ve never seen anything like this. So what is different now?
Giving back, one person at a time
I talk pretty openly about it because I’m free of it, now. And I I hope someday that when I tell my story to someone experiencing addiction, that it encourages them to do the work that is necessary to get free of it. That is my only responsibility. My only responsibility is to carry this message of freedom to other people.
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