I hope you are all staying safe, healthy, and most importantly, sane, during these incredibly difficult times. Ironically, my last post Gratitude, A Life Changer was published just days before most of us were instructed to stay at home, and in the middle of times that have seen so many lose work. Times like these make it a bit more difficult to be grateful, or in some ways, easier to be grateful. I encourage everyone, now more than ever, to give gratitude a shot today, and as many days as you are able. Use your paper and pen, make the list. It works when many other practices don't, or can't.
It's also ironic that during these same months, 9 years ago, I can remember experiencing some of the very same feelings we are experiencing as a whole today. Though my initial experiences in treatment and halfway houses like West Hills Lodge were full of gratitude and grace, the difficulties that come with life, especially a life so riddled with drugs and alcohol, became reality again. There were some hard truths to swallow. I was a 24-year old man trapped in the emotional state of a 5-year old boy. I was facing 11 probation violations after being a fugitive for nearly a year, with a court date on the way. I didn't have a job, a car, money, or any of the other basic necessities most adults had.
My future was unpredictable. My time at the halfway house was going to run out. I had no experience in living a responsible life, and seemingly no means to make it on my own at that point. As scary as it was, I didn't know any different. And maybe that's the difference between the "me" then and the "us" today - lived experience. But, going back to that lived experience meant a death sentence for me. So, it had to be different. And different, even when better, is almost always scary.
As I trudged through some difficult times in therapy, some hard times working odd jobs at all hours of the day, and trying to imagine how I was to live life without the comfort and relief that came with drinking and drugging, no matter how artificial it was, the crossroads began to appear. I remember sitting at the halfway house on weekends, when others would be visiting old friends and family, wondering what my life would consist of. Most of my friends were in their prime partying stages, certainly not sitting around drinking coffee all weekend. In recovery, they told me "don't quit before the miracle happens." I held on to that, very, very tightly some days. I knew there were two paths in my sight, and only one was familiar. What a delicate time it was.
I met a man at a recovery meeting, and asked him to sponsor, or mentor, me. We sat across the table for the first time, and he told me all about his life. Within 30 minutes, I felt more comfortable sharing things with him than I had almost anyone else in my life, even those closest to me. I realized he had the same experience with drugs and alcohol. And I saw that this man had a life worth living. We connected. He and his wife had a lot of fun, and they started to include me in some of it - meetings, gatherings, other recovery based events.
Still, facing the reality of life was hard. I had no idea where I'd live. I began to apply for apartments of my own, and continued to get denied due to my financial and criminal history. I was scared. I knew going back to any of the environments I was previously in meant I would be digging my own grave. I tried to spend time with cousins and old friends who continued to use, and found out quickly how dangerous that was, as they weren't about to change their habits for me. Loneliness and depression came and went, often. Thank goodness for the halfway house and its staff. From the treatment techs, to the office staff, and even the director, all of whom spent much time and energy encouraging me and pushing me through those difficult times.
One of the scarier days of my early sobriety came on the day I was to see the judge, with 11 probation violations, a year of running and a bad history by my side. My court date was originally scheduled to be after I left the halfway house, but since that time was extended, I was still in treatment. I knew it was a life changing day, one way or the other. My probation officer and the prosecutor were both happy to see me doing well. We talked, and they commended me. It came time for the hearing.
The judge wasted no time. He asked for the recommendation of the prosecutor and my probation officer. They said something similar to this:
"Your honor, we are glad to see Mr. Lennox is taking advantage of his opportunity at treatment, and acknowledge the strides he has made. At the same time, Mr. Lennox repeatedly broke the conditions of his probation. He has a history of not following orders, and also has a history of running. He was on the run for nearly a year, and was only picked up because of an overdose. We feel strongly that there needs to be some punishment. Therefore, we are recommending 30 more days in jail, stayed, pending successful completion of treatment. We also recommend the stay of adjudication be revoked." For those that don't know, the felony I plead guilty to would be removed from my record with that stay of adjudication, pending my successful completion of probation. Revoking that meant I was a felon.
"Mr. Lennox, do you have anything you'd like to say?" the judge asked.
"Your honor, I don't have to explain to you what that does to my future. You know. Having said that, I am not here to ask for any chances, to tell any more lies, or to convince you to change your mind. I feel like I have a chance at a new life, and am here to own my actions and accept the consequences, whatever they may be."
"Let's not ruin his future quite yet. Mr. Lennox, you have one more chance, please use it wisely and continue down the right path."
Oh, how ironic. One of the first times in my life that I was readily accepting the consequences of my actions, and there would be no consequences, if I could hang on to the right side of life. No jail time, no felony, and no more court dates.
There I was - the biggest worrier of all. The fear. The unknown. The insecurity of life and its future. Yet all along, those recovery folks kept telling me, "if you continue to do the next right thing, it will all work out."
They were right. I had no idea how or why that worked, and don't always find it easy to feel, but hindsight is 20/20, and it's rang true throughout. And here we are, in 2020, amidst the greatest difficulty that our collective living world has ever seen. A world full of fear, the unknown, and much insecurity. Before I end this post, I'll state simply that there is no room for argument in what I'm about to say, because its ending is subjective. Yes, you get to decide what it means. No one else. Own it.
"If you continue to do the next right thing, it will all work out..."
Peace and prayers to all,