In the Forward to the First Edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says this:
We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. —page xiii
If that’s the main purpose of the book, it would make sense that at some point I should be able to say, “Hello, my name is Robin Bright and I am recovered,” right?
These men, the ones who lived back when the Big Book was written, said, “If you want what we have then do what we do.”
I’m down with that. I did my steps twice —once with a sponsor and once at a Came to Believe Retreat.
I Did What I Was Told
Back when I was first getting sober, I did whatever anyone told me to do and I definitely don’t regret it. I voluntarily checked myself into, and spent, 78 days in an addiction rehabilitation facility because my life had spiraled out of control after a decade of active opiate and alcohol addiction. I couldn’t trust my thoughts. I had lost my ability to hear and rely on a healthy inner voice, so I relied on the people God put in my path.
It was a vulnerable and beautiful time.
The treatment center had a faith based core (what I mean by that is most of the staff, therapists and owners were believers) and they operated with a holistic (mind, spirit, body) approach to recovery. It goes without saying that you didn’t have to be a Christian (or even desire to be a Christian) to progress in your recovery there. The staff was welcoming to all and would love you until you let your walls down, that’s for sure.
We had everything imaginable conducive to recovery available to us, from amino acid replacement therapy to help with brain clarity and daily chiropractic care, to one-on-one counseling, daily transportation to NA and AA meetings and Thursday night faith-based recovery meetings at Revive Church.
I went to everything.
I was like a sponge.
Everything in me wanted a new life and I was willing to do whatever it took to get recovery.
Only there seemed to be mixed messages flowing through my brain.
Am I Recovered or Not?
I was 48 years old when I went to treatment. I had been a Christian (a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ) since I was 22. Obviously Christians aren’t perfect, because I had been a hot mess for a very long time. I always knew I had an “all-in” personality. Whatever I did was 150% at warp speed, or not at all. I was loud, passionate, dramatic, persistent. I had hustle. I had drive. And I was about to discover what a good fit those qualities were for active addiction.
Fast forward to my late thirties. Addiction came on me seductively. It was easy. The relief was unimaginable.
I was in a relationship with an abusive partner, my best friend had just died, and my dad died a few months prior. Everything was falling apart. It felt like there was a river of turmoil welling up right below the surface of my breaking point. It was tangible. I could feel the heaviness of my grief sucking me in like a vacuum, yet I had to somehow pull myself up and make “everything work” in my daily life. I had children. I had a business. I started taking opiates to get me through the day, and the lie wrapped itself around me. For a moment, the pain slid off me like an old, heavy cloak. I bought it. I believed it.
And then I drank…and then I got a prescription for Xanax because my doctor said I had PTSD. In less than a year’s time I became a highly functioning full-blown addict.
I believed in Jesus and His power to deliver me, yet I wasn’t getting delivered.
In fact, I was progressively getting worse.
By the time I went to treatment, I had made a mockery of any resemblance of sanity I once had. I was a Community Chaplain, a prayer counselor, and a women’s small group leader, all while living in active addiction. The abusive guy was gone, but I had two DUIs tucked away in my closet of skeletons, and I was teetering on the edge of a third. It seemed like I’d be okay for long stretches, maybe a couple of months (once it was a whole year) and then something would happen, or maybe nothing would happen, and I’d be right back to it again.
I pleaded with God.
I wanted so desperately to break free.
The binges were hell. Withdrawal was worse than hell.
My Bible told me, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed,” so I knew I could be free.
But I wasn’t.
During my last binge before treatment, I laid in my bed with a gun under my pillow, hoping that one of these times I’d wake up and have the nerve to end my life. If I couldn’t be free, I didn’t want to live.
Let me repeat that, “If I couldn’t be free, I didn’t want to live.”
So now let’s fast forward to somewhere during my second month of treatment. By this time I had attended 70 or more recovery meetings, was well into my step work, and was also working through inner healing and forgiveness with my therapist. Things were good, all except for this nagging sick feeling that was building up in me during AA and NA meetings.
Every time I had to say my name along with the expected tagline “…and I am an alcoholic” or “…and I am a drug addict” (depending on which meeting I was in), I would cringe. And then during the open discussion when people would speak and say things like, “I’m just an addict and I’ll always be an addict,” I wanted to stand on the table and yell, “No! Don’t say that about yourself! This is a lie!”
My Bible tells me that I have “a sound mind.” —2 Timothy 1:7
It also tells me I have “the mind of Christ.” —1 Corinthians 2:16
The last time I checked, Jesus wasn’t struggling with an addiction. He doesn’t have an addict brain. If I have the mind of Christ and Christ isn’t an addict, then I don’t have to be either. I was getting that glimmer of hope and I didn’t want it squashed by going to a meeting and saying, “Hi, I’m Robin and I’m an addict.”
Words are powerful. They are a creative force. I couldn’t afford to speak negativity over myself, because if I couldn’t be free, I didn’t want to live.
When I read and meditate on the things God’s Word says about me, it brings me life. It feels right. It brings me up to a higher place and fills me with joy and peace. My Bible doesn’t call me an addict. It says I’m a new creation in Christ, I am the righteousness of God, I am highly favored, deeply loved, and have wisdom to understand all things.
That’s good news!
When I attended Regenerate meetings at Revive Church in Stuart, Florida, Pastor Nick talked like this. He told us our extreme personalities were given to us by God and we didn’t have to try to tone ourselves down. We just had to let God drive our passions toward serving Him. Then we’d be passionate about helping others, praying for people in crisis, reading the Bible and falling in love with God.
I’d hear all of this and it would resonate with me. Then I’d attend an AA meeting and someone would say, “I’m an addict. I’m a liar. I’ll always be an addict,” and I’d want to run out of the room.
I Wasn’t Buying It
I knew I didn’t fit in with those meetings and I wasn’t going to try anymore. I decided that it was okay for me to listen to my inner voice and work out my own recovery path. I knew I’d be successful, just as long as I continued to seek God’s wisdom, deepen my relationship with Him and remain brutally honest about the things I was going through.
And guess what?
I feel amazing.
I don’t attend AA or NA meetings, but if they work for you, I support you! I just ask that you support me in my decision not to go, and I thank you for reading my story. To me, recovery meetings are a lot like some churches. Sometimes church people will think if you leave their church you’re suddenly not saved anymore or you’re out sleeping around or just wallowing in sin. Maybe, it’s just not the right church for you, so you’re trying something different, or maybe you’re not going to church at all. For me, I love my church. It’s where I get a lot of my strength. It’s where I find community, but if you don’t like it, that’s your journey.
I like where life is going for me. I like that I can honor myself and what I feel is right for me, and I’m not ashamed or afraid. I don’t seek approval of others, and opinions don’t frighten me.
I’ve come a long way.
My name is Robin Bright and I am a grateful RECOVERED alcoholic and drug addict.
Jesus set me free, and whom the Son sets free is free indeed! —John 8:36
I believe I had to come through treatment and make myself vulnerable to others in order to break free. Isolation was the most unhealthy thing I did. God wanted me to reach out and He wanted to show me how beautiful the recovery community is.
Tonight I’m grateful for so many things. Living a life free from addiction is one of those things. xo
If you need help breaking free from addiction and are ready to take a first step into recovery, I’d love to help you.
Editor note: Came to Believe Retreats are mentioned in the beginning of this article. This is a spiritual retreat that places an emphasis on the truth that we can be RECOVERED and RESTORED fully. The retreat takes each person through the 12 steps in one weekend, just as Clarence Snyder did back when he was younger. If you would like to attend a retreat, please visit their website. It’s the experience of a lifetime for sure!