Many who struggle with addiction die or go to prison. Yet, sometimes miracles occur. These are the stories of those miracles
Jeff Guthrie tells us how he found his way into addiction recovery
My name is Jeff Guthrie. I am 37 years old and I have been sober for 13 months. My addiction as a whole, it was a tremendous problem. I lacked the ability to… Basic impulse control that we try to instill in our small children, as a full grown mature, physically anyways, adult, I completely lacked the most basic impulse controls. That is not cute when you’re a full grown adult. To me, what the fascinating thing about alcoholism and drug addiction is, and it’s fascinating but it’s terrifying for essentially everybody, that the people that are going through it directly experiencing it for themselves and the people that are bystanders, the family members and the children and so on, is that we as human beings are basically these godly animals, we’re divine animals and so we’ve got these elements of creativity and intellect and vision and drive.
I mean, we’re just seconds and inches from God, right? I mean, we’re halfway between the animal world and halfway between the supernatural. We’re somewhere in the middle. While we have all of these innate abilities to create and to abstract and to take a vision or an idea out of our mind and then put a blueprint down and build off of it and create a legacy or a work of art, a statue or a building that will stand the test of time. I mean, there’s buildings in the world that have been standing for 5,000 years. Yet even given those innate abilities as a human creature, I couldn’t stop myself from doing something that I knew was ultimately destructive. That really sounds like an understatement, not only for myself, but for the people around me.
That to me is, I mean, that’s nothing short of fascinating, how it is that I can have the ability to do all these remarkable things on one hand and have those things truly within my grasp in many ways, and yet not possess the most basic elements of self-discipline and impulse control to the extent that I can almost have an out of body experience, where I see myself doing something and I’m just like, “Why are you doing that? How could you be doing that again? What are you, an idiot? What’s wrong with you?” There’s this battle, right?
I never thought that I was unique in the sense that I think that we oftentimes frame new guys as thinking that they’re terminally unique. I never thought I got high more. I was more hardcore in the way that I used or the way that I behaved. That never even crossed my mind. Generally speaking, I was a pretty garden variety drug addict in terms of the activities that I engaged in. I did some stealing. I didn’t do any heists. There weren’t any armored car robberies. I wasn’t running pounds of drugs across international lines or even state lines or anything like that.
But when I wasn’t using, to say that I was depressed when I wasn’t using is an absolute understatement of the deepest kind. I mean, when I was not using, I was so depressed that you could walk into a room and not even know me and probably feel it off of my energy. I mean, I just felt like I was 110% dead on the inside. I’m a firm believer that if it wasn’t for alcohol and drugs, I probably wouldn’t be here now, even as paradoxical as that seems, because the level of depression and this existential disease that I’ve felt ever since I was, really, profoundly since I was probably 12, 13, 14 years old, had it not been for alcohol and drugs I don’t think that I would have been able to survive myself long enough to even make it to the rooms of recovery.
I knew that alcohol and drugs were not my problem. I knew that. I couldn’t verbally communicate that necessarily, but I knew that there was something wrong with me that was way bigger than just how I used alcohol and drugs. It started at something inside of me, that vulnerability that pushed me in that direction. That ultimately, to me, again, I couldn’t have articulated it, but I knew that that was ultimately the real problem. So I didn’t think I couldn’t get sober because of how hardcore I was. I thought I could never be sober because I literally couldn’t live being sober, not in my skin on this planet. So what happened to me? That’s… I guess on some level, we’re all still trying to figure that out. I mean, what happens? I mean, it’s a phenomenon. We don’t understand it.
I know that that’s not necessarily a message of hope because we want to be able to compel new people with a level of certainty. One thing I am certain of is that if we move in the direction of the light, the light will do a lot of the heavy lifting for us and it will grab us and compel us into more and more of that light and into that life. I felt like when I got sober, the problem didn’t go away. The problem with me was this internal uncomfortability and this disease that I had such a difficult time living with. But this is the imagery. There’s a homeless guy. He’s 60. You can tell he’s been homeless for probably 10 years and everything that goes along with that. He’s not even laying on the sidewalk. He didn’t even make it to the sidewalk. He’s laying in the gutter and he’s completely out of it. He’s the kind of guy you just walk by, and you’re just like… I mean, he’s obviously been there for a while. He’s made his home there.
Spiritually, that’s where I was. I was in a gutter on the side of the road, just laying there, been gone for many, many years. That was… And so some guy said, “Hey, man, I’ve got a scrap of bread for you.” I was so starving, I didn’t even ask how it tasted or where did you get it from? I mean, it was just, he offered me something. And so when the guy said, “Pray,” I said, “All right.” I found that there had been some time, about a week or two since I’ve been doing this exercise that he’d suggested that I do, and he asked me about a week later, he said, “How do you feel?” That’s what he said. “How do you feel?” And I said, “Well, I haven’t thought about using for a week.”
I didn’t realize that until he asked me it. I didn’t even contemplate it. I hadn’t even connected the dots that I hadn’t felt that way. Then he asked me that and that’s, as the words left my mouth, is when I made the connection and I answered him truthfully. I was like, “By God, that…” So I made this connection and then at the same time… And then I started to get… I think maybe I got tears in my eyes at the time.
It wasn’t just that this constant thought of using had left me. Just where’d it go? I don’t know. But it just was gone. But also, I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t crushed by depression. I don’t want to say… It wasn’t anxiety. It was angst for nothing. Just baseline. Baseline angst and horrible just malaise and just uncomfortability, and it was gone. It was just like that. It was gone. Over the years it can ebb and flow, but it’s never been, ever been, even when circumstances happen that are really… Something happens unexpectedly and somebody dies in the family or you get fired from a job and there’s that initial sort of, “Oh my gosh, I’m a loser. What have I done with my life?” or all that, nothing has ever come close to the level of depression that I had in my life and has been completely gone since that time.
I really generally feel like I can’t believe that I get to live the life that I live. I have an amazing relationship with my wife. She’s my best friend. She has been since we met. I mean, I could hang out with her all day every day. My children are healthy. I work a lot, but we spend quality time together. We laugh together. I make them laugh. They make me laugh. We joke around and we bond. We’re really close. I just bought a house, which is just a material thing, but I’m a five time convicted felon.
I struggled for years. I feel like every aspect of my life is just about as optimized as I’m consciously aware of making it in this moment, and so I don’t struggle with depression anymore. There’s days that are tough days, of course, but nothing like it used to be. I’m able to offer a valuable service to the people that I work with in my job, and I’m a good friend. I mean, that’s… Oh my gosh. You know how many times I think about, I look at our thread? Probably every day. I’m just like, “I can’t believe that I have the friends that I have.” I feel like I, I straight up, I swear to God, I feel like I hit the lottery in so many areas of my life right now.
I got four guys that I talk to every day and they’re my best friends and we’re super… It’s just… I mean, my life is really, really good. I really generally can’t believe that I’m living it sometimes. I don’t feel like I don’t deserve it. I feel like I’ve worked my ass off for it. It’s not one of those things like, “I don’t deserve the life that I’ve been given,” type thing. I don’t have that edge about it. But I’m extremely grateful and sort of walk around in relative shock that I have finally grown up into the adult that I feel like I’ve finally grown up into. It’s unbelievable.