Many who struggle with addiction die or go to prison. Yet, sometimes miracles occur. These are the stories of those miracles
Tom Higgins talks about early recovery from addiction.
My name is Tom Higgins. I am 31 years old and I’ve been sober 16 months. When I think about my addiction now, in comparison to what I thought about it while I was in active addiction, I realize how bad it really had gotten. It was all consuming in my life. It took over every job, every relationship, every bank account, every priority that I ever had in my life, this took precedent, family included. To look at just socially, every everything I can able to do now and all the hours I have in a day compared to just 16 months ago, it was a suffocating feeling in my life. It was like you’re in a building where the walls are collapsing in and you can’t seem to find the exit. Every door you open, there’s just another wall collapsing in.
I needed a change in my life. And while I was in active addiction, it wasn’t that bad. I minimized everything. I minimized the impact it was having on me physically, mentally, socially. I was minimizing the impact it was having on everyone around me and I don’t think I would have ever seen it differently during active addiction. It’s only once I’ve been removed can I look at the picture a little more wholly. I don’t think there was any period of time I feared for my life. I didn’t, it got to the point where I wasn’t valuing my life. I was okay with not waking up, which is scary when you think about it, because it’s a very serious issue and I’m a more faster, more everything I can do at once kind of person and never did I stop and think like, “I might not get through this. This is going to end my life.” It would, “If this ends my life, that’s how it was supposed to go.”
There was a time in my life, in my mid- twenties, so maybe 2017, I thought that, “Okay, I’m going to figure this out.” At first, I was going to figure it out on my own and when that didn’t work, I was going to figure it out with help. And so there was always a thought I was going to sober up, but I never could get over the hump so to say. And then I just came to terms with, “I’m not going to.” Was it because I didn’t want to deep down or I didn’t want to put in the work, or I didn’t want to even take a look at my life or admit how bad my life had gotten that I just had come to terms with that I wasn’t going to do that?
So what had happened to me was when I was even going through treatment or going to meetings and working with my sponsor and doing all these things, I still wasn’t feeling it on the inside. I was just going through the motions because that’s how I had survived for so long. Just if I just go through the motions, everyone’s going to forget about what happened and I’m going to be able to go back to the life I had previously lived. And then I started to become proud in the things I was doing, not like an arrogant pride, but just like, at the end of the day, I would look back and say, “Wow. I was 30 minutes early to work today. I’m never 30 minutes early to work.” And I was able to take pride in who I was again, and that’s something I had lost for a long time.
I started to give back to the community that was reaching out to me. And for someone who always was concerned with himself and how everything affected me, I very rarely gave back. I would superficially give back and donate money somewhere or volunteer at a food shelter for three hours and be like, “Oh, good deed for the year. I’m good.” But once I really started to give back and realize that I had something to give back, that’s where a big change in my life had happened.
And that’s what happened on the inside. I started to believe in myself a little more. I never believed in the power of working a program. I needed, in my life, a game changing idea, right? A game or an idea is so big that my life would never be able to be lived the way it was before and for a long time, I thought it was an idea and that’s it. I thought it was just going, doing recovery in a certain way or going to 12 step meetings, but really I had learned that the idea was the feelings I started to feel. Once I had a taste of feeling alive again and giving back and a little rewarding and able to handle my life and able to pay my bills on time and able to go to work early, that was the game changing feeling for me. The game changer for me was now that I feel this way, I’m never going to go back, be able to go back to live the life that I was previously living.
I don’t worry about things I used to worry about. I was a anxious, antsy person, turmoil in my outside world, turmoil internally. What life is like now is externally, I’m able to get up and go to work every morning. I am a friend. I am a family person, family, man. I’ve been able to hold my responsibilities. I’m able to be accountable and reliable. Those are big things I was missing before. Internally, I have a peace and a calmness that continues to grow within me to where I, regardless of the external situations, I’m able to maintain a calmness and stillness in my mind and my heart, throughout my body. The word’s equanimity, so it’s a calmness in my brain, regardless of, even in the forces of great, I don’t want to say pressure, but turmoil on the outside. And I’m able to sit quietly and not want to run, jump, like I said, faster, more, any of that.
As a result of walking into recovery, I don’t think there are actual words to describe how better my life is. I don’t think that I could say, “It’s great.” I could say it’s great, but it wouldn’t do it justice. It’s a joy, a relaxation, a peace of mind and heart that I have today. I used to be anxious every time my phone rang, because that meant one of two things. I was found out or something terrible happened, right. That was in my head. I look forward to when my phone rings now, because I’m not living in hiding anymore. I’m not hiding within myself. I’m not hiding within the walls of my home. I have friends. I have true friends. I have friends that call me every day. I have people that rely on me and I’m able to live up to those responsibilities.
Don’t wait. From someone who waited. The cliche thing would be to say, “There’s no time like the present,” but I understand the fear. I understand the anxiousness. I understand the resentment you may hold towards any type of treatment or recovery situation. A lot of people often say in recovery that today they live a life beyond their wildest dreams. So it’s a common thing to hear. I used to think that meant material things. However in this time, in recovery, I’ve come to realize it is more of an inner feeling. It is more of an inner peace. It is more of a humbling experience. It is more of a shedding of any preconceived notions and it is living a pretty simple life. And I couldn’t be happier to live that simple life today.