Monthly Archives: July 2015

One Day At A Time

By Wes Emerson

One oft-repeated phrase in the recovery world is “one day at a time”.  Early on in my son’s battle with heroin, as well as the early stages of his eventual recovery, I often heard this statement without fully understanding the depth of its meaning.  Now, after experiencing 7 years of heavy addiction in his life, as well as the challenge of recovery on a daily basis, I believe I do, indeed grasp what “one day at a time” truly mans.  Recovery is a daily life-long process.

A person in recovery can never say, “I have been cured.  I am no longer an addict.  I have beat my addiction, and I will never return to drug use or alcohol abuse.”  We as “non addicts” may not be able to relate to this concept, for we have never been there.  However, no matter how long a person has been “clean”, the fact is that the thought of using is ever-present in the mind of the addict, and the “pull” to shoot-up, snort, pop a pill, or drink especially amid difficult times, can be extremely strong.  One successful professional that I  know personally confided in me that the thought of taking a hit of crack occurs in his mind almost everyday, after years of recovery, for example.  In spite of numerous dreams in which he used his drug of choice, this person hasn’t succumbed, but the daily battle is still there.

Unfortunately, some recovering addicts do succumb to the powerful pull of narcotics, even after years of sober and clean living.  The great actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, died of a heroin overdose after experiencing a relapse after over 20 years in recovery.  Josh Hamilton, one of the most talented baseball players in the game, suffered a relapse this past off season–Josh had written a book about his recovery which inspired millions of people.  Locally, an active and long time leader in Narcotics Anonymous relapsed after many years in recovery.

As tragic as these human examples may be, they illustrate how strong and baffling narcotics are, every day, in the lives of recovering addicts.  We as parents, relatives, friends, or support persons may not fathom the powerful influence of this demon, but just know it is all too real.

One day at a time.  For the recovering person, this means, “I am clean and sober today…thank God!”  For parents, family members, and friends of recovering addicts this means delighting yourself with the knowledge that your loved one is drug-free today.  He or she is not using today–reason enough to celebrate!

When community members say to me “I am so glad for Aaron and for you…it’s great to see that he has overcome his drug addiction,”  I now find myself replying, “Yes, he has come a long way, and we are extremely relieved and happy…but we have learned to take one day at a time.”

I give God the glory for bringing my son Aaron out of addiction.  He is rebuilding his life–working as a reporter for a local newspaper and as a recovery coach for Wellness Inx. He’s also taking classes at Lansing Community College to be a substance abuse counselor.  I praise God that Aaron has publicly shared his own personal story at area high schools and other gatherings, (we were even on the radio together a few months back, sharing our story).  Nevertheless, I have learned to “take one day at a time”.  Today, my 24 year old is clean and for that I give God glory.  But we will continue to take one day at a time…

Subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email below. You will get other stories like this as well as recovery and addiction news from around Michigan:

Marching With My Recovering Son

By Wes Emerson

It was with a great deal of satisfaction that I was able to march with my son, Aaron, in the Fourth of July Parade, in Mason, Michigan. Aaron and I were walking with a group called “FAN” (Families Against Narcotics), wearing t-shirts bearing that inscription.

Three years ago, I could’ve worn a different shirt, one that said “Family Anguished by Narcotics”. Aaron started using drugs in 2006, and quickly became a heroin addict. Aaron’s struggle with using drugs lasted 7 long years and heroin nearly took his life. As we marched behind the big “FAN” Banner on the 4th, I couldn’t help but think back. Drugs had tarnished this young man’s reputation in Mason, his home town–many of the spectators at the parade know his past. This guy, who was 15 when he became addicted, was known and targeted by the local cops, and arrested numerous times on the very streets we marched on. And not far away from the parade route sits the Ingham County Jail, where Aaron was lodged for a significant portion of his youth, including a one year sentence.

I recalled being at parades in past years with my family–minus Aaron, who was locked up. I would always experience sadness at such timers, knowing my teenage son was in such a miserable place just a few blocks away. And now, here we were in 2015, walking side by side with a large contingent of Families Against Narcotics.

I had come to the place where I had lost hope for my son. Never did I imagine he would reach the point he is at today: in recovery for 2 years and now 13 months sober. He is working at Wellness Inx, an amazing place that helps addicts and recovering addicts. And he is a writer for his beloved hometown newspaper (Mason Today).

Yes! It was a pleasure walking in that parade with Aaron, of whom I am so proud. Parents, I share this story to offer you hope today. Your son or daughter may seem hopelessly addicted to drugs. Like me, you feel hopeless–yours is a Family Anguished by Narcotics. I encourage you to keep loving your son or daughter, and to remember that there is still hope. If Aaron can find recovery, anyone can. There is a God who knows all about your heartaches and struggles, and He loves you! Imagine yourself marching in a parade with your recovering child…it can happen. Blessings!

Sign up for our Lansing Recovery Newsletter by entering your email below! This is filled with personal recovery stories and news/info on the recovery community in Michigan.

Independence Day And Freedom From Addiction

By Aaron Emerson

Happy Fourth of July! As Americans all over gather to celebrate our nation’s independence, we can be thankful for all the freedoms we have here living in the United States. And as a recovering heroin addict, I can be thankful for many kinds of freedom, and I’m guessing many of you can, too. I also need to protect myself on these kind of holidays, as parties run rampant and many people like me could easily fall into “just having one beer.”

Writing a blog about freedom from addiction is, in a way, bittersweet, because so many people close to me are not experiencing that freedom and have family members they have lost to addiction. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel largely grateful for the grace God showed me by helping me beat a long heroin habit.

That is all I want to say about that. If you are living in recovery today, try to be thankful that you are free (for today, at least) from the bondage of addiction and that we live in a country that allows us to seek treatment and get better.  Though not often the greatest system, we have many options in this country to find help and don’t have to fear persecution, unless we are caught with illegal drugs, of course.

I also want to remind you all that days like these can be challenging for individuals in recovery. We all know that Americans love to party, especially on celebratory holidays. There will be drinking and parties going on in almost every city, so be careful. Drinking, parties, and festivities can be heavy triggers for some people, including me, so make a mini plan. I would suggest to have somebody in mind to be able to call if you get a funny feeling.

And please remember that I am always available to talk. This is what I live for. So have a happy Independence Day, everybody! Have fun and be safe, and don’t hesitate to get a hold of me!

Enter your email below to subscribe to our Lansing Recovery Newsletter, which is sent out two times a week with updates on addiction and recovery in Michigan and stories of recovery:

Throwback To Jail, Addiction, And Misery

 

By Aaron Emerson

Throughout my addiction – the using heroin for years, the jails, the rehabs – I journaled everything I went through. I would summarize what had been going on, give my feelings, and my journal became my outlet, my one escape from the miserable life I had created for myself through poor choices and the constant use of illicit drugs.

The last month or so I have been going through all my past journals and recording them into my computer to potentially turn them into a little book. Now that I have been sober for a while, I have developed an intense passion to try to use my story and past to help others. I feel my God can use my history and poor choices to help somebody else not go through what I did.

Anyway, it’s been rather challenging to read some of my journal entries. Let me tell you: there was not a lot of joy and pride in my writings, but I believe they can be used today. The heartache, the pain, the embarrassment, the hopelessness, followed by attempts to kick my habit and jail stints, and then – FINALLY – recovery. One of my goals in sharing my story – I have spoke at numerous schools and events – is to show that the disease of addiction does not pick and choose who it affects and that once you become addicted, it becomes almost impossible to stop.

As I was looking through the entries yesterday, I came across an entry dated almost exactly four  years prior: July 3rd of 2011. I was serving a year in the Ingham County Jail for a crime I committed while trying to obtain money for heroin. My words demonstrated in that writing that I was run down, sad, angry, bitter, and I felt as if I would never be able to climb out of the deep, dark hole that addiction had buried me in.

“How did I end up like this? I’ve been locked up for 6 months and I still want to get high. I want to beat this addiction – to be normal – but I can’t. I want my family to be proud of me…this is my life now and I’m starting to accept it.”

Those were some of the words I wrote on that cold day (yes, even in July it’s cold in jail) in the county lock up. Today, reading those penciled eight sentences, I can almost feel that pain, that loathing to beat my addiction but, at the same time, the hopelessness of feeling bound in chains – physically and mentally.

But somehow, here I am, 13 months sober, reunited with my family and my four year old daughter. I have a beautiful, amazing, supportive girlfriend and have two jobs that I love. I don’t know how it happened. Other entries I wrote after I got done serving my jail time show plenty of relapses, followed by rants swearing up and down to never pick up drugs again, then followed again by, sadly, more relapse and anger and grief.

The efforts and commitments to get sober before falling back into addiction is the story of thousands of people like me. An addict’s most often-used words have to be “this will be my last time and tomorrow I will get sober.” I know I said it a million times. It’s not that I was lying or trying to manipulate myself and others; I know I meant the words. But when that next day comes, the sickness, cravings, emptiness, and needing a hit or shot just to feel confident or normal manifest and take over your thoughts.

So why am I sharing this journal entry? Why am I bringing to light one of the hardest days of my life when a lot of society still looks at addiction as a moral deficiency or lack of willpower? Because there is hope. Recovery is a reality, even for the most hardcore substance abusers.

My story is not all that unique. The Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration estimated in 2013 that 24.6 million Americans over the age of 12 had used illicit drugs. I have seen various figures and statistics on how many Americans are actually addicted, but the most common I have seen amounts to about 10 percent of adults being addicted to drugs or alcohol. A Washington Post article in 2014 reported that 100 Americans die every day to drug overdose. And this isn’t just a trend that’s affecting the individuals using drugs: the National Institute of Health estimates that drugs and alcohol costs America over $500 billion a year.

This is an epidemic that’s affecting people and families from all walks of life and doesn’t affect a homeless man in Detroit anymore than the son of a doctor in the suburbs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as this: a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.

Yes, addiction can be totally avoided by simply not ever taking drugs in the first place. However, we will never live in a world that’s totally drug free and there will always be addiction. But I can assure you there is hope. For some, beating addiction may be the hardest thing they do in their lifetime. For me, it has been, but it’s been more than worth it. If you are reading this and are in active addiction or have a loved one or friend that doesn’t seem to be the same person anymore due to drug use, please know there is hope.

-If you would like to talk to someone about resources and options to get help for an addiction, email me at aaron@lansingrecoveryoutreach.com

Enter your email below to subscribe to our Lansing Recovery Newsletter to receive more posts like this, as well as news and updates on addiction and recovery in Michigan:

20 Things You Need To Know About Benzos

By Alyssa Craig

Email