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…
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