When I decided I wanted to get sober, I was one of the lucky ones—I got to go to inpatient treatment. So, when I had finally had enough of being sick, broke, and alone, I called up my parents, and they pulled some strings and got me into treatment. But when I got there, something weird happened. I kept getting told to do things—get out of bed, make my bed, show up to group. I also got called out when I misbehaved. It was all pretty crazy—I mean, how dare anyone question me or tell me what to do. After all, I had made a success of my life so far, flunking out of college, getting fired from jobs, lying, cheating, stealing, using drugs, and ending up in treatment. It was my first taste of accountability.
As it turns out, I didn’t have things together as much as I would have liked to believe. Believe it or not, I was pretty much a mess of a person who was barely capable of surviving on his own. After years of dysfunction and drug addiction, it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Being locked in a treatment center with a bunch of other people in early recovery definitely forced me to get sober— but I had a long way to go when it came to fixing my other problems.
I’ve always been an insecure person. In fact, it played a major role in my life before, during, and after addiction, but that’s a story for another time. Whenever someone would hold me accountable for anything, it would bite right down to the core of my insecurity. It would make me feel like I wasn’t good enough, or like the other person was out to get me. I couldn’t handle it. I would either shut down or bite back. But in order to change, I would have to learn to take criticism, accept it, and make changes—and learn to give it to others as well.
To be honest, there wasn’t any big turning point or spiritual awakening for me. I didn’t have a “flash of light” moment or anything like that. But the changes started to take hold, slowly, over time. I started listening to others and making changes where I could. One thing that really helped me was learning to accept that I didn’t know everything—that maybe, just maybe, other people might know a thing or two and have something to offer me. And I believe that’s when I truly began to recover.
So, fast forward several years, and everything is perfect, right? I listened to every word of advice I got, and I have become a completely spiritually connected being, totally serene at all times, right? Well, not quite. I still struggle with many of the same things I always have—not wanting to listen to others, feeling insecure, feeling anxious or angry. But I’m making progress—every day, I grow a little bit, especially when someone holds me accountable—although it seems to happen rarely these days. For the most part, I’ve internalized those voices, and my biggest source of accountability is myself. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re much better than they were several years ago, and even better than they were a year ago. I think that proves recovery is working for me.