When I first came into sober living at New Life House, I had little to offer. All I ever really wanted was to have friends, and a community. I wanted to have something to give to those around me, and to feel needed. I tried my hardest to put off an image of myself, and try to be something I wasn’t, to attract attention while at the same time trying to pretend that I was “doing my own thing” and being an original person. That all changed after spending some time at New Life House, and discovering who I truly was, and what I had to give back.
Before I arrived in sober living, I always believed that I was “giving back”, by sharing the drugs or alcohol I had with friends, or bringing everyone in for the party. But when it came down to it, everything I did was for myself. Whatever I would share, I would look at it as a trade for the fact that I was lonely in my disease. It wasn’t because I was a giving person. Even if I did want to give out alcohol or drugs from the bottom of my heart, it wasn’t a benefit to the person receiving it in the first place. I could see that what I was doing was subjecting people I cared about to an unhealthy lifestyle, but I had no idea what else to do. I had no idea of who I was, and it was because of that confusion that I didn’t know what I had that could benefit people around me. It hadn’t crossed my mind that just by being a helpful person, a shoulder to cry on, or even an inspiration to someone, was better than any material gift, or a party favor. It took being in the house to figure all that out. All I ever really wanted was to have something to give that wasn’t material, but who knew I would find that something while living in a home with 29 other recovering alcoholics?
During the first few months of being in New Life, I still had a false idea of who I was and what I wanted to be. I really wanted to be the thug. Or the punk. Or the misunderstood guy. Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I just wanted to be anything that didn’t make me feel like the short, skinny, odd guy that I was. Because I had this sort of complex about myself, I would act out and react towards situations in a way that made me hard to be around. I had a bad attitude and demeanor, and I loved to be the center of attention. Although, when I finally got that attention I would just act like I wanted to be left alone. This is often the case for people newer in sober living, or even for young alcoholics in general. It just took me a bit longer than most to finally start to turn things around. But, needless to say, a lot of time was spent on me, and a lot of people took the time to try to help me see my defects of character. At the time I hated it, and I didn’t understand why they even bothered. I viewed it as an attack until one day someone told me “When you’re happy, you light up the whole room. And everyone feels it. But, when you’re in a bad mood you have the ability to bring everyone down…” It seemed like a small thing to say, but for me it meant a lot. If all I ever really wanted was to have something to give, then that’s perfect. I can give people a better mood. I could make someone’s day better and give a fellow alcoholic hope.
That’s when all of the time spent on me started to sink in. It was hard to hear in the moment when people were telling me what I could work on to improve. It turns out though, that all of that turned into experience I can share with other people who are struggling with the same thing. I had a lot of things that I struggled with, and I still work on those things every day. But I look at it like it’s a blessing that more people can relate to what I have gone through. Ever since that realization, I have tried to dedicate more time to trying to improve someone else’s day.
The times that I can see myself giving back the most is when I am at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and I see someone newer in the program struggling to stay sober. They will share and I instantly can see that I relate. It’s a beautiful thing to go over and talk to this person, have a conversation, and see the difference in someone’s attitude. Whether I am relating to this person, making them laugh, or even just listening to them tell me their story, it’s a great feeling to know that I might have improved someone’s mood. There was one time at my favorite meeting that someone there was newly sober. This person had gone through the ringer with family problems, emotional struggles, institutions, and everything. He explained how hard it was the past couple weeks to stay sober because of a new living situation, and I completely understood. After talking with him for a while I offered him my number and he started texting me right after the meeting. He continues to talk to me to this day. He seems to have been given hope for the future. The inspiration he gained was from working the steps, but I can take solace in the fact that after spending my time with him that night, he had a smile on his face and stayed sober one more night. He also has a new friend to contact, and a bigger community to walk down the road of sobriety with. That is just one small example in a long list of times things like that have happened since graduating New Life House.
Because all of my friends in the sober living spent their time and effort trying to help me, it’s only my duty to try to give that love and care back to the world. To me, that is what giving back means. It means that others cared about me like I was family, and I became a new person. I’m happier then I would ever have thought possible, and it’s all thanks to those around me giving me their time. Giving that back means that everything that I have learned needs to be given away to someone else, so that person can give it again. It’s because of this cycle that Alcoholics Anonymous has been able to help so many alcoholics through the years. I am very proud to be a part of something so big and beneficial, and I never would have found the meaning of giving back without New Life House.