Ownership is a word that was rarely, if ever, associated with me while I was in active addiction. More accurate descriptions of me would have included terms such as dishonest, distrustful, and unaccountable for my actions.
I was a master manipulator, never able to truly look at the truth of the state of my life, while I was using drugs and alcohol and even before. I had always had this idea that somehow the world, and everyone in it, was to blame for my alcoholism. As a result, I used this rationalization to justify taking actions that ended up hurting the people around me and continuing the seemingly never-ending cycle of addiction. Over the years I built up stories about myself and my upbringing that supported the idea that I was broken beyond repair, that I was different and that nobody understood me, and I started to believe these lies. Not to say there weren’t bad times, or struggles because there were. The thing was, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I felt targeted, slighted in some way, a product of a sick joke that everyone was in on except for me, and I allowed it to determine the actions that I took.
I became withdrawn from my friends and family, changed my tastes in music and relished in the darkness of life. Drugs and alcohol became a way for me to take back control over the things I believed were taken away from me, to rewrite my script to fit my needs, all the while blaming everyone around me for the way I was acting and believing that I was in the right. What I did not realize until much later was that while I thought I was regaining control, I was slowly but surely losing it. I was nowhere near ready to say my disease is my responsibility. I had awoken a beast that I had no control over. I truly became someone I was not. Although I wanted to believe that I had a troubled childhood, when I honestly started looking at the reality of my upbringing, I realized I had it pretty good. A loving family, moral grounding in the Christian faith, a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in are not exactly the description of a broken home. Why then, did I believe it okay for me to act in the ways that I did and then turn around and point the finger? Something inside of me was unable to look myself in the face and honestly own up to the fact that at the center of all the actions I took was me, and that I didn’t want anything or anyone to stand in between me and the next drink or high. Whether it meant stealing to get what I needed or playing people off one another or manipulating family members into supporting me financially, it did not matter if it meant I could get what I wanted. This behavior continued, and externally the consequences became greater. Loss of college education, broken promises which lead to torn relationships, legal issues, overdoses and the list goes on and on. Still, I was unable to take full responsibility for the things that I was doing to myself and my family. The question always rang in my head, ‘why me? How could something like this happen to a good kid like me?’ What started out as a good time and an innocent escape from reality every once in a while became a constant obsession, which brought me to the absolute depths of the alcoholic abyss. I found myself alone, far from home and with nobody left to blame. I had pushed everyone I loved away and surrounded myself with people who I thought were my friends but were just using me. When I was forced to take a step back and look at what my life had become, I was ashamed. In a moment I realized that I was the reason for all this negativity in my life. I realized my disease is my responsibility. It wasn’t my parent’s fault, it wasn’t the schools’ fault or the girlfriends’ fault, but mine. All mine. In my attempt to distinguish myself, to express my individuality and fight back against the made-up transgressions that had plagued me I ended up cutting myself off from everything that was good in my life.
I knew that things needed to change, but how? It began with me saying “my disease is my responsibility, and not blaming my issues on my life circumstances. I had to put a lot of thoughts into perspective and realize that everyone in the world goes through tough times, and that is no reason to destroy everything around me and hold my friends and family emotionally hostage. To truly recover I needed to accept the fact that pain and hardship is a part of the human experience and that I could use that knowledge for the greater good.
Through this process of ownership, positive things started to happen around me. I found that people in my life began to trust me again and that people actually wanted to be around me. Nobody enjoys being around someone who cannot be wrong or someone who claims perfection. By owning my smallest mistakes, I allow myself to stay humble and remember that I am imperfect and that is alright. Take my alcoholism for example. If I never admitted I truly had a problem, then I would never have had to take a real look at myself and make changes in my life. However, as soon as I was able to see that the way I was living was detrimental I became ready to move in the right direction. As a result, my life has changed drastically. My relationship with my family is the best it has ever been. I am confident in myself and have an overall sense of purpose, and people trust me more than ever before. Saying my disease is my responsibility is not always easy, (in fact it is usually quite difficult) but it offers freedom beyond measure.