They do. I’m at… 14+ years.
Everything to be able to stay clean (that’s the “drugs” word, though it’s slowly passing out of fashion). It takes a lot, though. Growing up with a certain mindset, and spending your whole life up until the point where you get into recovery (in my case the first 40 years of my life) means that there were certain things I just didn’t know, didn’t understand, didn’t know how to deal with. Feelings. Stress. Empathy – not sure of the right word, but being aware and being sensitive to more of the world than simply what was going on in my head. Think of it in a way as a sort of emotional and mental deprivation. Things that are painfully obvious to someone who is not an addict I have had to learn.
That’s the bad side. On the other side is that when you’ve been to the bottom of the bottom, you naturally throw away all sorts of superficial things as being concerns. You’ve BEEN to real “meaning”, you can’t even know how real bottoming out is, so love and concern for others and seeing the big picture becomes a sort of yearning. I don’t know if they exist or not, but it’s much like what you read about how near-death experiences change people. Life can become rich as hell, unimaginably so. Better – if I do say so myself – than the average person’s.
But that can cut both ways. Rich as hell can mean too much, and being an addict is about wanting more. So too much good can take people out. Because you want to do it ALL. Staying grounded is very very important. Meaning, the literal ground. “Look at your feet”, as someone likes to say to me.
And life goes on. Every last ethical question you could ever read on Quora, it will come up one day. People will die and it will make you question everything. You’ll get older. You learn to deeply love people, many people, and you get hurt, because people are not perfect, and neither are you, and you have to deal with that. Wrongs will occur, new ones with subtle differences, and you need to learn how much to get involved, or not get involved, and especially, accept things that you really don’t want to accept.
It’s living life as ultimately alive as you can be. And because you’re “that way”, you’ve always been like that, it was just too much. But it’s doable. I hate this phrase as much as anybody, but you have to do 110% because you will find what results in a 200% benefit. This is endlessly true, but if you don’t go over and above what you think you can do, you will go backward.
Anybody, absolutely anybody, can stay clean. There is nobody who can’t. But it’s almost like growing up all over again, and you have to do all of the above. Every damn time, you’ll be glad you did, but every damn time it will feel like work.
It’s just different. It’s not like school. It’s not like being able to lift something heavy. It’s not being able to do calculus. It’s deeper than that, more important, far more personal. It’s the most wonderful thing, and I’m glad I’m an addict so I could get all the benefits of recovery. Yes, glad I’m an addict.
You have to be ready to actually do something good for yourself. And never stop. And then you can stay clean. And people do, and it’s no cliche, one day at a time. And then those add up to months, years. As long as you care enough about yourself to keep on living.