Alumni of the Month Graham TAlumni of the Month
My name is Graham and I am an addict.
I grew up in unincorporated nowhere on Vancouver Island – an idyllic setting but a difficult place to be obviously gay. I was always the odd one out, the nerd who didn’t feel like he fit in. By the time I was in my later teens, I’d left home and moved to the city, reinvented myself and had what appeared to be a charmed existence that from the outside everyone wanted. Financially supported by my family I crafted an image of care-free indulgence – my friends would ask ‘are your parents adopting?’. The reality of my life was darker. I drank to oblivion daily to escape the prison of my own mind.
I hit the club scene hard – finding acceptance and reverence in a shot glass and a baggie. I was finally king of something. It was a cruel illusion. Soon the drugs were more important than the social scene that had come with them. I stayed home and used day and night – allowing people into my life was a distraction and annoyance – the very social crutches I’d embraced became poison.
I hid my addiction as best I could and pressed on in my career, only learning years later how obvious my problems had been to my family, co-workers and friends. I resigned myself to this being my life (for however long I lived.)
A dozen years passed.
In 2011, I got clean the first time – not because I felt I’d had enough, but because I couldn’t come up with the money to keep going. At first, the change was easy – just doing something different that involved people doing something different seemed like what I needed. I was clean but I wasn’t participating in recovery. I got loaded, I got clean again, the cycle repeated, ever shorter. I didn’t learn why I was getting loaded or what I was missing – it seemed like recovery, what little I knew of it, was failing me.
My last time out, alumni friends I’d made in the community told me enough was enough and steered me towards at least talking to The Last Door. I believed residential treatment wasn’t for me as I was established, with a home, a career, pets and myriad responsibilities that I “couldn’t” abandon to work on myself. I feared the loss of my job more than dying in addiction.
I came in for a ‘chat’ with a list of reasons I couldn’t stay, none of which held up under scrutiny. I had an immediate intake but was provided the flexibility to wrap up my commitments to my career in an orderly fashion. Those first weeks, I woke up every day thinking “nobody knows I’m here – I can go back to my life if I want”. Once that insanity cleared a little, I came to terms with the initial shock of giving up my will and putting my life in someone else’s hands for a while and I thrived. I made friends, I let down my guard and gingerly removed my armor. My barriers dissolved and with my peers, I openly and honestly explored the reasons addiction had become and continued to be my default setting. The Door taught me to breath instead of panic, to reflect instead of fear and to forgive myself and move on instead of living in the wreckage of my past.
Today, I am two years clean, my career and life are back on track. My family doesn’t have to worry at night if I’m dead or alive and I have the freedom to explore what truly makes me happy in life. I still spend as much time as I can at the house and with each set of new guys, I make a point to get involved, give back and remember what it was like when I was new. I have learned to value my recovery far above the easy excuses the ups and downs of life used to present as reasons to get loaded. For the first time in my adult life, I know I am making my family proud.
Thank-you to Last Door and every doorboy who has come before, since and will come in the future for providing the rock on which my recovery and life is built. Recovery is the beginning and not the end!
Clean date: January 13th, 2013