Alumni of the Month HarjAlumni of the Month
Hi, I am Harjeet and I am an addict.” I used to hate that statement. For years I vocalized those words in dingy church basements and meeting halls. I hated saying it. “I am an addict.” That was my badge of shame, my dishonour, my ticket to a life of degradation and laziness where I didn’t have to do anything that regular people did because…well because “I am an addict.”
I don’t know if i was born an addict or became an addict. There was a time when figuring out this distinction was important to me, not anymore though.
Addiction has no prejudice goes the adage. I know this to be true. If we were merely products of our environment, or if there was some sort of logic inherent in the natural world I wouldn’t be an addict. I was raised with every material and moral advantage possible. My parents were first generation immigrants who worked very hard to make a comfortable life for their family. I was raised in a large extended family structure where I was seldom alone and always loved and supported. I had siblings and cousins as playmates, I had an abundance of teachers and role models and as Sikhs spiritual instruction was integrated into our daily life. I was taught the importance of truth, service and god. It was also made clear to me that I had only one job as a kid and that was to get an education.
Good family. The only trouble was, that I was in it. I lied from an early age. I stole. I was o.k. at school but i consistently underperformed. I would hear it from teachers year after year , “Harjeet is lazy and not meeting his potential.” I was always in some sort of trouble and this caused definite friction at home. Adolescence was difficult and confusing. I felt like I was living between two worlds; my traditional home life and western life at school.
Addiction first approached me in the guise of something pleasant, innocuous and actually beneficial. Books. The addiction wasn’t to the book though, it was to the act of escape and to the fantasy. I loved being transported to a place that was better, more exciting and magical than my own seemingly mundane life. I read and read and read to the detriment of my friendships, family relationships, education and eye sight.
When drugs hit my life I felt as if I was part of a revolution. Here it was; the magic that I had been searching for, readily available and more powerful than any literary escape. I believed in drugs. I made them my identity, my purpose. I thought that in some way I could achieve a manner of “better living through chemistry.” This was when I was 15.
By age 20, I was decimated. Education was a bust. I had dropped out of university. My family was heartbroken at the sight of me. I was a parasite and I couldn’t stop using. No matter how much i bent my will towards it, I couldn’t stop not for one day. I needed an out, the madness had to stop. I asked for help and my parents shipped me off to a treatment centre. Thus began my and my families 12 year journey of struggle. I relapsed over and over again. I went to multiple treatment facilities and attended an untold number of 12 step meetings. I saw doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists but no matter how much I learned or how much awareness I gained around my addiction, I could not stay clean for any period of time. After 12 years I was exhausted. I thought that the idea of recovery was a sham and that I was never going to get clean. I even considered the idea of quitting and just giving myself over to die in addiction.
I had known about the Last Door for several years and even had a couple of friends who had gone through the house with positive results; they had been “chronic relapsers” like me and now they were actually staying clean. People had actually been suggesting that I check it out for several years. With a not so gentle nudge from my wife and family I went to the Door.
I find it difficult to capture in words the magnitude of the changes that have occurred in my life as a result of going to the Last door. I did not learn anything new at the Door. They didn’t place too much emphasis on the chemical nature of addiction or the workings of the brain. There were no classes. I don’t think that I needed any more education though. I had 12 years of that already, and knowledge alone had never been enough to keep me clean. At the Door I was shown how to practice recovery in my life in a practical manner that I could grasp, that was real, applicable and not a theoretical construct. I wasn’t just shown recovery; I got the opportunity to practice it for six months while at the Door in a fun and supportive environment. When the change finally occurred, when i began to feel o.k. with myself, I was awestruck. It couldn’t have been this simple all along? Could it have? It was about sharing honestly and one addict helping another.
Being at the Door was the real revolution in my life. For me I likened it to a type of remedial recovery school for dummies; the groups the fellowship, reading the recovery literature, attending meetings, all of it was so powerful and every day felt like a new awakening.. They even encouraged my wife and family to become part of the recovery process and this has been huge in starting the healing journey after over a decade of damage. The most brilliant thing about the Door was that when I left I found myself doing the same things that I had been doing for the previous six months while I had been living at the Door.
Being in recovery and staying clean today no longer feels like a struggle for me. I love my life today. I have the type of healthy friendships I had always hoped for. I get the opportunity to help other addicts overcome their struggles and the relationship with my family is better than it has ever been. My wife and I love each other once again and are presently awaiting some new additions to our family. We are expecting twins in April. My life is full of gifts today and I am forever grateful to The Last Door. They showed me, that it doesn’t matter why or how I became an addict but rather what I do about it . It’s through this that I have find honour and dignity in calling myself an addict in recovery.