An Invaluable Gift

by The Addict
California, USA

An Invaluable Gift

When I was in my early twenties, my father’s long and horrible illness weighed heavily on us all, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do anymore. I couldn’t take the pain and pressure, so I fled. I left my boyfriend, five siblings, mother, and slowly-dying father all behind in the Midwest and moved to California. I was restless, depressed, and confused about how to live life.

My father died shortly after I left. Instead of finding peace and happiness in California, I found isolation, more confusion, and unfortunately, a bad drug habit. The habit quickly turned into an addiction. Soon, I was in big trouble.

My family didn’t know the extent of my problem and couldn’t help from thousands of miles away. I didn’t open myself up totally to any of my friends, so they couldn’t help. I thrashed alone, making insane, life-threatening choices.

I lied constantly to cover things up. I knew this wasn’t the real me, but feared I was so far gone it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to live anymore and waited for something awful to happen. I waited to die.

Years later, my sister sent me an addiction memoir. I had read countless addiction books, but nothing spoke to me personally. But this book was different. It wasn’t a normal formula-driven memoir with a happy ending. This book had a real edge — brutal honesty. I understood what this man was saying. For the first time, I felt hope.

After about a month clean, I emailed the author, thanking him for writing the book and asking how he managed to stay clean for multiple years. I was sure I wouldn’t get a response.

He wrote back not two weeks later and asked for my phone number. He said he would call and talk to me. He said he would help.

Over the next several months, this busy, best-selling author took time out of his life to help a stranger. He forged a friendship with me. He emailed, called, and offered support. He taught me a different way to live and asked for nothing in return.

I had no movie deal to offer, no lucrative partnership for him to pursue. I was no one, nothing. But he made time for me. He was never condescending or pretentious, never curt or hurried. He showed a truly generous spirit of patience and genuine concern.

I’ve been clean for eight months now and have a new life. I’m going back to school, pursuing my interests, and starting to hate myself less and less. I have real relationships with the people in my life now. I’m learning to take responsibility for my actions.

I finally feel like I have the strength within me to be strong, stay clean, and continue building a new life. For a girl who lived so long as a depressed, confused victim, that’s an invaluable gift. I’ll never find the words to express my simple gratitude to this man.

Originally published as HeroicStories #564 on Nov 9, 2004

8 thoughts on “An Invaluable Gift”

  1. All it takes is one person to take that ‘first step to reach out’ to help. You never know when your words will click with a person in pain.

  2. I like poignant, feeling books more than preachy ones my self. I’d recommend everyone (especially those in or against the drug scene — and those that appreciate art) read Thomas deQuincy’s Confessions of An Opium Eater, as it goes through the joys, pains, and getting out in a very vivid manner.

    Don’t go for the Dover edition — the art is well worth it.

  3. The strongest medicine a recovering addict can get, is to help someone else see, accept and get clean. Sometimes that was all I had to go on, and it worked. It is the toughest challenge most of will ever face. We needed to get help in order to begin our recovery, and we need to give help keep our recovery.

    • Unfortunately I don’t know, I wish I did! We’ve lost contact with the author since this was first published, I’m afraid.

  4. I sincerely hope that anyone in similar circumstances reads this and finds the hope and encouragement needed to turn their life around.

  5. As a recovering alcoholic, I understand what this person was going through and wish her all the best. The one thing I will always remember from my early years in recovery (I have been sober since July 11, 1988) is to take life One Day At A Time!!


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