A solution, not a sentence

A solution, not a sentence. Doug A, proved that you can enter recovery at any age and took the opportunity to reboot his life with both hands. Read below his inspiring story of dedication and commitment.

My name is Doug. I am 64 years old. I was given the gift of recovery at the age of 62. My addiction started with alcohol at the age of 20 and with prescription psychiatric drugs at the age of 26. This turned out to be an explosive combination. My unmanageability started at a very young age. I became an anti-social isolationist which stayed with me in one form or another until I went into treatment.

My active addiction fuelled this defect to extraordinary limits. This unmanageability caused my family, my ex-wives, my children and myself seemingly irreparable harm and anguish. My unwillingness to see my part and to change my behaviour resulted in alienation, pain and a tragic and life altering chain of events which resulted in me reaching my “rock bottom”. 

What happened: 

I was born in Zambia, I had a carefree life as a child but started isolating at a very young age and became comfortable with it. I was sent off to boarding school at age 9. I had varied successes and failures at school but on the whole did fairly well. 

I enjoyed the last few years at school but lived in constant fear of being judged so I cut myself off and isolated even more. I went on to college and it was here that I was introduced to alcohol. I took to it like a duck to water as it made me uninhibited. This was my solution to how I was feeling! I did well at college and thoroughly enjoyed it. I moved into nature conservation as a ranger and spent a total of 23 years as a ranger and 7 years as an environmentalist. 

I left conservation for a short period and moved to the city chasing material gains. I found many but at the price that my alcoholism progressed rapidly. I attempted suicide at age 26 and was introduced to psychiatric medication and remained on it in one form or another for 37 years. I also underwent shock therapy.

Psychiatry had become my solution. I was divorced at age 37 with 2 children. I decimated this family but carried on. I remarried at age 39 and had another 2 children. My life became unmanageable with the combination of substances and alcohol. My behaviour was atrocious, self was the only thing that counted, being right and being happy was my goal.

This marriage fell apart due to my indifference and total indulgence of self. I was divorced for the second time. This divorce also decimated my family.

In 2001, I went to rehab and abstained from alcohol for 14 years. I was of the belief that I was sober but was still on copious amounts of medication. I believed I was not an addict as the medication was prescribed. I went into rehab at a psychiatric hospital a total of four times. The last 2 in the lockup wards. I moved into a halfway house connected to a rehab and spent a total of 4 and a half years there which made my life even worse. Moving away from the halfway, into my own home was the start of my downfall due to me being totally lacking in life skills.

I relapsed on alcohol shortly after moving. Unbeknown to me my disease had progressed all the time I abstained and returned with a vengeance. I became of no use to man or beast. My rock bottom came in a period of 5 months. I had an accident in a blackout, which resulted in the death of a child and severe injuries to another. To this day I can remember nothing of this accident.

This resulted in criminal charges including culpable homicide. The charges were 

withdrawn. On a Thursday night we had a home invasion by armed robbers which cleaned us out. The next morning, because we had no comms, a friend came and informed me that my youngest son had died that morning. He was turning 21. I was numb and devoid and incapable of cognisant thought, healthy emotion or action. 

I was done. 

What it is like now: 

Through the efforts of my family, it was arranged for me to come into treatment at The Cedars. I came into this treatment centre totally broken, physically, emotionally and mentally.

This treatment centre is unlike any I had known. While here, I was taught the program based on the twelve steps. This saved my life. I became willing to change. I wanted to get clean and sober and to change my behaviour. The first priority was to wean me off all medication. I was willing to do this as I had nothing to lose and possibly a huge amount to gain.

Working through the steps was, for me, a huge undertaking but was so worthwhile in that I had to look at myself dispassionately, admit my faults and wrongs I had done to others, and accept my shortcomings and be willing to make amends.

All the while being gifted a stronger and stronger mental, physical and emotional sobriety. This treatment centre is a no-nonsense facility, yet it is based on unconditional love, compassion, empathy and a burning desire to help me find sobriety and a new way of life.

It changed me from HAVING to stay clean and sober and changing my behaviour to being WILLING and WANTING to embrace this new way of life. The best I can do is stay clean and sober, be honest, remain humble and help others through service and relating my experiences to them, one day at a time.

The changes in my life and the lives of those close to me have changed immeasurably and it is up to me to keep it so, using the program and the 12 Steps. Life, to me, in the program is a solution and not a sentence. I will be eternally grateful to The Cedars and to everyone involved, for this incredible gift.

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