His face was lost, alone, scared, and a full of abandonment. His family wearily and whole heartedly hugged him as tears streamed down their faces. Saying goodbye to him that was so hard, yet so necessary – and he knew it. He watched as they kept looking back, feeling like it was the last thing they could do to save their son. They left him at our door. When I first met him he looked like a man that had lost everything, and in fact, he had. His addiction had taken him to a place where even his greatest lies and fabricated justifications had no effect on everything he was and had lost. Lost jobs, failing relationship, a family that didn’t know their son anymore and a man that didn’t even know who he was.
The first time he tried to speak to me he couldn’t even explain his situation without breaking down into tears with guilt and regret. A man that was broken emotionally, physically, and spiritually sat in the chair across from me. He explained that he needed this or he would have nothing to go back to in his life; that he needed to find himself again or he would die. I listened and nodded my head and allowed the man to talk to me: a complete stranger. How hard it must be to sit and talk about something so intimate and dark with only a fraction of hope left. Wiping away tears that wouldn’t stop coming; he expressed that alcohol had become his best friend and his worst nightmare. Admitting that he was powerless was not easy, but he did it – and looked up at me as if to say “I surrender”.
Over the coming weeks I watched the frail man begin to smile when he talked about his wife, and his spirituality, and his family that he so deeply loved. As the days stretched forward without the use of alcohol, the man that was authentic and human began to shine again. Working through and talking about the deception, the deliberate isolation to keep drinking, the failed commitments to his wife, the embarrassing aftermaths, and the financial troubles that had been sparked from what seemed like a sleeping giant called alcohol. He explained how everything was in control one moment and in the blink of an eye he had become the damaging being that wreaked havoc upon everything he held dear to his heart.
The man that was so lost and so afraid had soon become a leader. Watching this man help others who were new to treatment, and building confidence in almost every minute of the day was infectious. He even stood taller and his words had deep intrinsic meaning that others listened to. The man was seeing who he really was for the first time in years. Every time we spoke in private the man still carried guilt and shame, but was able to let it go with the hard work he put into the program. The man was finding self compassion and was radically accepting what happened and was seeing not what happened to him, but what he knew he could become.
On his last day in treatment I presented a certificate of accomplishment to the man and everyone in the room met him with applause. Each person spoke of one word that described the man; all with deep thought and meaning that was true to him. The man that sat in a chair in our lobby with his head in his hands had found who he was again. He now had goals and tools, along with a huge support system in the 12 step program. Before he left the room he hugged me and wouldn’t let go. He told me that he will never forget what myself and all the staff had done for him. Gratitude, love, and kindness would not be the words used to describe the man forty two days prior, but today those are the only words I would use for this brave soul. In all my years in addiction across this country, this man touched my heart in a way that says resilience in the human spirit and the reward we get for watching such an amazing transformation is exactly what we should all strive and live for.