Excerpt: 'Moments of Clarity'

That change isn't—can't be—instantaneous. In that moment, we feel something powerful at work, and yet, being addicts and being human, we don't fully trust it. We fight it, we question it, we fear it's just one more dead end. Still, that moment is all we have to believe in. Over time, the real miracle happens, as the influence of that moment not only persists but lives and grows in us. It's only in retrospect that it becomes the moment, the beginning of a new life. In a way, it's like the first sight of someone you fall in love with, or your first glimpse of your child. Those moments are precious in and of themselves, but their deepest value and meaning comes from the journey that follows, the path they set us on. In this case, it's a journey away from isolation and addiction toward profound peace.

The stories in this book were told to me directly by the people who experienced them. I chose that approach because I wanted to get as close as possible to having readers hear the intensity in their voices as they talked about those first steps out of the darkness.

Then, as it often does, something unexpected happened. Over and over, people told me that talking about their experience one-on-one, answering questions about it, brought them fresh insights and enriched their own understanding of their journey. Jim Vance told me after our time together "that all of what we talked about was only a snapshot. There is so much more that, in fact, needs to be revisited. Recalling it helps me not to repeat it." I didn't want to miss out on that, so I decided to use the same method to tell my story. I sat down with my collaborator, Jan Werner, who asked me the same questions I'd been asking all these other people. It was a valuable experience for me, and I hope you gain something from it too. Here goes. . . .

By February of 1986, I'd been trying to get sober for nine years; for two of those years I'd even been going to mutual support groups. There was a program for recovery, which I was trying to do piecemeal, trying to do my way—again. I'd use Valium for a couple of days, then narcotics, and then I'd use booze for a couple of days, so I didn't get addicted to any one substance. That was my whole thing—I was always concerned about the physical aspect of addiction, not the mental or spiritual. I was desperately trying to control my usage so that I could function a little bit and not be completely physically dependent.

I was white-knuckling it and it was absolute misery—worse than being a stone-cold junkie, because at least the other way you can be out of it all the time. But I couldn't do that anymore, because the little recovery I had ruined my terminal uniqueness. See, I thought that I was the only one with these problems, that I had gotten myself into this mess and therefore only I could get myself out of it. As addicts, we really believe we are the centers of the universe. Nobody feels like we feel, nobody understands us, nobody can do it but us. All of that me me me me thing, which is the thing that kept me sick.

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