Excerpt: 'Moments of Clarity'

When I went to this group, I sat in a basement with a bunch of other people who were just like me and yet they'd found a way out, and it ruined my drinking and using. I could no longer just lie in the gutter with a needle in my arm. At the same time, I was incapable of understanding what I needed to do. Basically I had to accept that I had a spiritual malady as well as a physical malady. That meant surrendering, which I was unwilling to do.

I didn't want to be "addicted," but I couldn't give up, couldn't surrender my will. I just wanted to be out of myself, because all I'd ever wanted was to not be here. If that's how you feel, then being here without knowing how to be here, and trying to control your use of the only thing you've ever known that helps you cope—that's a recipe for putting a gun in your mouth, which is basically what I was left with.

I was thirty years old, and my whole life had been a series of "This isn't so bad." I graduated from law school. So I didn't learn anything, so what. So I was arrested for buying heroin in Roxbury. That's not so bad. At least it was in the Boston Globe, not in the New York Times. The morning of February 17, I woke up, as usual, with that weight in the pit of my stomach, knowing that all I had in front of me was another day of dancing with the 8oo-pound gorilla of addiction. I got out of bed and walked over to the windows that looked out onto Commonwealth Avenue—I was living in one of those beautiful old Boston brownstones, and it had giant picture windows, floor to ceiling. I just stood there and stared out at the city. Everything was gray, gray and bleak and freezing cold, and that matched what I was feeling inside.

I thought, "This is bad. This is as bad as it can get." What I felt was just a little bit darker than what I'd felt the day before, but that little bit was enough to finally put me over the edge. I knew I could not exist anymore in that state. I had to either die or change, and I didn't have a gun to put in my mouth, so I had to change, and the only way I could change was to surrender. So I did. I said, to what ever was out there, "You know what? I give up. I absolutely, unequivocally give up. I'm not talking about, 'I give up so I can fight another day.' What ever you want me to do, I'll do it." And I realize now, that was it. That was the opening through which grace entered my life.

What grace looked like that morning was me walking across the room and picking up the phone. I called a cousin I admired, with whom I had competed my whole life and who was the last guy in the world I wanted to listen to. A couple of years before, my cousin David had died of an overdose. David and I had been best friends our whole lives, which of course involved drinking and drugs, but a few months before he died, I started pulling away from him . . . part of my plan to cut back on using, but I didn't tell him what I was doing. I thought, "It'll help him too. He'll figure it out for himself." Later, I realized David was becoming the version of me I didn't want to see. And my pulling away just made him more isolated, and I felt like it pushed him down into the abyss faster.

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