When we leave a chemical dependency treatment center and begin our new life of freedom and sobriety, communicating with family and friends can be difficult.  By the grace of God, I survived a 28 year battle with addiction, but along the way, I had severely damaged most of my relationships.  Some people had “written me off”, as a loser and a lost cause.  It was easier for them to pretend that I was dead, than to deal with the monster that I had become and to deal with their own feelings.

1
The phenomenon of denial affects both the addict and the addict’s family and friends. While I was denying that I had a problem with chemicals and my manic depression, some people in my life were either denying how bad my situation was, or they were simply separating themselves from me to protect themselves.   They were denying their own emotions.  Frankly, I don’t blame them!  I had been to 13 treatment centers, I was homeless for a time, I had been arrested repeatedly as a result of my drug use, and I was totally insane.

When you combine chemical addiction with any mental illness, like the manic depression that I had, it is a “Perfect Storm” for bad things to happen.  At the end of my drug and alcohol use, I was living outside of society and I was not following any of the rules.  I was wild, reckless, selfish and living with a death wish.

I purposely pushed away anyone who was close to me, so that I would not hurt them, and more importantly, so I could use chemicals at will.  You know when the disease of addiction is closing in for the kill, when you are completely isolated and completely alone.  Family and friends get in the way of the disease, and its mission to destroy the addict.  So in the end, I was alone and homeless on the street and dominated by fear and rage.

When I graduated from five months of treatment in 1998 at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota, I felt great, but my relationships were hanging on by a very thin thread.  I was still dominated with fear, shame, guilt and remorse for what I had done with half of my life.  I went to a half-way house for another four months because I needed more time to heal.  I had gone so far down the scale of addiction, that I needed every day of the nine months that I spent in treatment.

My confidence that I could get sober and stay sober had been shattered.   I was being constantly bombarded by whispers in my ear from the devil, such as:  “You do not deserve to be sober, you will always be a loser and soon you will be using drugs and alcohol again.  You have been to 13 treatment centers, so what makes you think that you can ever get sober?  Why don’t you go get high, so you don’t have to deal with the pain and the work of getting sober?  You know that all of this pain will be gone as soon as you get high, so what are you waiting for?”

In early sobriety, temptations like this filled my mind every day and every night.  I was staying sober an hour at a time. Remember, addiction is characterized by three vicious weapons—the mental obsession to use chemicals, the physical craving to get high, and powerful denial.  I was not free of these three demons until I was sober for about one year.  Today, Jesus has blessed me with 18 years of contented sobriety, and I want to encourage and help others to enjoy this new life.  When I first got sober, I depended on 12 step meetings, my sponsor and new sober friends, to keep me sober and alive.  Fellowship, meetings and working the steps with a sponsor saved my life.

The three demons of the mental obsession, the physical craving and persistent denial, continued to pursue me over the course of my first year of sobriety, but they became weaker and weaker.  AA provided protection, companionship and hope that I could recover like others had.  I began to actually work the 12 Steps with the help and guidance of an experienced sponsor.  My faith in Jesus Christ was re-kindled and slowly, the flame was getting stronger.  Gradually, I began to see and feel God healing my body, mind and spirit.

Simultaneously, my family and friends were most likely confused, scared, nervous and anxious about how I was going to be, as I emerged from my chemical hell.  When a person gets sober, they are fragile, on-edge and in my case, nervous, restless, irritable and discontent.  I really needed to pray for patience and love and forgiveness.  I had done enormous harm to my family and friends, and so I was tentative, and they were also leery and somewhat distrusting of me.  They were waiting for “the other shoe to drop”.

I don’t blame them, I had lied and broken many promises, and I was completely crazy when I used chemicals.  They were also very angry, frustrated at not being able to help me, and totally shocked at my life.  My family felt powerless over my addiction, just as I was powerless over my drug use.  The disease of addiction negatively affects both the addict and the addict’s family and friends. Both are sick and are in need of healing.  Alanon is designed to help families and friends of addicts and alcoholics.

As the recovering addict, I had to monitor myself and use “filters” in my communication, so that I would not cause more harm.  For us addicts, building trust was the number one most important task at hand to repair our relationships.  Little things like saying, “I will be home for dinner at 6 pm”, or “I will fix that broken window” or “I will pick up the kids today”, and then keeping those promises, went a long way in re-building trust.  One successful promise, stacked on top of another then another, helped to gradually rebuild my relationships that I had shattered during my using years.  I used to lie and break my promises, now it is time for me to keep my promises.

Addicts and alcoholics are notoriously selfish and self-centered, this is the root of our spiritual disease.  In order to get out of myself, I had to offer to do work around the house or do volunteer work, or do errands, or do acts of kind service for my family and friends. This is how I began to re-build my relationships and to get out of myself.  When I freely gave of myself, my relationships were strengthened and I felt better about myself.   My self-esteem began to improve.  AA meetings gave me several opportunities to do service work.  Helping others was one of the most powerful and effective ways for me to become more spiritually healthy and happy.

Now of course remember, our family and friends may not be too enthusiastic about repairing the relationship.  They may want to keep us at a distance, until they can experience some healing.  We must respect the other person and recognize the pain they have endured because of us.   “Easy Does It” (but do it).  When we were using, “Pain was a great teacher”.  Now in recovery, time can be a great healer, so be patient.  No doubt, forgiveness will be needed on both sides of the fence.  For the addict, completing a Fourth and Fifth Step and then an Eighth and Ninth Step will go a long way to feel better about ourselves, and to open some doors that had been closed for years by anger and resentment on both sides.

Addicts and alcoholics that stay sober for the long term, usually build their foundation of sobriety by working the 12 Steps under the guidance and direction of their sponsor.  Any question you have about relationships can usually be answered by working the twelve Steps and by building a very close relationship with your sponsor.

Never hesitate to bring any of your questions to your sponsor.  When we get sober, our minds, emotions and our spirits are still healing, and we need a good listener to help us.  Your sponsor is the one to go to.  If you want to supplement the help that you get from your sponsor, you can get a counselor who can also be helpful.  As several old timers told me over the years, and as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “We must be willing to go to any lengths to get and stay sober”.

BobAllison_DungeontoSky_Addicts

Grateful addicts and alcoholics almost always stay sober.  Addicts that help other addicts to get and stay sober also stay sober themselves.  I am here to encourage you and to give you hope and faith, that if Jesus can get me sober and free, He can get you sober and free too!  Surrender to God and give Him your life just as it is now, stay forever grateful, and work with your sponsor to live all of the 12 Steps.  Read the “Promises on page 84 of the Big book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  You will enjoy the privilege, honor and joy of helping others.  Peace, Love and Blessings to you!

 

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.

During my 28 years of active chemical use, I turned to accomplishment to build my self-esteem, and chemicals to deal with my emotional needs.  God was out of the picture.  People were important only to help me get more chemicals, and I was a lost soul.

It was easier to get high or drunk, than to try and build a relationship.  I liked the quick fix that chemicals provided.  As my disease progressed, I could not even get self-esteem through achievement, and I began to push people away.  I ended up isolated, alone, and consumed with fear.  One of the major goals of the disease, is to isolate the victim, so that there is no one there to help him.  Through my addiction, I violated every value I ever had, and destroyed many of my dreams.  I hated myself.  Chemicals had become my God and my number one relationship.  I was spiritually dead, emotionally crippled, and physically exhausted.

The truth is that no addict can ever use chemicals ever again without consequences and without the disease continuing to progress.  When we use, bad things happen and they always will. The disease is like a living evil creature, that has but one purpose: the total destruction of its host.  Addicts always think, “Well, this time it is going to be different, and I will be able to use chemicals successfully without any negative consequences.”  Addicts tell themselves that lie all the time.  I told myself that lie thirteen times, and it almost cost me my life.

What I have discovered, is how the disease of addiction negatively affected my spirit, my mind, my body, my personality and my relationships.  All of me was being destroyed day by day, like slow torture.  I learned about how denial had blinded me to the fact that I was dying of this disease.   I have published a book called, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace–Dungeon To Sky.”  For anyone who ever wanted to read or write a letter to the disease, there is a chapter in my book called,  “Letter to the Demon of Chemical Dependency”.  People who have read the book have told me that this chapter is the most powerful chapter in the book.  It is a letter of hatred and rage directed at the murderous demon of chemical dependency, that has killed so many people all over the world, including several of my friends.

Today, I have been given the precious gift of sobriety, and it has been 18 years since I started my new life in 1998.  Today, I want to help others, because Jesus helped me.  I want to make a difference for eternity in the lives of others, as I continue to submit my life to Jesus.

I am learning that I can experience a healthy self-esteem by helping others.  Writing this book is good for my self-esteem, because I know that I am helping other people.  At the same time, it is providing me with an important cleansing, a cathartic experience, to get rid of the poison of my past.  Most importantly, the book’s purpose is to provide hope, faith and love to the addict who thinks that he or she cannot recover.  If I can recover, anyone can recover!

Many of the experiences I survived while on the streets, as you will see when you read the book, were severe enough to create Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which I suffered from for the first five years of my recovery.  I was not strong enough or healthy enough mentally, emotionally and spiritually to handle the writing and release of my book.  I waited 16 years to down-load this book from my mind, my emotions and my spirit.

I needed the comfort of the passage of time, so I could have a more balanced perspective of what happened.  I also needed to have time to produce a healthy life, and to build some success in my life.  I needed to have a good “before and after” picture of myself.  Today, I feel a great sense of relief, freedom and gratitude for being freed from the bondage of active addiction.  I pray with all of my spirit that addicts still caught in the web of addiction, will surrender to God and begin the exciting new journey that sobriety brings us.

It was not even me who was the driving force behind my desire to write the book.  In the last year and a half, I have felt a very powerful and intense encouragement from Jesus Christ to, “get this book done”.  I heard Jesus telling me the same message time and time again, “Write your book, now is the time to get it done….. I will help you, so do it now”.  I took a two week road trip to Colorado alone, and I drove 3000 miles from Minnesota, through some beautiful Colorado mountains and then back home again.  I was constantly “hearing” Jesus’ command to, “Write the book!”.

At the same time the devil was bombarding me with doubt and fear about writing the book.  There was a battle going on in my mind and my spirit.   In rebellion, I objected to Jesus’ commands, saying, “Ya, but it needs a lot of work, and I am afraid to finish the book”.  My ego and pride told me, “You cannot publish this book, because it will make you look like a complete lunatic, and people will judge you harshly, and they will hate you, mock you and turn their backs on you”.  The devil was using my pride and my ego to try and prevent publication of this book.  However, by the time I got home, I was filled with passion and motivation to get the book written and published.

Jesus commanded me to write this book, because He knows that I have a message to give to other suffering addicts, who have been imprisoned and defeated by the disease of addiction, just like I was.   Jesus wants addicts to know that He will help them, just as He helped me, to come out of fear and darkness and into His light.

My book is very simply, my life story.  the book is all about addiction and recovery.  It is my great hope that the reader will feel my pain and feel the power of Jesus, when He lifted me up out of the Dungeon of despair and into the light of the sky.  The subtitle of the book is, “Dungeon To Sky” for this reason.  There is a powerful chapter called, “The Vision — Dungeon To Sky”, which describes in detail, the vision that I had of a little boy imprisoned in a dungeon, and then Jesus rescuing him from certain death.  Getting this book completed, even though it is not perfect, is God’s victory and my victory, and I pray that it will be a gift and a blessing to addicts all over the world.   May you have Peace and Blessings each day of your life.

 

 

 

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.

Imagine that you have joined an AA group for the first time. You walk into the room and there are about 25 or 30 recovering alcoholics socializing, laughing and enjoying themselves before the meeting gets started. You are extremely nervous, and in fact you have a bad case of the “shakes”.  You are experiencing alcohol withdrawal.  Several people come up to you, shake your hand and welcome you to the group.

When someone offers you a cup of coffee you decline saying that you have had your limit of coffee for the night.  The real reason that you turned down the cup of coffee, is that your hands are shaking so bad that the only way for you to handle the cup, is with two shaking hands, and this is far too embarrassing for you.

The meeting tonight happens to be on Step One: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable”.  You are relieved that this is tonight’s topic, because you feel like you are an expert on it given the chaos and pain and your roller coaster lifestyle.  You have no problem admitting that your life is unmanageable.

Your out of control drinking has brought legal problems, financial problems, family problems and work problems, and the doctor says that you have a damaged liver and pancreas.  All of this is happening at the same time, and you feel overwhelmed. A friendly face sits down next to you and introduces himself as Joe, as the meeting gets under way.

The meeting went well and you feel good that you took a chance and actually participated in the meeting and shared about how your life is unmanageable and how fearful you have become.  As people around the room speak up and share their experiences, you begin to feel like you are not alone anymore, and this place feels like home.  Everyone here is like you.  For the first time in years, you feel like you belong.  The people at the meeting know exactly where you are at this time in your life, and they have real compassion and empathy.

At the end of the meeting, Joe invites you to join a group of ten recovering addicts to go get coffee and some homemade pie at a local restaurant.  You hesitate for a second then say, “O.K. why not” and off you go.  The pie is fantastic and you choose the apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  You are told that the group gets together after the meeting every Monday night, and sponsors work with their sponsees to work on the 12 steps.

You talk to Joe and find out that he has ten years of continuous sobriety, and he sponsors several people and guides them through the 12 steps.  Joe asks you, do you have a sponsor yet?  You say no, this is only my first meeting.  Then Joe looks into your eyes and says with confidence, “If you really want to get sober and stay sober, and if you are willing to go to any lengths to get it, then let me be your sponsor and I will take the ride with you and show you the way.”

Joe was a guy that was over-flowing with love, confidence and leadership.  He told me that ten years ago, he was homeless on the street and near death from alcoholism. In desperation, he walked into the same AA meeting that they had gone to tonight.  Joe said that someone sat next to him and introduced himself just like Joe had done with you, and invited him to the ice cream and pie restaurant.  That man became Joe’s sponsor and his name was Johnny.  Johnny is one of the old timers at the meeting and has over 20 years sober.

Now fast forward a couple of years.  You and Joe are still going to the same AA meeting and going to the restaurant for pie and ice cream.  One day a newcomer came in, with the same kind of shakes and fearful eyes that you had, and he looked like his whole world had fallen apart. You feel like you are looking at yourself and how you used to be two years ago, before you got sober and started working and living the 12 steps.

DungeontoSky_BobAllison

God must have been whispering in your ear, because you felt an all powerful urge to go help this guy in any way that you could. You sit down next to him and you say. Hi! my name is Bob, and I am an alcoholic. His name is Jamie and he says, I have no idea what I am doing here, or if I can find any help at all”. You invite him out for pie and ice cream and then Jamie hesitates, and starts to make up excuses as to why he cannot go. Following in the confident footsteps of your sponsor, Joe, you say, “What if ten years from now you look back and see how going out for pie and ice cream literally saved your life, because you met a good sponsor who showed you how to work and live the 12 steps” Then Jamie says, “do they have apple pie with vanilla ice cream?”

Jamie says, yes they do. Let’s go get some.

Flash forward a couple of years. Jamie has been going to the meeting for two years and he has been doing very well working the 12 steps. Jamie sees a newcomer who looks like he slept in an alley during a rain storm. Jamie has compassion and empathy for him and walks straight over, shakes the man’s hand, and says “Welcome, I am glad that you are here, my name is Jamie”. The newcomer’s name is Sam. After the meeting Jamie says to Sam. “It sure sounds like you and me have gone down some of the same paths, and made some of the same mistakes. Hey, let’s go get some really good pie and ice cream, you are gonna love it!”

While they are eating the pie and ice cream, Jamie asks Sam, “So do you have a sponsor yet?” Sam shakes his head and says, “No I don’t, and I pity the guy who agrees to take me on, because my life is a train wreck!” Jamie tells Sam his life story and then Sam says, “Well, if you can get sober, I can get sober too!” So that night Jamie became Sam’s sponsor and the miracle continued to be passed on down the line.

So you see how the miracle of recovery is passed on from one alcoholic or addict to another?

Step 12 from Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.”

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there are some very powerful “promises”.  After completing steps one through nine there are some beautiful promises, on Page 83, you can read: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”

There is no greater joy than helping one addict and then watching that person go help another addict and then again that addict helps another addict, and another life is saved.  This is a powerful spiritual gift and it never gets old.

About The Author

Robert J. Allison lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Rochelle Allison. Robert survived a 28-year battle with chemical dependency, including 13 chemical dependency treatment centers and homelessness. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and began his new life of faith and contented sobriety. Robert has been blessed with 18 years of sobriety and with his new freedom he now is helping other addicts to find peace, faith and the priceless gift of sobriety.