I’m Jourdan and I’m an addict. That’s a phrase I never thought I'd say. As a child, I never dreamed of growing up and struggling with alcohol and opiates. I never envisioned myself in and out of rehabs...relapsing again and again in what seems like a never-ending cycle of failure.
Relapse is one of the hardest parts of my story to talk about. From the outside, relapse seems insane. I would put together some time sober and life began to come together. Then, in a split second, I pop a pill and life falls apart yet again. And there’s the shame of this cycle. The intrusive thoughts: “I am a junkie. That is all I will ever be.”
My disease would tell me that this in a non-stop loop. I wanted recovery more than anything in life, yet it often felt unattainable.
Powerlessness Was Hard to Get Onboard With
At the core of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is the idea that I am powerless. I, as someone who strives for control, especially dislike this concept. I remember being introduced to the idea of powerlessness and adamantly disagreeing. “I have all the power,” I reassured myself. "I control this addiction."
Cut to a couple months later and I’m sitting on my couch with crushed Oxy on the table beside me, and a bottle of vodka in my hands. Tears are rolling down my face. I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to use...but still...here I am...doing both. I take a swig. I do a line. I am shaking and sobbing uncontrollably.
"I realize, this is the definition of powerlessness. I never wanted to be an addict. When I realized I was one, I went to meetings, therapy, rehab. I did what a recovering addict is supposed to do...but I still relapsed."
I walk back into AA a couple of days later. When asked for people who are in their first thirty days of sobriety to raise their hand, I do so and see the look of surprise on my peers' faces. But they still say the reassuring words, “Welcome back.”
Not a single person in the fellowship shames me. Many embrace me and lovingly say, “You are a miracle. I'm so glad you made it back.” Such an emotion, of course, comes from a place of knowing that many addicts don’t get the opportunity to walk back into a meeting after "falling off the wagon." Many end up jailed, hospitalized, or dead during that relapse.
The Silver Lining of Addiction
I am one of the lucky ones. I have relapsed numerous times and I am still able to share this experience with everyone reading. But why share my story at all? Why come out and publicly say I am an addict?
I do it for the addicts who are in the middle of a relapse. I do it for the family members, watching their loved one sink deeper, wondering when will this insanity end. I do it because there are so many people out there hurting, using, suffering, and dying. My recovery is far from perfect, and my journey to sobriety is only beginning, but I want to say that there is hope.
For those of you wondering how to help a loved one in the midst of a relapse my best advice is:
"Love them. Avoid shaming them at all costs. Trust me they are doing enough of that on their own. Call professionals. Let them help. I have been to more rehabs than I have fingers and, yet, I am here to tell you that no one is beyond repair. Even addicts who feel like a lost cause can make it out."
Building a Community of Recovery
Recovery is about community. It’s about helping one another succeed. It's about sharing "secrets" and journeys with people who understand and don't judge. Recovery is about looking at the homeless person on the corner and identifying with them, because the next time I relapse, that could be me too.
I thank G-d everyday for my sobriety. I thank Him for placing human angels in my life who have helped me on my journey. I thank Him for a future that is beginning to brighten and a soul that is starting to heal.
The community I've built is the major reason I have been able to begin my sobriety journey. The people around me can understand my struggle, and are always there to listen without judgement. They show me through their kindness that serenity and recovery are possible.
"Alone, I feel lost. With others by my side, though, I feel the power of connection. I become certain that we can make it through any sort of hopelessness or darkness...together."
Jourdan Stein is a young, Jewish woman in the beginning stages of her recovery from opiates and alcohol. She resides in the bay area with her dog Sadie. Jourdan is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. Her writing has been published in several Jewish publications including New Voices and The Forward’s Scribe.
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