It Gets Way More Better
“Keep coming back; it works if you work it.” I first heard these words of advice and encouragement in a meeting. They were directed toward those of us who were new in recovery and who hated advice and encouragement. I don’t need words of wisdom, I thought. I need to get better.
At the beginning of my recovery journey, I wanted to believe that at least some of the things said in the recovery community were true. I wondered why these time-honored, words-turned-into-phrases were spoken throughout the rooms. I initially thought these people were simply lonely and bored without any mind-altering chemicals. I imagined that without drugs and alcohol, I would need some catch phrases to pass the time, too!
To those of us beginning a new life so unfamiliar to that former dismal reality leading up to our surrender, some phrases sounded downright ridiculous. I learned they were no illusion, however; they become an actuality for people who work through the Program. The phrase I was most eager to see kick in and take effect was the following: “It gets better.” What initially felt like a large, three-word pill to swallow eventually became quite the Flintstone Chewable.
I remember sitting in my third floor apartment in the summer of 2014, shortly before learning the phrase, “It gets better.” I told myself it was just too hot to join the outside world. Dinner plates were not necessary for my Circle K taquitos and stolen peanut butter cups; instead, they were used resourcefully as ashtrays. I was sick and wishing to eliminate the pest inside my apartment – me – with tobacco smoke.
Smoke signals lingered, but so did my awful habits. Warning! Losing touch with reality and the spirit within! Somewhere inside of me, something or someone was alarmed, though it was a paradoxical alarm where logic was fading at the same rate as reality. I craved the return of reality, but I needed the quicker forms of relief far more.
The battle in my mind left my stomach uneasy and burdened my brain with all the sap from the chemicals I was taking. I decided to give them up for the umpteenth time, but this time, this time . . .! The argument in the back of my head sounded the same as so many times before. There was a moment of such disgust for the dehumanizing specter I had become that I craved the possibility of a better me. There was no moment of clarity; those moments came later, and continue in my recovery today.
Deep in the frigid climate of a detox center, commonly found in northern American regions, alcoholics and addicts inhabit the plastic-covered beds, I said to myself with forced humor and an Australian accent.
I found myself in a plastic-covered bed. I could feel the cold temperature of the room as I sat upright in a sweat and looked around. I saw other drunks, addicts and people as hopeless as myself, lined up in rows, confined to their beds.
Every few minutes, someone would stumble their way through the maze of beds to a front window to score a cheese sandwich. I decided to go through the maze, too, for the bright orange cheese single between bread pieces secured in a bag, and made my way back to my bed again. Each step stuck to the ground with the rubber-gripped socks I had been given.
I sat down and thought, Mice like cheese, but I am not too fond of it. I like laughing and smiling. I like being responsible for my own food and my own place to rest my head. I love spending holidays with my family and friends. The research was conducted. The subject of my well-being was determined. I was a rodent, so I ate the sandwich.
The places I could have traveled from that point on were easily defined as the words “better” and “worse.” I already had a pretty good definition of “worse” and the life sentence that went with it; I didn’t need my decision spelled out. What I did need was help to get me out of the maze, out of the filth, and out of myself and moving toward “better.”
Inpatient treatment followed by a sober living environment helped me transition into defining myself. The Twelve Steps, service work and meetings, and the formation of faith in my higher power continue to keep me moving toward “better.”
The external effects of recovery directed me back to reality. I began regaining the trust I had stolen from my family, so much so that my oldest brother and my sister-in-law announced they were having their second baby and surprised me with the honor of being godfather to my newborn niece, Nicoletta Juliette. The three-word pill was becoming easier to swallow, easier to believe: “It gets better.” I replayed this in my head, pinching myself back to this new reality.
In this new reality, there is a spirit and sense of hope filling a hole once occupied by nothing but space. It’s a wholesome feeling. Family and friends call me, and I do the same for the sake of conversation and connection. I receive honest checks from work, and a recent tax return made me a taxpayer. This place where it “keeps getting better,” even when the day does not seem to be in my favor, is the same place that now allows me to help others who may not yet quite believe it to be true.
I often repeat this three-word phrase in speech and in thought, and it relays its truth from God’s ears back to my eyes. I repeat this three-word phrase in the hope that it will help another person move from their initial disbelief toward the road to recovery.
Yeah, it gets better – way more better!
Todd Hirt grew up in Salina, California, and moved to Prescott, Arizona, two years ago to seek help for substance abuse. He has remained in Prescott and currently works as a med tech for an addiction treatment facility. Writing has become an essential tool in sustaining his recovery. Thathirt@gmail.com