Michael Ahearn reflects on his recovery from a battle with heroin addiction:
Before I start this letter, I just want to give a brief background on why I chose to write this. I know in treatment, at some point or another, we all have probably written a letter to our poison of choice. I just want to be clear this is not that type of letter. Instead, this might as well be a declaration. Recently, people in my life have fallen victim again, and I felt that I needed to put my thoughts on paper and use this opportunity to speak freely.
I want to take a second and talk directly to our alumni. First, and foremost, you are a miracle. Yes, you! But I want to warn you about what it is like to be sober and watch people you love and care about struggle. You have to set boundaries. I speak from my own experience; it is very difficult to watch.
That is why I chose to share this with you all. I never let someone else’s actions affect my recovery, but I have had to learn through experience how emotionally draining it can be. It is hard to say I have seen many people I care about lose this battle. I have had to bear witness to loved ones still in the fight of their lives against this battle. Someone close to me is currently suffering, and no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many calls and texts I send, I couldn’t change their mind. That part must come from within. We are all fighting this together.
I want everyone to know that I have seen the people who were labelled “hopeless” recover and go on do to amazing things. Here’s a true story: I was once told by someone in the field that because of my use, I would be a statistic. I was told that I wasn’t going to make it. I took that moment, reflected for a second, and said to myself — “watch me.” Since that moment, which I remember so vividly, I have grown. My friends love being around me, and my family is proud of me. I have dedicated each day to embracing my recovery and all its benefits.
Self-care, vulnerability, connection, it’s all out there. Opportunity is yours for the taking. Let’s take a stand right now. Let’s show how grateful we are for fighting this. You don’t have to be a recovering alcoholic or addict to understand. All it takes is strength. If you know someone who’s struggling, show them how strong you are and let them feel it. If you are currently struggling, know there are so many outlets out there. Know that there are many people who can help and want to help. If you feel like there is no one, you’re wrong. I want to help, my coworkers want to help, alumni want to help. So many people care about you.
You have left me no choice. Maybe it is because you know that I can beat you. Maybe you are starting to feel the pressure because people are getting stronger and are sharing their strategies for defeating you. You know what? That’s what I realized. For each person who defeats your miserable grasp, you try to take someone else prisoner. You try and try to take out the people who defeat you by affecting their loved ones or attempting to take someone too young. I’m here to tell you that your reign is over.
I wanted to get involved in this field to help people. I believed because I got sober at a young age, it was my calling to help people. My purpose is clear now. My path now is to make sure more and more people are able to break free from the hooks that you put so deep into them.
Heroin, you should be terrified. You should be desperate. You know me very well. Let’s not forget that. You know me, you know my friends, you know where I come from. So that means you also know I can beat you. You know the strength that people can possess. You know that when someone who was once within your hold beats you, they can help others beat you. Time and time again, I have seen people fall back into a toxic relationship with you. But the fact that they aren’t staying for long is a sign of hope. The spell you have over these incredible human beings – myself included – is coming to an end.
We will recover. We will beat you. I promise that those who fight you every day will beat you, or give strength to those who need it. My name is Mike, I am recovering addict and alcoholic, and I just want to say there is hope. Each day alive brings hope.