William E. shares how going back to addiction treatment saved his life, and how he’s grown immensely since achieving recovery.
Q: What was the turning point that led you to get help?
A: Having been in treatment and sober before, what led me to seek help and take treatment seriously speaks clearly to the progression of the disease. When my period of continuous sobriety came to a close over four years ago, I had never experienced an overdose. Heading into my second treatment at Mountainside during the summer of 2017, I had experienced double-digit overdoses. I overdosed twice in the same day just two days before my return to Mountainside.
We did a variation of the “empty chair” intervention when I returned to residential treatment. For whatever reason, I was able to connect emotionally with the idea that I could be that missing patient if one of my recent overdoses turned fatal. My loving family who has never stopped supporting me could have been burying me instead of dropping me off in detox.
Q: What was the most challenging part of your recovery journey?
A: The most challenging part of my recovery journey is reverting to old thinking which, if left unchecked, can turn into acting on old behaviors. This can certainly be a daily struggle. Leaving instant gratification, selfishness and manipulation in the past takes work and a lot of time. Praying, living in step work, giving back, and going to therapy helps me to work through these issues. Walking away from what seems to be the “easy way out” takes a lot of work and time.
Q: What is the most important thing that sobriety has given you?
A: My attitude, the way I approach life, is the best part of recovery for me. Again, right out of the literature: “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.” I truly approach so much of life differently. For example: I was unsure of my next move after treatment. I decided to move into sober living in Great Barrington for a few months, which was an amazing experience! But then what? I moved three times but ultimately, with time and patience, found a nice place in the Berkshires. In the past, this uncertainty and transition would have been extremely stressful. When I viewed life through a different lens and with a drastically more positive attitude, it was fun living with friends while finding a more permanent place. Things don’t always go smoothly, work out the way I would like, feel good or seem remotely enjoyable. However, most of my life today is absolutely amazing and I am very blessed. I try to begin each day with this attitude!
Q: Who or what has had the biggest impact on your recovery?
A: My support network has had the biggest impact on my recovery. This includes so many people from my home state of Pennsylvania, all the people in the Berkshires and the surrounding areas. My past and present employers, therapists, recovery coach, sponsor…the list goes on and on. My family, who has supported me unconditionally over the years, and that close-knit group of people in my recovery network up here — those people have had the biggest impact since I left Mountainside.
Q: What advice would you give to someone struggling with addiction?
A: For those people struggling with addiction or afraid to enter treatment, I would urge you to give it a try. The idea of abandoning your biggest coping mechanism(s) is terrifying! I can assure you that living a sober life — while a struggle and a lot of work at first — is ultimately simpler and happier.
Q: What do others say is your best quality?
A: I would say that being helpful is what most say is my best quality. Whether it is something simple like giving someone a ride to a meeting or helping a friend work through their issues, I like to give back in all areas of my life. I really enjoy doing it too!
Q: What is your motto? And what about this motto appeals to you?
A: “Don’t be afraid your life will end, be afraid it will never begin.” I spent many years being concerned about what others thought, how I was viewed, what was “normal.” I wouldn’t say I was afraid life would ‘end,’ but was constantly making decisions based on self-centered fears. They ruled me and fed my addiction and thinking. Today I try not to make decisions based on fear but on principles. I ask if my decisions are what is best for me, the people I love, and whether they are in line with what my Higher Power would want. Then I just get out and have fun. It’s a cliché saying but “life is too short.” Get out and live it to the fullest!
Q: What are some small things that make your day better?
A: Other people, prayer, coffee, physical activity, and downtime.
Q: Who inspires you to be better?
A: My friends and family inspire me to be better. It comes from observation of how they live their lives and what they do daily to grow in every area of life.
Q: What book has most impacted you?
A: Alcoholics Anonymous (commonly known as The Big Book) is easily the book that has most changed my life. Really – it has saved my life!
Q: What is a fun fact about you?
A: I was a gymnast as a child. I competed up and down the East Coast until age 12.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
A: If I could travel anywhere right now it would be Bali, Indonesia. There is epic scuba diving and rock climbing, and it is an undeniably beautiful part of the world.
Q: What’s the title of the current chapter of your life?
A: “Gratitude” would be the title of my life right now. The life I have today is almost unbelievable, and I work daily to show gratitude for all that I have through action and helping others whenever I can.