Stories about recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and impulse control disorders all seem to have a somewhat common theme. For most of these people, life was going fine, and then things became a little bit difficult, and a little bit unmanageable. Friends and family seemed to become more of a problem than they were worth. Work got in the way of the more important things. Using alcohol and drugs or using unhealthy behaviors to escape the increasing pressures seemed a logical and effective method. These substances and behaviors gave people a way to control the chaos and increasingly negative emotional states. But after a little while of living this way, life seemed to spiral out of control, with nowhere to run, and no one to turn to. Just when things seemed to be at their worst, another tragedy would ensue, and hopelessness would inevitably set in. Out of the desperation came a grasping for anything or anyone that would help.
When a person reaches this point, they experience a moment of clarity, born from within. It is an understanding that comes from deep inside the soul, from the core of existence, that there is a new route, and an answer. It is an answer that touches the mind, body, and spirit, and leads to a new understanding that seems to be in synchronicity with all that is right. A new path is chosen, to replace the destructive one the person was following, and recovery begins.
It is my belief that every person who is presently enjoying a healthy and long-term lifestyle of recovery from alcoholism, other addiction, or impulse-control disorder has, at one time in their life, encountered a ‘point of return.’ It is a significant realization and subsequent change in behavior and understanding that allows that individual to refrain from the unhealthy behaviors associated with their disease.
I have seen the point of return first hand with my brother, who is a recovering addict, my late wife, who was not able to find her point of return before the disease of addiction took her life, and within myself, as a recovering workaholic. My personal experience with impulse control disorders was the cause for my entry into the substance dependency and impulse control disorder profession.
My own point of return took place as I worked a twelve step program in an attempt to rid myself of the pain associated with my wife’s addiction. However, as the cosmos would have it, I ended up discovering my own codependency as well as my workaholism. I always assumed that every business owner worked 16 hours days every day and sometimes had to work 24 to 36 hours straight. I always assumed that business owners who were growing their businesses never took time off and never paid any attention to their wives, families or non-existent friends. I figured that the motivation for success came first, and with success came power and money. I figured that I was better than all the rest, and that my time was more important than just about everything and everyone around me.
I was fortunate to have a wife that supported me in my work efforts. While she did complain when my behaviors began to spiral out of control, she soon learned to keep quiet or suffer my wrath. I made sure to keep her just happy enough so she would stay around and serve my needs. I became highly dependent on her being there to take care of my life when I was so totally burnt out I couldn’t function. Eventually, she took care of her own need to escape the terrible life she found herself in and she began to self-medicate.
Upon her entry into treatment, which was timed perfectly with my total burnout from exhausting work, I was exposed to the concepts of the twelve steps. At first I became interested in order to help my wife so I could get her back in my life. But soon after I realized I had a much larger part in things than I was willing to admit. I began to see a psychologist and slowly realized that I was very codependent. Then I realized my work ethic was not normal and that my impulses to work constantly were unhealthy at best. In ordinary fashion, I set out to prove I was the hero by delving deeply into my own recovery while attending to my ill wife. It did not take long for me to make another realization that turned out to be my point of return: I was not that important!
With this realization came all the guilt, shame, regret, remorse, anger, sadness, depression, angst, anxiety, stress, fear and numbness associated with any person in early recovery. I floundered a long time, swinging in emotions that I could not identify at the time. It was a terrible period in my life, but I did as I was told and I attended 12 step meetings and kept seeing my psychologist. Eventually the light began to show at the end of the tunnel. I began to forgive myself and love myself for who I really was, not who I thought I should be. I began to realize that people loved me no matter what. I began to realize that my identity was not represented by the possessions I had and the accomplishments I made, but it came from my spirit. I began to allow myself to feel and experience the world, and eventually I understood that I am a part of a greater energy that I call the cosmos. In short, I found humility, and that is my point of return. When I found humility I found peace in my soul, and I found happiness and presence in life.
My story is not unique. I have heard many confessions, tales, and accounts from those in recovery, at self-help meetings or while counseling substance dependence clients. The fellowship of addiction and impulse-control disorders is abundant with point of return stories and successes.
While each of these stories has a somewhat common theme, it is fascinating to discover that no two stories are alike. The point of return is different for everyone, as every individual is unique in his or her life experiences, attitudes, understandings, belief systems, support systems, and virtually every other way… It seems that there are as many stories as there are individuals telling them.
Point of Return chronicles some of those stories in print. Authors from widely different walks of life, religions, sexual orientations, races, addictions, impulse-control disorders, and nationalities have been included. The writing styles and voices of the authors are as different as the stories that are being told. Each author has given their account of what their life was like leading up to their point of return, their insights in retrospect, and how they now maintain a healthy recovery lifestyle.
In authoring Point of Return it was my sincere hope that the reader finds stories within that ring true for them. I hope that the reader can find in the authors’ stories hints, actions, or insights to act as guideposts on their own road to long-term recovery. Perhaps someone who is desperately seeking a point of return will find in the reading an inspiration to gain that point. Regardless of the reading experience the stories written in Point of Return all share the miracle and hope of recovery.