Another article by our addiction certified doctor who is also in recovery and a parent of three
Those that know me also know that I did not have an easy time getting sober. Put another way, as a mentor of mine once told me: “You just surrendered real hard, that’s all.” Truth be told, I was a patient in many different treatment centers over the course of 14 years. So, I have often been asked by patients what was the secret to getting sober.
I almost always responded the same. I told them I got sober by doing exactly what was suggested at my very first treatment center. That was in 1979. I was in my internship, and for some reason the program directors felt I might best go to Chemical Dependence Treatment.
Well, I of course thought them far off base, but I went anyway. I was assigned to a counselor named Vaughn. After the requisite 28 day stay, I had my last meeting with Vaughn, and he imparted to me his advice on what I should do after discharge. I’ll never forget what he told me.
He said there were only 4 things that he SUGGESTED I do after I left treatment BESIDES not drink or drug. First, he said I needed to go to 12 step meetings, lots of them early on. Get a home group, go early to help make coffee and stay late to help clean up. Second, he advised me to get and USE a sponsor. Third, I should have some concept of some power greater than I was, that I asked for help everyday to stay sober. He said if I struggled with the “God” concept (which I did at the time) that I could use “Group of Drunks” as a temporary substitute. And finally, Vaughn said that I needed to do something EVERY DAY to maintain my gratitude. He said the easiest thing he knew to do in this regard was to try to HELP some one else, whether I helped them or not didn’t matter.
Well, since I really didn’t think I had much of an addiction problem at that time, and since I had far more education than Vaughn did, I really didn’t think his advice could possibly apply to me. But, being a people pleaser, I politely thanked him and bid him farewell.
Over the next 14 years, my addiction progressed, my troubles worsened, and I was a patient in several dozen treatment centers. After my last treatment, since nothing I seemed to do, had resulted in any significant sobriety, I elected to fall back on the advice that Vaughn had imparted to me 14 years earlier. Guess what, he was right! And his advice, which he so freely gave to me, is advice that I have imparted to thousands of alcoholic and drug addicted individuals over the years.
In a future blog I will detail a bit more of how I put Vaughn’s Four Point Plan into effect, but thought this a good place to start. And to again express my gratitude for Vaughn and the wisdom he shared with me, in 1979.