After his using took him everywhere from jail to rehab, David Adam, 32, from Astoria, Queens, has been sober since October 23rd, 2013. Since embracing his concept of a higher power, working a program, becoming a student of several disciplines of yoga and meditation and choosing a life of service and helping others, he has stayed sober through some of the most challenging times of his life, including his fiancée’s recent cancer diagnosis one year before their wedding date. Now a certified yoga teacher and recovery coach currently in school to obtain his CASAC, David spoke with us about what finally caused him to get help, why it stuck, and what we can all learn from the challenges life presents us if we are willing to stay sober through them.
> Why did you decide to get help?
While I was in jail, a corrections officer asked me if I was scared. I said I was. He said, “I don’t know if you believe in anything but you better start praying.” I prayed. I turned to God— a concept that I still believe is far beyond what my limited consciousness can comprehend—because even while trying my hardest and with all of my best effort, I knew I would still get high. That was the pattern, and I was desperate enough to be willing to try anything. God doesn’t come to everyone as suddenly as God came to me, but I believe I experienced a miracle. The obsession and compulsion to use against my will was removed. I was still in jail, but was confident that wherever I was going, there would be the 12-step meetings that I already knew existed. I had been to rehab many times, and the only people I knew who stayed clean were involved in some sort of 12-step program. I made up my mind to start attending as soon as possible.
> What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to to deal with in sobriety?
When my fiancé was diagnosed with cancer, we both kept a positive attitude, at least at first. After some time, though, I realized I had acquired a resentment. I love my fiancé and I love how alive she makes me feel. Thinking about how the chemo would drain her, I was afraid that the joy and excitement would get sucked out of our lives. I was resentful that I might have to take care of her, that she might not be able to be there for me, or that I wouldn’t be able to focus on myself. Essentially, I was being selfish. My behavior started to slip, and I noticed myself doing petty dishonest things and becoming irritable. One night, I was driving, and the thought just came: “It would be nice to go out and party and feel alive and free.”
> What happened after that?
Because I work the steps, I had the clarity to recognize that what we refer to as character defects had cut me off from my conception of God. I was terrified, so I started praying, but I was still irritable, so I called my sponsor, who confirmed what I already knew. So, I redoubled my spiritual efforts with more meetings, prayer, meditation and service. The thought to use went away very quickly, but the fear stayed with me for weeks until I was reminded of a promise in our recovery literature, “If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame.” God had never abandoned me. God had my back the whole time. Cancer is difficult, and I am making it a point to be helpful. It may sound strange, but my fiancée and I are both are grateful for this experience. It is making us better people despite the pain.
> What's the very best thing about life in sobriety?
Being truly connected with my higher power actually makes me feel high on life. More often than not, I actually feel mildly high naturally. I always thought that drugs and alcohol where cheap chemical shortcuts to places we could get naturally, but I didn’t know how to get there. The steps got me there. I am a free man. I do not live in fear constantly trying to plan and control things to avoid disaster. I learned to love and give. I have my family back and a career underway.
> Do you feel that, as a male in recovery, you come up against any stereotypes or specific challenges that women in recovery don’t?
Sometimes it feels like everyone here is or was a “tough guy.” Sometimes, in meetings, I feel like less of a man because I was never really a gangster or a thug. Don’t get me wrong—I was a criminal. But, truthfully, I was just a weak, manipulative coward. My behavior was petty and shameful, not sensational. But writing that out, I suppose that’s pretty typical. I think it’s all in my head.
> What about in the way the media portrays these groups?
TV shows and movies will often make two mistakes depicting 12-step recovery. First, they'll make it seem like we are weak people who can't function without running every little thing by a sponsor or talking about it in a group. This is so false. The 12-steps teach dependence on God, not people. My dependence on God makes me less and less dependent on people every day. This is not an anti-social thing. I love people, but I don't have unhealthy dependencies on them,
Second, the media tends to focus on the drama. Yes, there are unhealthy people in the rooms. Yes, some people take advantage of others. But, in my experience, this has been the exception to the rule. Overall, the people I have met are so good and decent that it would probably make for bad television.
> If you could create your own program slogan, what would it be?
Give yourself a chance.
Helaina Hovitz is an editor, journalist, and author of After 9/11. She has written for The New York Times, Salon, Glamour, Teen Vogue, VICE, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, Women’s Health, The New York Observer and many others. She is also Editorial Director of Headlines for the Hopeful. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, or HelainaHovitz.com.