As we continue with our Coming Clean & Staying Clean series, we’d like to share Luis F.’s story of recovery. Luis discusses how his substance abuse struggles caused him to lose part of his arm, but how that loss has helped him gain so much more.

We hope that his story of recovery inspires others to get the help they need to get sober. If you or someone you know is struggling, it’s important to reach out to professionals for Boca Raton drug treatment. Here is Luis F.’s story.

How do you define addiction?

At first, addiction was about the substance. “Well, you know, cocaine and heroin are very addictive, everybody knows that” and I would always blame having tried drugs in the first place as the cause for my addiction. Yet there are people who can drink a beer or two and then go home, or people who have tried cocaine and not liked it at all. So why didn’t they become addicted and I did? After starting my recovery process, I realized that drugs are just the tip of the iceberg. Drinking and using are barely the symptoms of what’s really going on underneath it all.  For me addiction is as physical as it is mental and spiritual. It involves a desire to avoid reality as well as (or more so) a lack of emotional awareness and control. Ask any addict out there. Had a bad day? I need a drink. Got something to celebrate? Let’s get a drink! I’ve come to realize that using and drinking had become an automatic response to any situation or stimulus around me. Addiction for me is a way of coping with what I wish not to deal with. For a time, alcohol and drugs were the solution.

What was the moment that you realized you needed to get sober? 

We always believe that we can control it or stop using anytime we decide to do so. I like asking the newcomers when faced with this believe “Then why don’t you stop using for a while and show yourself you can control it?” More often than not, they won’t be able to stop, thus breaking denial. I realized I had a problem the day I honestly wanted not to use but found out that I could not stop. I could not stop using even if I wanted or tried [to stop]. It took me a while to realize I needed to get sober though. I realized I needed to get sober they day I woke up at a hospital missing my left arm. I realized I needed to get sober after I had first hand physical evidence of the uncontrollable damage I was causing myself and others. No one wishes to lose a limb, but I did it to myself anyways. I realized that this “thing” was beyond my control.

What helped you become grateful for your rock bottom? 

An attitude of gratitude. I’m honestly certain that had I not lost an arm, I would be using right now or worse, dead. There’s no way around it. When I think about how my life was a year ago and compare it to where I’m now, it’s impossible not to realize that things had to happen the way they did for me to get clean. So many people try and try again and again to get clean or sober without success, yet here I am a year later clean and serene enjoying life as I never had before.  So why would I stop and question the events that got me clean? I’m grateful I got out of drugs and alcohol and do not stop one second to regret the circumstances in which it happened. It was a fair price to pay for what I’ve gotten in return. A high price, but a fair price none the less. 

What was your greatest challenge in early recovery? 

Fear, probably. Of creating a new way of living. Facing myself, my past and my present. Having to change only one thing in my life: everything. What was I going to do now? How was I going to be able to enjoy life? With whom would I share and spend time? Would I be able to stay clean and sober? All these questions generate fear and anxiety. Then I remembered that my most important goal today is to not use. As long as I stay clean, one day at a time, I have a chance. Addicts are used to immediate satisfaction. We want it all and we want it now. So patience was and is the key for me. Things might not be going as I planned but I’m convinced 100% that no matter the situation at hand, using will just make it worse.   

Why would you recommend both NA and AA?

As I mentioned before, addiction is physical as well as mental and spiritual. So in that case I would recommend any kind of ‘A’ for that matter. I recently heard this and I really liked it: “An addict who isn’t an alcoholic is just an alcoholic who never used alcohol because he had other drugs to use.” When I understood that it had nothing to do with what substance I used, that the problem is and has always been me; it stopped mattering whether I was NA or AA. I go to NA meetings because they take place just around the corner from where I live and it’s easier for me. And even though I read both NA and AA literature, I choose the AA Big Book as the basic text for my recovery for it carries the most pure and original message of recovery. NA and any other 12 step programs come from that first AA 12 step program anyways. I’m open to all recovery as long as it adds to my personal and spiritual growth. Although “I’m not an alcoholic”, I know that if I take up drinking it will eventually lead me to the same place from which I got out. The goal is to stay as connected to myself and reality without the need of mind and body altering substances.

How do you stay positive?

Again, with an attitude of gratitude. Remembering where I come from and where I am now. Knowing that using will only make things worse. Keeping close contact with addicts and alcoholics who’ve found that new way of living. People that have what I want or at least want what I want. It’s not the past that keeps me from using, it’s the future that’s waiting for me if I just stay clean one more day.

What would you say to someone who is afraid to get sober?

There is a solution.

We would like to thank Luis for sharing his story of recovery. We hope that his story inspires anyone who is struggling with substance abuse in Boca Raton to reach out for help. Getting sober can change your life, and it can save your life.

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