The Courage to Surrender: A Baby Boomer's Recovery Story

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This article was written exclusively for by John W., author of The Courage to Surrender.

My carefree lifestyle and daydreams of the ’50s were interrupted by my father’s paradigm of manhood – and drinking my first beer at the age of 8. Times like those sparked a soul sickness within me that only grew worse and led to a lifetime of bad decisions.

During my college holiday break of 1965, I got turned onto pot and was exposed to a freedom I could have never imagined. The expectations of my small town no longer controlled who I had to become. Those first joints planted a seed that grew within me, and over time an addiction bloomed that became a secret place for me to escape – a place where I could ride out any storm.

My rooted love for drinking beer gave way to the unhealthy habit of abusing multiple substances at the same time. Various combinations of alcohol and drugs kept me in a constant haze, each time serving as a solution to one of life’s many problems.

Uprooted and Unsettled

With computer technology on the verge of changing the world, my programmer training qualified me to be aggressive in searching for jobs. So every few years, I made a job change and found yuppies like myself – transient professionals with families, good jobs and addictions.

I had invitations to enter the mega-company fast track management programs, but my addictions kept me feeling “less than” my colleagues, and the weight of my daily drinking and drugging caused me to wonder if I deserved being a high level manager. At the time, I was content to live on the edge of my potential.

On a 1982 business trip home from Singapore, I decided to take a job on the seacoast of New Hampshire so that I could do a final cleanup of my career, rehab my life, give the kids a fresh start and kick my drug addiction. My lifestyle was killing me.

Three years later I was clean, but my wife had begun an IV drug addiction that caused her to abandon me and the kids for a life in a drug den shooting dope with outlaws. Her highway to hell was characterized by the terror of her drug partner’s erratic behavior that continuously invaded our private lives. We were heartbroken by feelings of lost love, and our trust was shattered forever by the false hope of failed promises only drugs could arouse.

Coming Clean

On Dec. 17, 2001, my doctor showed me the results of my recent physical to explain that if I continued to drink I would die sooner rather than later. His prognosis scared me, so I poured out all of my alcohol, found an old AA meeting schedule and attended the first of some 1,800 meetings I’d participate in over the next 11 years of my sobriety. It was the principles and people of AA that helped me into recovery.


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