Autumn – OK, Fall – has always been my favorite season. The colors, the nip to the air, the rapid approach of all the great holidays, provides me with an excitement that no other time of the year seems to bring. There was a time, in the not too distant past, that I dreaded the coming of Fall. As a homeless person, Fall brought cold, wet, and difficult conditions through which I would have to survive, day to day. It also was the harbinger of Winter, which, as you can imagine, is the worst season for a homeless individual.
Today, I again love Fall. For all of the original reasons that I once did, but also for another, very important reason. It is a constant reminder of the radical change that I had to undertake to begin and maintain a life in recovery. Change is difficult. We all know that. Especially if change means I must rethink the way I have done things and what I have believed for the majority of my life. It means that I may have been wrong. I means that I may not have done things well. It meant to me that the person that I was, had not been ‘good’. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
My change was more than just stopping my drug and alcohol use. More than just getting a job. More than just finding a place to live. What needed to change? Everything. My behavior, the way that I treated people, my concern for others, and my outlook on what was important in life. Honesty, integrity, faith, compassion, service; these were to be the new hallmarks of change in my life. And I didn’t want any of that. To me that meant that if I had to change who I was to incorporate these values, that everything that I had been before was not those things. And that was a tough pill to swallow. And, it was true. In my addiction I was selfish, looking out for only me and what I wanted. I would do whatever I had to in my need to continue using drugs and alcohol, regardless of the expense or how it affected other people.
Upon surrendering to the fact that I was in desperate need of help in overcoming the consequences of my addiction, my sponsor taught me that my program of recovery was about more than just not using drugs and alcohol any longer, it was about a complete behavioral change. How I acted, how I treated people, and my level of accountability were all vital to continuing to remain drug and alcohol free. These were also important to my change as a human being. Was I going to be personally responsible for my actions? Was I going to be accountable for my day to day responsibilities? Was I going to be ethical and act with integrity when dealing with others? If not, he told me that I would be on a short road back to addiction. He taught me that addiction was more than just the physical craving to use mind altering substances. He explained the mental obsession to use that comes part in parcel with poor personal behavior and the desire to avoid or numb the feelings that invariably come with that behavior. He instilled in me the motivation to change everything about myself and the way I approached life.
Today, I find that personal change remains inevitable. It is part of the process of my growth and betterment as a person. I, inevitably want to remain rooted in my beliefs, my behaviors, and my routine. I want to be right. I want to be valued for what I think. Often (usually) I am not always right. And what I think and believe, can often use a tune-up. As I learn and interact with others I try to remain open to new ideas, new perspectives, and different ways of doing things. More often than not, they end up benefitting me, if I am willing to change. The honesty, compassion and service that I have adopted (against every fiber of my being at first) have helped to shape the me I am today. In seeing the results of my growth and my recovery, I now know that I must be open to change and to continue to accept it, even when I am unwilling. In everything…
Paul L. Scudo is the Executive Director of Step Denver
and is in recovery from the disease of addiction.