June 20 • 04:05 PM

Rocky road to self-discovery

June 05, 2019
I want to get high. So high. High as a kite.

I want to get f'd up.

I want to use heroin. Or fentanyl. Crack sounds good. A valium sounds even better. I want to use something or someone, because right now I do not like the way I feel. Golly, an Oberon sounds fantastic. I want to sit under a tree and drink an ice cold Oberon.

I want to do the aforementioned because I'm an addict; a recovering one, but still an addict. Craving the relief of a mind-altering chemical substance is normal for me. Sobriety is not. I'm used to avoiding my problems, masking them. Working to fix them is brand new territory for me. It's an exhausting climb up rocky terrain. It's also worth every painful step taken.

Self-discovery can be stressful, but it's also invigorating. Giving instead of taking?! Holy smokes! Why didn't someone tell me how much better it feels to donate to charity than it does to steal money out of my elderly grandmother's purse?! I had also lost track of how wonderfully liberating it feels to tell the truth, and in retrospect, am somewhat amazed by the spiritual toll taken by a single lie. Growth is wonderful, but rarely spotted in a linear, upward trajectory.

Many say that relapse is part of recovery. Studies and statistics vary, but it's a widely accepted belief that at least half of us who manage to attain sobriety will eventually return to heavy use. The rate of relapse for recovering opioid addicts like myself is particularly staggering, perhaps as high as 91%.

Akin to many other chronic diseases—like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension— addiction treatment demands vigilance from its victims. Addicts can and will fail to follow through on the lifestyle and behavioral changes that are necessary to prevent relapse from taking place.

In a piece for Psychology Today, Dr. David Sack compares the addict's brain to a flooded house. In his analogy, he describes an overflowing bathtub that badly damages the structure. Turning the faucet off in this scenario is equivalent to detoxing an individual from whatever drugs they have become dependent on, but that act alone does not repair the molding walls and warped wooden floor left behind by the deluge. Likewise, one needs to know that abstinence does not equal recovery, and relapse prevention will require the individual to address the structural changes that have taken place in their own brain.

Repairing the brain is hard work, but it's possible. Never mind the name of this column; I have no intention to ever allow my body to be flooded with drugs or alcohol again. I have dedicated myself to the lifestyle and behavioral changes that are necessary for me to fix what I have broken—both inside of my own skull, and out.

The fact is, I've relapsed many, many times, and done more than my share to contribute to the daunting statistics that are being bandied about in the ongoing coverage of our country's epidemic. Now, it's my turn to be a part of the much smaller, but growing number of recovering addicts who are defying the odds and staying clean.

Email Tim at

  1. reply print email
    June 06, 2019 | 11:45 AM


    We continue to be so very proud of you and your hard work! Your well written column is sure to help many folks who know you have been there, done that.


  2. reply print email
    June 06, 2019 | 06:06 PM

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate the encouragement!

  3. reply print email
    June 07, 2019 | 01:17 PM

    Tim this is well put and very true. Took me 4 years to have a relapse on alchohol but I'm sober since October. I needed this push due to thoughts of using. Thank you.

    Tim Qualls
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