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The Harsh Reality of Recovery

*Some names used in this piece have been changed to protect anonymity.

Not All of Us Make It

Guiding Light Life Coach, Jacob Passerman

The harsh reality of addiction is that many do not make it to recovery. Many simply do not get it, many die, many move on–struggling to cope by substituting one addiction for another. But few are able to truly reach sobriety and reap the amazing benefits that true recovery offers. True recovery—freedom from the bondage of all drugs and alcohol—offers men and women the opportunity to live a life beyond what they ever dreamed possible. Financial, emotional, and mental stability, and a spiritual awakening is what can await the men of the Guiding Light Recovery program if they truly surrender and choose recovery.

While it is true that the men coming through the program have a remarkably high chance (relative to the national average) of achieving long-term sobriety—the reality is that many, many of us do not make it. It is only the men that stay through our 4-month foundations program, go through job training, start working, and move to Iron House, that have a 77% chance of staying sober over one year. The reality is that addiction is a hard and life-long battle, and the success rate for those trying to find a way out of it—even in the best of all possible circumstances—can be quite bleak.

Living at Guiding Light with 20-30 other men for a period of 4-6 months can create strong bonds of friendship and brotherhood. This makes it all the more difficult when reality strikes, and someone you have become close to relapses. This happened recently with Kyle, a client who was beginning his fifth month in the recovery program. While out on a weekend pass he decided to meet up with an old friend and ended up relapsing on crack cocaine. That week, during one of the recovery programs weekly house meetings, Guiding Light life coach Jacob Passerman took the opportunity to give the men a chance to talk about how they felt after Kyle’s relapse.

“Stick With the Winners”

“It sucked…I didn’t see it coming,” one client recalled. “He was a bright spot for me, and a lot of people I know in here.” Another client considered it a wake up call, “it’s a reminder that I have to stay vigilant,” he said. “Yeah things are going great, we’re living on this pink cloud, but one misstep and any one of us will be right back out there. I know Kyle used to live on those streets, he said he was never going to walk down that way again and we see him out there now, and it’s sad to see, but it’s also a reminder for me that I never wanna go back to that.” “I’m looking around this room, at all of you, and the sad reality of this situation is that not all of you are gonna stay sober,” said life coach Mike Ryan. “You hear a lot in AA, they say stick with the winners…be intentional with who you surround yourself with. Remember it’s very easy to stay sober while you’re here—there’s not a lot of stimulus pushing you towards your addiction. But when you’re out there, it gets much more real.”

Individuals, Not Populations

Relapse, and death, is an unfortunate reality of getting sober. If it doesn’t happen to you, it is certainly something you have to face when it comes to others. The harsh reality is that many do not make it. In the Guiding Light Recovery program, we try to give men the best possible chance to achieve long-term, meaningful sobriety, but we are not offering a promise we cannot keep. We can give a man the best possible chance, give him all the resources he needs, put him in the strongest tenable position to change his life—but it is still ultimately up to him. If he decides to turn away the hand we, and you, are giving him, there is nothing we can change.

But that does not mean we lose hope, it does not mean that our work is ever done. There are so many men out there who do benefit, who do want to make lasting change in their lives, and we need to be there for them when they are ready. At Guiding Light, we invest in individuals, not populations. We believe that it is better to give one man all that he needs—mentally, spiritually, and physically—to transform his life, rather than giving 100 men just enough to keep their heads above water. We are in the business of transformation, not maintenance.  This is what separates the philosophy of recovery that we practice here at Guiding Light from others, and why it is worth it to believe, support, and invest in the work that we do, and in the people we help.


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