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The Needle & the Damage Done

by James Reddinton

This is my story on how I got clean.  This is not a “How To” or tips and tricks for getting off of drugs.  This is my story, and how I got clean through God, love, and family. 

No one ever wants to be an addict.  No one just decides one day that they will live in the deep, dark despair of suffering and pain.  And that was my biggest problem, pain.  I suffered pain physically and emotionally.  It started when I was in a bad car accident at the age of 18.  Once the prescription pain medication (narcotics/opiates) ran out, the pain was still there.  To maintain my normal day to day life, working over 40 hours a week, and paying bills, I kept using prescription medications that I had to get from a street dealer. 


With my addictive behavior, I pushed out those who loved me and surrounded myself with people who I thought were my friends.  These people had a negative influence on me, which worked with my addictive personality.  Looking back to these early days I should have asked for help from my parents and my girlfriend, but I did the exact opposite.  This continued on for years and I went from pain pills to heroin.  Becoming aware of my life and my situation, I made an effort to get clean.  I had met a girl that I loved and I wanted to live a clean life with her.  I did not create a very good support system for myself and was known to do things on my own.  Asking for help made me feel weak. 


I had managed to get into a clinic to detox me off of the drugs.  My doctor constantly pushed me to go to a group called Narcotic Anonymous (NA).  Thinking to myself that I was not as bad off as others and that I had my addiction under control, I did not attend any of their meetings.  Now I know that there is no self-control in addiction.  After a few months of going to the clinic,  studying hard in college , and attempting to make my life better, my girlfriend suffered a miscarriage, which led to the end of our relationship.  The pain was just too great for us to keep going on.  I thought I was at rock bottom and relapsed.  I lived with a family member and had nothing but myself, and my problems. 


Due to my relapse and looking at my life, I moved to my hometown with my parents to try and get away from temptation.  I soon realized running away from my problems and addiction didn’t’ fix anything.  I still used and went to the city to score.  I ended up fixing some problems with an old, very close friend whom I had grown up with.  I found out he was a dealer (heroin), but I didn’t touch the stuff.  I saw the world through rose-colored glasses, but in reality this was my demise.  My friend, who was also my dealer, saw how heroin and drugs had affected so many people and those close to him.  One morning I received a call from a friend informing me of his death.  He died at the age of 21 due to a heroin overdose, a drug he despised.  His death shocked me and turned my world upside down.  “This is it!”  I thought I would never use again.  That day I stopped using, but relied on the wrong people to depend on.

Once again, by not setting myself up with a proper support system and not asking for help, I turned to drinking.  I drank for two months straight, but in my head and with my addictive thinking, I thought I was doing good because I had not used any drugs.  When it all caught up to me, my girlfriend had left, and since I was still surrounded by the same people and negative influences, I had a relapse again.


At this time, I did not want to use, but the emotional pain and accumulative withdrawal from opiates and alcohol pushed me to use enough to not get high but to not get physically sick.  I had tried NA, but due to one bad experience, I did not try and give it another chance.  So once again, I ‘ran away’ to another small town far away from all my problems.  Trying to be strong and independent, I got a job, an opportunity, and I was trying to wean myself off, taking smaller doses of pain medication.  I did not realize I was just setting myself up for failure again.  I was surrounded by the wrong people, their negativity, and I did not have a proper support system. 


Things got worse.   I was depressed, suppressed my emotions, isolated myself, and starting using heroin again.  (What I am to write about next will be vague, and I won’t be writing a lot of detail.)  For this is the story of hitting my true rock-bottom, my very low, my life changer.  Once again a friend of mine overdosed, and nearly died.  This time I was there and he was next to me.  This was the most terrifying experience I have ever had in my life and I have been through a lot of terrible experiences.  I had called an ambulance and my friend’s life had been saved.  This was it for me!

For years I did not want to use, but continued because of the fear of being sick and not being able to maintain normal life.  I was so upset with myself that it had gone on for so long, and that this was my true rock bottom.

The only way addicts will get clean is:

  • when they accept in themselves that they are powerless,

  • they ask for help,

  • they truly and honestly want to get clean,

  • they will do anything and everything to get clean.

Narcotics Anonymous 12 Steps:

1: We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.


I moved back in with my parents.  I asked for help.  I found a recovery treatment center and rehab facility.  I broke off all contacts, changed my number, got off of social media, and surrounded myself with proper, loving support systems of my loving family and girlfriend(at the time).  I was dedicated and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything.  I felt alone cutting so much out of my life, but still needed to be social and surround myself with positive reinforcement.  I went to treatment, and after that I was a proud member of Narcotics Anonymous.  Now I could tell my story and hear others’ stories, so we could all help each other and give ourselves up to a higher power.


2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I was never much of a “church” person and have felt that I have sinned, but I found God and realized that God forgives and through God, I can do anything.


3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him. 


Now that I was clean and had stayed that way, it was time to find myself again, but I was still vulnerable and needed guidance.   NA gave me that chance to look into myself and start the emotional healing process.


4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

I finally started to feel peace.  It was important to have a healthy routine and take part in healthy activities.  I walked parks and read books about nature.  That was my thing.  That’s what I did when I wasn’t at a meeting.  At this point I was going to meetings every single day, working the 12 Steps.


5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 


I was never a “bad” person.  I was never a criminal and I never wanted to cause harm to anyone.  I came from a loving family and home.  I did very well in school.  My weakness and bad decisions led me to my addiction.  I had learned there were many like me.  I had a problem, a disease, and a past.  So, I was working on confronting all of that, to move past it, and become a new, better person.


6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

I was ready to be changed.  I had confidence in myself.  I moved back to the city with a relative and got a small part-time job.  My girlfriend and family were my rock and support system.  I was beginning to actually have a new, normal life.


7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.


Of course, I still had stress and daily life problems.  I did everything I could to resist temptation and to not get complacent.  So I took part in family events, yoga, exercise, and of course, still walked in the park.  I did anything to keep me busy and to keep life going in the right direction.


8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to the all.


9. We made direct amends to such people, whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


I knew getting/being clean and working the Steps wouldn’t be easy.  # 8 was making the list, which reminded me of my past and my guilt.  But, # 9 was going to be hard.  Making amends with everyone was important, and some were just happy to hear I was clean and working the program.  For the ones who weren’t happy, I was only proud of myself for my courage and at least I can say I tried to do my best.  Forgiveness comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms.  Seeking forgiveness warmed my heart and I felt more at peace.


10. We continued to take personal inventory and when were wrong we promptly admitted it.

After being clean, you still have this empty feeling in you where the old bad habits used to be, a “hole”  left inside you.  It is up to you to figure out how to not set off any triggers that will cause bad habits.  You have to learn and find new things to take their place--hobbies, activities, being a part of something, being a part of your community, having respect for others and having respect for yourself.  Most of my focus was on my girlfriend at that time, but I still needed to find ME.


11. We sought, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

I put my faith in God and prayed.  I asked for strength and guidance as I still do today.  I followed my heart.  I lived in His image and tried my best every day.  I ended up being promoted to manager at the place I was working and my future was bright.  Everything seemed in order.


12. Having had a spiritual awakening, as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

#12 is just as important as #1 in the 12 Steps of NA.  Life was great; I was happy; I was top-dog at work; my life was amazing; and I got engaged.


I ended up finding my passion, which is firearms and the tactical community.  I know what you are thinking --recovering addict to gun nut?  Well before, I was always driven and this was a way I could overcome my fears in a positive way and channel my addictive behavior into something constructive.  My obsessive behavior led me to only be more involved in the firearms/tactical community, to my local community, and country.  It was a way I could grow and also meet determined and dedicated people who were passionate, like I am.  These people don’t give up.  They stay the course and look out for each other and our well-being.  I had finally found my place. 


My fiancée and I broke up and it was the hardest thing for me since my addiction.  I learned, after we broke up, that she started using drugs and is now where I was six years ago.  Feeling so low, vulnerable, and weak, I was so lucky I had established friendships and an amazing support system with my family and my friends in the gun community.  I owe everything to them.  To this day, I am still clean and sober.  I will always do my absolute best to serve my community and those who risk their lives every day, and to serve God for as long as I live.

James Reddington


See Kerry's article:   "From Defeat to Victory"

My Miracles

Nancy Carlson

My first miracle begins as a 28-year-old mother of a three-month old and two-year old.  I was not able to stop drinking alcohol for even one day.  I now know my three-month-old daughter was colicky because of my daily use of alcohol.  I had pretty much quit eating as well.  God’s intervention into my alcoholism started with having a colicky baby, which pushed me to drink even more.  Then I became suicidal.  I met with a family doctor, he was part of a medical system that housed a rehabilitation program for alcoholism and other drug addictions.  Again, God’s intervention was the doctor directing me to go into treatment the very day of my appointment.


The darkness for me was simply these two little girls deserved better than an alcohol-dependent mother.  So, my commitment to myself was either get fixed in this treatment program or suicide was my other choice.  Thank you, God, that I followed every suggestion of the rehab staff.  Back in 1973, it was unusual for a 28-year-old young mother to enter rehabilitation centers.  The fact that I was able to enter and complete the treatment center, I felt God had thrown me away because I was such a disappointment to Him.  This was truly a dark situation.  I would not have believed I would someday be counseling alcoholics and their families.  I have since spoken to large corporations and educational institutions on the signs of addiction and recovery.  Now 46 years of recovery from alcoholism, I see I was used as a disciple of God’s grace.  That grace included, not only to help myself but to help other alcoholics and their families.

See more of Nancy's story under Miracle Moments!

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