Joel’s Story: Keep Coming Back

By 2019, life had become unmanageable for Joel; he just didn’t know it as yet.

A few months before coming into addiction treatment at Renascent he had a brush with the law. His drug use increased drastically afterwards; and it was only a matter of time before his drug use and the pending court trial would converge at his workplace.

“I wasn’t ready to get clean but wasn’t ready to lose my job. I was at a semi-rock bottom,” said Joel. “My work offered help (for addiction) and I took it.”

Just one week before his admission at Renascent Paul J. Sullivan Centre, Joel attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I didn’t know what to expect or anyone who did attend,” he shared. Although Joel took important steps toward recovery, he struggled with acceptance – even after completing treatment.

“I still didn’t think I had a problem. I B.S.’ed myself on Step 1. I held on to resentments and I couldn’t get myself out of the way. I wasn’t ready to surrender because I only went to treatment to keep my job.”

Within a few months of completing treatment, Joel experienced a significant relapse which included the daily use of new substances. 

“I was no longer doing cocaine and drinking. I was doing crack daily. My wife was leaving me. Work was almost catching me again. So, I went to my first Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting,” said Joel, who slowly began to make real progress. “After that, I was clean for longer (70 days), I had a sponsor, homegroup, and friends in recovery.”

A brief relapse however, accelerated Joel’s journey toward longer-term recovery.

“This was my real rock bottom. That relapse turned into me getting fired. I was also under house arrest, as that was my sentence for the legal incident,” shared Joel. “I decided I could go one of two ways. I could either die or live – so I went to NA again, but I still couldn’t figure out how to surrender. Now I’m desperate. They (my friends) said “you aren’t getting it; you aren’t giving your will up.”

Then something clicked. May 11, 2020 became the day everything changed for Joel. Determined to start over, he leaned into recovery and worked toward surrender.

“I came from a Catholic home and went to a Catholic school. I left that religious stuff back in high school. I didn’t understand it, so it took me forever to figure out the Higher Power part of recovery and to let go,” he shared. “Even now, when I go through step-work, my views on my Higher Power changes. My sponsee just finished Step 3. I tell him, “Your Higher Power doesn’t have to be anything in particular – just something you understand.”’

When asked, Joel says his advice to his younger self would be quite simple. “I’d say, go to a meeting every day. Gradually get to know people and find a sponsor.”

“I tell newcomers, once you get these pieces, it will be easy. You get rid of your compulsion and start working on yourself and start to love everything. Today, I don’t think about using or stealing.”

Joel finds joy in all areas of his life now.

“I recently started a new career. My wife and I live like we are 80-year-old people,” Joel jokes. “We are happy to be up early; we cook and clean. We’re happy to be here with the kids. That’s my goal, to be present for them. When I used drugs, I had dreams of doing fun, exhilarating things and I never did any of them. Now, I have dreams and can put action to them.”

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.