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.
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.”