Our country is in the middle of a drug epidemic that’s claiming hundreds of lives each day. The mounting death toll caused by overdose and addiction is reaching alarming heights that America has never seen before, and it’s not expected to slow anytime soon.
But in the midst of the crisis, September’s Recovery Month serves as a reminder that not all addiction stories have to end in tragedy. As long as you are alive, recovery is possible.
Rob Murray is just one example of the millions of Americans currently living in recovery. He’s also a graduate of our Massachusetts campus, Swift River. Rob’s story highlights that toll addiction can take on a family and what it looks like to be six months in recovery.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Robert Murray and I’m 42 years-old.
I have a 15-year-old and 21-year-old daughter. I also have a wife of 17 years. I honestly don’t know how she’s put up with me for this long, I’m very lucky.
I also play the drums in a band, but we’re looking for a bassist- so no gigs just yet.
When did your addiction progress?
From day one, I should have known I was going to be addicted to alcohol. The first time I went drinking I got so drunk that I puked and passed out. It continued on like that for a couple of years.
My addiction really kicked in when I was 23. This is also when I got my first DUI. Like most people who have an addiction, I obviously didn’t think that I was an addict. I just kept blaming everything and everyone but myself for my DUI- wrong place, wrong time.
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I tried to quit on my own, but it never worked. So I went in and out of rehab a couple of times. The first time the treatment center had to fight with my insurance every day so I was only able to stay for about four days. The second time, I actually managed to stay sober for about 10 years.
Then, in 2014, I saw some moonshine in the refrigerator. It had probably been in there for 5 or 6 years and it just seemed like a good idea to take a sip. From that moment until February 19, 2017, there were only a handful of days that I was sober.
What made you seek treatment again?
My wife kicked me out of the house on February 14th of this year. That should have been a huge wakeup call for me… but it wasn’t. Instead, I went on a huge bender for about five days.
It wasn’t until February 19th that I finally decided to get help. I spent that whole night at work in tears because I was experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms. I’ve never felt more hopeless. Eventually, this calm washed over me and there was just something in my mind telling me: “Go to the hospital and get help. Do something.”
I knew in my heart that I wanted to try going to rehab again. It was the only thing that worked for me before, so I had some faith that I would work again.
Someone at the hospital told me about Swift River, and a few days later I was on a plane for the first time in my life heading to Massachusetts.
How long have you been in recovery?
I’m currently six months into my recovery.
What is the easiest part of your life in recovery?
That’s a hard question. Right now, it’s easy for me to attend meetings, so I’m thankful for that- but otherwise, I don’t have a good answer.
Recovery might seem simple, but it’s not. None of it is easy.
What is the hardest part of recovery?
Unfortunately, my addiction tells me that I’m okay even when I’m not. It will glamorize drinking and make me forget the terrible things I did.
The hardest part is keeping recovery my number one priority. It should be the easiest thing to hold onto, but it’s always the first thing that slips for me. When life can get crazy, I convince myself that I don’t have to go to meetings or work as hard on my sobriety.
It’s not much of a struggle right now because my recovery is still so new. But the second I find myself negotiating in my head for just one drink, I’m already in trouble.
I’m also finding it difficult to separate my time between my Alcoholics Anonymous family and my real family. Ultimately, I wouldn’t have one without the other, but I feel selfish when I take time away from my daughters to go to a meeting.
How are you maintaining that “recovery first” attitude?
When I was actively addicted, I severely isolated myself. I didn’t want anyone to see what I was doing or find out that I was drinking.
Forcing myself out of isolation and interacting with others is a great way to hold myself accountable. So I have got to keep going to group meetings. No matter what I’ve got going on in my life, the meetings instantly bring me back to what’s most important in my life- my sobriety.
Talking with other people in recovery, especially my sponsor, who have been through the same experiences as me has been critical to keeping my recovery top of mind every day.
Honestly, I don’t know if I would have made it this far without my sponsor.
I also need to keep learning from the people who have been in recovery for longer than me. They’ve taught me a lot about acceptance and being happy with what I have in my life, like my wife and kids. I’ve stopped focusing so much on the things I can’t change, like my addiction.
I just keep reminding my that I wouldn’t have anything without my sobriety.
What fuels your recovery?
Thinking about the hell that I put myself and my family through when I was actively drinking.
The lying, the hiding, the sneaking, the drunk driving. I can’t deny that I had some fun times while drinking, but they pale in comparison to the horror that my addiction created for myself and everyone around me.
It wasn’t a life… I was just surviving.
How important is your family to your recovery?
I’m so thankful to have the support of my wife and kids, but their opinions were secondary when I made the decision to go to Swift River. I knew I had to go for me first.
Remember, my wife kicked me out of the house. So I went to Swift River without knowing if I would even be able to return home afterward. I had no expectations of what my life would look like when I left Massachusetts. I just knew I would be better.
Now, in my recovery, my family’s encouragement means everything to me. My wife is always the first one to tell me I should go to a meeting. She knows that without the meetings, I would be putting my sobriety in jeopardy.
Do you miss any part of your life before recovery?
Do I miss the lying, the hiding, the isolating, the chaos absolute that my addiction created?
No, I don’t miss any part of it.