By DANIEL FREEDMAN | Counselor in Training, St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness Center of Baton Rouge
My name is Daniel Freedman, I am 28 years old and I am from Baton Rouge. I am a recovered drug addict and alcoholic, and by the grace of God and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous I have been sober since October 15, 2016.
Before that date, I spent several years in and out of recovery with varying degrees of success. As a friend said to me once, I was simply “loitering with the intent to recover” in the rooms of AA. So, what was different about the sobriety that began October 15, 2016 compared to all of the other times I tried to get sober? To get there, I have to tell you a little about how I became addicted.
I had a normal childhood by all accounts, and I can say without hesitation that my parents did the absolute best they could for me and my older brother. My father is an alcoholic, but he remained sober for the majority of my life. He worked a normal job, had normal hobbies like gardening, and we did normal things like watch LSU football games and yell at the television. My mother is not an alcoholic or addict, and I believe she is as close to a saint as one can be. My brother is a substance abuser, but as he was six years older than me, I didn’t truly see this until I became older.
Alcohol, painkillers and more
My first experience with substances was marijuana at age 13, followed close behind by alcohol, painkillers, benzodiazepines and, honestly, whatever else I could get my hands on. I dealt with anxiety and depression as a kid, and I always had a feeling that I was somehow different from my peers. I justified this feeling as being the only Jewish boy in my school or some other perceived reason I was different. The reality is I was a young boy who had all of the early signs of alcoholism — I have often heard this referred to as the “ism.”
I was irritable and restless, and when I was first introduced to marijuana, all of those issues went away. At 16, I was introduced to Oxycontin, and I distinctly remember where I was that day because I recall lying on a bed after ingesting the pill and thinking, “This is it. I have arrived.” I wanted to feel that way forever. I knew that from that moment on, I would do anything in my power to obtain that feeling.
I can assure you the next six years were anything but fun. I slowly drank and drugged my way out of one high school and into another. I partied my way out of LSU as a freshman and continued to watch opportunities evaporate before my eyes. I was not concerned. I had one moment of insanity which resulted in me living in the Middle East for a year, thinking that Baton Rouge was my problem and I would be fine if I took a “geographical cure.” I was mistaken. I was the problem. I am the problem.
Journey to sobriety
When I got sober for the first time at age 22, I was introduced to AA and actually felt a sense of belonging for the first time in my life. Although I did not remain sober then, I never forgot that feeling and I always knew where to turn if I wanted help. When I became sober this time, the first thing I did was reach out to my AA community. They were just about the only human beings left who were answering my phone calls, and they did not hesitate to help. I was not in a position to enter addiction treatment, instead detoxing on my friend’s sofa in New Orleans. I walked into the rooms of AA still shaking from withdrawals and have not found the need to leave since.
The biggest difference in my life today is that I became desperate enough to actually work the 12 steps of AA and continue working them on a daily basis. I immersed myself in the program and found myself working with others, or practicing the 12th step, very early on in my sobriety. My sponsor at the time was hard on me, saying that if I didn’t want to die I needed to hurry up and help people. He was right.
I found a spiritual relationship with a higher power and I am comfortable calling it God, although I can’t draw you a picture and it’s likely very different than your conception. I pray on a daily basis, meditate most mornings, take daily inventory and try to be mindful of where I have been dishonest, selfish, resentful and afraid. I have made most of my amends but would be lying if I said they were all complete. I work with others as frequently as I can because I still believe that the best way for me to stay sober and alive is for me to give this away.
In 2017, I was hired by the treatment center that I went through as a recovery advocate. In 2018, I became an addiction counselor in training and was afforded the opportunity to work with addicts and alcoholics in the same building where I was a patient. I have since moved on to another treatment center and I am currently a sophomore at Southeastern Louisiana State University where I am pursuing a degree in social work.
In my addiction, if you would have told me that I would be here today I would not have believed a word of it. If you would have asked me what I wanted out of life at that point, I think I would have sold myself short because the life I am afforded today was not one I could dream of. I have real relationships with people today who I can rely on, and they can genuinely rely on me. I have real opportunities and a genuine desire to help others.
This life is all a result of working the 12 steps of AA to the best of my ability and finding a relationship with a God of my understanding. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.