Never Give In & Never Give Up

Written by Ben Emerling, Guest Blogger

Never give up.

How many times have we heard that saying? It is thrown around for almost every hardship we come across. Just three simple words, but they hold so much meaning.

I hate cliches. I never liked them. But for some reason, I always liked how this one felt.

There have been thousands, maybe million of times in my life where I failed, and was told to just chalk it up, but most of the time I got right back up and continued to fight. I have been knocked down more times than I can count, but I am still standing here today with a success story.

If it wasn’t for  positive, influential people in my life I would have never had the inspiration to accomplish anything.

As a teenager I battled with drug addiction.

The majority of the time, I obsessed about doing drugs, and it was my number focus. I cared about sports too, but when it came down to it, I always chose drugs over everything else.

One of my number one goals in high school was to make the basketball team. I loved basketball; it was my favorite sport. And even though I am short, I was still one of the quickest and most athletic basketball players in my grade.

However, there was a major problem I failed to recognize: I had the worst attitude ever.

I was what many sports fans consider “locker room cancer.” I was devastated every year that I was  cut from the team. I ended up diving head first into drugs every time this happened. Weed and pills never told me I wasn’t good enough for them. My using habits got worse and worse.

Surprisingly, after getting cut year after year from the basketball squad, I never quit playing the game. I was good at it, and I knew it. Everyone around me knew it. I joined intramural leagues and played pickup games as much as possible, but as my drug problem got worse, the less I played basketball, or practiced any other hobby for that matter.

My last couple of years using drugs were a nightmare. I isolated from everyone.  I just got high and little else.

My friends were degenerate drug addict losers like myself, and I was certainly not the person I once was. Fighting, stealing, manipulating or bullying were my number one qualities and I started hating the person I had become.

I drove myself insane and went through an entire script of Adderall in a few days. During that bender, I didn’t eat, sleep, shower or take care of myself whatsoever. It wasn’t long until I ended up in the hospital.

Ending up in the hospital was almost reassuring. Not only to me, but my family as well. Everyone was concerned for my health and I was too. I was in a safe place for the first time in awhile. Finally safe, safe from the streets, safe from the people out to get me, but most importantly, safe from myself.

The hospital was safe because I was under supervision at all times, I was isolated from the outside world and it was nearly impossible to relapse while in there. I knew my life was about to majorly shift and it was all going to start from there.

For the first time, I asked for help.

I needed drug treatment, but didn’t know where to start looking. There were a few times where I went to intensive outpatient rehab, but it was never my decision. This time, I was fully committed.

I knew if I didn’t change my behavior I would be dead, so it was time to look at my options.

There are thousands of different rehabs to choose from such as 12-step, non-12 step recovery programs, holistic recovery programs, faith based drug treatment programs, dual-diagnosis programs and a few other options.

Since I barely could tie my own shoes, I relied on my parents to help me make my decision. They wanted me to go to a 12 step program because they believed that non 12 step recovery programs were a sham. Whether they were right or wrong, that is what they chose.

When I got to rehab I was in shock. I hadn’t been sober for years and now I was forced to be clean. Regular drug tests, a strict schedule and group therapy all of the time. I was in Minnesota for a 30-day program and learned everything I already knew about what drug addiction is like.

Being the defiant type, I balked at all directions: it has always been my way or the highway. Needless to say, it took me some time to adjust to this new lifestyle.

After my 30-day stint in rehab, my next location was a long term program. Time to hop on a plane and leave the -10 degree Minnesota winter to travel to the always sunny state of Florida. It was a tough transition. In the 30-day program I had a strict schedule laid out for me. Here in Florida, there was freedom with some supervision. I spent another eight months in treatment before it was finally time to come home.

At home, at my very first AA meeting, I met the most inspirational person I have ever met in  my life so far.

He inspired me for many reasons: he was happy, first and foremost, but it was deeper than that. He had an overall positive light to him.

People enjoyed his presence, and he seemed to have it all together.

I didn’t mention this earlier, but I had been relapsing in treatment in Florida. I had a few months of sobriety, but was completely discontent and miserable. Then I heard this guy share at a meeting. He was only a few years older than me but had five years of sobriety. His story was extremely similar to mine, but at this point in his life, he was happy.

I asked this guy to sponsor to me and in a couple short months, he took me through all of the steps of AA. Since I chose to go to a 12-step recovery program over a non-12 step recovery program, I was familiar with the steps and they came easy to me.

As I worked through these steps, my life started drastically improving. I suddenly was able to connect with people on a deeper level. And eventually I was sponsoring people myself.

As time went on, I noticed a shift in this guy’s behavior. He stopped regularly attending meetings and moved away. Then of no surprise, he relapsed. It was one of the most devastating moments of my life.

My number one inspiration for sobriety just relapsed after six years of sobriety. I knew I had to cut him out of my life because he might take me down with him.

It was a hard time in my life but it ended up having a fantastic ending. This leads me to today.

I had two really bad sponsors after my first one relapse. One of the two was a self-centered jerk, and the other had terrible motives. But finally, I found my current sponsor and I knew it was right because I had the same feelings I did about him as I did with my first sponsor, but better.

This guy is older and wiser. I can honestly say he is the most even tempered, least judgmental and kindest man I have ever met. He has so much wisdom, and has a solution or helpful suggestion for whatever issue I may have. He is readily available, and is one of my best friends.

More than anything, he helps me maintain the sobriety I have and without him, I don’t know where I would be today.

All in all, there have been many times in my life where I could have given up and taken the easy way out. Instead, I chose to keep pushing, sometimes without  even knowing why.

I am a true example of why you should never give up on anything because if I just threw in the white towel and gave up…. I wouldn’t be writing this article today.

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