Journey Of A Recovering Addict

Kon Plong, Kontum, July 12, 2012.

As many other recovering addticts across the continents, my experiences on the rather rough and darkened road of addiction in the past was pretty much the same, for drugs and alcohol surely do not discriminate sexes, colors, nationalities, education, careers, nor does it destructively affect each individual’s life on different scale depending on the circumstance.

It definitely does not fear any common authority. If there’s a difference…perhaps…it would be that I am the only Vietnamese- English speaking addict, here in Vietnam, who has luckily and blessedly found A.A (Alcoholics Anonymous) and N.A (Narcotics Anonymous) right here on this soil, where alcoholism would be cleverly masked as a ‘social norm’ and drugs using would be unfairly considerred as a violation of the law.

Unlike most rehab centers in developed countries, where addicts would be treated as patients and usually be encouraged to go to for proper treatments of medication, psycho-therapy, nutritions, and most importantly is the enrolment in the 12 Steps program of either A.A or N.A. Here in Vietnam, we would be forcibly sent to government’s facilities for a long stretch, where non of the above privileges existed. Not only that, while condemn in these facilities, we would be again forced to do hard labors under the unfriendly weather year-round, which is an approved method for treating our disease. We often have to face hunger and malnutritions, and usually eat anything that moves in order to survive. One foot wide on a ximeng floor for each person to sleep at night; newcomers would have to go through a series of being beaten up by both the officials and the priorly longer-incarcerated inmates (a.k.a the “Eagles”) of the dorm, have to eat much less and have to sleep just a couple inches next to the extremely dirty toilet (the old type, which built evenly with the ground level); inmates sometimes even kill one another just over a pack of cigarette.

My journey to recovery has emerged from such environment, and later on…my reaching out for A.A and N.A to a successful sobriety has also resembled the same challenges. Thanks God, I did overcome all the barriers between I and the 12 Steps program, most difficult… must have been the overcoming of my own arrogance and dishonesty, then the authorities’ archaic ways of thinking, the environment, and the struggles to have the program surreptitiously availed to us - a small group of addicts, who believed in the miracle of the program.

Celebrating my first year of sobriety … wasn’t a party amongst a warm family and friends with cheerings and hand-claps for a job well done as most people might have imagined. Sitting all alone by Saigon river…I had a deep reflex on myself – all alone on the face of this earth, tomorrow was unknown, destituted, still unable to obtain an ID, at the bottom of everything that the society in general would consider as a worthless individual. Miraculously…, I never felf sorry for myself at all. Having had a spiritual awakening through working the 12 Steps program, I no longer worried about tomorrows yet to come, I’ve leaned to turn over my will and my life to the care of God – the power greater than myself – and to appreciate things that I have today. Today, I’m clean and sober, I’m a person with a sheer strong and crystal clear mind, and I know how to really love and care for others.

Love…, I began to think about it again, and again…a story that I had recently read came my mind. It was an excerp from a famous Vietnmese literature called ‘Subtle Note’, and ever since I read it…it had left an enormous remark inside my heart. What I discovered was a subtle relationship between the story and the 12 Steps program that I’ve been living with, and to a greater extent, with an issue that has been bothering me all this time – the paradoxial perception of most people toward the conceptual ideal of life.

“To us, the people whom had lived inside the cradle of war for many many years, disasterous experiences have led us to a realization that: when facing with life or adversed circumstance, or when coming across things that surpass our common ability to comprehend, then it is best that we come back to the kernel of our being. When we do this, the ‘real us’ from within shall come to life, it shall give us peace in the mind, strength, and will power; it shall warm-up our souls and revive our love. It shall enhance our energy and revitalize our spirit. Only then shall we be able to stand strong on our feet and continue the journey.

Whenever the mental value has become priceless - nothing could be compared with; whenever it has become the true master within ourselves and of our own destiny, then should we be able to talk about the meaning and the true value of life.” – excerp from the ‘Subtle Note’.

In my own opinion, nothing is more disasterous than the experiences inevitably produced from an active addition, and the evil power behind it is greater than any man-made one ever created. It is so great that the eventual result arisen from it would only be either death or imprisonment.

But as of today, around the table of our regular meetings and millions members of the A.A/ N.A fellowship across the world…I see wonderful men and women – recovering addicts-with smiles that would light up the sky, with laughters that would rock the place, with hearts that would bring you warmth and comfort, and with spirits that would definitely enlighten you with wisdom. And if you are just an outsidide observer, make sure that you sit close enough so that you could clearly hear them sharing their stories and experiences, because these are perhaps…the most fascinating people you’ve ever come across in your life. Like true champions are those, whom compete against their own disabilities; like true arts are the result of sufferings; like beautiful lotuses arising from the dirty and slimy mud…we are the people, whom have somehow defeated that evil power within ourselves. And although we might have done so in our own unique way…we succeeded. We do recover!!!! How do we do that? Like the Vietnamese people in times of war – having to face extreme difficulties and seemingly undefeatable challenges, the 12 Steps guides us back to the kernel of our being, and from there, we come to realizing our powerlessness toward the disease of addiction, we surrender the power that we just can never fight against in a wise and positive way, we reinforce our strength; with serenity, with hope and believe in a power greater than ourselves – we slowly and gradually remove all of our character’s defects, like carpenters renovating their wrecked houses, we examine every corner and every crack of our being and adjust them with everything that would be in accordance with just and goodness. And also from there…we come to believe and maintain a conscious contact with a power greater than ourselves, far greater than the scope of our human understanding. Our recovery springs from that kernel, and from there…the peaceful, happy, loving and kind persons with radiant faces, bright smiles, clean and sober as we are today be conceived.

After having gone through this journey, I’ve discovered how far away the majority of the world have gone from humanity. We are so damn lost in the labyrinth of the so-called advanced world of technology. We try all possible ways we can to fix things that deem wrong to us, to change things in accordance with what believe is right, and we do so by endeavoring to change the society by applying new rules and policies, and if the matter got bigger…we then believe that we should need to restructure the world by mean of a war so to give it a new order. Everything that we do…they all seem to approach that direction – to satisfy our thirst for a better world around us, a utopia, the way we want it- regardless many would have to suffer the consequence or to sacrifice their lives for the nonsense.

We forgot one simple thing: “if there are no people there would not be the formation of a ‘society’, and if there are no societies then there would not be the world!” What does it mean? It means that the world is like the silhouette of societies and a society is like a combined shadows of the people. If we would like to change the shape of the shadows and the silhouette we must change the people. If we do it otherwise, as what we’ve been doing in the past centuries…then we are nuts! Some, especially politicians and those support the idea of using force to achieve this goal, may argue that all they do is to serve just that – to eventually change the people. Now, we, the recovering addicts of the A.A and N.A Fellowship, know this undeniable wisdom through our own experiences: people cannot be changed unless they are willing to change! Like the maxim “The teacher will be there when the student is ready!”. The 12 Steps program is the golden key to open the gateway to recovery, to freedom and happiness, for slaves of addiction, and is available for all addicts, whom wish to liberate themselves from that labyrinth of darkness and pains, but it only works the miracle when and only when they really want it – whenever they have enough, whenever they can no longer stand the torment of being slaves.

When this moment has not arrived, then all the omnipotent powers in the universe gathered together are still unable to save them, because the omnipotent power within themselves – the kernel of their being- haven’t yet want to be saved. We all have our differences, and when we interact with one another, certainly, we would from time to time come across conflicts, and when we do so, we all strongly believe that we are in the right, and what happen when two rights are in a picture? Either one of these two scenarios would occur: one being the positive addition of ‘right plus right’ – we would have two rights, and the other being the negative abstraction of ‘right minus right’ – we would end up with zero. There’s nothing to wish for more if we are both right, and we know how strengthen one another as of the first scenario. What has been causing all the problems in the world is the second scenario – when two rights negatively combat against one another - we got ‘zit’. Some may argue that: what if there is really one being right and one being wrong? Then we come across yet another problem, and that problem would be: who to judge, or to what instrument we can use to determine, how (not what) is right and how is wrong, for as human, we always do what we believe is right? There are situations, though, when we come across people, who are just too damn ignorant – the type that can only be reasoned with by firstly putting them under submission to a superior force- and if we don’t do something to defense ourselves we would be destroyed by their ignorance and violence.

Though…there is a big difference between being defensive and being offensive, but many have hypocritically used this reason to mask their deliberate act of violence by trickily manipulate the confusion between the two extremes, per say…”We defense by offence!”.

And the worst scenario is what I would like people to really think about: what if we are both wrong? The arguments may go on and on…because we are all lost in direction. If instead of wanting to change things around us the way we want it by incessantly attempting to change the society or the world, we come back to the people, to the kernel of each individual being and refine it just as us recovering addicts do with the guidance of the 12 Steps’s principles and those, whom have learned to achieve love, peace, comfort, and happiness through extreme adversity in the similar way – as the story of the Vietnamese in times of war- miracles will occur to us all. Just like it has amazingly transformed the worst individuals as of the addicts to the spiritual persons, who possess such abundant qualities of goodness; just like it has forged the Vietnamse in times of war, and many others of similar circumstance throughout the world, into the people of today, who deeply understand the meaning of love and peace, it will bring significant changes to the world. We will learn to accept one another’s differences; we will see the beauty in everyone; we will know how to cooperate with one another; we shall no longer need violence to solve conflicts because there shall be no conflicts; we will know love and we will know peace; we will have the serenity to accept the things that we cannot chance, courage to change the things that we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And before we know it…the ideals of life, the world as we want it shall naturally come into shape by itself.

With the economy turmoil, the on-going conflicts on the world, the never- ending social issues, the Presidential election of the United States of America…ect, I suddenly feel the urge to share my discovery with the world, for I strongly believe that if we each don’t do something to guide ourselves back to the right direction, then soon…perhaps very soon…we will destroy ourselves by our own ignorance, greed, and anger.

Some may laugh because I did not really discover anything new at all, and they are absolutely right! For centuries, many others have already seen through this matter but no one really listened to them, because if we did, then things should have been a lot better. If there is a little merit to my discovery, perhaps, it lies at the perspective and the approach to the matter – one being from a recovering addict. Every one in the world knows this: addicts are definitely the worst living being on the planet, if not the universe. And yes, I couldn’t agree more. We once were the worst people that nobody would want to have anything to do with. But as the recovering addicts of today, whom have achieved authentic recovery by coming back to the kernel of our beings, perfecting it, and springing from it to unlimited wonders – we are indeed amongst the most pleasant human-beings you’ve ever come across. And if we could do it, then by all means…so could you!!!

After having gone through such a disasterous journey of an acoholic and an addict, my entire relatives, both from my mother and my fathers’ side, have already long abandoned me. Although, I’ve been recovered for more than a year now, but I am still unable to come 5 back to my family to make amend with them and to renew my ID’s. A job is therefore still a dream yet to come true. The past year, though I’m never alone on the road of recovery, for I always have the A.A and the N.A fellowship behind me, but I’ve been all alone on the road of rebuilding my life – having to start every thing again from scratch. I had no choice but to make full use of my versatility in languages, trying to connect local companies or traders together for a cooperation on a project or a deal with the hope that if I somehow succeeded I would either have a commision for a start up or a position in the project that I’ve personally created, because only by such way should I be able to virtually skip the official process of identification’s check up. Here in Vietnam, even a garbage man or a restaurant’s cleaner needs to have a work permit. Under the scorching sun or the heavy rain…I patiently kept on trying and trying, with hope and belief that tomorrow should be better.

Despite the fact that time to times I failed, I maintained a happy and peaceful person with always a smile on my face – by the end of the day, no matter what, being clean and sober is what most important to people, whom have to endure the disease of addiction like us. Deals always seemed to be closed in a very short time, and it’s always so hopeful, but suddenly…I realized the urgent need for sharing my thoughts with the world. Maybe…it will inspire somebody for a change; maybe…it will make them think again before they vote for their president – the one, who tends to base his mind on force and violence; Maybe…this is just an ordeal of my own. Maybe…

I packed up my personal belonging the next day, with about fifty U.S dollars in my pocket, I bought a bus ticket to head for Konplong county, Kontum – a remote place about 800km from Ho Chi Minh city- where a man I knew had left a small hut in the middle of the forrest high up on the mountain not long ago when he went on a hunting trip. I spent the money to buy the most basic things that I needed – an oil lamp, personal hygienes, compulsory cooking spices, a big bag of rice, a hammet, some blank notebooks, an erasier, some pens and pencils. And since then…I’ve been living all alone in the middle of nowhere – I’ve come back to myself, to the most basic, and do what I believe is most important to me at the moment.

Early in the morning, I would wake up to practice some Tai-chi, pray, read my daily meditation (an N.A literature), make an excursion to check up on my traps to see if I had luckily caught any meat for the day. The rest of the day, I would devote my time on translating the Vietnamse literature that I’ve recently read into English so that I could subsequently share it with the world, when the night falls I would write under the shimmering light of the oil-lamp, and when I get tire…I go to sleep peacefully. Life is so simple…but I am content! My heart is full of love and my spirit is soaring with peace.


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