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Dan Mager’s Recovery Story – Addiction Center

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Initial introduction as an addict

“I’m Dan. I’m an addict,” I introduced myself in my first group session since entering a treatment facility at the end of 2006. This declaration was my first verbal admission to being an “addict” after 35 years of alcohol and other drug use (75% of my life). I used one or more substances virtually every day for almost 30 years. It was a confession that I had steadfastly avoided, but at the same time it felt both terrifying and liberating. I remember being able to breathe more deeply than before.

Relapse is a common reality for people struggling with addiction, but in my 16+ years of recovery I have had no relapses. There is no shortage of autobiographical tales of the horrors of addiction, many of which depict people’s journeys to recovery, including some of those who become addiction counselors.

My story is a little different. Before I entered recovery, I was initially a behavioral health professional as a therapist.

I was a highly regarded practitioner and administrator until the devastating last 18 months of active addiction. That’s when my life as I knew it began to fall apart. The process picked up speed so that the snowball gained momentum and size as it rolled down the slope.

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How my past affected my addiction

I grew up in a wealthy middle class family. There was no horrific or overt abuse, but the wounds inflicted by constant criticism and disrespect created a low-level or “minor” trauma buildup. Everyone is hurt to varying degrees. Sometimes these scars are visible on the outside, but they are often inside and hidden. And sometimes, through the use of alcohol and other drugs, people learn how to deal with the pain of wounds and other stresses of life.

My drug use may begin innocently and experimentally. But in my case, it radically changed the way I felt, allowing me to feel ‘better’, ‘better’, or just ‘different’, and temporarily free myself from emotional discomfort and pain. They gave me rest and my symptoms progressed. My addiction has evolved over months and years of repeated use and as it has become habitual. Everything starts to look like nails when the main tool is a hammer.

I started drinking alcohol when I was 6 years old.th add marijuana in grade 7th Grade, 8 tablets (barbiturates and opioids)th Grade, LSD 10th 11th grade cocaineth Grade 12, herointh School year. Before graduating from high school, I was an intravenous cocaine and heroin user. During that time, I was involved in competitive sports such as college basketball, graduating early and laying down the foundations of decades of practice for effectively living a double life.

lead a double life

I graduated with honors, majoring in psychology, but walked a tightrope by continuing to use all of the above drugs and picking where I fit in and sticking with them. During his first two years out of college, I used cocaine and even injected heroin almost daily into an IV, plunging deeper into an active addiction.

Drug-related arrests and convictions have pushed me further into this abyss. However, during his five years on probation, he began his career with a master’s degree in social work and climbed rapidly up the promotion ladder.

I had stopped using so-called hard drugs, but continued to use alcohol and marijuana daily. I didn’t use it before or during work, but I always used it after work and on weekends. In retrospect, I was still addicted because of my obsessions, compulsive behaviors, and self-loathing, even though I had a job, a family, a marriage, and parenting responsibilities and it was “only” alcohol and marijuana. I used it like a person. Focus on using.

Everything was basically fine (or at least stable) until I developed chronic pain symptoms in the late 1990s. He developed two herniated discs in his lumbar spine and was prescribed opioid pain relievers to treat them, which reawakened his hibernating drug addiction. Over 15 years.

“Chronic pain medically allowed me to dive into the real narcotics of my choice, and the serpent of addiction began to eat at me.”

– Dan Mager, MSW

Physical pain became the main river of my emotions. All other emotions: sadness, fear, anxiety, hurt, guilt, frustration, anger, sadness, depression, etc. were tributaries that flowed into the emotion, nourished it, and increased its flow and power. These unpleasant emotions became difficult to distinguish, and not being able to tolerate them created a truckload of internal stress that only exacerbated my pain and led to more and more opioid use. .

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journey to recovery

The disease of addiction is known to be “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” It is also exquisitely patient, dangerous, and seductive in trying to convince those who suffer from the disease that they are free of it. Ironically, as long as my addiction has been ongoing, my education and professional experience have allowed me to recognize it as it is, despite its growing personal and professional impact. It hindered my ability to admit it and ask for help.

People usually make big changes when the pain of being the same outweighs the fear of change. Ultimately, the damage to my marriage and career “gave” me enough despair to accept that I needed hospital treatment. It was there that I was introduced to his holistic, multidimensional approach to living with chronic pain and his 12-Step Recovery Method, which I have been actively practicing ever since.

At my second 12-Step meeting, someone with a clean history of nearly 30 years said, “Recovery will open the gates of heaven so you can’t get in, but the gates of hell will open so you can get out.” will be.” That’s my experience.

I have a 12 step homegroup. I have a sponsor with a 35+ year clean track record. I sponsor others. I connect with people in recovery across the United States and around the world. I was able to rebuild my life, rebuild my career, happily remarry, and restore my relationship with my adult children.

Recovery is an ongoing process

Since entering recovery, my professional knowledge and experience has deepened my understanding and appreciation that recovery is a process of continuous learning, growth and healing. In all the ups and downs of life, keeping each day clean requires no small amount of mental, emotional and spiritual renewal. This is hard work and no adventure is more rewarding.

Life takes its toll on all of us, and everyone sustains some damage in the process, whether they suffer from addiction, chronic pain, or some other serious illness. Recovery rooms are full of wounded people, some of whom have been severely abused and traumatized. In the same way that broken bones are stronger after healing than they were before injury, recovery provides a pathway to heal from that injury and become stronger. It is a warrior’s path, one that requires strength and courage to traverse, and every step along it is a step towards grace.

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