I’m driving through Delray Beach with a friend. 

Tears in her eyes she asks, “How do you keep doing it? How do you get up in the morning?” My friend just got done telling me that someone close to her had just passed away from a heroin overdose.

I can feel my phone vibrate. When we stop at the light I look down and it’s a text. Another friend finally decided to go into treatment and is asking if I can get her cigarettes.

I also have the countless other friends – who have passed away, haven’t been heard from, or are clawing their way back from a relapse – all hanging out in my mind. It can be overwhelming but manageable.

I turn to my friend in the car and say, “I keep doing it because of people like you.” My friend was coming up on six months sober at the time. “When I was in halfway I remember my house manager saying that you never know when your next best friend is going to walk through the door. I had no idea if you would stay sober when we first started hanging out but I can tell you that I’m grateful I took the risk. And look at you now.” She smiled and we kept driving.

It can be a lot sometimes.  People go in and out of recovery every day. This disease does not stop just because you got thirty days clean and feel better. You never know who is going to stay clean, or who is killing time until their next high. This disease is so cunning that even the addict doesn’t know if they’re killing time to the next high. There are people who I thought would never be sober who are now getting years clean. There are people who I thought would never relapse and are dead now; a direct result of their use. All that’s left of them is a virtual tombstone – a Facebook page where friends post memories and pictures. My Facebook has become a virtual graveyard. I see the mothers tending to their children’s wall – posting pictures from when things were good; when addiction was something they saw in movies before it became a daily word in their vocabulary.

I have three years sober and have been working in treatment for two of them. So I am no stranger to relapse. I myself relapsed over and over for years trying to get this thing right. There was a time when I thought I would never be on this side of it. But I am now and I can tell you that trying to bring people to this side with me has been the most fulfilling thing not only for my recovery but for my life.

I have my days. Some harder than others – when I just want to scream and walk away from it all. I was in Philly visiting a friend in recovery during one of these days. An addict close to me had passed away and I asked her with tears in my eyes, “What’s the point? Everything I did doesn’t matter.”

She wiped my tears, gave me a big bear hug, and told me a story about starfish.

A little boy is standing on the beach, just at the shoreline. He repeatedly bends over, picks up a starfish, and throws it back in the ocean. A man standing a couple of yards away notices this and walks over the boy. The man throws his hands up in the air and says, “What are you doing? Look at your feet, all the starfish you throw into the ocean keep washing up onshore. Why don’t you go get a baseball and play instead? What you’re doing doesn’t matter.” The little boy bends down, picks up another starfish, and examines it. “It matters to them,” he says before tossing it back into the ocean.

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