The Untold Truth of Addiction and Redemption

STORY BY Vicky Victoria

Published: December 11, 2013

On July 14th, 2001 an egocentric know-it-all teenager had a near death experience when he slammed his car into a tree high on a variety of illegal drugs. He awoke to the truth of addiction. Fast-forward 12 years later, now in long-term recovery, Greg Williams talks about this experience, which has opened the doorway for not only a new found appreciation of life, but an empowerment to understand the ability to effect change and where the path of vulnerability can lead.

Thirty days sober, Greg walked into a recovery support group and shared loosely with the same cocky attitude, having all the answers and believing to know what would help everyone else in their life. In truth, he now admits, he was desperately trying to keep the focus off himself. When the meeting was over however, the most respected men in the room pulled Greg to the side and said, “Hey kid, you probably shouldn’t share for a year.”

These words struck a cord in Greg. For the next year he didn’t share in the meetings and instead did what he was never really good at: he listened. During this time, the image of his car wrapped around a tree and standing in front of the mirror with no teeth, forced him to realize the gravity of his situation. He needed to not only be sober, but to change his mental attitude and approach toward life. He discovered that everyone in recovery meetings learn to leave their last name, size of their wallet, and ethnicity at the door; inside everyone is the same. It was hard for him to listen and not allow his ego to enter the picture, but Greg admits he “hasn’t learned from the easy stuff in life, but from the things that were uncomfortable and hard” and what he has reaped the greatest benefits from today are not from what he did want to do, but from what he didn’t want to do. “Addiction caused behavior was centered around immediate gratification and numbing of my feelings. Recovery is the opposite of impulsive behavior and only what I want for myself. It was a paradigm shift that didn’t happen over night.”

The first years in recovery were challenging, but in 2012 Greg began to look at addiction through a different lens, “a social lens”, and embarked on a new journey: filmmaking. “Recovery restores us to who we once were or who we were suppose to be”. After completing his feature film, The Anonymous People, he no longer lives with regret. He no longer has fear; fear of what he can or cannot do. And his horizons are expanded, as he is now “teachable”.  He is continuing his journey, learning from others by sharing his experiences, not only with people in recovery, but also with the greater population. With The Anonymous People and the call-to-action, Many Faces 1 Voice campaign as a launching pad, Greg now advocates on a national level to bring awareness to the fact that there are over 20 million Americans in recovery. 

The film captures the stories of recovery advocates, emerging from the shadows, creating opportunities for others with addiction to have their redemption story too. In order to achieve this on a national level that will impact the way addiction is perceived, there needs to be a social and political shift that will provide greater support to persons in recovery. In shortest form, they are advocating an overhaul of the criminal justice and healthcare systems and the way society views addiction; similar to what the Susan G. Komen Foundation did for Breast Cancer, and the awareness around HIV/AIDS did for the reduction of that disease. 

“If people in Hollywood came out about addiction and connected themselves to something bigger than their personal stories they could do what Elizabeth Taylor and Magic Johnson did for HIV/AIDS. It would take it outside the context of which we currently live - out of shame and anonymity. Twenty-three million people are in long term recovery, another twenty-three are addicted, and if you include their families we are talking about one-hundred million in the United States being directly impacted by this illness.”

In both addiction and recovery, a person can feel as if they are living two lives. For Greg, while in recovery, one life was with his recovery network, the other was with everyone else. He hopes people will come out of the shadows and no longer be silent  or ashamed about their recovery status. “To overcome addictive illness is freeing. To profit from others experiences is the greatest awakening. It is a true transformation and a miracle.  The recovery story is one we must tell if we are going to save future generations.”

 

 

Other Stories by Vicky Victoria
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