changeA lot of times, addicts and alcoholics do not see the changes within themselves when they get clean and sober. Often, it’s those around them who are the first to take notice. It may take time, but there’s nothing quite like the first realization that big things are happening without being aware of them. Although I did not stay sober my first go around, I knew that AA and the 12 Steps had something that I couldn’t find elsewhere.

My Own Story of Change

I was around 16 or 17, involuntarily enrolled in an outpatient rehab program for getting caught while high on crystal meth. I didn’t want to go to residential treatment, so I did as I was told (after repeatedly being asked). I was forced to go to meetings, but went because some of the girls there were attractive. Frankly, if I did not want to do something, the only way I was going to do it was fighting tooth and nail, or hefty bribery.

Little did I know, things were changing. People said they were seeing it, but I figured it was nothing more than them trying to keep me going to meetings—“don’t leave before the miracle happens,” and all that jazz.

That summer, after I had a couple months under my belt, I began working for my uncle doing construction. The work left me sore everyday and I was the only person remotely within my age group. However, for someone who was not used to having money in his pockets, it was a nice change of pace. Plus, the jobsite was close to my house.

I remember my uncle calling me one Saturday morning. It was about 5 a.m. “Rick, I need you to go to the site. One of the neighbors is crazy and complaining about dirt in her driveway again. Take a broom and a dustpan, and do what you can.”

So I threw on some clothes, tied my boots, went to the garage, and started the walk. The sun was only barely starting to show when I left.

I got to the jobsite and looked at the neighbor’s driveway. It wasn’t the ankle-deep mess I thought it was going to be. No, it was that fine sediment too light to be controlled—the kind that makes things dirtier the more you try to clean it.

With muscles aching and eyes half-opened, I swept. I swept for maybe 5 or 10 minutes before I got as much as I possibly could’ve gotten from that driveway—maybe a coffee mug’s worth of dirt. I dumped it back on the jobsite’s lot, and walked home with my broom and dustpan.

Here’s where that change comes in. My first reaction when I started walking home was, “I’m glad I could do that for my uncle so he didn’t have to drive all the way up here to deal with that on a Saturday morning before dawn.” I remember stopping and actually looking around, as if I’d see where that thought came from. Surely it couldn’t have been mine.

I knew there was a change, because that was completely, without question, out of character for me. My reaction would’ve been, “Why in the world did he wake me up on my day off to do that nonsense?” Admittedly, my language choice was a little more lively than that. Still, I had little care for others. It wasn’t out of spite; I just couldn’t connect the dots past how things affected me. I wanted to, but until then, it really just wasn’t there.

I relapsed a couple months later, but it was one of those pivotal moments where I couldn’t deny that huge, positive changes were happening as a result of the Steps. When I was finally ready, I knew exactly where to go and how to get the help I needed.