Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.

My name is _____________. I am almost 60 years old, eight years clean in NA, and this is my first time in recovery. I thought I was okay despite a lifetime of using drugs, inner desperation, and outer chaos. I did not think I was an addict because I had not lost my job, home, or children. I had not yet learned that every hit, drink, or whatever I took led me further away from who I really was. I had had two marriages that lasted over a decade each and two children that I helped raise from birth in active addiction until they were about 10 and 12 years old. My life was use, work, use, live, use, travel, use, raise kids, use, do bad stuff, use until I could not any more. Energy, love, and motivation were gone. Life was purely mechanical. I could not live anymore in the masks I wore to get through the day.

When I was ready, a series of events and people led me to the loving arms of Narcotic Anonymous and helped me get clean. As I stayed, the members lifted me up saying: “It is good to see you grow.” NA became my spiritual path to living better. I went to meetings and began daily work on myself through the steps of NA with my sponsor. I started to heal. The steps helped me change the way I look at things. Drugs were no longer an obsession. The light I saw ahead, not the years of darkness behind, started to guide me. I found that the more I looked at myself, the less things around bothered me. My sponsor would say I was making spiritual deposits for future withdrawal when needed. The hard work paid off in serenity.

At two years clean, I received a phone call at five o’clock in the morning from the police to come pick up my daughter and son. Their mom’s mental illness had taken over and although she had always been a hands-on mother, she had put them in serious danger. They’ve not spent a night with her since. With assistance from my significant other and NA program members who had done it before, I started raising my children as a single parent and without the use of drugs. This was hard and different. Parenting, as everything else in my life, had always been done loaded or waiting to get there. How could I help my daughter when she cried for her mom and we didn’t know where she was? “Pray for her with them,” a member said. What a tool! “All they need from you is love. Everything else will fall into place.” NA came through—I really started to connect with a new spiritual way of life, looking for guidance through others, my higher power, and even connecting in my profession with clean colleagues who could be my role models.

Just as I began to grow and heal, some of life’s harshest realities showed up. My significant other’s son came to live with us full-time because of his father’s death due to addiction. Then my mom died. Then my niece, spark of the family, died in a car wreck, leaving three young children. But I did not use. I just do not use, no matter what. That includes alcohol and marijuana too.  Whether it is troubles guiding children traumatized by my active addiction with their mom now out of their lives or learning to get things done (or let them go) with work and two busy teens, I do not use. Now my significant other and I have a baby girl who gets all of me. I’m starting again. She doesn’t get those eyes, that anxiety, or those arbitrary moods because of drugs brought to my other children. My older kids are making their way toward college. So how do I balance it all? My recovery is first, every day, then everything else.

My recovery provides guidance. Everything else—keeping my priorities in order, keeping my children safe—falls into place. It starts early in the morning when I roll over and read a daily meditation, text a prayer to a friend, and then go for a walk. Then a little step work and the rest of the day falls into place—not always what I want to do, but what I am capable of, with help. Everything does not get done, but the third step helped me decide to let some things go and it revolutionized my life. For example, when the children came to live with me, evening meetings were gone. Then, after five years of making my home group every week, my mandatory parent activities at school blocked that. I miss some of those school things, too. I make NA meetings almost every day, but I go when and where I can and supplement with NA telephone meetings. I sponsor men, go to hospitals and institutions at least once a week, and work in the same profession I always have, but now eight years doing it clean!

I’m happy today seeing others find what I found through recovery—a life worth living. I am grateful for those who showed me the way to a life I never considered possible. I make sure to tell new members the message I was told: “It’s good to see you grow.” I now nurture my spirit by helping others.