Bringing my true self into light – Mark O

3 people pose for the camera on a bridge with another bridge in the background

I stand here today full of love and gratitude. I am so grateful for my sobriety and the life I have today. I am proud of myself for how far I have come, but at the same time, also humbled. I know that I didn’t make it on my own. None of this would have been possible without surrendering and turning my will over to the big guy up there. He also started with blessing me with people who I now call family. To guide me, to pull me out of the darkness when I need it, as well as to share the joys I now have. That family is right here, at Together We Can. I felt the love the moment I stepped foot at T-dub. Nobody knew who I was, but everyone accepted me and showed me love right from the get-go. Before that, I’ve never felt like I fit in. At school, at work, at home, anywhere really. I always felt like I was worthless and never good enough. But in recovery, I felt home. It didn’t matter who I was. I was surrounded with people who were just like me, just as lost, confused, and convinced that we truly were worthless. Men before me, men who have gone through hell and back already, helped me open my eyes. They gave me tools to shift my mind, to change my thinking and view the world from a different perspective. A better perspective.

Before I could even fully accept that I was truly was a good and valuable person, before I believed in myself, I was blessed with a job here at T-dub. A job where I got to pursue my passion and talents. All of which I never really knew I possessed before. I couldn’t believe that someone trusted and believed in me. I thought to myself, if someone else could believe in me, I guess it won’t hurt if I started believing in myself too? Eventually, more things started to fall into place the more I immersed myself in recovery and giving back and helping others. I became addicted to my sobriety! Old, toxic relationships fizzled, I met my amazing wife, my son lived with us for a few years, we got a great home, and most importantly, I reconnected with my family back east, in Hamilton.

Growing up, I always felt like my family hated me. I was born different; I was mouthy, and my logic was a bit screwy. OK, maybe more than a bit! Of course, all of this got me in a lot trouble, and I interpreted it as, everyone hates me. Constantly getting into trouble led me to believe that I was nothing but a screw up and that I was worthless. Little did I know, my brain just wasn’t wired to self reflect back then and see beyond my own perspective.

I really looked up to my Dad and for years I tried so hard to make him proud, but I just kept messing up. When I was 16, he died in my arms and since then I have been full of regret and anger. I was so angry with myself that I never got to make

him proud. It wasn’t until recently that I learned so much about my Dad. That underneath all that sternness, was a kind, loving, soft hearted, and forgiving man. For the past few months, I got the opportunity to spend some time with my Mom. It has been 21 years since I got to spend Christmas with her, and it was wonderful. I will always cherish our time together in my heart forever. We spent countless hours just talking about her life and about my Dad. All the things she and him went through and all the sacrifices they made for us, for me, so we could have a better life. She had so many great stories to tell. I realized that I never heard them before because when I was young, I was so self centred and didn’t care. I learned that my grandfather was also an addict. For years my Mom couldn’t forgive him, and it was actually my Dad who pushed her to find forgiveness in her heart. She also told me my Dad liked to joke around a lot, he was strong-willed, a bit of a rebel, and that he was a hopeless romantic. The more she told me stories about him, I was beginning to think that perhaps we were a lot alike. Tears welled up in my eyes when my Mom paused mid story and said, you remind me a lot of your Dad actually. Not in a million years did I ever think I could be just like him. He was such a great, hardworking, strong, loyal, and generous man. He was full of so much integrity. Then I realized that I am also that man today. All the tools I acquired being in recovery, helped bring my true self into light.

I didn’t mean to make it sounds so easy, as most of you know, it’s tough. There are days the demons start creeping in, start whispering lies, and putting nasty thoughts in my head. I’m just glad that I have my recovery family and of course my actual family who will love and support me, even when I am at my worst and my character defects come into play. Remembering that I am blessed with that, believing that I am loved and accepted, is what helps me keep going. I can’t ask for anything more. Reaching out and being of service to others who are in need, is also what keeps me going. But if I ever become selfish, shut people out, and think I can do this on my own, the demons will consume me. I believe that it is good to stay connected, always.

I’d like to thank a few key people. Without any of you, none of these great things in my life would be possible. I’d like to start by thanking Stacy Wilson. Also, congratulations on 14 years of sobriety. You are my mentor. From the first day we’ve met, you were always there to talk, listen, and help me in any way. Whenever I lost faith in myself, you always believed in me. When I was at my worst and not making the best choices, you were patient with me. No matter

what, it’s always just love and kindness from you. I am so thankful you’re in my life my friend.

To my sponsor Marc Dube, thank you for always being there for me. For all your advice, guidance, and for always reminding me that I am good enough, that I matter, and that I am loved. Most of all, thank you for your friendship brother. You too have seen me at my worst, yet you never judge me. You’re patient with me, even when I am being bullheaded. Your patience baffles me sometimes. You are always there for me, never expecting anything in return. I only wish you the best brother, I hope that all the support, love, and kindness you so freely give to others comes back to you ten-fold because you deserve it.

To my beautiful and amazing wife Michelle, you are my rock and my best friend. Thank you for never giving up on me, for taking care of me and loving me unconditionally. You accept me for who I am and always choose to see the best in me. I was at my best when we met, but unfortunately you saw me at my very worst. You have been nothing but good to me, and it pains me knowing that I hurt you so deeply and broke your trust when I relapsed 3 years ago. Every day I pray that you never ever have to experience that again. Every time I try to promise you that I won’t ever put you through that again, you always remind me to just take it one day at a time. Thank you so much for your full support and constant understanding. When I am struggling, you encourage me to talk it out, you listen, and you help me find clarity. Sometimes I feel like you know me better than I know myself. You hear even the words that are unspoken and just know how to be there for me. You truly are my soulmate and I am so blessed to have you in my life. You make me want to be a better man. I don’t ever want to live my life without you by my side. Thank you for your patience and for having faith in the recovery program at TWC. You have immersed your life into my world to have a better understanding of this disease. You have such a huge heart, thank you for your unending love and forgiveness. I am truly the luckiest man alive. I love you with all my heart.

To Carol Anne, thank you for helping Michelle and I with our marriage. For supporting my wife and being there for her when I messed up. You have taught both of us so much on how to love each other and to love ourselves. Michelle agrees that without your guidance, she would have never reached the full understanding of addiction. Because of you, my wife’s confidence grew, you helped her become stronger, and taught her how to support me best and at the

same time not to take any crap from me! On behalf of my wife, we thank you so much for being the guiding light in our life.

Lastly, I would like to thank God. For blessing me with the chance (not just once, but multiple times) to heal at Together We Can and for helping me cross paths with the right people to help me in my journey. I am grateful for the relationship I have with him today. Without God, nothing is possible. I know that if I stay on the path of recovery, God will never leave my side. He will continue to bless me with so much more than I deserve.

I am truly grateful to be part of the Together We Can family. What I Iove about TWC is once you become a client, you’re not just a client, you’re a family member. It doesn’t matter if you’re there for 1, 30, 90 days, or have lost your way and needed to come back, you will always be family. You’ll always be shown love and support. The feelings I get being a part of this family is indescribable, all I know is that I am truly blessed.

If anyone ever needs a helping hand or just someone to talk to, I am always here, anytime. Never be afraid to reach out. Thank you all.

David Penny

David Penny is Together We Can's Marketing and Media coordinator. Learn more about him & read his articles here.

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