Buzzing ensues in the depths of the tattoo parlor, a familiar sound to those acquainted with the art. The shop is cozy and well lit. There is a smile when you walk in, and the atmosphere remains personable as you continue to the artist chairs. After addiction recovery gave him back control, Ian has a gift of connecting with others.
Sitting in the chair is a customer wanting to imprint the image of a cross on her shoulder. Ian cleans the fleshy canvas and begins envisioning how the Christian symbol will fit on her arm. Being a Christian man and a servant of God, it is a symbol he is familiar with. Not just visually, but spiritually as well. After years of struggling with addiction, he turned his life to God by trusting in the plan and receiving treatment.
If you consider the typical Christian to be a clean-cut, suit-wearing, tattoo-less believer, Ian does not quite fit the mold. He is a man of his own making and proud of who he is and what he does. Though his faith is unshakable, it does not come without a history of turmoil. He was an addict and alcoholic for many years. As the buzz of the tattoo needle begins, he recounts his story. A story that fills his life with a newfound sense of purpose.
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The Bottle on the Fridge
Ian grew up in Centerville, Indiana. He is a kindhearted man and came from a good family. In his high school years, he would go to school and focus on athletics. He had plenty of friends, and they often were more important to him than his family.
“There was a huge love of sports in my life. At the time, success looked like getting a scholarship to college for sports and having fun with my friends.”
However, drugs, alcohol, and sex often got in the way of his sports, despite his hard work. Following the example of a few wayward cousins, Ian started getting high and drunk more and more. He remembers missing pictures for the wrestling team due to falling asleep after smoking weed. A silly mistake committed by a simple troubled teenager. Nonetheless, the story of his addiction goes farther back than high school.
“It all started when I was about three or four years old taking sips of my grandpas’ alcohol. Realistically, my first drink was when I was very, very young. When I was eight or nine, we would sneak a Smirnoff Ice out of the cooler when going on vacation.”
Alone at a Friend’s House
Fast forward a few years and he is a sixth-grader playing at a friend’s house. Being alone, they decide to break out the beer in curiosity. As they drink, Ian noticed the bottle on the top of the fridge. It was a bottle of hard liquor.
“The first time I ever drank, I blacked out completely drunk. I remember waking up that night covered in vomit from throwing up in my sleep.”
For years to come, this night would serve as a stark warning and play a part in his addiction recovery. At the same time, this night would begin his obsession with alcohol and drugs.
“Throughout high school, I remember obsessing about the next time I would get drunk or high.”
Chaos in the Enemy’s Realm
Ian was accepted to a university even after his chaotic high school experience. He tried to have fun the best way he could in the way he wanted to. After a long drawn out semester of partying, Ian was officially kicked out of the university.
As the years passed, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he continued to struggle with substance abuse. Eventually, he found himself in a halfway house in an attempt to achieve addiction recovery. During his stay, he notes the experience that would stay with him.
“I’ve seen bathrooms covered in blood from suicide attempts. This just goes to show, addiction is a painful experience. It is psychologically breaking.”
It hurt his soul having to work through this addiction. Not simply because of the post-trauma from this incident, but from knowing that in his heart was kindness.
“It was chaos. Not just for me, but for everyone around me. It hurt to have this heart full of love and be doing all these grimy things.”
Ian often found himself in situations that required him to do things of which he is not proud.
“I couldn’t tell why I made those decisions, but I knew there had to be a plan.”
It caused him grief to go against his good nature, but among the chaos in the enemy’s realm, this earth, he did not know where to go.
Show Me Your Friends
Ian was put in jail after graduating from the halfway house while hiding his drinking. When he got out, he ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous shortly after. This is where he met his sponsors, who would change his life and enable his addiction recovery. Throughout the program, they taught him how to structure his life and build meaningful relationships.
“My sponsors in my program came before me and showed me a way out of that pain. They showed me I do not have to live like that.”
Unfortunately, this was not the only influence that affected him in his recovery. Ian recalls his first time in the halfway house.
“I was two months sober. I was on the right path. One guy that was with me started signing his own papers and borrowing the car to go to the bar. I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but at the end of the next meeting, I got my paper signed and went to the bar. The following week we signed each other’s papers and skipped the meeting to go straight to the bar instead.”
Not Fun Anymore
After skipping a few meetings, he ended up back in jail. This is when he turned his life to God and His word. This was a change that helped him in his addiction recovery efforts and in his 12-step program. This taught him a lesson in the need for a healthy support system.
“When I drink or do drugs, I don’t get to go back to when it was fun. I go back to square one, which is using every day.”
Ian believes God brings people into our lives that can help us in our trials. Whether they help in a direct or indirect way, he believes it is up to him to decide the role they’ll play in his life. The motto “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future,” is a principle he lives by. With help from his sponsors and extensive treatment, he was able to get back on his feet and see the light.
Truth and Trust in Addiction Recovery
Letting go of his past life was never easy for Ian. He spent many years unwilling to cut off his previous mindset, despite the treatment he was in. Eventually, over time, his grip was loosened, and he was able to drop it altogether. He notes an image he saw to help him through his hard time and towards his addiction recovery.
“Whenever I am holding onto something, I remember a picture of Jesus and a young girl holding a teddy bear.”
In the picture, Jesus is holding out a hand, asking for the girl to give him the bear and saying, “Do you trust me?” The girl in the image looks nervous, even frightened of giving away her bear. Little does she know that in the other arm of Jesus is a larger, more amazing teddy bear that he is willing to give her if she lets go of the one in her hand and trusts him.
The image stands as a visual lesson. When you let go of something, God will replace it with something even better, it is simply a matter of trust. Similarly, it is important for addicts to relearn how to trust again after experiencing such hardship. This is something Ian knows all too well.
“After letting go, I knew God had this awesome life in store for me. All I had to do was trust him and allow him to give it to me.”
Trusting the Process of Addiction Recovery
The process of learning to trust his sponsors’ advice and the treatment plan was something very difficult for him. As with any addict, he avoided trusting since it led to pain and embarrassment. However, when he finally realized that God’s hand was in the details of his recovery, he was able to move forward without looking back. A big part of his recovery was learning to be honest with himself and those around him.
“Honesty hurts. It hurts your soul. But making amends allows you to be in the service of God. Everything in my treatment program was guided by Him.”
Every Tattoo Tells a Story
Ian recounts every tattoo he has gotten from top to bottom, each one coming with its own story. With each one, a new lesson learned. With each one, the pain from an old wound. However, Ian does not regret a thing.
“If I did not go through all the stuff I had gone through, I wouldn’t be able to help the people I help today. I have depth in my words because of my experiences.”
As a man of great faith, Ian recognizes the pain he has gone through but knows it was all in God’s plan for him. His main goal with his life after drugs and alcohol addiction is to help others along in their recovery. If he had to do it all over again, all the pain, chaos, and self-doubt, he would for the sake of developing empathy. He knows he would not be able to adequately help others in their recovery if he did not have a first-hand account of what they were going through. Also, his willingness to stay connected with God helps him better speak what needs to be said to those he helps.
“I now live my life in a spiritual realm of living. By staying connected, I can help those suffering from what I went through.”
Currently, he acts as a sponsor for ten men who are trying to recover. Because of this, he requires himself to handle every instance of difficulty they might have with grace. Knowing their pain to the utmost extent, he handles them in a way he would have wanted someone to handle him.
“I have so many situations in my life where if I don’t handle them with grace, someone might get hurt. And I don’t want that to happen.”
Small and Simple Things for Addiction Recovery
According to Ian, “God likes the little things.” The small and simple things you do in your life make the biggest difference. As with Ian, by changing your principles and trusting in treatment, you can better help yourself in recovering from addiction and start to help others in need.
Having been in a position of helping for so long, Ian feels as though he has found his purpose.
“My drug and alcohol abuse were a symptom of my problem, and my problem was me. After getting help and applying principles into my life, I feel like I’m exactly where I should be.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please call us. We can help you find recovery from your addiction that will provide you with a lifestyle you can cherish. Please call 1-888-906-0952 today to speak with an addiction specialist.
About the Author
Michael Tavernier is an Arizona State University graduate who believes in empathy, kindness, and self-love. He strives for contentment and peace in a world that is abnormally chaotic. He can be often be found in the mountains of Arizona hiking and wishing he had a dog. The real question is: will he ever finish undoing his cufflink?