Recognizing National Recovery Month in September, my new friend, Tyler Reitzner generously agreed to write a guest blog with a bit of his story. Tyler works to bring trauma forward as an oft-ignored possible component of addiction. See links below. Thank you, Tyler, for a picture of joy in recovery.
As I tucked my youngest son into bed last night, my vision faded into the memory of sitting in my oldest son’s room many years earlier, looking down at a different toddler mattress lying in the middle of a deserted nursery. I am back in time where a small walk-in closet is left open, containing only five empty child clothes hangers. Enough dust collected on the white wooden blades of the still ceiling fan to remind me that my son has not lived here for over a year.
I sat back then, at the edge of the mattress, staring at a bottle of vodka, praying that it would take away the pain of hearing my absent son’s laughter and cries in my head; feeling completely unworthy of accepting his unconditional love.
Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) gave me many challenges: failing health, legal issues, loss of home, being unemployable, loss of a marriage, loss of good friendships, no money. The most intensely painful thing that I had to deal with was having a beautiful son that I loved so much and who gave me unconditional love that I did not think that I was worth receiving. I was driven to the point where suicide was a legitimate source of freedom from this type of existence.
Today I have seven years of recovery. The biggest challenge that I continue to have to face is thinking that I am worth going through it. I have to constantly tell myself that I am not defective because I have these issues. Don’t get me wrong, these are very complex issues, but they have proven that they are also the source of my most pure humanity. It is through these issues that I can tap into my compassion through vulnerability and feel authentically connected to others.
What seven years of recovery has looked like for me has been intensive treatment, sober living, therapy, and the 12-step way to live. This may seem like a lot, but as I stated, PTSD and SUD are complex issues that do not have a quick fix and I am glad that they don’t. I did not go into recovery to be sober. I want to thrive in life. Everyone deserves that.
Today I took my youngest son and his now twelve-year-old brother to the park. At one point as we were playing they both gave me a “group hug,” and I was actually able to experience their love. That is thriving to me. That is recovery.
Tyler Reitzner is a Patient Leader, Speaker and Behavioral Health Advocate. He lives with his wife and two boys in Minnesota.
Board Member: MN Trauma Project http://www.mntraumaproject.org/
Board Member: Minnesota Recovery Connection https://minnesotarecovery.org/
Director of Marketing and Outreach: FRrē, Family Recovery Resource Experts https://frre.net/
Coming this October! Podcast series and website, Strength in Brokenness, with Tyler and Dr. Ryan Van Wyk.