As Told By: Tony Bratko, MSC, LPC, LISAC
Do you believe in miracles?
I do. I know that in my struggles with over 30 years of addiction to opiates, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana, I was unable to stop using drugs even though I knew they were killing me and they were robbing me of my soul and my spirituality. Every time I took that next pill, puff, drink, or snort, it took a little piece of my soul until there was nothing left except for self loathing and despair. Every day I told myself that I did not want to live the life I was living and wanted to stop using drugs but as soon as the withdrawals became to unbearable, I always believed I had no choice but to use again. This cycle of finding ways and means to continue using, leaving my morals and values negotiable at all times, was evident in the last 10 years of my addiction.
Now the miracle.
On October 31, 2006 at 6am, I awoke to severe withdrawal symptoms from opiate use which included shaking, shivering, anxiety, restlessness vomiting, cold sweats, and other bodily issues that I chose not to describe here. This is not the miracle; this was an everyday event. This special morning, I jumped out of bed and began a frantic effort pacing around the house obsessed with getting my dealer on the phone in order to get well, with no success. As I was walking through my kids playroom, my 8 month old daughter raised her hands for me to pick her up and I walked right by her. I stopped dead in my tracks and reverted right back to bed. I lay in bed contemplating ending my suffering followed by a prayer for guidance. After the prayer, something different happened that morning than any other morning for the past 10 years. I got out of bed and asked my very patient wife, who was pretty much done with me by this time, to get me help. I was never able to do this simple task of asking for help on my own.
The miracle continues.
My wife, who should be sainted for staying with me and putting up with me through my addiction, called our insurance company to find a treatment center for me. Once she was given a treatment facility in network with our insurance, she called and was told that there would not be a bed available until 6pm that night. From 6am to 6pm, I endured the most severe withdrawal symptoms I ever experienced. My normal pattern would be to give up and go out to find drugs to make me well. Not this time. I lasted until 6pm for my appointment at the treatment facility. Once I was in the facility, I had to endure the intake process which took another 5 hours until I was admitted into the detoxification unit and given the medication to decrease my withdrawal symptoms. During the 5 hour intake process, I had the opportunity to leave and find the drugs that would make me well, Not this time. I stayed. I did not know it at the time but this was all the work of my Higher Power which I choose to call God.
The miracle continues.
When I settled into my room at the facility, I dropped to my knees and asked God to direct me in my path to recovery. My prayers were answered. Being raised Catholic, which included attending Catholic grammar school, my drug use lead me away from God and spirituality. Being spiritual and a child of God conflicted with my behavior in active addiction as it does most addicts and alcoholics. I honestly, open-mindedly, and willingly participated in every aspect of my treatment and followed the suggestions of the professionals with vigor and excitement to change my life. Upon discharge from detox, I attended my first 12-step meeting and have never turned back. I participated in out-patient treatment, attended Narcotics Anonymous daily, got a sponsor, began working the steps, and became of service for other addicts. I also participate in marriage counseling with my awesome wife.
The miracle continues.
Over the past 10 years, I went back to school and received my Master’s of Science in Counseling degree, became a licensed therapist, and most importantly remained clean and sober, living a life of recovery in all areas of my life. I still attend NA meetings regularly, work the steps, sponsor men, and have been active in service work. I have become a better father, husband, son, and a man of faith in God. So I ask you again. Do you believe in miracles? I do. I am a miracle today. From a man who was destined to live and die as a junkie, I have the greatest life I could have ever imagined. Miracles do happen!
Geffen has been in the field for over 20 years, and has worked in every facet of substance abuse treatment. Using his own personal experience in recovery and the education he has learned while in the field, Geffen can relate and connect with clients in a way that promotes recovery, self love and the desire for clients to achieve the best for themselves. Geffen is licensed in Arizona as a substance abuse counselor and has an IC&RC certification, as well as a life coaching certification.