Recovery Gave Me Purpose & Saved My Life

Charles Bellinger shares his inspiration behind his recovery journey and how he's found purpose.

In 2007, my world came to a screeching halt. I was 16 years deep into a decorated law enforcement career when alcohol dealt me a significant blow. Not only was I a SWAT team member at the time – but also a SWAT Instructor – as well as a basic recruit instructor. Over the course of those last 16 years, I experienced much success but now my career was on the line as result of a DUI crash. At that time, I didn’t know what recovery was. Or that it was even possible for a guy like me.

Up to this point in my life I had already burned through 2 marriages and was working on a third. My kids were coming around less and less, and if I wasn’t on-duty I was more-or-less drunk, all the time.  After a leave absence to get my legal issues ironed out, and a trip to my second spin-dry treatment center, the department brought me back and imposed only one stipulation: I had to find a recovery program and stay sober for 5 years.

I didn’t know how to stay sober. Nor did I want to. But I tried. The issue I discovered, however, was that when I stopped drinking I became unbearable to live with. Meaning, I couldn’t stand how I felt. I was extremely irritable and had an almost impossible time carrying out tasks as simple as going grocery shopping. At times, even my skin hurt. I tried going to some meetings, suggested by my boss, but they weren’t for me. I wasn’t that bad. At the time, I even remember telling myself “if the people at those meetings felt as horrible on the inside as I did, they would want to drink too.” And so, I got loaded again. By March of 2009, I was unemployed. My life spiraled out of control, and I soon found myself heavily involved in the use of pills and methamphetamine. This led to more treatment centers, hospitals, the county jail, and eventually homelessness. I compromised everything I ever believed in. I sunk to a low that was unbearable to face, so I stayed drunk or high for the next 4 years. I couldn’t stop for the life of me.

December 10, 2014 – a moment of clarity hit me. I was on the backside of an 8-day run, completely out of my mind and no one left in my life. I basically came-to, realizing for the first-time ever, the magnitude of my situation. My insides were screaming. I could no longer get high enough (or drunk enough) to stop the emptiness.  Once again, I pondered suicide. Thankfully, during a brief unexplained moment of peace, I convinced myself that maybe I could get sober and stay sober.

On that day (12/10/14), I made a decision that I’d no longer be a slave to addiction.  As painful as it was in the beginning, I threw myself into the world of recovery. I did what was suggested by those who were living lives that I had never dreamed possible. I met men brimming with love for their fellows, who were down in the trenches, caring for our brothers and sisters that remained trapped in addiction. It had been a long, long time since I had concerned myself with needs of others. The thought initially frightened me, but I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.

My life today is nothing like the old. I am free from the obsession to drink or use, and have been some time. I no longer suffer from anxiety, depression, or fear. I have successfully entered back into the work force, and am a valued employee. I have reconnected with family and have friends that care about me and I about them. I am engaged to an amazing woman who journeys upon a common spiritual path. But the craziest thing I have today? I have purpose. 

My purpose today is to reach out and help – in any way I can – those still suffering. I do that by hanging out on skid-row, visiting detox centers, helping men get jobs or housing, and showing others how I got sober.  When I do these few things, I experience peace, joy and a renewed self-esteem. I never thought in a million years that living a purposeful life in recovery would be possible. Now I know, there is no other way to live.