Profiles in Recovery

Byron A. Merriweather

Merriweather is building a culture of recovery in West Africa – and challenging die-hard superstitions about addiction.

He works in Ghana, “a country that believes still today that addiction and alcoholism is caused by demons that take over the body,” Merriweather says. “There are health professionals ignorant to the fact that alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease – not a moral weakness, lack of will power, or a sin.”

Working with Recovery Africa and Hopeful Way Foundation, Merriweather has helped more than 50 Ghanaians find long-term recovery since 2009. It was his own journey to sobriety back in the United States that inspired Merriweather’s calling; he uses his skills as an I.T. professional to mobilize Ghana’s movement.

“I thank God for the opportunity to do His work of recovery very well in Africa,” he says.

Day Job:
International Certified Addiction Professional in Ghana, Africa

At my worst, I was:
Homeless on the streets of Richmond, Virginia. Working day labor jobs to support my habit and eventually incarcerated for the third time for simple possession of cocaine. Total loss of family support, loss of great I.T. jobs.

What worked for me:
Praying to my higher power (which I choose to call God) in a jail cell – which led me to becoming a member of an Adult Drug Court Program for 18 months.

I applied the 12-step approach and followed directions from a sponsor while practicing the spiritual principles of the program in an Oxford House environment. Community service work at a homeless shelter was also a vital part of my recovery process.

What I value most in recovery:
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to raise a family at this stage of my life while being in Ghana. I have been in active addiction since the age of 21 and I started my long term recovery at the age of 46. Never married nor had any children. I’m currently 60, with a wife and three children and another one in the ‘oven’ while being very pro-active in the Recovery Movement here in Ghana.

Rules I live by:
Trust in God, continue to improve myself to be the best I can be, and be of maximum service to others. Stay away from those old using playmates, using playgrounds and using playthings. Never be too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

Favorite recovery quote:
“Keep Coming Back, More Will Be Revealed” ~ Alcoholics Anonymous

It took me 17 years to catch on to this new way of life with the 12-step approach and stay abstinent from alcohol and cocaine. I had to keep coming back to the rooms, stay connected and involved with the fellowship and apply the 12-step program of action – and gradually my life began to transform into the man I am today.

Best advice for newbies:
I understand there are many different pathways to recovery. I believe and trust in the process of the mutual support group (12-step) approach. I would encourage the newbies to take your time. Easy Does It. Don’t try to catch up, just catch on to this new way of life. Go to meetings, get a sponsor, find a home group, do the step work with a sponsor, and get a service commitment.

What saves me from myself:
Truly knowing and understanding that there is a God and it is not me. Staying humble meaning staying teachable and staying in position . . . Recognition of the old self when it rears its deceptive ugly head and practice the spiritual tools learned in the program. Reciting the Serenity Prayer, direct praying and meditating . . . letting go and letting God run the show.

On my schedule today:
I awaken and thank God for another day of life, making a commitment not to use drugs or alcohol just for today. I read the 12-step meditation for the day. I counsel persons in treatment and sponsor several persons in long term recovery living in the “Oxford House Model” sober living houses that I helped to establish in Accra, Ghana.

Proudest moment:
Witnessing the birth of my son Kofi Leroy in Ghana and passing my International Certified Addiction Professional Certification Exam while in Ghana. I had not been in a classroom in almost 20 years.

Thoughts on relapse:
Once I had realized I had a serious problem with alcohol and drugs, it took me 17 years to finally get it right . . . each time I relapsed, my circumstances got worse, never better. I kept coming back by the grace and loving righteousness of God until the program got a hold of me. To those who are struggling….. Don’t try to catch up, just catch on. Easy Does It!

If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your
insights, please contact us at [email protected].

Merriweather works with Recovery Africa and Hopeful Way Foundation,  and has helped more than 50 Ghanaians find long-term recovery since 2009.