Profiles in Recovery

Joseph Sharp

The ravages of methamphetamine extracted a painful toll on Sharp. His addiction led to near-death experiences and badly swollen limbs, the result of shooting crystal meth. But Sharp found a path to freedom — fighting meth’s grip with a full arsenal of recovery strategies:

12-step meetings, residential rehab, psychotherapy, Buddhist meditation, Christian Bible Study and daily altruism. Today, his life’s work is helping others find recovery and redemption from methamphetamine.

At My Worst:
I couldn’t even imagine my life without crystal meth. To my mind, my life had only one trajectory: eventual dereliction and death, all because of my addiction, and I felt powerless to stop it.

Rules I live by:
If I’m keeping a secret, I need to tell it to someone I trust. This not only disempowers the secret, which might easily push me into using again, but it lets me get the collected wisdom of my friends and mentors in recovery, reminding me that I’m not doing this alone.

Favorite recovery quote:
“What is to give light, must endure burning” ~ Viktor Fankl

What I learned about myself:
That I’m not morally weak or lacking in character because I’m an addict. I have a disease. The medical community considers addiction to be a “chronic disease,” the same as high blood pressure or asthma. . .Those who don’t know any better view addiction as a moral issue, a matter of willpower or character. But the truth is, addiction is a biological process in a brain that is malfunctioning.

Stigma I faced:
There’s nothing Hollywood chic or hip about being a meth head – you’re merely a tragic tweaker on your way to being mindless, homeless and toothless. No one wants to hire a recovering meth addict. The assumption is, you can’t ever really trust the person because, hey, it’s meth.

What I value most in recovery:
The exuberance of life itself and my sober friendships.

When cravings come:
Here’s a trick I used a lot during my first year of recovery: whenever a craving would come, I’d strike this bargain with myself: I won’t use tonight, but, if when I awake tomorrow morning, I still want to use, then the party is on – big time. But guess what? Without fail, every morning when I awakened, I felt only one thing: immense gratitude that I hadn’t used the night before. And I know scores of other addicts who have used this technique to their advantage as well.

Thoughts on relapse:
It’s important to understand addiction through the medical model so we can jettison the guilt and shame associated with relapses. This is not to encourage or excuse slips, but to be realistic. Most recovering addicts will relapse during the journey of their recovery. Society doesn’t condemn the person with hypertension who gains instead of loses weight. We don’t shame a diabetic for having a sweet tooth or forgetting to take his meds. We sympathize with their slips and cheerlead them to do better next time.

Proudest moments:
Just a few weeks ago, I was told over 150 inmates at a county jail in Florida have used my book (Quitting Crystal Meth) to help get clean. Almost daily, I receive emails from people who have read my blog or book and come to a place where they no longer “blame” their addicted loved one. . . And last year I got a call from an old friend, telling me an Iraq vet wandered into his Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting carrying a tattered copy of Quitting Crystal Meth and announced “This book saved my life.”

Follow Sharp:

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