Profiles in Recovery

Mike Pohl

Three decades into his recovery, Pohl remains in awe of the gift of sobriety – and its domino healing effect.

Last year, the 8th Grade history teacher hosted a dinner for about 10 men in recovery, and their loved ones. Pohl told the men how they were giving their families the best Christmas present ever by being sober, clean and present for the holidays – perhaps for the first time in years.

“As the tears came down my face, I realized how important this gift is,” Pohl recalled, “and how fortunate I am for my higher power to allow me to be a part of it.”

Finding his way to a 12-step program helped free Pohl from drug and alcohol addiction. “I have discovered that my purpose is to help others find the type of recovery that I have found over the last 33 years,” he says. “Seeing someone recover is such a blessing and gives me the deepest kind of gratitude that I will ever know.”

Day Job:
8th Grade U.S. History Teacher

At my worst, I was:
Suicidal, vomited every time I drank (I had no idea that I had overdosed and that my body was trying to save its own life). I ate speed like candy, to the point of laying on the floor with both arms clenching my chest hoping that my heart wouldn’t explode.

Advice to my younger self:
Mike, you are spiritually and emotionally fractured. Hold onto hope that one day you will find a path that will lead you to a life you cannot even conceive of . . . you will have people who love you for who you are, and you will be given a gift that will help others save their own lives too.

My rock bottom moment:
My spirit finally shattered. It was the early 1980s and it wasn’t okay to be gay. I was trying to drink myself straight and obviously it did not work. I met up with my sister and told her that I had a major revelation and that I knew exactly what my problem was: I was gay. She had the courage and love to say to me, “don’t you think you have a problem with alcohol?”

For the first time ever, I was able to see my life clearly and to see the role that alcohol and other drugs had played in my life. I said, “ I am an alcoholic, I need help.”

Favorite recovery quote:
To Thine Own Self Be True! ~ Polonius in “Hamlet”

What worked for me:
A 12 step fellowship saved my life. I came in at 21 years old believing that my life was over. Key to embracing a life of recovery were the connections I made with others – people who were my age, who showed me how to be young, sober and clean; to face what I thought were my demons; and to find self acceptance and to build self esteem.

Also vital was working the steps to understand and walk the spiritual path that is the basis of my life today. And being open minded to all pathways of recovery, in order to be available to help others who are trying to walk out of the same hell that I once knew, and truly witness the spirit come back into people who had all but lost it.

On my schedule today:
Pray for help and a positive accepting attitude, connect with others, teach, connect with others, go to a meeting, connect with others, and pray to thank my higher power for all of the blessings I experienced today.

Best advice for newbies:
Get connected, the way out is through people. If you are afraid of people, the person sitting next to you was just as afraid when they were in for a short time. What you think about yourself right now is your addiction trying to get you alone so that you will use again. Don’t drink, don’t drug no matter what. We believe in you.

What I value most in recovery:
My network. People who love and accept me for who I am and would do anything to help me in my recovery, the same way that their own recovery is just as important as mine.

Stigma I faced:
I am a leader in my community, in my school and have always been out with my alcoholism and addiction. I have never met a person who has judged me for it. However, I have faced much stigma and judgment because I am gay. It used to be so difficult because people who don’t even know me actually teach others to hate me. Today it is not worth my time.

What I learned about myself:
I am a very loving and caring person, who loves to help others find their way out of the hell I once knew. I am a respected leader in my community and at work, because I am positive and supportive of the people around me. The self-centered fears that used to drive my life are gone and although I lived in them, they were fears, they weren’t reality.

What saves me from myself:
My 19-year partner David, my network, my guys, meetings, faith, hope, love and positivity.

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