Dying in Recovery
Written by Tyler Hall

Damaged body, dynamic spirit

In August of 2020, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the first thing I thought about was my recovery. I had just celebrated 18 months of living a new way of life, and my first thought was, “I didn’t get clean for this.”

I knew the traumatic effect that it was going to have on my family, my friends, and my peers in recovery, but I realized I had been preparing for this moment my entire life.

I was given six months to live, and when my doctors and I were discussing treatment options, that time was reduced to three to six months. I chose to rely on the greatest relationship that I developed in recovery and that was my relationship with God. Nowhere was he factored into their percentages, so I surrendered everything to him.

At 18 months clean, at thirty-three years of age, I was considered a hospice patient, and one of the biggest conversations I had to have with my doctors was about pain management. They were ready and willing to write me prescriptions for the strongest narcotic pain medicine that the world could offer, but I immediately refused. I hadn’t worked so hard, not only in my life, but in my recovery, just to hang it up when things got tough. I had fought way too hard to get back to my true self, the man before the drugs, and developed an amazing and intimate relationship with God—I wasn’t willing to give those things up for anything. The second those drugs hit my body, not only would my brain go back to the way it used to be in active addiction, but I would lose my perseverance and my fortitude, and give up my will to live.

Each and every day involves constant acceptance and surrender to my circumstances and limitations.

I can no longer drive, leave my home alone, go grocery shopping with my daughters, or any of those little things I used to do, and which I took for granted.

Since January, the cancer has now spread to my entire body; it’s made its way into my brain stem, and I’ve been having multiple strokes and seizures. But no matter what, the drugs will never be an option.

I was able to apply the 12 steps of recovery to every matter in my life. In essence, my body had become a shortcoming, and I turned it over to God, the same thing I did with my social inequities in my sixth and seventh steps.

Each and every day of my life could be my last, but it isn’t promised to me or anyone; life is a temporary thing for us all.

Since I was diagnosed, I have lived more than I have my entire life, and not only is that because of the work I did in recovery, but also because I am finally living instead of just surviving.

I spend every day of my life, living a 12th step, being of service to not only my program, but also to God and my family. I’ve spoken in meetings on Zoom all across the world, and in community groups with my church, because the world needs to hear that you can go through even the most profound moments of suffering, and not
use drugs.

Every time I’m asked to speak, or share my story, I do so without hesitation, because I never know who may need to hear what I have to say, and my story, even though it is about the end of my life, very well may be the thing that saves someone else’s.

The 12 steps of recovery have given me the tools and knowledge to be able to navigate anything in this life, and I truly believe my relationship with God, and the work he puts in front of me, is the only reason I’m still here.

I chose to lean on my higher power in this time of turmoil, and accepted my circumstances, because I would rather have a damaged body and a dynamic spirit, than a dynamic body and a damaged spirit.

Today, I’m living my absolute best life, alongside my wife, my children, and hundreds of friends and extended family. And if I had to go through everything in my life in order to get exactly where I am today, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

My story proves that an addict, any addict, can lose the desire to use drugs and find a new way of life; we must just stay stubbornly committed to it, no matter
the circumstances.

Tyler Hall

Tyler Hall

Tyler Hall, from Augusta, is a freelance writer in recovery and a member of the Journey editorial team.