By Wasatch Crest Team Member Steve Novelli
Wasatch Crest team member, Steve Novelli, shared his recovery story with us. You can watch him tell his story and read his inspiring narrative below.
My name is Steve Novelli, and I am an alcoholic in long-term recovery. I want to start off by saying that my alcoholism is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. I may identify as an alcoholic, but my “alcohol” comes in many forms. Every single day for over eleven years, I was in a constant cycle of using and finding means to get more.
Looking back at my childhood, I understand now that my addictive behavior started at a young age. Early on, I wanted more of everything. Even in my youth, I was always chasing the next fix, and I didn’t care who I had to hurt along the way to get exactly what I wanted. I was the guy who everybody raises their children not to be like.
I faced many years of active addiction, and during that time I tried every way possible to get sober. Despite my efforts, sobriety never stuck. I didn’t think there was a way out. Rock bottom was something I experienced many times, and I was comfortable living in that state.
I attended treatment many times, and I knew exactly what to say to stay under the radar and eventually get discharged without working on anything I should have. However, my mindset began to change when I came to Utah to attend treatment. At that time, I was living in New York and couldn’t even locate Utah on a map. When I arrived, I didn’t want to be sober. The last thing I wanted to do was spend another summer not using.
I can’t really pinpoint where my thinking changed, but I started to talk about things in groups and therapy sessions that I never thought I could voice out loud. I shared experiences that I’d stuffed so far down, they were almost impossible to talk about. Once I started to dive into the root causes of why I used and acknowledge traumatic experiences in my past, recovery started to get easier.
One day in treatment, I had a pivotal moment that started to change my views on recovery. I was a couple of weeks into my stay, and I was planning on leaving early. Another guy in the program saw me packing my bags. He came into my room, grabbed me by the shirt, and said, “I’m not gonna be the one to tell your father that you died from an overdose.” My dad had been my biggest supporter and had always been by my side. I decided to unpack my bags and stay.
Even after completing treatment and spending time in sober living, I relapsed. I packed my stuff into my car and drove across the country back to New York. Before I’d even been in New York for an hour, I had a needle in my arm and a pipe to my mouth. While living in Utah, I had established a sober support network of others in recovery. My phone rang constantly, as my support group tried to make sure I was alive and help me realize that using wasn’t the answer.
After five days in New York, I gave in and answered one of their calls with a pipe in my mouth. Over the phone, my friend made me realize that I needed to come back to Utah. A day later, I was on a plane, and after a short 30-minute car ride I was in detox. I moved back into the sober living home and started treatment that same day.
Back in treatment, I began to actually listen, without responding. I started to work my recovery the way it was outlined by people who had done it before me. Every time prior, I tried to work recovery my way, relying on self-will, and it never worked. I decided to give recovery my 150 percent effort and actually work to dig my way out.
Early recovery was not easy for me at all. I was blessed to have a friend in recovery get me a job at the local Lexus dealership, where I washed cars and ran errands. After working nine and ten hour days, I would go to treatment for another three hours. On top of that, I was trying to go to support group meetings and maintain a social life with my newfound friends in recovery. At the end of every night, I was so tired.
Things started coming together as I learned to embrace the process. My relationships with my friends and family started to get better, and I began feeling joy in my daily life. After six months of being sober, I was offered a job at the treatment center I’d attended, working the graveyard shift as a support staff member. After working both the dealership and treatment center jobs, I totally burned myself out. I quit Lexus and made the choice to go back to school full time. Less than a month later, I was promoted at the treatment center, so I worked full time during the days while also attending school full time. At times, I wanted to rip the hair out of my head, but rather than being negative, I chose to flip the script.
There are four major things that changed my perspective in early recovery.
1 – A Relationship With a Higher Power
One was actually putting the effort into building a relationship with a higher power. I call my higher power God, and that’s the one thing I know. I do not complicate it. I started out with small prayers of thank you for another day sober and progressed into asking for guidance in specific areas of my life that I was struggling with. I saw evidence of my higher power every time I prayed, and some sign always popped up that answered my prayers in some way. Now, I still formally pray as soon as I wake up and before I go to bed, as well as many, many times throughout the day.
There are four things that I need to do daily to maintain spirituality. Read something recovery related, pray, talk to another person in recovery, and do one nice thing for someone. By doing those four things daily, I am able to hit the pillow at night sober.
2 – Forming Connections
The second thing that was most vital to me in early recovery was connection, on multiple levels. I focused on connecting to myself, God, and, most importantly, other people in recovery. I call and talk to someone in recovery daily, if not multiple times a day. I was always an extrovert, but my addiction caused me to withdraw from others. By engaging with others in early recovery, I focused on doing the opposite of what I did during my active addiction.
3 – Embracing Acceptance
The third most important thing that helped me in early recovery was learning to accept everything that life throws at me. No matter what, I need to accept everything for what it is, and if I cannot, there is something wrong with Steve internally. Nothing happens in God’s world for any reason other than growth and insight. By embracing this concept, I can find a silver lining in everything once I am able to accept it.
4 – Staying Positive
The fourth thing I practiced in early recovery is maintaining a positive attitude. Anytime you can find a positive aspect within a negative situation, it becomes positive. There are so many things in life that we have to do, even if we don’t want to. Instead of seeing tasks as an obligation, I started to see them as an opportunity. I embrace my daily responsibilities with gratitude.
Now that I am in long-term recovery, my life is full of joy and blessings. I am now a productive member of society that doesn’t take from everyone around me. I am a giver. I am willing to give you the shirt off my back and buy you a whole new wardrobe if you’re in need. I am someone who shows up for his friends and family. I have an amazing support group and people that love and care about me. They are willing to pick up the phone and help me when I am struggling. I am nowhere near a perfect person and still have my flaws, but my life is amazing. I am a man with morals and values. I am a man of integrity, compassion, empathy, and I have a heart of gold.