When I first arrived at the Lakeshore Retreat I was completely broken and hopeless.  The last 8 years of my life prior to my arrival at the Retreat were just filled with failed attempts to get sober.  I was caught in this cycle that consisted of actively using drugs and alcohol, hurting the people in my life that I love, going to detox with a genuine desire to get clean, and then relapsing and being left wondering how it all happened again.  I could never understand why I could not stay clean even after the drugs and alcohol were out of my system.  As I’m sure you can imagine this is a very miserable existence.

I became very depressed and after many failed attempts to get sober, I had accepted that I was never going to get it and that I was going to live in active addiction until the end. I had been to countless detox programs and even a few long term treatment programs but the problem was that none of these programs explained to me that I could not beat this on my own will power.  In fact, I was told the opposite.  I was told that if I stayed away from the people and places I used to hang around and avoid triggers that I should be able to stay sober.  I had never been introduced to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps.  It wasn’t until I arrived at the Lakeshore Retreat that I was introduced to the Solution, the 12 Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book.  It was finally explained to me that I could not get sober on my own power and that I needed a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity. This is the program that saved my life.  

I was very sick when I arrived at Lakeshore. Not physically sick from withdrawals but spiritually sick.  If it wasn’t for the staff at the Lakeshore Retreat I would never have made it passed the first couple of days there.  One of the cornerstones of this program is honesty, and I was not comfortable being honest with anyone, especially myself.  However, within the first hour of me being at the house, I got a different feeling from the staff than I had ever gotten at any other program.  I could tell that these people genuinely wanted to see me get well and really cared about me.  If it weren’t for the welcoming nature of the staff and their genuine concern for my well being I would never have felt comfortable getting honest with them.  This was the first step I took in the right direction.  I made a decision that I was going to surrender to these people that were trying to help me and do anything they told me to do.  I began to see that these people were just like me and they were now doing so well and seemed to be at peace in any situation that life throws at them.  This is what I wanted and I could see it right in front of me.  This gave me the first glimpse of hope that I had in 8 years.  

Once I stopped trying to control every situation and started listening things started to take off for me.  I dove into the step work and started doing everything the staff told me to do to the best of my ability.  Things started to get better for me immediately and it was all due to the instructions I was given by the staff.  I began to realize that everything the staff tells you to do in this program is to get you well.  Not just the step work.  Things like doing your chores, following the rules, being respectful, keeping your room clean, washing your sheets, helping others, etc.  They show you how to live in this program and I needed that because I was living the wrong way for a long time.  The greatest thing that this program and this work gave me was getting me in touch with my Higher Power which I call God.  I truly believe that God worked through the staff of the Lakeshore Retreat and the people that came before me to bring me close to him. The changes I began to see in myself were nothing short of amazing.  

When I first arrived I remembered a staff member talking about how a big part of the program is helping other people. I said to her that I can’t even help myself how could I possibly help anyone else.  She told me that I would be surprised what this work can do for people and to just wait and see. Once I started to do the work honestly and thoroughly not only did I notice a change in myself but I could see that other people had as well.  Before I knew it I found myself encouraging other people that came into the house after me.  I would tell them my experience so they could identify and see that things do get better if you just surrender your will to God and stop fighting everything.  I didn’t see it at first but looking back I see that God was working through me to help another suffering alcoholic/addict.  To me, that is a Miracle.  I thank God for this program and the people in it every day.  

I left the Lakeshore Retreat feeling like a completely different person than when I walked in.  I am God-reliant today which means that when I encounter struggles and pain in my life I do not have to suffer like I did in the past. I can pray and give my struggles up to God and trust that if I continue to serve God’s will and live by the principles taught to me by the 12 steps that He will take care of me.  I honestly believe that today and it is an unbelievable feeling.  I can walk through fears today that used to cripple me and consume my life.  I have relationships with my family today and I have real friends that genuinely have my best interests in mind.  God has given me all these blessings in my life today and it all started at the Lakeshore Retreat.  If you are struggling or have a loved one who is struggling this program will get you well.  All it takes is a willingness to listen and be honest.  I am so Grateful for this program I can’t even put it into words.  For the longest time, I thought I was destined to be an active drug addict.  This program gave me a new life.  

Mark Gilson

Graduate of the Lakeshore Retreat