Mark Bragg

Mark Bragg celebrates 34 years of sobriety by helping others to find peace and purpose.

Mark Bragg was powerless, but he now has peace and purpose.

ROSC, Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC), is trying to pull all the available resources together in Shelby County for those at risk of alcohol and drug problems.

They meet every fourth Thursday of the month at the CEAD Council office in Shelbyville from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. They welcome anyone from the community who wants to help a coordinated effort to help people who struggle with alcohol and substance abuse.

One of the most helpful and consistent people involved in this cause is Mark Bragg. Bragg knows how important supporting others is, because he has 34 years of sobriety.

“My sober date is 12-07-1985,” Bragg says, “That’s when I gave up trying to live my life, while using drugs and alcohol, daily. I am living a clean and sober life thanks to the people that cared about me. I am grateful for all the help, support and guidance I have received from the literally hundreds of people that have had a part in my recovery.”

Bragg will explain how grateful he is for the Hour House Residential treatment program, the outpatient treatment program, and the 12 steps of recovery. He is grateful to the old timers who taught him how to live his daily life sober, using the 12 steps and the 12 step meetings that he has and will continue to attend.

“I am especially grateful for the people that created the 12 step program that I use daily to guide my life,” Bragg said. “This new sober life is filled with happiness, appreciation and gratitude. Life now is so much more wonderful and fulfilling than anything I could have imagined, when I was in my active addiction to alcohol and drugs. I thank my higher power daily for letting my live a sober life and be involved in a program that makes so much difference in many people’s lives.”

Bragg had an inherent weakness for alcohol.

“Through my treatment and my attendance at the 12 step meetings I learned that I have a disease. It is called the disease of addiction,” Bragg said. “It caused me to want large quantities of alcohol and drugs over and above anything else in my life up to that point.”

He remembers when he was 13 and started sneaking drinks from the cabinet at home. It made him feel better that he had ever felt before.

“My early life was spent dealing with a feeling that I was empty inside and that I was not as good as other people,” Bragg said. “I never felt like I fit in, until I started drinking. Then a numb comfortable feeling came over me and I finally had a purpose in life.

“I felt like everything was okay when I was drunk or high. I never remember a time when I drank or used drugs just for fun. I always used to get as drunk as I could or as high as I could. Inside of me was the constant idea that the more I used the more fun I would have.

“My brain was programmed from the very beginning to get as high and as drunk as I could in order to feel anything close to what I thought normal was. I believe I was addicted to getting high from the very beginning.”

Bragg says that message of needing alcohol would never go away. His brain and body kept sending him the message that he needed to keep using alcohol and drugs even though he lost jobs, money, marriages, friends, self-respect and the respect of others due to his uncontrolled alcohol and drug use.

“I was close to losing contact with my children due to my uncontrolled alcohol and drug use and I could not stop,” Bragg said. “My answer was to be sneakier and to continue to use with the mistaken belief that I was clever enough to use and be able cover it up without getting caught. Luckily, I entered treatment before I completely destroyed myself or the ones that loved me.”

Early in December of 1985, Bragg had reached a dilemma.

“I desperately wanted out of my life, but I only could think of one way,” Bragg said. “That one way was to end my life. I gave that idea a lot of thought, but luckily, I still had people in my life that loved me and cared about me and I knew that ending my life would cause them a great deal of pain. I had already caused them a lot of pain, as they watched me live a pointless and destructive life. So, I asked for help.”

Bragg says that he was fortunate to meet a wise counselor at the local mental health agency, who quickly and accurately diagnosed his problem as alcohol and drug addiction. Bragg was referred to a long term residential treatment center.

“I was defeated,” Bragg said. “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It is no fun living your life when you don’t like or respect yourself.”

He entered treatment and willingly accepted that he was addicted to using alcohol and drugs to change the way he felt.

“By myself I could not control myself or my alcohol and drug use in any way,” Bragg admits.

During treatment, he learned that he was powerless over alcohol and drugs in any amount.

“Loss of control was a symptom of the disease of addiction and that knowledge helped me to understand why I had continued to use large quantities of alcohol and drugs, despite the negative consequences of my use,” Bragg said. “My tolerance to them was so high that I did not enjoy them or get high from them anymore. Instead, I had continued to use because, the pain of not using overpowered my ability to quit using by myself.”

During treatment, he was introduced to a 12 step program. He began to attend meetings after he completed residential treatment and found that the sober, helpful, spiritually-centered people had something that he wanted.

According to Bragg, they were sober. They had peace and serenity and they had a greater purpose in life than just getting high and just getting by. He found the 12-step program to be a spiritually-centered program that encourages people to find a higher power of their understanding that will guide their life and their recovery.

“Through the program I was able to realize that recovery is about more than just staying sober.” Bragg said. “It is about how you live your life. They helped me build a sober productive life that replaced uncontrolled alcohol and drug use, with a life that has purpose and a life that I can be proud of.

“I thank my higher power daily for letting my live a sober life and be involved in a program that makes so much difference in many people’s lives.”

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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