Chris Combs: About Time
Time. The ticking of a second hand, passing of minutes and days, and relentless progression of months, years, and decades. Chris Combs thinks a lot about time these days.
We sat down last week and talked with Chris, a Taney County native and father of two who recently commenced CORE’s one-year recovery program. In his view, time is a finite, nonrenewable resource. It’s an irreversible arrow that mustn’t be taken for granted. For this reason, Chris has made his new mission in life sharing the message of recovery with newcomers:
“There’s still more that I need to do here at CORE. I see all these youngsters coming in and out of here, and they all have so much potential. Maybe I can be a father figure to some of them, I don’t know, but I don’t want to see them still trying to figure it out at my age. All the wasted time they’ll never get back, being away from family, kids – you can’t get time back. I want to help them all.”
His own odyssey with drugs began more than thirty years ago. “I was probably 16 the first time I smoked pot. My senior year I started dabbling in methamphetamine. One thing led to another.” In the beginning meth seemed to imbue him with endless energy. He says, “I got things done. I could work all night and not need sleep. It was go go go.” This energized state, albeit real, was short-lived. He soon fell headlong into the nightmarish existence of addiction.
“It was killing me mentally and physically,” he relates, “being paranoid and always emotionally stressed out. I was a real basket case.” Notwithstanding, social isolation is what best exemplifies Chris’ life on meth. He avoided family and friends, and people generally, while “always looking over my shoulder, or wondering who was going to tell on me, or when they were going to come through my door. Everywhere I went, whether by myself or with someone, it was the same.” His aversion to people profoundly affected his life – his relationships, freedom, productivity, and self-respect.
Chris found himself trapped in recurrent solitude. While on methamphetamines, he was paranoid and fearful of people. Yet, he was sober and receptive to others only while institutionalized or incarcerated. Either way, he lived isolated and alone.
A week before coming to CORE, however, Chris had a life-changing epiphany: he was out of time. All those years were simply gone, with only the broken hearts of loved ones and his personal regrets to show for it. He’d been running his entire adult life, from family, friends, the law, and even complete strangers. Something had to give:
“Staying under the radar, paranoid, the only thing I ever accomplished was hurting my family by not being there for them. I hated myself. So, I’d gotten pulled over by the police and caught with an ounce of meth. At first I took off running, and I’d gotten away from them, too. Then I just stopped. It hit me. I couldn’t run anymore. That’s all I was doing. I was tired of that and wasn’t going to do it anymore. So I walked back and found them and put my hands in the air.”
While sitting in jail Chris heard about CORE, “They told me that if I wanted to change my life for the better, to get ahold of Bracy Sams at CORE, that he’s the one who’d get me into the program.”
Once at CORE, Chris’ initial progress happened in fits and starts because he hadn’t fully conceded to his innermost self that he’s powerless over drugs. He comes from a traditional family where one just makes up his mind and then does it. In other words, he was running on his own power, which in recovery never works. So Chris “would bounce out [of CORE] and go back to the same thing. I thought I’d be okay, but I’d be back at it the same day I left.”
Today Chris has found real recovery, for which he relies on not himself but God:
“God – I couldn’t do anything without Him. He walks with me every day. When I wake up in the morning, I pray before I leave the house. When I get home I pray before I lay my head down. Even working . . . praying there too. If it wasn’t for God, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
He acknowledges CORE’s help in his recovery too, saying the best thing about it is the people. “CORE’s done a lot for me,” he says, “by making me realize that I’m important to others and there’s no limits to what I can do once I get my head right.” Of the program he says:
“If it wasn’t for the 12 Steps I wouldn’t have made it. People have different ways to look at it, but the way I do it is right straight out of the book. Me working my steps, doing 10, 11, and 12 every day . . . . You have to work them or it gets tricky. You can’t just white knuckle it. Fake-it-till-you-make-it does not work. You waste CORE’s time and everybody else’s if you’re not willing to do the steps.”
As of today Chris is accomplishing what he wants and needs to do. Rather than turning back the clock, he’s making new memories, memories of lasting significance. His children are back in his life, as an example. They now enjoy regular outings together and keep in phone contact. His mother is happier for him now than she’s ever been, too, telling him “you got it this time, and I don’t have to worry about you anymore.”
Additionally, Chris’ court cases have been resolved and, for the first time in twenty years, he has a driver’s license. On top of all this, Chris is putting his natural talents in landscaping to good use at a prestigious golf course. He’s not only working toward financial security, but he’s also meeting financial obligations toward his children, too.
We are so happy for Chris and wish him well during his time with us – which we hope and pray will be long and abundant. Happily, his immediate plans for the future are “to stay awhile at CORE and give back. Just help these people achieve some of the blessings I have today.” Step Twelve is carrying the message and putting program principles into practice in all of our affairs. We can’t think of a better place for Chris to do this than CORE!