Transforming Struggles into Service for Sobriety
Geoff Smith is a man driven by a desire to serve others. In addition to running his machine shop, he works for Volunteers of America, driving incarcerated men from the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center to recovery meetings, and also mentors individuals as a recovery coach. His gentleness, tempered through experience and humility, allows him to use his redemptive story as a tool to help save other people’s lives, just as sobriety saved his.
Geoff was raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts. During his youth, he quickly learned to build defenses to cope with the chaotic world around him. By 11 he had his first beer and immediately began planning how to get his next. “It did something for me that nothing else had in my life. It was the cure,” he says.
In young adulthood, drinking cost him his first job. Even when his use of alcohol escalated to get him into trouble with the law, he still found himself drinking before court appearances to muster the courage to show up.
Around 30, Geoff met and married his late wife, beginning a journey that brought him away from the urban environment of Boston to a fresh start in Clinton, Maine. This geographic change led to a good job, a new house, and a new vehicle in the driveway. However, it didn’t take long for his binge drinking to cause his new life to unravel. “I’d miss a Monday, miss a Tuesday, and end up taking a week off because of a mystery illness,” Geoff says.
Geoff eventually ended up in the psychiatric unit at a Waterville hospital, and was driven to his first recovery meeting by a volunteer, like he drives others now. Once released from the hospital Geoff began a 17year period of sobriety. He attended recovery meetings for six months before turning his focus to working overtime. Staying busy seemed to be the cure. For those years, Geoff enjoyed success and a life with his wife and daughter, who had never known her father when he was still drinking.
However, after his daughter went away to college and a rocky separation from his wife, Geoff began to feel the foundation of his sobriety fall away. “It was like my alcoholism crept behind me and was waiting that entire time,” he says. When he picked up a drink again, it only took two weeks to get back where he started.
This time, Geoff says he felt like he was on the last downslope of a roller coaster with no brakes. “When I went to buy booze, I had to write the check out at home,” he says. “ I was shaking so bad I couldn’t write it out in front of the clerk, I couldn’t even meet her eyes.” Alcohol mixed with other drugs, amphetamines and opioids, kept Geoff up for days on end.
In these dark hours, Geoff felt as though he had lost all hope. It seemed to him that there was only one decision left to make, how to end the pain for good. Looking back, Geoff credits the grace of God for another option coming to mind—to ask for help.
After a call to his then-ex-wife, Geoff was taken to the same psychiatric unit and once again found himself sober and sitting in recovery meetings. This time he heard the same words differently, and he wholeheartedly committed himself to sobriety.
Everyone has a different message but with that raw honesty that I heard; everyone was telling part of my story. Enough of myself was out of the way.
The almost nine years of sobriety he now has feel different than the 17 years he had previously. His physical sobriety is accompanied by emotional sobriety, and he is grounded by gratitude and service to others. “I’m always orienting back to trying to help someone.”
After being introduced to meditation in therapy, Geoff began to incorporate meditative practices into his daily life. The meditation, along with the support of the recovery community, helped him calm the anxiety that alcohol had failed to cure.
Today Geoff gets to enjoy the gifts of his recovery. He is able to spend quality time with his daughter, who he says has been a constant support and inspiration, and his volunteer work allows him to build relationships with men who need the example of a man at peace with himself and the world.
It is Geoff’s hope that the community would see people in jail for drugs as more than their crime, or their disease. “If there is judgment there, these individuals feel it three times more than intended.”
For Geoff, expressing gratitude is the gauge he uses to measure his self-awareness and attitude every morning. He shares this gift of a new outlook on life by helping others recognize their own gratitude and spiritual depth.
His words, simple yet profound, remind us all to see each day as a gift. “If I help one person, then it’s worth it. Thank you, God, for another day.”