POTTS GROVE — Supporting other members of the human race resulted in a better life for a Potts Grove man.
In fact, Rick Nye, has found that living a higher purpose has helped him come back from a serious drug and alcohol habit.
Membership in the Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society (SVES) proved to be an integral part of recovery from the often fatal condition. But the road to get there had its bumps.
Nye, 61, explained that his formative years were spent in Shamokin. It was still a prosperous place, though he admitted the coal business was in decline. Nye’s dad worked in the Eagle Silk Mill and his mom was a seamstress.
“I tell my friends I had a ‘Howdy Doody’ existence,” he said. “Most of my friends came from broken families. My family was a well-knit unit. We camped and did everything together. It was a very loving family.”
Nye said he would be sent off to church as a youngster, which was typical of families of that time. His parents didn’t really participate until they got older, which was also commonplace. Nye’s dad became a deacon in their church.
Yet Nye said he felt out of place, a feeling eased by drinking and drugs.
“I always felt like I just didn’t belong,” he said. “Then I joined the military at 17 or 18 years old.”
It was in the Navy, while stationed at New London, Connecticut, that Nye’s drinking began. That state’s drinking age was 18 at the time. With that, a decades-long career of drinking and drugs was put into play. The condition progressed as he helped rear a family of his own, Nye noted, to the point that the compulsion controlled his every waking moment.
A poignant moment upon the birth of his first grandchild prompted Nye to reflect and take action.
“I was almost 50 years old and thought to myself that I didn’t know who I was sober,” he said. “I could tell my health was failing and I wanted to be around to see my grandchildren grow up.”
Initial steps to recovery included time in a Williamsport rehabilitative service center, a stint at the White Deer Run inpatient center and a period in a halfway house.
Life in the house included an introduction to a 12-Step program and its reliance on spiritual means to achieve sobriety. Nye followed the recommendations, such as intense early participation in the 12-Step program, but there was something not quite right.
“It seemed like a lot of old bar warriors were rehashing stories,” he said. “I really didn’t care for that. I could just sit in the bar and listen to stories. But I did take a few things out of it.”
Among them was the “one day at a time” approach common to 12-Step recovery.
“I don’t know if I am going to drink or smoke tomorrow,” he recalled. “But I know I am not going to today. I took that away from it.”
Nye, now with 15 years sober, has found immeasurable help in staying clean through the SVES. He noted that the society’s non-theistic thinking and activities which help others has eased his way back to a meaningful existence.
“I tried the church thing and I tried all that, and I had the feeling like I never really felt like I belonged, with the angst and insecurity,” Nye said. “With the SVES, I feel a sense of belonging. I’m not impressing anybody. I get involved in good works at my own pace.”
Nye found doing good works for the sake of doing good works became a liberating experience. Among them was work at a Sunbury shelter where he gives teddy bears and Christmas gifts to children.
His most meaningful efforts included doing good things for children in foster care.
“We do duffel bags for foster kids,” he said. “We do it for every age group. I have a couple of bags now.”
Nye recalled a talk by a woman who was in foster care in multiple homes.
Her description of moving from place to place with her possessions in a garbage bag elicited tears when he heard it and still does. Helping young people in foster care has thus become a major part of Nye’s clean and sober life.
The Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society meets at 3 p.m. for socializing, then coffee and a program from 3:30 to 4:15 Sundays at Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church, 42 S. Third St., Lewisburg. No meeting is scheduled on the fifth Sunday of a month.
Go to www.susquehannavalleyethicalsociety.org or the Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society Facebook page for more information.