I’m Catherine, I’m an addict, and I am many other things as well. I am a mother, a step-mother, and a wife. I am a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. I am an employee, a counselor, an advocate, and a human being.
For years I was afraid to publicly acknowledge my reality of being an addict in recovery. The stigma that sticks to us is frightening. So I hid. Oh I of course had my support group. The one place I felt free to be genuinely me. But I hated carrying the burden of being an addict in secret. It weighed me down like a ton of bricks. So finally, one day, I decided to take a step of faith and make my status as a person in recovery known. I lived as a using addict for a solid 13 years of my life. I lied, cheated, stole, hurt, embarrassed, and broke the heart of so many people in that 13 years. Most of all I broke my own heart. Wanting to stop, killing myself slowly, on a daily basis, because I didn’t know any other way. “Just stop!”, “Don’t you love your kids?”, “You’re too smart for this!” were all common phrases thrown at me that only made me feel worse. Because I couldn’t stop. Because I did love my children dearly! Because I was a smart person with a bright future at one point in my life. But I did not know how to put it down. For the life of me I could not just walk away from the one thing that brought me comfort.
You see, addiction is a funny thing. It hijacks your brain and makes you believe that you will literally DIE without it. It was a choice the first time I took a drink of alcohol. It was probably a choice the first few times I drank. I was 12 years old. I would have never imagined what my life was going to turn into. If someone would have tried to tell me I would have told them they were full of it! My mother was an alcoholic and I was NEVER going to be like her. And that is why addiction is a funny thing. It convinces you that you are in control. That you want to live like this. That it is everyone else that has a problem and if THEY would just let you live your life and stay out of your business everything would be just fine. Addiction convinced me that my destiny was to die a junkie.
It took the intervention of the legal system, a couple of times, to get me to stop. I had to physically be removed from the dope. Today I am grateful for jail and prison in particular because it saved my life. Without a doubt it saved me. And after prison, what keeps saving my life on a daily basis, is a 12-step program of recovery. There are a myriad of pathways for the recovering individual. This is the way that works for me and that is the only thing that matters. Since my clean date on May 1, 2007, my life has changed in ways I could have never imagined. I have went back to school. I got my undergraduate degree in Psychology, graduating as one of three valedictorians of my class. After that I decided to go on and pursue my Master’s in Counseling. Today I work in the same college as I got my undergrad in and I help students who are at a disadvantage so that they can overcome their educational barriers. My hope is that I can bring more Recovery Awareness to this small college, because the need is great in my home town. I have relationships unlike any of I have ever had in my life. People can trust me today, and I can trust them. When I promise my children something, they know they can count on me to keep that promise. I am a good mom today.
Today I am able to be all the things I mentioned before – a mother, step-mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, employee, counselor, and advocate. I am able to be those things because of recovery. It is a daily battle to make good responsible choices. To stay on the path that ensures I will not go back to the horror that is active addiction. I see people all the time in the grips of this insidious disease and I hear the ignorant comments that people make and sometimes it enrages me. Who are you to make judgments? You do not know what that person’s life is like. You do not know and thank God that you don’t. But I do. I know that desperation that drives the using addict. And, just for today, I am so grateful that I do not have to live like that. And you know what? I am not special. I am not unique. I am no better than the mom passed out in the car with her kids in the back. I am no better than the woman selling her body, convincing herself that it’s better than stealing to support her habit. I am no better than the addict that got their picture on the front page of the paper for armed robbery.
I am no better than the millions of people caught in the clutches of this fatal disease. I just found a different way. We really DO RECOVER! And we live lives that are worthy of mention. We make differences and help others. And we have empathy like you would not imagine! In a world full of hatred and ugliness I challenge you to find anyone more kind than a recovering addict. We have been through the pits of Hell. We are grateful for life.
I share my story because I am tired of seeing people die in secret and ashamed. I’m Catherine, I’m an addict. Thanks for letting me share.