I Went To Rehab For The Last Time In 2014. This Time, I Followed My Peers Advice.

My name is Chris, a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober 5 years. Sometimes when I say, “I am an alcoholic” that does not feel true anymore. I mean, I have been sober long enough to be “cured”, right? Well, I feel strong enough nowadays to feel that way, but I know it is not the truth.

I do remember the days that I drank socially with friends. Looking back on it, I was always a quiet, reserved person and I quickly grew fond of the way that alcohol made me feel like I could break out of my shell. I could converse lively with anyone. Whenever drinking was an option, I would always oblige. I also consider myself a generally private person. That is a perfect storm for someone fond of drinking.

I think my alcoholic career really took off when I moved out on my own for the first time. I no longer had to sneak what I was doing. I stepped from enjoying beers, bourbons and whiskeys to settling for the cheapest, biggest bottles of vodka I could find. After all, it’s clear and odorless, right? I would buy the half-gallon bottles often, two at a time so I knew I had plenty. I would always have it stocked in the house. Drinking had quickly escalated to a couple times a week to a daily, hourly…half-hourly habit.

I started having what I know now to be withdrawal symptoms, but I had no idea what they were at the time. I knew whatever that feeling was, alcohol made it go away…so of course, I kept drinking. I was trapped. That, to me, is addiction – feeling trapped by your vice to avoid putting your body in more danger. The alcohol that was literally ready to kill me was what I turned to, to feel better.

Through this time, I went through a great career. It went downhill fast. It was obvious why, but I didn’t care. Drinking made that better, too. I didn’t have to feel bad about it if I drank. I had fallen in and out of love in relationships. My relationships started out in bliss and deteriorated. For these, too, the reason was obvious. I did not have to care about it because alcohol made it better. I drove drunk without a care in the world – with a mixed drink in a water bottle in the cup holder and probably one or two under my seat. For whatever reason though, DUIs or accidents were not in my cards. I did not have to truly deal with anything – pain, sadness, consequences, fear – nothing.

At the peak of my 10 years drinking, there was one night I was alone staying at my then, girlfriend’s apartment. I was “happy” to be alone. No one knew the address, no one around except the cheap half gallon of vodka. This weekend though, sharp pain was growing in my abdomen. I was trying to drink my way through it. My stomach was starting to swell. I had no idea what was going on. I ended up calling my mom who insisted we rush to the ER.

I was taken in for vitals. They admitted me immediately to a room bypassing the long wait as a critical patient. I remember doctors rushing quickly and repeatedly checking vitals telling me to stay awake. The frequency of drinking (probably an understated amount…because we do that) came up as a topic. They brought me back for a CAT scan.
Many heavy drinkers experience Pancreatitis and can testify to how unbearable it is. What the scan revealed for me is that my Pancreas had exploded– the swelling a result of fluids filling my abdomen. The room filled quickly with doctors and nurses rushing around, hooking me up to machines, sticking me with needles and IVs. I do remember coincidently, that one of the ER nurses was one of my ex-girlfriends. She later told me that I had coded a couple of times during that rush.

I remember waking up in a dark room after that. I did not know it at the time, but I was in intensive care, near death, waiting on a doctor who was paged for emergency surgery.

My next memory after that night was waking up confused and unable to speak. Tubes and machines everywhere I looked. I also learned that nearly two months had passed. I had been in a coma after multiple surgeries. The doctors later told me that, when I had come in, my chance of surviving was estimated at 10%. My mom later told me she was called multiple times suggesting she rush in because I wasn’t expected to make it.

I spent another month in the hospital after that for rehabilitation. Three months in a hospital bed, I had to regain strength to breathe, swallow and walk again on my own.

That experience scared me so much, I never drank again.

…Yeah right…

I went back to drinking not long after recouping. I finally attended my first rehab…and went back to drinking shortly after.

After many tries, short spirts of sobriety, and multiple trips to hospitals, I went to my last rehab in 2014. I was so tired of being sick, tired, weak and trapped. I followed what everyone asked me to do and stuck to meetings, sponsors and family. I opened up and was honest with others what I was going through. I was hearing others in sobriety flying the pink cloud and saying how great things were. Things are great, but great means something different to me. It means that I have real world experiences – good and bad. I deal with them as me, not through alcohol. Am I cured? No. I am still an alcoholic. After 5 years sober, can I pick up just one, well-deserved beer and drink it like a normal person? Absolutely not. I know who and what I am now and I am much better for that.

Opioids Killed My Friends. And I’ve Decided To Find My Path To Recovery.

I was born in Charlotte NC January 27th 1982. My parents are amazing people and so is my sister. I was so blessed in that department. I couldn’t ask for a better family.

Somewhere around age 12 I started to feel like I was different from everyone. Also that I didn’t wanna be like other people. I started using about this time . Smoking and drinking. Smoking pot became an everyday thing .

There was a close circle of friends and we all used together. Everything was all fun and games. Life was pretty good. I became very close with a guy named David and a girl named Barbara. They got me. We used heavily. By 16 I was an IV drug user. I also already knew people who had been murdered for the lifestyle they lived. We kept using.

In the 9th grade I was kicked out of school. Which opened up the floodgates too keep living the lifestyle I had chosen. At 17 my close friend Barbara was sent to live in another state because her father had found her needles. While it was super hard it was good for her I guess. She went to college. Got married and had beautiful kids.

My habits and actions got worse. Me and my friend David used IV drugs everyday by this point. In the middle of the original OC craze. It had consumed our life. You couldn’t trust us. We would lie, cheat and steal  I also did lots of amazing things like traveled around the country and went to Woodstock 99. By 20 I had driven across the country a few times. I had been to something like 40 states. I loved to see and go. Just go!

I never had a problem making friends. I knew people everywhere. I wonder how many of them knew I had become a junkie.

Oct 31st 2002 a good friend of mine was murdered over one OC 80. His son was one. For whatever reason I didn’t read the warning signs loud enough.

April 4th 2004 I went to detox. An old friend who I used to use with took me to a meeting. I stayed clean. I picked up a year clean and thought I would never use again. I moved to California. Life was good.

October 18th 2008 my childhood best friend David was found dead. He was 27. I was heartbroken. Five days later my roommate shot himself . Me and his daughter found his body. That week changed my life forever. I was a mess. A doctor put me on benzos. Emotionally distraught I took them. Relapse crept in slow. After some years clean I was smoking pot again. Taking nerve pills again.

Eventually I moved back home to South Carolina  Things weren’t bad. I had my first and only child. Then I got busted for selling pot and things spiraled out of control from there. Pain pills I was prescribed became a habit.

Slowly I started buying stronger stuff on the street. Eventually I went back to IV use. It didn’t take long before I sold everything I had. Life was a mess once again. This time I found myself in the middle of the fentanyl craze.

I must say I’ve never seen things as bad as they are today. It’s completely out of control. Heroin has never been so available.

Anyway. My close friend Barbara had always remained in my life. No matter how far apart. She came home to South Carolina. It was so good to have her around but at the same time I was in the middle of an awful run. She had her problems too.

June 2017. I hadn’t seen my dear friend in a few days . Her use was out of control too and I wasn’t going to co sign that I thought it was ok. I was gonna go see her though. We were having a text conversation and I left out to go see her. She stopped responding to text  I realized I hadn’t asked her where she was. I had no way to find her. I turned around and went home.

My friend left this world that night from an overdose. She left behind 3 kids. I know what you are thinking but she was a great mom. A great person. The best person I’ve ever known. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. She was too good to leave this world that way. But she did. I couldn’t save her.

I got clean not long after. Kicking a long Benzo habit and Fentanyl habit. 10 days clean and after leaving detox I was in the hospital delusional from not sleeping those ten days. It was rough.

But I didn’t use.

I went to treatment. I focused on myself.

I moved into an Oxford house out of treatment with some guys I was in treatment with. My brothers. Warriors.

In a few days I will have 9 months clean again  Life isn’t perfect …but it’s a lot better today. I have hope. I can offer someone else hope. I don’t wanna use. I lost more friends than I can count and it’s only getting worse

My name’s Matt and I’m a grateful recovering addict .

My Recovery Journey Proved To Me That One Size Doesn’t Fit All

So, I’m not even sure how to tell my tale in a concise, easy to read version, but I’ll try. My parents were wonderful, no addiction, no alcohol, and extremely loving. I excelled in school, I had good friends. I was the youngest of 6 children and was definitely spoiled. I learned very young how to please people to get what I wanted, when I wanted it. I learned how to manipulate the different people in my life and play mom against dad or sister against brother to get my way. These patterns continued into my friendships and relationships later in life. I never felt accepted, good enough, or like I thought others were feeling. I always wanted more of anything I deemed good. I got bored easily and anything I did I thought I had to be perfect at. I was molested at 7 years old as well but never thought I could or even should tell anyone, as it went with my people pleasing mentality. I just wanted to be accepted and loved by everyone I knew. Anytime I didn’t do something to my own perception of perfect, I thought of myself as an utter failure. In some relationships throughout my childhood and even into adulthood I played the victim, unintentionally, but I learned that if I were a victim some people would love me more, spend more time with me and ultimately give me what I desired if only I did what they wanted in return. In other relationships I found that if I guided them, if I was their rock, if I provided for them, then they would love me, be there for me and ultimately give me the feeling of being needed. Little did I know at the time, that these behaviors would only get worse as I got older. My need to play the victim or my need to feel powerful, which I believed would lead me to feel loved, desired, safe, and happy. Many times through no perceived fault of my own, I would have the relationship end, thus feeling empty, powerless, abandoned, and rejected. My dad passed away when I was 19, thus leaving only my mom and even that left me feeling abandoned. My best friend at 23 died and again added to my emotional pain.
Now, I talk about my emotional struggles because that is at the core of my using.

When I was 16, I started smoking weed, using cocaine, drinking alcohol, tripping on acid and Shrooms. I completely loved the way it all made me feel. I felt larger than life, like I was complete and whole, like I thought others felt. Drugs became my connection to feeling what I perceived as normal or better yet just not the way I normally felt. I used socially, recreationally, and by myself. I started lying, and hiding my use to please those that didn’t like it, and I surrounded myself with other like minded people so I could use comfortably. Using was the only thing that made me feel happy, and I needed more of it regularly.

I graduated high school top of my class, I went to college, I had many unsuccessful relationships, I’ve had more friendships than I can count but only a few really close friends that I was either dependent on or telling them how they should live their lives. All of these friendships and relationships ended poorly, and that left me abandoned, rejected, feeling worthless, and empty inside, but my trusty drugs were always there to save me until my next friend/lover/(victim) came along. I’ve been very successful in my career as well, being a phenomenal manager and manipulator, I have managed Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Office Max, Office Depot, HHGregg, and been an international sales manager at Air Technical. I’ve had apartments, houses, cars, money, and success by any measure but my own. Nothing has ever been good enough. During one of my saving missions of a friend, I got introduced to heroin and crack…..I found the King and Queen of my emotional stability. Heroin made me perceive that my feelings were finally under control. I had found my Lord and savior. I’d have sold my soul for the way heroin made me feel. It blotted out my hurt, my regret, my sadness, my abandonment, my rejection, I no longer cared about other people needing me, being successful, eventually I didn’t even care about myself. Once my buried emotional pain surfaced through my heroin use, when my so called Lord of emotional control wasn’t enough, I was left with a bag of remorse, guilt, shame, abandonment, rejection, jealousy, anger, grief, and pain….it was so bad I didn’t care if I lived or died, I prayed for death so I wouldn’t have to feel the overwhelming emotions I couldn’t even name or begin to describe at the time, I just wanted to not feel them, I wanted to be rescued, I wanted to be loved, but my definition of love had become so jacked up over the years of playing the chameleon, I needed a new way, I new definition, but it was all so scary. I had lost my jobs, most of my family, all my possessions, my home, my car, my freedom (jail and prison), my self confidence, and finally my only source of peace (heroin).

I have been in recovery since July 2013, I have tried AA, NA, rehab, Suboxone, Vivitrol, counseling, learning, reading, church, support groups, talking to family, psychiatric care, and I relapsed every single time I tried any one approach. This time I have been sober for 11 months, I have no desire for use, I don’t lie anymore or rarely, I don’t manipulate anymore, I avoid toxic relationships, I’ve learned about codependence and how to spot it in my self and others, I have found my Zen or spirituality, I go to counseling and see a psychiatrist. I utilize support groups and people who’ve been there before me. I’ve learned that I tell my mom how I feel, but I don’t expect her to have the fix anymore. I know it’s up to me to build up as many defenses against relapse as I can for me. I tell on myself now, I care for others genuinely and not for what I can get out of it. I feel natural happiness. I am grateful in everything. I now feel ok. Life is still a struggle, it gets easier every day. I know now addiction was never the issue, nor were the circumstances of my childhood, nor the people in my life (they did the best the knew how), I stopped playing the victim of my past, I learned to love, I stopped trying to control everyone and everything, I learned to cherish what I do have. I know now the past is something I can’t change, that I have to learn from it, and become a better version of myself everyday I have another chance. There are good things in life and bad, but I can only address my response and thoughts about them. I’ve learned to accept people and life for who and what it is. Man was it scary as Hell, it still is at times. It’s been a long hard road. It’s not over. I learned my problem was my emotional self, my duality of codependent roles playing out in my unconscious, and my inability to express myself. I now work on those issues daily. It’s my life’s work to be better than I was yesterday and to help any one I can to do the same, without become codependent with them, either being the needy dependent or the controlling savior. Life is worth living, I believe in my self now, I no longer blame others for who I am or what I did, I am free to be me.

Love and prayers to all. I hope my story can help someone struggling with addiction, codependence, or any one touched by either. I highly recommend you get a bible, get a big book, go to meetings, go to counseling, get your mental health checked, get Codependent No More, get The Addicts Loop, find anything that works for you, this isn’t a one size fits all magical cure, if my struggle has shown me anything, it’s that I had to find my own cocktail that works for me. Much love and prayer.

A Second Chance Saved My Life And Gave Me Purpose

My addiction started when I was in my teenage years. I had low self-esteem and people picked on me. I turned to drugs to fit in with the crowd. I did drugs for most of my life.

The last few years, I turned to crack cocaine which took everything from me that I had. DSS even got involved. I went to rehab twice. Before I went to the rehab the second time, DSS had told me that I would have to leave my own home. That was my breaking point.

I love my son very much and he was the only child I had left in the house. I had two other children but they were grown already. This time when I went to rehab I decided to do what they suggested. I changed everything because I didn’t want to get high again. I was in meetings every day and even when there wasn’t a meeting, I was there cleaning.

I decided to chase my recovery the same way I chased my drugs. I even decided to get my GED. Which helped me get a better job. Today I am a nursing aide and I have started my own business.  All of this thanks to God.

If it wasn’t for Him in the beginning, I wouldn’t have stayed clean. I lived in the house where people still used drugs. But I decided that I had a choice and my choice was to stay clean no matter what. I have a routine today which includes meditation books, devotional books, and praying to God in the beginning of my day. Doing this helps keep my solid foundation.

I recently celebrated 10 years. December 4, 2007 is my recovery date. I try to encourage others that they to can do it. I hope to be an encouragement to someone. I choose not to let my past to hold me back, instead I choose to take each day as it is – good or bad. Using drugs again is the last thing on my mind.

I thank God that he gave me a second chance.

From The Vicious Cycle Of Addiction And Prison, I Found Peace And Healing Through Recovery And Holistic Support

My name is Kelvin Young and I’m an Addiction Recovery Coach and Sound Practitioner, but most importantly a person who’s in recovery from alcohol and other drugs. After many years of struggling with depression, anxiety and drug addiction, I found freedom from alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin and other opiates and began my healing process in a drug treatment program in prison. Within this prison program I learned about the healing powers of meditation, yoga and expressive arts. I had a lot of misconceptions about yoga and meditation but the things that I was doing prior to my prison sentences weren’t working, so I had to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

By utilizing meditation and yoga I was able to find a sense of calm and inner peace while being in a very hostile and restrictive environment. Also, I was able to go “within” to understand the root causes of my experience with addiction. From my experience with these healing practices, I was able to understand that emotional distress, pain, trauma and stress were at the root of my addiction. I was looking for relief from my emotional pain and found it in alcohol, cocaine, heroin and opiates. They worked for a while until they didn’t work anymore and I got caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. This was a very profound learning experience for me.

I learned that life is about learning, growing and evolving from our life experiences. I’ve learned from the so called negative experiences and grown emotionally, mentally and spiritually from the knowledge I obtain from them. That knowledge allowed my consciousness to evolve; as a result, I’ve become more consciously aware of the choices I make in my life.

Today I sustain my recovery by eating a plant-based diet, practicing meditation and deep breathing exercising with essential oils, listening to relaxing music, spending quality time in nature and building authentic relationships with others. Being in recovery, I’ve had the opportunity to present around the country in diverse settings, including conferences, colleges, retreat centers, yoga studios, prisons, addiction treatment centers, psychiatric inpatient units at state hospitals and mental health agencies.

I was presented with the 2017 Dr. F. Marcus Brown Memorial Integrative Medicine Award for exceptional commitment to incorporating integrative medicine within CT Valley Hospital, a state psychiatric hospital and I also serve as the senior vice president of the Hartford Metro Holistic Chamber of Commerce in CT.

I continue to share my story of finding freedom from alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin and other opiates and offering holistic ways to heal from addiction with sound therapy.

Medication Assisted Treatment And Peer Recovery Saved My Life

My name is Jesse (Jess), I am a 33 year old girl from a small town in Wisconsin.

As a child I suffered some abuse and as I got older I medicated with substances. I have always done something, from weed to cocaine to heroin. In high school is when most of my experimenting started and continued throughout my life.

I was always in control of my use until the day I got prescribed pail pills, Oxycodone. I fell in love with not having to feel any emotions. I was shown right away by a friends mother how to snort them, so I never really took them the right way to begin with. Eventually, they got to be too expensive and hard to get, so I was introduced to heroin. I said “just this once” and that is all it took.

From that day on I was snorting everyday. I had to support my habit somehow, so I took to selling, stealing, pawning, whatever means I could. Eventually that caught up to me and my house was raided by the police. I somehow did not go to jail that day, they let me go to a treatment facility. I went to the first one I could get into, which was a huge mistake. But when you don’t really know where to go for answers or suggestions, and a call to health and human services goes unanswered, you don’t have much choice. I thought I was ready to get clean, I was only fooling myself.

I had my dealer come to rehab and supply me with cocaine. I used in rehab and decided to leave so I wasn’t kicked out. After I left, I got hooked up with people I met there and was introduced to the needle. It was the best/worst thing I have ever done! I went on for months using an insane amount daily and eventually caught some more criminal charges, which lead to my 2 children getting taken away from me.

I remember the day of court, I shot up right before going into the court room. I remember how horrible I felt inside as they proved to the judge that I was a danger to my children, and an unfit mother. I remember dying inside that day, but I also remember having an awakening too.

The minute I walked out of that court room, I called a friend who I knew was clean and I asked him for help. He got me into a MAT program that day and I have been able to not use since. I did have a relapse with crack since then, but it was short lived, thank God and my support team, for making me get back on track again. I now have 10 months of recovery and working as a Recovery Specialist.

I get to help people who were lost like I once was and that motivates me everyday to stay on the path to recovery! I use my team everyday in one way or another, I go to Therapy, I am on Vivitrol, and I just started a Woman’s Peer Support Group.

Life can be beautiful if you work towards it! You do not have to be hopeless when you can be full of hope!

I Truly Am A Grateful Person In Recovery Living One Moment At A Time

My name is Kari Fox. I have been in recovery since 01/26/2015.

My active addiction did not start until I was 31 years old. However, I have had alcoholic thinking since I was at least 10 years old. I call it a recipe for disaster. I was pregnant after doing invitro-fertilization. We previously had 4 miscarriages over 7 years. I had terrible migraines as was prescribed hydrocodone during my pregnancy. I found out my husband at the time had been having an affair. We went to counseling and awaited our arrival of our daughter.

However, I ended up with post partum depression. The antipsychotics prescribed did not help. I had a migraine one day, took a hydrocodone and my anxiety was gone and I could function. I continued to take hydrocodone a few times a day. However my addiction soon progressed. When I spiraled out of control, I went down hard and fast. We all have so many near death experiences so I won’t bore you with all of them. The major one was an overdose on muscle relaxers. The problem was I passed out outside in February 2014. It was -22 outside. My ex husband found me. My jaw was frozen shut. I was intubated through my nose and my body temperature was 78 degrees. I was expected to die.

I woke up on a ventilator a few days later. My first thought was oh no, what did I do now. But, my second thought after looking at my hands was, “sweet, I get dilaudid now.” This just shows how truly sick our brains are. I ended up losing half of 2 fingers from frost bite, could barely walk and had blisters 1/2 inch high and full length of each finger. After 1 outpatient and 3 inpatient treatments, 3 psych center visits and multiple car wrecks, broke bones and surgeries I still continued to use for another year.

At the end of my active addiction, I was drinking 2 pints of vodka a day and praying for God to kill me. I did not have the balls to do it myself. My prayers were answered and I literally woke up on January 26th 2015 and said I was done. My obsession and cravings were literally gone. I had no family left, no friends and was not allowed to see my kids. I started working a program of recovery. I got a job as a sales woman. I was an RN, however my license was indefinitely suspended. I started fighting for 50/50 custody and continued on with my divorce. I use to get so annoyed in meetings during my active addiction when the old timers would talk about the promises and how great their lives are now. I would think to myself, “you don’t know what I have been through, you probably aren’t even an alcoholic or addict.”

However, the promises started coming true. Now, I am that annoying person in the meetings talking about how blessed my life is. Now don’t get me wrong, sobriety is not all rainbows and unicorns. I have gone through the most stressful and toughest situations in my sobriety, but I didn’t have to use over any of them. I had a spiritual awaking about 1 year and 3 months sober.

I finally forgave my ex husband for the affair he had 10 years prior. But, more importantly I forgave myself for what I had done in my addiction. My ex husband and I are great friends now and co parent like rock stars. We have our daughters birthdays together with our significant others and we do what is best for our girls. We support each other and respect each other. I am truly grateful for my addiction. I have learned so much about myself and have become the woman I can love and respect. My RN license was reinstated this last October. I speak at our local treatment facility once a month. I have found my passion and love for horses again and now have 5. I am looking at purchasing a home with land for all the new fur babies and my daughters, I am continuing to grow in my recovery and always learning.

My sober life got in the way of my recovery at one point. I could feel myself becoming irritable ad knit picking at others. I hadn’t been to a meeting in a month or so. I went to a meeting and bam, it was like my brain was reset. Now, I am even more active in AA. I go to at least 3 to 4 meetings a week and do service work. Helping another alcoholic helps my recovery tremendously just by sharing my experience, strength and hope. So, all in all my addiction is the best thing that has ever happened to me. it has shaped me into a more caring less selfish and more loving person. I am very open and honest about my past.

I think the key to sobriety is being willing to surrender to your higher power. Once that is done then continue to live each day to it’s fullest sober. Find your passion in life. I love music, horses and photography. I was able to check off my top 3 bucket list items this year because of my sobriety. #1 was seeing Metallica live. When I walked into that stadium, I lost it and just broke down and wept. I wept tears of happiness that I now get to do these amazing dreams and live my life to the fullest. Then next month I went skydiving. Again, in awe of the amazing free feeling.

The following month I purchased my first horse. She was abused and had a terrible life. She is full of spunk and spirit and I look at it as we rescued each other and have a special bond due to our pasts. I have also walked through very tough times. I lost my father in October due to alcoholism. I watched him go through horrible DT’s and the things he saw ad heard are pure evil. He the developed pneumonia. My brother, his wife and my Dad’s girlfriend were with him as he passed. I was at a meeting 45 minutes after he died. I googled the nearest one showed up 30 minutes late and bawling. The realized it was an all male meeting. But, that’s what I love about AA. We are family and they did not turn me away. They changed the meeting so I could have the love and support that I needed. The chair gave me a guardian angel coin ad I still wear it today. The important part is I did not have to drink to get through my pain. I was able to feel my feelings and ultimately process them. That’s what sobriety gives us. The ability to feel all the good, bad, hurtful, happy, sad feelings and grow from them.

I am truly a grateful alcoholic living on moment at a time.

My Detox Limbo

We need to check your vitals.
The IV fell out.
Lay your arm flat.

The monitor has a screaming fit
because the nodes unstick
from the boozy sweat
leaking out your pores.

You are confined by tangled wires
to a standard Stryker bed,
while machines you can’t identify
sing to each other
in beeps and blips.

You raise the mattress
lower it
raise it
lower it

Flop side to side
and onto your back.
Is there a magic position
that will bring oblivion?

Stare at the TV so long
your eyes burn.
CNN or TV Land?

There is a man behind the curtain
who bellows and moans
for water and painkillers.

Valium does nothing
to stop your legs from kicking.

Your skin wants to unglue itself
from the fool who brought it here.

You mark the time by each meal
and devour your food in two minutes
to remove the taste from your mouth
and the tray from your lap.

I am your nurse this evening.
Can you tell me your name?
Can you tell me where you are?
Can you tell me what day it is?

Please hold out your hands.

If this lasts an eternity,
Satan himself could not have designed
a better Hell.

You swore you wouldn’t be here again
and here you are again.

Please, if you need me to believe
in God,
discharge me right now.

The Steps Of Recovery Saved My Life And Showed Me How To Live

My name is Katie and I’m an alcoholic. My sobriety date is September 21st, 2015, so as of today I’m 937 days sober (a little over two and a half years). But who’s counting, right? I NEVER thought I’d grow up to be an alcoholic. I never WANTED to be an alcoholic. But, as it turns out, for whatever reason, this struggle was meant to be part of my journey. And I think I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be grateful for it.

I grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota to the most amazing family I could ever dream of. Trust me, I didn’t think this all along, but I know now how lucky I am. I have one sister and two loving parents and my first memories were happy ones. I remember spending lots of time with family, enjoying elementary school and being happy-go-lucky, although all these memories are tainted with a tinge of constant anxiety.

What I remember most about my childhood, however, was my transition to middle school, when I left the small Catholic school and friends that I knew in Saint Paul to attend a Junior High and then High School in Saint Louis Park where my dad worked. It is at this time in my life that I vividly remember realizing that I was DIFFERENT. Not just because I was from Saint Paul while most students were from the suburbs and an entirely different socio-economic status, but different INTERNALLY. I became anxious and fearful. I didn’t know what the other kids were talking about in casual conversations: TV shows, movies, malls, brands of clothes, types of clothes, fashion, make-up, etc… and I constantly felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just didn’t fit in. And I internalized it. Deeply.

I remember starting to try to fit in and that’s kind of when things get blurry. I lost whatever sense of self I had had, and started trying to be more like the people around me. Or what I thought they wanted ME to be. My life continued like that for years. I excelled in school and even had some successes in sports, but I was constantly switching friends, changing the way I looked, acted, dressed, etc… to attempt to fit in. All the while my anxiety increased and my sense of self-worth was slim to none. My approval of myself was solely based on the opinions of others.

When I finally discovered alcohol in 10th or 11th grade (I think), I couldn’t believe the magical effect that it had on me. My anxiety disappeared. My confidence grew. I didn’t worry about what I said, how I said it or who I said it too. And the people around me were more open. Carefully closed groups of friends that couldn’t be entered without “popular” ticket became more like trains of dancing people that anyone could get on and off whenever they pleased. I felt like I had finally figured it out. I had arrived.

I continued experimenting with alcohol whenever I could throughout high school. I didn’t think I drank that much, but my parents and some close friends seemed to think otherwise. Even after just a few years of drinking “casually” – as I thought – I had already developed a reputation of the girl without a cut-off switch. In hindsight, I realized that I had blacked out the first time a drank and many times after, and even when I THOUGHT I had control of my drinking, I never really did.

As you may guess, when I went off to college for the first time my drinking spiraled out of control. I ACTUALLY remember being PROUD that I drank the first seven days straight of my college experience. (After becoming a full-blown alcoholic a few years later and looking back on that week, I realized 7 days was NOTHING.) My first year of college was kind of like an extended version of high school but without parental supervision. I went to classes, did my homework, went to parties and DRANK. There were many nights (even days) of this experience that I don’t remember at all.

In the winter of my freshman year of college, I attempted suicide. I think it was more of a cry for help than anything else, but I was drinking and I was depressed and I ended up being hospitalized, and forced to change colleges, all the while causing extensive and indescribable pain to my family members and friends. I’m not proud of this act of despair and I can’t make much more sense of it at this point that you can, so I’m going to leave it at that, aside from mentioning that I also went through outpatient treatment at this time, because my parents suspected that my drinking was linked to my poor mental health. Imagine that! Drinking was NOT my problem.

Fast forward through college; my drinking continued to escalate and I was drinking multiple times a week, every week. Every time I drank, I got drunk. Most times I drank, I blacked out. Drinking continued to be my outlet; my stress-relief; my crutch; the thing that I turned to when I didn’t know where else to turn. I could go on and on about incidents throughout my college career in which my drinking proved itself problematic, but I don’t have time for that tonight. What’s important to note is that none of it was enough. None of the scraps that I got myself into (including a professor questioning my drinking habits; not remembering entire classes because I was in a blackout; a concerned supervisor at an internship asking me why I smelt like alcohol, etc…) were enough to make me quit drinking. At this point, I’m pretty sure I knew I was drinking too much, but I chalked it up to being in college and still needing to work on learning how to control my drinking better.

As you might guess, my drinking continued as I entered the professional world after college and this is where I started getting more concerned. About my well-being (I had gained a LOT of weight); my mental health (I was anxious, depressed and suicidal); and my drinking (I was a daily drinker at this point). I distinctly remember applying to Grad School so I would have one night per week at class where I was forced NOT to drink. Because that’s why most people start grad school, right? Anyway, I went to grad school, worked in a school as an assistant and drank daily for 5 years. Then I got my teaching license and continued to drink every day as a teacher. My job was HARD and I justified my drinking by how hard I worked and how tough my job was. If YOU had my job, YOU would drink TOO.

In hindsight, I started my slow, painful journey of “my last days of drinking” about my second year of teaching. I had started to become physically dependent on alcohol and it wasn’t enough just to drink after work until I passed out. I was getting the shakes in the mornings and throughout the day and was becoming sick to my stomach almost daily. I’d wake up in the middle of the night in sweats with my heart pounding. The only thing that could cure these symptoms was alcohol. Alcohol had become not only my psychological crutch; but a physical necessity. I started fearing going to work; I feared going out in public ANYWHERE; I needed a drink to feel anywhere near normal. I knew I was addicted at this point and I knew I was going through withdrawal but I didn’t know how to stop it. I couldn’t just stop drinking because I thought for sure I’d die; the anxiety and the physical withdrawal symptoms were unbearable. I also knew that if I kept drinking the way I was I would die anyway. I had hit my bottom; I wanted to die.

I continued living like that, drinking like that, with that knowledge for almost a year. And then one night, I reached out for help. I called my uncle (a recovering alcoholic himself) and told him I needed help. I told him I wanted to stop drinking but I couldn’t. He picked me up at 3:00 in the morning and drove me to the hospital. From there, my recovery journey began.

My journey of recovery has been, thus far, based upon the twelve steps of recovery. Not everyone’s journey will look the same. But for me, I think I started the first step the night I reached out for help. I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol and I certainly understood that my life had become unmanageable. Later, when working with a sponsor, I discovered and came to terms with many OTHER things in life that I am powerless over. Admitting that I was powerless and ACCEPTING that fact, was actually incredibly comforting to me and it has helped me time and time again to come back to this step and remind myself of my powerlessness in this life in general.

Steps two and three weren’t quite so simple for me, but they did fall into place pretty quickly after I recognized how powerless I was. I immediately felt like I needed something or someone to turn to; to release my worries onto; to put my trust in; to help guide me. Without alcohol, and with the knowledge that I could no longer rely solely on myself, I naturally looked for another source of comfort or reliance. I’ve always had a type of faith; mainly the kind where I reached out to God for help when I got myself into trouble. But this was different. After reading about steps two and three in the Big Book and the 12 & 12, talking with a sponsor and other people at meetings, I felt confident that there was indeed a power greater than myself (I call that power God) and that my choice at that point was to turn my will over to the care of that Higher Power. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant (and I still don’t totally understand), but it felt right and saying the third step prayer meant something to me and I just kept saying it over and over until it stuck. I still say the third step prayer almost every day; and I turn to that prayer and my higher power when I feel uncertain about anything.

I continued working the steps with my sponsor and including making an inventory and sharing it with God and my sponsor. I was definitely nervous about this and procrastinated on this step longer than I probably should have; because, like most of us, I had things that I had done and said that I was very ashamed of and hadn’t told ANYONE. But, just like people before me had told me, writing these things down and sharing them with another person was an extremely “freeing” experience. My sponsor was understanding, non-judgemental and comforting. I had finally shared my deepest secrets and darkest regrets tot another human being and NOTHING HAPPENED. She didn’t scold me; she didn’t jump up in horror; she didn’t think of me differently. She JUST LISTENED. This was incredibly powerful experience for me.

I went on to make a list of the people that I had harmed and made my amends to those people. Not right away by any means. I actually just made my last amend (and biggest) to my parents just a few months ago. My sponsor had told me to wait for a time that felt right – and I’d heard from many people that they had tried to make amends TOO early and ended up hurting the people they were trying to right the wrongs with – so I took my time with this step. Making my amends was hard, but it really helped me to deepen my relationships with the people in my life that I love and to continue my journey to “clean up my side of the street;” start with a clean slate; and work towards forgiving and loving myself again.

Steps ten, eleven, and twelve – although last – are some of the most important steps of my recovery today. Mainly because I believe that I practice them on a daily basis by constantly working on improving myself, my relationship with my higher power, and my relationships with people in recovery. I work to take personal inventory every day; if I don’t catch my mistakes right away, I reflect at night before bed about the events of the day and come up with a plan to admit my wrongs the next day. I don’t do this perfectly, and to be completely honest I don’t even do it every day. But I’m working on it, and I’m getting better at admitting my mistakes and that’s the important thing.

I also work on step eleven every day. I pray every morning and night and multiple times throughout the day. Like I mentioned before, I like the third step prayer and I pray it often when I’m uncertain, don’t know what to do; or am confused. I also love the serenity prayer. I pray that prayer every morning as I walk in to work; and many times throughout the day when I get angry or frustrated. Someone said to me in a meeting the other day that the only prayer we need to say is this: “God, show me what you want me to do and give me the strength to do it.” And I found that really powerful. That’s exactly what step eleven tells us to do. To pray for the knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry that out.

Finally, on to step twelve. This step is incredibly important to my recovery: Our primary purpose is to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all of our affairs. This leads me to talk about service. Service to others is a huge part of my recovery. I try to go at least once a month to a treatment center or a detox to carry the message. And these experiences are always just as powerful for me as they are for the people receiving the message. I also have sponsees. Sponsoring other women has helped me to realize that I can have a purpose; I can help others; my suffering has meaning because I can use it to help others recover. To this day, when I’m feeling down, or having a bad day; or mad about something or whatever; I reach out to someone else. I’ve heard so many people share this and it’s totally true; if we are able to get outside of ourselves and reach out to help others, we naturally help ourselves as well. If I had to pick one thing that has impacted my recovery in the most powerful way, I’d say service to others. The ability to share my story and impact the life of another struggling human being is one of the most beautiful things I’ve been a part of: in my recovery journey and in life in general.

I recently read a book called “Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget,” and I would like to end with a quote from that: “Getting sober wasn’t some giant leap into the sunlight. It was a series of small steps in the same direction. You say “I’ll do this today,” and then you say the same thing the next day, and you keep going, one foot in front of the other, until you make it out of the woods.” And that’s truly how sobriety worked – and continues – to work for me. One day at a time. One step at a time.

After Jail, I Gave Recovery Another Try. And Today, I’m 18 Months Sober.

Four and a half years ago after ending up in jail for the last time I decided to give recovery another try. After spending eleven years stuck in a cycle of sex trafficking, prostitution, addiction, and homelessness I had finally felt like my life was at rock bottom. I was completely hopeless and empty. They say the addictions only lead to a few certain things, jails, institutions and death. Well I had certainly made it there, with two prison terms, numerous overdoses, many rehab programs and many more jail terms.

The last treatment program I went into saved my life. They taught me how to deal with the root issue of my addiction which was my childhood trauma, sexual abuse. After I was able to release that pain and forgive my offenders, I realized I didn’t need to cover my feelings with drugs.

Most of all I realized that God had a purpose and a plan for my life. He had been pursuing me for those entire 11 years. He pulled me out of the pit and made me promises. Those promises have been coming true and will continue to as long as I continue to include Him in all of my plans.

Today I have 4 1/2 years clean because after losing everything I found out that I have everything to gain. I keep what I have and stay clean every day by helping others. Ever since I got clean I developed a deep passion to help others. This I believe is the recovering addicts purpose in life. To share our stories of recovery in order to give others that extra ounce of hope they need to get through their day.

I share my story with those willing to listen, but most of all I listen more than I share. I’m working on my degree so that I’m more capable of helping people. I get to work alongside of recovering addicts everyday and share my recovery with them. I couldn’t think of a more perfect job. I’m so excited to see where this recovery journey leads me next!