The Voices Project Partners With Google To End Addiction in America

The Voices Project is proud to collaborate with Google for its Recovery Month launch of the Recover Together Initiative. This groundbreaking collaboration puts recovery voices front and center at a time when millions of Americans are struggling with substance use disorder.

Google’s Recover Together campaign includes personal stories from people in sustained recovery, including recovery advocate and Voices Project founder Ryan Hampton. Ryan shared his story about his decade-long battle with heroin addiction, which took him from a promising career in the White House to panhandling for change outside a gas station. His addiction stole years from his life, but in recovery, Ryan is working hard to break the stigma and encourage others to talk openly about their health.

The Voices Project supported the Google initiative by providing storytelling, resources, and insight into the national crisis. People come to Google every day to seek information on addiction and recovery; in fact, just last month, we saw an all-time high in search interest for “rehab near me,” “addiction treatment near me,” and “how to help an addict.” The Voices Project is proud to help Google, and millions of people in need, find the answers to those questions.

On September 12, the 30th anniversary of National Recovery Month, every visitor to in the U.S. will see a home page promotion aimed to spread awareness about recovery tools. This will link to Google’s new website, “Recover Together,” which provides resources and tools to those in recovery, including:

Recovery Maps Locator: this tool will allow users to quickly find 33,000+ locations that offer recovery support services (including school-based support and family support services). It shows 80,000+ recovery support meetings all across the country (AA, NA, Al-Anon meetings, SmartRecovery, etc.)

Naloxone Locator: Google Maps will integrate locations where users can easily and quickly find Naloxone, the overdose-reversal drug, without a prescription. The tool will include at least 20,000 locations (CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens) in 50 states. The site will also have more information about the availability and life-saving capability of this medication.

YouTube Videos: 8 videos of people in recovery, featured on the site, including Ryan Hampton.

Treatment Resources: to help people who are affected by substance use, Google is highlighting the National Institute of Drug Abuse screener AND state-specific Helpline resources to help people find recovery support in their own community.

Google has created something truly groundbreaking, unique, and powerful in a time of great need. As the epidemic worsens, it’s more important than ever to put recovery tools in the hands of people who need them. The Voices Project is proud to stand on the cutting edge of the recovery movement, along with other recovery leaders whose work saves lives every day.

Visit Google’s Recover Together initiative here:

We Can’t Allow Big Pharma To ‘Check Mate’ Court System and Families Devastated by Opioid Crisis

Late last month, a court in Oklahoma held drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson accountable for the role its products play in the national drug epidemic. Johnson & Johnson will pay $572 million, which must go toward supporting treatment and recovery services for people who struggle with addiction. However, accountability and public awareness are just the beginning.

Looking at the Cleveland County court’s decision, Johnson & Johnson was convicted of being a “public nuisance.” There may be a legal rationale for the name—but language is everything. The danger of a word like “nuisance” being thrown around lightly risks losing sight of the fact that real people are dying. Real families are grieving. Real survivors, like myself, won’t get the years they spent fighting addiction back. A “nuisance” is a minor inconvenience, like a car alarm that goes off in the middle of the night, or litter on a public sidewalk. “Nuisance” means a minor irritation. It doesn’t align at all with the seriousness of the national drug epidemic, which claims more than 200 lives every day. We can’t sanitize this epidemic for the purposes of legalese.

Accountability for pharmaceutical companies means finally calling out the irresponsible, reckless, and greedy behavior of billion-dollar companies. For years, Big Pharma has minimized the risks of their medications, failed to protect consumers from the fatal consequences of using their products, and straight-up lied to doctors and the American public about what their pills and patches could do. I lost ten years of my life to heroin addiction because I was marketed a “perfect pill” that was supposed to solve all my problems. I will never get those years back. Unlike many others, I did manage to stay alive, get through treatment, and avoid a fatal overdose. There is no dollar amount that would compensate me for the years I lost or fill all the empty chairs at dinner tables around the country.

Compared with the irreparable damage that the epidemic has done to families, neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, and individuals, a payment of $572 million is miniscule. You can’t put a price tag on the loss of a beloved child, parent, partner, or friend. Our loved ones weren’t a “nuisance.” They were people who had a highly treatable, yet highly stigmatized illness. They died because they didn’t have access to recovery services, including treatment, housing, peer recovery supports, harm reduction and specialized medical care. Those people were treated like they were “nuisances” while they were alive. That is one of the reasons they are dead today.

$572 million is a minimal start to help fund treatment, prevention, and recovery supports in Oklahoma. The court talks about applying that money directly to the epidemic, which is the real mitigation when they talk about “abatement.” That word, too, is problematic. “Abatement” is a word we use when we’re talking about lead, pollution, spilled chemicals, and trash. It’s not a word we use about human beings. This epidemic is the biggest public health crisis in our nation’s history. It’s bigger than AIDS, worse than polio. It’s put billions of dollars in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. A payment of $572 million is just the beginning—and it’s not enough.

The verdict amount is less than 4 percent of what Oklahoma asked for, and Johnson & Johnson still have plans to fight it every step of the way. They believe they owe nothing to help save lives and clean up the mess they made. To be fair, Johnson & Johnson is probably not the company most at fault. If anything, the ruling shows how easily Purdue Pharma evaded justice and settled out of court, out of the public eye, and behind closed doors. Purdue settled with the state for $270 million back in April. Sadly, a large portion of Purdue’s settlement—$102.5 million—went to fund a new university research center at Oklahoma State.

Recently, it came to light that negotiations between state attorneys general and Purdue officials for a settlement have come to an impasse. And instead of facing trial like other opioid manufacturers and distributors next month, the company plans to dodge accountability once again and file for a “free fall” bankruptcy effectively removing them from the federal trial and moving their case to bankruptcy court. This is a prime example of Purdue literally getting away with murder.

My only hope is that the bankruptcy court sees this for what it is—a smug, self-satisfied family and drug king pin company attempting to ‘check mate’ the courts. Purdue’s intentions make it crystal clear that the states must go after the Sackler family personally if we have any hope of getting them to pay. It’s clear they’re in this for the long haul. Well, I’ve got news for them—so are the families and people whose lives they’ve destroyed.

Let me be clear: the only definition of “abatement” for a survivor is to make sure every penny that may come from these lawsuits goes directly to subsidizing recovery services for the millions of people in need across America, not to a state university.

As we move forward and seek justice for the families and survivors of the drug epidemic, we have to remember that people with substance use disorder are people, too. We must connect every single settlement, verdict, or bankruptcy asset to ending the crisis. We don’t need to reinvent recovery: we have resources and proven pathways that will save lives. We don’t have a single day to waste.

The real “nuisance” is Big Pharma’s unwillingness to clean up the wreckage they caused. If these lawsuits inconvenience them, they’re welcome to join me and hundreds of thousands of others at the graves of the people they killed. Broken families are not an “inconvenience.” When we talk about the addiction crisis, we’re talking about millions of people—real hurt, real pain, and real loss. We can never lose sight of that. Human lives are not litter. We are people, and we deserve compassion and solutions that work.

Ryan Hampton is an activist in recovery from heroin addiction and author of “American Fix: Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis — and How to End It.” He is also the founder of the non-profit advocacy organization The Voices Project.

Naloxone Saves Lives

For people who use opioids—whether their use is intentional or accidental, and whether their substance of choice is prescribed or self-administered—overdose is always a risk. Even people with a tolerance for opioids can experience an overdose. In these life threatening situations, naloxone is essential. Without it, many people do not survive. That’s why The Voices Project is spearheading the Overdose Response Initiative with the Clinton Foundation and in partnership with NGO’s Direct Relief and the National Alliance of Recovery Residences. The primary goal of this initiative to help bring recovery residences (also known as sober livings) to scale in providing overdose response supports.

This 3-year initiative will provide free naloxone and digital overdose response training—along with best practices—to recovery residences in the United States. Community organizations that provide direct services for substance use disorder are encouraged to participate. However, initial preference for the free naloxone distribution will be given to recovery residences.

There are an estimated 13,000 recovery residences in the United States. These homes tend to be a first-line of defense for people who are in early recovery from opioid use disorder. Recently, there has been a severe uptick in overdose deaths in recovery homes. Through this partnership and initiative, we hope to eliminate access barriers to the overdose antidote by providing free naloxone along with the necessary training and support for recovery homes to develop individualized overdose response protocols.

This multifaceted initiative works to prevent opioid overdoses. Making naloxone universally available is a key element in fighting substance related death in the United States.

Naloxone is the generic name for Narcan, an opioid blocker medication that stops overdoses and saves lives. The medication is administered via injection or through a nasal inhaler. It can be given to anyone who shows signs of opioid overdose:

●    respiratory failure
●    slow breathing
●    small or pinprick pupils
●    unresponsiveness
●    blue or pale skin from poor circulation

Most overdoses are not immediately fatal. Naloxone can save a life if it’s given to the person as quickly as possible. Naloxone is effective for 30-90 minutes, and more than one dose may be needed to keep someone alive. Naloxone is an essential part of any First Aid kit, especially in places where people may experience higher risk of opioid exposure, such as sober living homes, hospitals, pharmacies, and households where someone has an opioid prescription.

As fentanyl becomes more prevalent, having naloxone on hand is more important than ever. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can be mixed into other substances, such as methamphetamines, heroin, and non-prescription pills. Even a small amount of fentanyl can be lethal once it enters the body. Fentanyl overdoses require more than one naloxone kit. If somebody doesn’t revive after the first naloxone kit is administered, they may have been exposed to fentanyl.

The Overdose Response Initiative is important because it acknowledges that anyone, in any family, at any time, can be affected by overdose. Making naloxone universally available helps dispel the stigma of substance use disorder. Just like EpiPens for people with allergies, condoms for HIV prevention and safer sex, and AED machines for people at risk for heart attacks, naloxone is a necessary public health measure. A single naloxone kit can cost anywhere from $0 to $40, depending on your insurance plan. Some nonprofits distribute the kits for free: they should always have two doses of naloxone, to contend with more severe overdoses. Many recovery advocates offer free naloxone training so that families, friends, and caregivers are prepared.

Naloxone is one of the best tools we have in the fight against the national drug epidemic. Let’s make it a universal care measure, for anyone, anywhere whose life is endangered by opioids.

Don’t Wait To Be The Change: Mobilize!

Mobilize Recovery is a nationwide recovery initiative, supported by Facebook and spearheaded by The Voices Project. The initiative’s goal is simple: to create a network of people who are passionate about recovery and motivated to get involved in grassroots efforts to end the drug epidemic.

Although our national public health crisis surrounding addiction started decades ago, it has reached a fever pitch in the last few years. New opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, entered the marketplace in 2002. These drugs were marketed aggressively to prescribers and patients alike. People were told the pills were a “cure-all,” a low-risk treatment for everything from menstrual cramps to chronic illness. However, few doctors were informed about the serious, life-threatening risks attached to these pills. Instead, they were educated by the very companies that were selling the pills. Misleading marketing materials, high-class resort vacations, and financial incentives for writing more prescriptions helped push billions of these pills into American homes.

The average person develops a physical dependence on opioids after 3 days, even if they’re taking pills as prescribed for legitimate pain. After the three days, the person will experience withdrawal. They may return for more pills, even though they don’t need them. The wheels of addiction are set in motion, although the person doesn’t realize it yet. They start to experience symptoms of substance use disorder, and may end up with severe consequences if they’re left untreated. Multiply this patient’s experience by millions of people, and you’ve created a national drug epidemic of sick people who are desperate for help.

Mobilize Recovery wants to break this cycle. The initiative works on a broad scale to:

●      support efforts to educate people about addiction

●      offer solutions like harm reduction and recovery support services

●      train people to use naloxone for overdose prevention

●      connect with elected leaders to push pro-recovery legislation

●      amplify the voices of people with substance use disorder

●      change the narrative around addiction to a story of hope

●      empower people in recovery as voters, community members, and advocates

Beginning with 100 motivated recovery advocates, Mobilize Recovery had its first training in Las Vegas in July 2019. Representatives from each state gathered to share resources, learn about recovery efforts in other areas, and get trained on advocacy tactics. Hundreds of other attendees listened to the conference via livestream.

Presenters spoke about the history of the recovery movement, ways to uplift the message of recovery, how factors like race and class affect recovery outcomes, and where the epidemic comes from. After the two-day event, participants returned home with an action plan and goals for their state and regions. They continue to work together with initiative leaders to recruit, motivate, and actualize those goals.

Mobilize Recovery acknowledges the devastating effects of the drug epidemic, while also offering a way for people to fight back. Recovery is the solution to addiction related deaths: hundreds of advocates, nationwide, are already hard at work saving lives and speaking out. The Mobilize Recovery initiative brings those voices together so we can do more, speak louder, and end the crisis faster.

Recovery Support Services Gave Me A Path To Long-Term Recovery

When I think back on the year 2010, I think of the nights spent drinking until I blacked out in a dirty house/apartment/trailer or field if need be, and ingesting lines of whatever was offered to me at the time. I rarely think of the fact that I was going into my senior year of high school because a majority of my time was not actually spent in school; it was spent sleeping off a raging hangover until my school counselor would call and implore me to get to class, and then upon arrival attempting to figure out how I was going to get drunk that night.

I had made a new group of friends who would host me and my binge drinking any night of the week. My childhood friends would try partying with my new friends and me only to be horrified at the debauchery taking place by a group of misfits all fiending to get as messed up as possible.

A different life and a different group of friends didn’t seem desirable or attainable at the time, and I would continue drinking for another six years. However, as I was edging closer and closer to my personal bottom, a place called the Bethlehem Recovery Center was being conceived by Mary Carr which would be an answer to the problem that me and many others who decide to get sober ask, which is: “What now?”

For me, putting down the drink and the drug was the first step, but then I had to figure out what to do with a majority of my time that was previously spent either drinking or planning for my next drink. Not to mention my closest friend on any given night was whoever sat down next to me at the bar, so I didn’t have many people calling me with plans.

The Bethlehem Recovery Center started as a dream of Mary Carr’s, then head of Northampton County Drug & Alcohol. Carr knew first-hand the difficulties that arise in early recovery such as finding a safe and sober place to spend time outside of recovery-based meetings, where and how to look for things such as employment and housing, and how to become reintegrated into the community.

The Lehigh Valley Drug & Alcohol Intake Unit and Northampton County collaborated to provide a resource such as this and in 2010 the BRC opened its doors to the recovery community. The drop-in center is run by individuals in recovery from drugs and/or alcohol and supported by volunteers from the community both in and outside of the recovery community.

Carr credits the long-term success of the BRC to the aforementioned recovery community in the surrounding area taking ownership of the space and what it offers. In the beginning, the center hosted one AA meeting, but has now expanded to offer 11 recovery-based meetings, yoga and meditation, crafting and art classes, job and resume workshops, and life-skills classes, all of which are led by volunteers.

Some of those whose beginnings can be traced back to the BRC have gone on to work at inpatient treatment facilities in the area, local nonprofit organizations, or even to work at the BRC like myself. One of the miracles of recovery is that the lives that are saved from drugs and alcohol go on to save others, as shown by one longtime visitor of the BRC Leslie Simmons. Leslie, who continued to volunteer at the center even after it was no longer court-ordered through his probation, went on to help keep the BRC’s Friday night Narcotics Anonymous meeting alive when its founders could no longer run the group.

Tim Munsch, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Drug & Alcohol Intake Unit, expressed the importance of utilizing the strengths of those in recovery and the surrounding community as the BRC  continues to assist those in all stages of recovery, and especially as it begins to extend its services to those on the wide spectrum of mental health issues.

On any given day, since the center is open seven days a week, you can walk into the BRC and see familiar faces from local meetings, new faces waiting to meet with their Certified Recovery Specialist, or someone stopping in to seek assistance with a job application. All of these represent the community-led recovery initiative of the Bethlehem Recovery Center and the wonders of sobriety.

Recovery, Remission, and Reality – A Mother’s Perspective

I still worry. Just not as much. I have thoughts but let them fly. If the thought gets too rat-wheel, like it might spin all day and night, and all I want is to connect, then I do. I text or call. I leave a message, “I love you.” I forget how lucky I am, if I’m busy worrying. But I am, after all, and forever, a mother.

It was a relief to find out that a speck of their children’s DNA is wedged into a mother’s body, somewhere; our suspicions corroborated. I want to see where he is, and right now it’s a tiny efficiency apartment attached to his girlfriend’s dad’s house. It’s in a nice neighborhood. It used to be a one-man beauty salon long ago. It’s got good driveway space for his vehicles as he always has extras he works on. He has a 40-hour-a-week job, and the job is good. His boss appreciates him.

His teenage son and almost-graduated college-age daughter are slowly letting themselves believe he’s back, that it really is an illness, this substance use disorder. They can love him in three-D again. They can see his burly, tattooed arms, his twinkling eye and happy smile. Oh it’s been what must seem like a life-time to them, missing him. They know he goes to counseling once a week, and that he really likes his therapist. They know he can’t be around booze or, of course, any drugs. That he’s on probation. But they also know, now, that they can find him home; that he’ll answer their calls most of the time, or get back to them. That he talks like he used to. His kids say they want a normal divorced family.

They know the marriage had to end. That this part of life is defined more sharply into an after he got sober and is getting well. Before that the air seemed to be missing vital elements. Their dad was missing. He stopped by getting arrested. A miracle brought about by jail time, rehab, half-way to hell house, a little freedom and now successes.

They can tell him their stories, about the four years he didn’t find them to see them. How Grandma told them he was too sick. Too taken. Too gone, but now he’s back. After more than a year now of his sobriety, they are willing to risk a little time with him, letting him really see them. Who they are. Where they’ve been. What they’ve been doing. And how much they couldn’t do without him.

They know that Grandma is a poet, and she put her grief and fear, anger and tenderness and love and hope into words in poems for the years he was trying to change or something they didn’t understand. They like some of grandma’s poems because she lets everyone know how it feels to have a man-child slipping like water in a desert, through her fingers. They see some of their feelings in her poems. They can’t read the whole book. It’s too hard. It was their pain too, and their stories. But they learn about stuff from Grandma; they trust her not to lie and so someday, they will read more of it. It made Grandma very happy that their dad went into recovery at the same time the book was about to be printed in huge machines, then spit out for the world to look at. Their dad too came into the world again, and he too was being looked at. He approved of her book, said he was proud and glad that his mom stuck with him, cared enough to write their story.

I started Notes on Serenity: An ABC of Addiction when my son came to me homeless, hungry, and admitted to substance use disorder; again (I’d heard about other times from his now ex-wife). I gave him shelter and all I could give. But, of course, I couldn’t give him a way out. It was so painful to not be able to fix things for him, so hard to see him suffer; I was overwhelmed. I diligently and gratefully attended Naranon (after ten years of Alanon and three of Adult Children of Alcoholics), then decided to focus my time on poems and stories regarding my experience. (I’m a poet and writing teacher by trade.) I thought about titles like “Addiction for Dummies,” “Having an Addict Son Made Easy,” but there was no humor to work with in spite of living in Albuquerque, the home of Breaking Bad. I was at stage 4 GRIEF in spite of all the 12-steps. The Abcedarien is a poetic form I’d learned, used, and taught to writing students. I pitched a course on the form at an online writing school where I was on the faculty and told my students I’d be writing with them, a poem a day for three weeks, each consecutive poem starting with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. It was circa 2010, and I told them I’d be focusing on addiction as my theme if they didn’t mind. They didn’t mind. Eight years later I published the book. The alphabet was a tangible tool, both guideline and a tow rope, something to hold onto and see in the dark. Though the theme gets a little obscured in places, and the forward motion is a child-like tool for literacy, my book links each story the same way addiction links everything when one is in the middle of it.

Poets must write the truth in a unique way—that’s the challenge of the art. There is healing power in sculpting with words, moments and events of the journey. At 70, I gave myself permission to write my journey and my son’s journey, one day at a time.

Opiates Almost Killed Me. But I Got A Second Chance At Life.

My name is Heather and I’m in long term recovery from major depressive disorder and substance use. I have been in recovery going on 5 years. I need to express how grateful I am for being given another chance at life.

Opiates were my choice and it almost killed me. My use of opiates started out innocently. I had several knee surgeries and other ortho type ailments. I was given opiates. I’m not going to place blame on my physicians. Honestly, my brain liked the flood of dopamine opiates provided. I became addicted to the energy and euphoria it gave me. I became super mom, super nurse, super wife. The euphoria helped me become sociable. I have always struggled with low self esteem. I think I can trace all my troubles back to my childhood. Absent father and emotionally neglected mother is my beginning. My parents didn’t know how to cope with stress. They both suffered from depression. My father was neglectful of his responsibilities and my mom was left to carry the weight. My parents divorced when I was 10. It was devastating. My father left a trail of broken promises. I waited for him many weekends only for him to not show up. I resented him for many years. I was always searching for him in other relationships. His absence left a void. It turned me into a clingy people pleasing person. I didn’t know how to have a relationship. I was searching in all the wrong places. I was neglectful of my needs. I desperately wanted to be and feel loved.

I met my husband in 1994. We have been together almost 24 years. We have 2 beautiful children, Cameron and Deanna. I almost lost all of it in 2013. My addiction was raging like a wildfire. I had lost my job. My depression started taking me to a really dark place. I literally spent the summer of 2013 in bed. That’s where I felt the safest. I closed off from all family and friends. No one really knew what was going on in our home. I started using alcohol to help me cope with withdrawal from narcotics. That’s when my husband put the brakes on my self destruction. I was admitted to a detox facility and then on to a 30 day program. That was the beginning of my recovery journey. During this time I cut off contact with my father. I learned he was a big trigger for me. I stopped communicating with him for almost 3 years. I had to take care of me.

Unfortunately, I was never going to get the chance to speak to him again. I was awakened in the early morning hours of April 18, 2016 to a Wildlife officer standing at my front door to inform me my father was missing in Falls Lake. He had been fishing that day. My dad was going to another cove. He was traveling at a high rate of speed. The boat flipped in the air hitting my dad. He was missing for 5 days before his body was recovered. I was numb for that whole week. I immediately made an appointment to see my therapist. My recovery had to be protected. In the past I would’ve used this excuse to numb the pain. I spent 8 weeks attending grief counseling. Smartest decision I ever made. My recovery really began to take off. I made peace with my father. I have to wonder at times if his death was a gift to me. I was no longer stuck at being 10 years old.

Today I am a certified recovery coach and peer support specialist. I am in the process of starting CSAC training. I also started a peer support group called Still Standing. My life is beautiful today and I couldn’t be more happier. I am person thriving in recovery and loving it.

The Opioids Lost, And Recovery Won!

My story…. I’ve had a few spinal surgeries and when the pills ended is where my story really starts. I went through the nasty withdrawals and found myself on the other side. Until I started smoking pot to help my pain (physically and emotionally) You see I’ve been through a pretty crappy life… my father was/is an alcoholic. My mother battles with severe depression and anxiety, more so now as my childhood home burned to the ground last year. It was tough… they lost everything… so naturally they changed. I don’t speak to or see my mother really ever. That’s do to my 44 year old addict sister living there. I’ve been raped twice, one of those times I was beaten and stabbed. That really messed me up,I went to go to treatment but it was pointless. So, I did the ONE thing I said I would NEVER do… I picked up a needle( with who I thought was my friend) Since that day I couldn’t Stop. I lied to my friends and family, I stole money from people ,I pawned my grandmother’s wedding ring that she left me when she died(29 years ago)and did anything else I can do just to get money for heroin…I just ran with it I guess…. I told myself ONE time and that “first” one time I was gone for days… up for days just trying to find money to get more. Heroin grabbed my soul and had no intention of letting me go until I was in a body bag. I’ve OD once..and that still wasn’t a wake up call! A few weeks after I overdosed… Make daughter told me she was pregnant, I was so excited to be a grandma but I was so messed up I couldn’t be a grandma. Then she found out at her 12 week visit that my grandson was going to have down syndrome and a major heart defect, that’s when I said to myself I have to be here for my daughter and for my grandson and I went that night to treatment. It was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. But I knew that I had to do it for my daughter and my grandson that they needed me more than heroin needed me. Fast forward to May 15, 2018, I have been clean from every evil drug especially heroin for one year!!! I am so incredibly proud of myself, I’m not gonna say there are days I don’t think about it are there are days I don’t want to do it because there are. I just work through it and the night go to bed and wake up and it’s one more day sober. I’m connected to many groups that help support me positively, and of course my grandson who is now nine months old who is my heart. I’ve been connected to many groups that help support me positively, and my precious family who has forgiven me. So heroin YOU LOST, I WON!

I Will No Longer Be Silent. It’s Now My Mission To Share My Story To Save Lives.

I want to share a story here, not to bring light upon myself, but to something that I have struggled with for many years. These are my words, not something that I copied and pasted. I hope that this will bring awareness and hope for who ever reads this:

I joined a group on Facebook today that consists of people that have some sort of addiction. I am an alcoholic and began my second journey of battling this disease 34 days ago. My first journey began about the same time last year. I had become a high functioning alcoholic and I knew that I needed to get this under control and eliminated from my life. I started attending AA and thought I had “it” under control and even made a statement once saying, “I got this”. I did not understand the meaning nor the concept of what Alcoholism is or consisted of, I just thought I was a guy with a high tolerance and needed help to control and stop drinking all together.

Well, little did I know that I suffer from the disease of Alcoholism. A very Powerful, Baffling and Cunning Disease. I have spent the last 30 days in Out Patient Rehab and now have the knowledge and education of what Alcoholism is, and the effects and control it can have on me if I continue to use alcohol. I am thankful and Blessed beyond means that I have figured this out, I can now have order restored back in my life.

I used to think my story was not so tragic, but I now realize, that all of our stories, who suffer from some sort of addiction, has left a tragic trail behind us, hurting not only ourself but those close to us and especially those that we love.

I hope that in the days, months and years to come, I can share my story with others and raise awareness to addiction and Alcoholism to others, so that they can seek help before they too, will have to look back and see the tragic story/path that they may leave behind before seeking help.

Knowledge, Information and Education is only as powerful as you use and apply it to your daily life. My Platform is small now, but I hope that it grows each day, as I grow and improve each day.

If you have read this, thank you for taking the time. I hope that those of you who think you may have an addiction that you will reach out and seek help. And for those of you who may know someone that may suffer, be a friend, and let them see what others are seeing. One who has an addiction does not see what others see, and sometimes sees their addiction when it has become to late

I wish and hope for all to have a Happy and Blessed Day….

As A Mother, I Know My Family’s Recovery Is Just As Important As My Daughter’s Recovery

I am the mother of a daughter with a substance use disorder (SUD). I am also a wife, sister, friend, dog owner, New Orleans Saints fan, a lover of all things chocolate, a blogger, a speaker, a family peer support specialist, and an educator/advocate for family members who are navigating the landscape of AUD and SUD. These other facets of me are important to share because for the first five years of my daughter’s addiction, I lost the ability to identify as anything other than the mother of an addict. I was as lost in my daughter’s disorder as she was. She was obsessed with the drug and the drink and I was obsessed with her.

As my journey into wholeness and healing has developed over these last eight years, I have chosen to write recovery into my story. Part of my recovery story is accepting that I am powerless over my daughter’s disease and that my life, my story, my daughter’s story and our family’s story cannot be managed, manipulated or forced back into its original script. I, like so many others I encounter, had written a script for my family and in no way did it include SUD. In fact, it didn’t include any sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, isolation, shame, or devastation. In my script we all lived happy, carefree, successful lives, filled with joy, laughter, and wonder. No sickness, no failures, no disenchantment. No reality!

Today, SUD is an ever-present theme in our family’s narrative. My beautiful daughter’s heroin use has left an undeniable imprint on our story and in my brain, heart, mind and soul. I can never erase this imprint, but I can reshape it. It can be a part of my story without being my story. Today, I work hard to stay present to the present. It is a comfort to know that I am not alone on this path; that my story is not unique. Rather, it is a story that millions of parents, children, partners and friends of people who suffer from SUD share. Our stories differ in detail but share common themes such as pain, fear, isolation, shame, anger, betrayal, and confusion to name just a few.

My daughter is my only child and I love her deeply. She is writing her story, and I and writing mine. The subplots within my daughter’s story, sobriety, medical management, or active using does not negate my relationship, my love and my status as her mother. These subplots, nor any one, or any disease, can rob me of that. I am her mother and she is my daughter and I love her more than life itself.

However, to love her the way she deserves to be loved has taken a lot of time, effort, and energy on my part. Loving someone with a chronic, progressive, and deadly disease is difficult at best and utterly depleting at worst.

As my only child, my daughter was of utmost importance to me. So, everything about her and related to her was treated with extreme vigilance. My opinion about her life and how she lived it mattered because I felt she was a reflection of me. I raised her as a single parent so, I assumed the responsibility for all the good and the bad. As a result, I justified my behavior of telling her what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, and why it was important to do it my way. There was nothing in her life or about her that I was indifferent about. Everything mattered! All the time. In essence, I held her hostage to the storyline I was writing, for her, for me, for our family.

What I have learned over these past eight years is that my need for recovery is no less than my daughters. Alcohol and drugs do not make my life unmanageable. Rather, it is the compulsion I feel to control other people, places, or things. My attitudes and behaviors are direct evidence of this. The unmanageability I feel compels me to try and force solutions for others without invitation or consent. This need to control the uncontrollable is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” To stop it, I have found it necessary to examine my myself, my attitudes, and my actions. To take the focus off the script I am trying to enforce on others and become aware of the edits that are being written in real time; in the present; in reality. The truth is that my daughter chases a needle with the same abandon that I chase her. All that differs between she and I is the object which we chase, not the compulsion or intensity with we chase it.

Addiction causes us to live in the shadowlands of our lives. The shadow it casts is sweeping, dark, depressing and depleting. My catalyst out of this shadowland was my desire to find a cure for my daughter and her SUD. On the journey to find her healing I have found healing and restoration for myself. I will never have enough emotionally, financially, mentally, physically, or spiritually to “cure“ my daughter, because those things do not cure diseases. Nor does love. Accepting that and refusing to believe that if I could just muster up enough of one, a combination of, or all of these things combined, helps me to edit my story and stick to the primary plot, which is this: I love someone who has a chronic, progressive, and deadly disease. I am not her solution, her cure, or her scapegoat. I am simply her mother, a mother who loves her one and only child without measure. Therefore, my role is simple: to spend what time I have with her loving her, not fixing, scolding, shaming, or abandoning her. Love is a price I am willing to pay because while it cannot cure her, it can’t hurt her.