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I’m 17 Months In Recovery Today And That’s A Miracle

Hello everyone! I am Victoria and my friends call me Tori. I am a grateful recovering addict.

Right now, I am 17 month clean and it is a miracle! I drank heavily for 26 years and wanted to die with a drink in my hand. I would call myself a closet drinker because I did everything in my power to hide it. That only worked for so long. …. The day my granddaughter asked, “Is there yuckies in your cup Grandma?”

This is the day I realized Enough is Enough! I gave my 18 year old my stash to trash and asked her to find me a bed. And she worked hard for about 24 hours. Off to rehab for the first time at 47 years old. After 25 successful and grueling days, I did it! I quit!

Went to IOP right away and had a recovery specialist visit once a week and was determined to stay clean. My 3 kids are so happy to have a full time mommy now and so are my 2 granddaughters, who all live with, just me. My kids were my motivation and my God made it possible. I hope I Never go back to that horrible lifestyle.

I believe recovery works if and when you Reallllllllly Want it! I wanted it so bad and now that I have it I am at peace with life. Inner peace is so important and amazing to have. Thanks for taking the time to care to read this and love to you all. If you are struggling with addiction, get help, reach out, surrender. You will be so relieved and happy! Peace, Tori Lee

I Moved Forward

Nearly ten years ago, I stood in a doorway with nothing but a couple trash bags of clothes, a Jeep on a car title loan, and a decision to make. Behind me were fourteen years of obsession and insanity surrounding drugs and whatever I had to do to get them. Fourteen years of putting those things in front of my family, my daughter and myself. In front of me was an opportunity for help that I wasn’t sure I even wanted. It was a small office, with a large, loud man trying to talk to me when all I could think about was the withdrawal that I knew was coming. But I was at a point of absolute devastation and desperation. I had been evicted from my apartment and didn’t have my daughter. I had nowhere to go and no one left to help me if I didn’t take this offer. So I picked up the trash bags of clothes, and I moved forward.

My first experience with drugs was at twelve years old. I was a hippie chick who tried weed and loved the way it made me feel. I progressed to alcohol and LSD at thirteen. After five years of parties, concerts and experimenting with the way these substances made me feel, I discovered my favorite escape of them all: heroin. I was seventeen years old and had no idea that that feeling, that drug, and that lifestyle would completely consume and control my life for the next nine years.

The life I had started to go down hill pretty quickly. Nothing was important to me except using drugs. I was surrounded by darkness, and I believed that heroin was my light.  My family found out about my drug use when I overdosed. They tried everything they could think of to help me. I rotated through various medications, therapies, and 12-step meetings. Never really grasping on to anything. I thought I knew everything and that I had my life under control.

For nine more years, I was addicted to heroin and other opiates. During this whirlwind of using and being sick and looking for help and using again, I became pregnant with my daughter. I hoped that my pregnancy and caring for her would be the end of my struggle. I really thought God had given me a gift, a way out of the endless battle with heroin and opiates. However, even my daughter growing inside me could not keep me from using, the pull was too strong. She was born addicted to heroin, and I thought witnessing her go through that pain and discomfort would be the final straw. I told myself over and over, “This is it. I can’t do this anymore.”

However, my resolution to change didn’t last long, and I continued my cycle of using, treatment centers and pain. I could see my parents and family starting to give up after countless years of trying to “fix” me.  They were exhausted by my desperate phone calls, lies and manipulation. Considering the hell I put them through, especially my daughter, I didn’t blame them at all.  All I cared about was using and finding ways to get money to use.  No one could stand in my way of doing so.

In the end of my addiction career, I was evicted from my apartment, in a relationship that revolved around drugs, did not have my daughter, and was completely hopeless. My step-mom showed up at that apartment with one last offer to help me.  She had a friend, John Shinholser, who was the President and Co-Founder of The McShin Foundation in Richmond, VA.  I had no clue who he was or what McShin was all about.  I went to meet him and I thought, “What in the world, this dude is a trip.” He had the biggest personality and said exactly what I didn’t want to hear. I had never met anyone like him. I left after a day because I still wasn’t ready.  Heroin withdrawal was my enemy and I couldn’t even attempt to hear what recovery was without being out of withdrawal.

I returned the next day and found myself standing in that doorway, faced with the decision to return to the mental, physical and spiritual pain I knew, or to choose to have a different kind of life. I moved forward.

John helped me access a doctor so I could detox without the full symptoms of a heroin withdrawal, and I started my recovery journey that day, May 27th, 2007. McShin took me back in with practically nothing. No daughter, no money, no hope, no life worth living.

McShin is Virginia’s leading peer-to-peer Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that helps those with substance use disorders and their families.  John and his wife Carol McDaid opened McShin in 2004 when they got frustrated that an addict/alcoholic had to wait at least sixty days for a bed anywhere to get help.  Before meeting John, I had no clue what an RCO was and how it could save my life.

I moved into a recovery house where I lived with other women in a structured environment with an intense, daily focus on recovery. The house became my safe haven. Instead of the negativity and darkness I had grown accustomed to, I found myself in a place of hope and change. The women in the house were discovering the freedom that came from a life without drugs, and it radiated from each of them. That atmosphere changed my life. Seeing people just like me trying to stay drug free every day was so powerful, and I wanted to follow their example.

I lived in the women’s recovery house for five months, learning how to live day to day without drugs and about who I was underneath those years of use. My family could see the change in me. I wanted so badly to do anything it took to stay in recovery, so I did whatever was asked of me. Eventually, I took the huge step to get my daughter back. I moved out of the recovery house and in with my sister, where I was able to raise my daughter and begin rebuilding that relationship.

I stayed involved with McShin and became a peer leader to the women who entered the program. John saw something in me, took a chance, and trusted me enough to give me a job. The years of torment and agony I so badly wanted to forget were the exact experiences that qualified me for the job. I grew in my recovery, reaching out to women around me to ask for help and suggestions. I was making the right decisions, being a productive member of society, and developing a sense of spirituality for the first time in my life. I discovered that my lived experience I had in addiction along with my growth and determination in recovery is crucial to the McShin model of peer-to-peer recovery. From starting my job at McShin with five months in recovery to now almost ten years later, I have turned my lived experience into a rewarding career helping people.

As CEO of McShin, I am fortunate to work around new people in recovery on a daily basis. I can empathize with them and show them compassion. I can tell them that I’ve been in that exact same situation; so desperate for a change that you are willing to do anything it takes. So broken and tired that you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it through the next hour, let alone the whole day. I can show them that from that starting point, I’ve built a life that I am proud of. I have become a woman that others are proud to know. I share my experience with those new to recovery in an effort to instill in them to just hold on, don’t use no matter what, and to develop a real, honest love for themselves.

Honesty Liller on Face The Nation

I believe my career in the recovery field is truly a calling for me, and I use my passion for the work I do to help as many people as I can. Not only am I able to be an individual in recovery, bettering my own life each day, but also my journey and my career give me the opportunity to advocate for those who have no clue what recovery is, but desperately need it.

It is my personal mission to be a face, voice, and light of hope for recovery every day I am on this earth. Recovery has changed my life around completely, and that is a message I am passionate about sharing with others.  I am a mommy, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and homeowner who can look in the mirror and be genuinely happy with who she sees.  My daughter is now fifteen years old, and our relationship is something I never even dreamed would be possible. I am very fortunate to have an amazing husband who is also in recovery.  We have been together for eleven years now, met at rehab, used drugs together, and now share our life in recovery. Having a partner in this life that I can truly be blessed and happy with is priceless.  We have a seven-year-old son who has never had to see me use.

To have inner peace and acceptance of who I am gives me the most amazing sense of satisfaction and serenity. Along my recovery journey, I have discovered how to trust in my God, love others, love myself and be present in the moment. I lived for so long not appreciating my life, so today I am grateful for each and every moment. You are only promised one life, why not live it?

Coming into recovery is my biggest accomplishment in life. Nearly ten years ago, standing in that doorway of The McShin Foundation, holding trash bags full of clothes, I could have never imagined the life I have today. This amazing, beautiful, blessed life is possible because of recovery. It is possible because of my decision to move forward.

Alcohol Almost Cost Me My Life. Today I’m Advocating For Life-Saving Treatment.

I nearly died from alcohol poisoning when I was seventeen. It was the bottom-shelf, plastic-bottle vodka from a liquor store in Portsmouth, the kind we see discarded in alleys and not recycling bins. I was hospitalized and intubated. The nurses accidentally ruptured and paralyzed my vocal cord, leaving me whispering for the next nine years.

Over those nine years I endured periodic arrests, near-misses with death, progressive drug addiction, and graduation to daily injection and suicidal thoughts. Help came later than some would have appreciated. I’m grateful to have survived as a result of the treatment I finally received five years ago. Many died on waiting lists in 2012 without linkage to services while waiting for treatment, in lieu of treatment, or after treatment. Vital supports are emerging today, but too late for 478 New Hampshire residents who died in 2016.

All told, my recovery has cost the state under $3,000. Between court costs, damage to public property, medical costs, and lost productivity, my unchecked addiction cost New Hampshire approximately $190,000.

Since working in the addiction field and advocacy arena it’s become obvious to me that most of the shame and harm that I and my family endured was preventable. Today I walk a shaky line between gratitude and rage. I live, but others are not so fortunate. I’ve found my people – survivors and our many allies – and as we find each other we toil together over a common cause of improving conditions for vulnerable Granite Staters. We also find our voices and bring our passion to the voting booths.

Five percent of gross profits from state-controlled alcohol sales is not the cure for our current troubles. Those dedicated funds are managed well, if cautiously, to grow impactful solutions to addiction throughout the state. But five percent is a dark line that advocates drew in 2000. We’re not moving that line in the age of fentanyl, at the dawn of a methamphetamine surge, and certainly not at the height of alcohol sales and problem drinking in New Hampshire.

I will be at the New Hampshire State House on Thursday, April 6th to demand a fully funded Alcohol Fund in the state budget. Because over my dead body would I be caught telling the families of 478 people that we ought to settle for anything less.

My Name Is Vanessa. And I’m More Than An Addict.

Growing up, society taught me that I should not disclose that I am an alcoholic or an addict; that my addiction is something I should be ashamed of. I heard this message every time someone described someone’s behavior to be that of a “crackhead,” every time someone talked about what a “drunk” someone was or called someone a “junkie,” and every time politicians on TV talked about the War on Drugs and promised every addict would be locked away in prisons for life.

I believed in this stigma for most of my life. I thought, as many people still do, that alcoholics were homeless people, living under bridges with nothing but a bottle in a paper bag. That drug addicts were criminals who only knew how to lie, cheat and steal. That is until I became one myself…

It’s because of this stigma that I refused to acknowledge I was sick. I spent the next decade of my life trying to control something that was uncontrollable.

I always smile when someone tells me I don’t “look like an addict.” Not because I blame them for thinking this way, but because who they see in front of them today is certainly a far cry from the person I was in active addiction.  When I was sick, I was unrecognizable.

The reality is, I look exactly as an addict does. We are your neighbor, doctor, teacher, co-worker, caretaker and child. Addiction knows no boundaries. If society wants to paint an honest picture of what an addict looks like today, maybe they could start with me.

Here is what I can tell you about my life. I grew up in a loving family, with successful parents and a happy childhood. I never wanted for anything. There wasn’t any abuse or trauma that I could blame my addiction on. There was no neglect, poverty, or addiction in my home. I have searched my life, with a fine-tooth comb, for some pivotal moment that changed everything, and all I can tell you is that the first time I used I knew I wanted more. And not just in the “Hey that was fun. I think I will do that again sometime” kind of way. But in the, “I want more. More! Give me MORE!” kind of way.

It’s important that I share this piece of my story with others; that I acknowledge the lack of chaos in my upbringing. Many times, society wants to blame the parents. My parents had absolutely nothing to do with my addiction, but I can tell you their unflinching love and support have had a tremendous impact on my recovery.

I was just a normal teenager, seeking acceptance from my peers and wanting to grow up too fast. Just a normal teenager experimenting with friends. That experimentation, though harmless at first, lead to full-blown addiction by my late 20’s. That little girl, with all her hopes and dreams, disappeared. I did some deplorable things in the name of my addiction. I abandoned my family, I was violent and spewed hateful words, and I often times put my addiction before my own daughter’s welfare. I lied, I manipulated, I self-harmed. And at the end of my active addiction, I was reported missing. Poof!

As sure as I am sitting here writing this, I can tell you that I didn’t grow up and suddenly announce I wanted to be a professional addict on Career Day. This was learned behavior by a person with the disease of addiction; a sick person, not a bad one. That does not in any way excuse my behavior, because believe me I have worked for years trying to forgive myself for the damage I caused, but it does explain why I lost control so quickly. Because, you see, I am not that woman anymore. There are times when it seems like a different life altogether.

For years, I tried to “figure out my addiction.” I tried to dissect my life to find some moment in time that turned everything upside down, that made me act the way I did. Something that made sense of the chaos I had created. Always telling myself I couldn’t possibly be an addict, until the day my disease almost left my daughter without a mother, and I couldn’t hide from it anymore.

When we are broken, we become willing change. And I was broken. Thankfully, I had recovering women in my life who had been waiting for me to wake up. They took me under their wings, they held me up when I couldn’t stand on my own and they taught me how to live. They taught me how to take care of myself, how to be honest and what it means to have integrity.  These women have never left my side yet, and I am forever grateful to them.

My Name Is Vanessa. And I'm More Than An Addict.

One of the most important things they taught me was to carry the message to the still suffering addict, and I have been doing my best to honor this commitment throughout my journey. I take my story into women’s prisons, treatment centers and into my community.

Addiction is a shame based disease. I choose to recover out loud because I firmly believe that no addict should ever have to suffer in silence, that no addict should ever have to die from this disease and that there is nothing that compares to the magic that happens when one addict helps another addict find a new way of life.

My name is Vanessa, and I am a woman in long-term recovery. What that means is that I have not had a drink or prescription drug since October 16th, 2014, and  I pray that I never forget the despair I felt at the end of my active addiction.

Every morning, before my feet hit the floor, I make a commitment to myself to stay sober for another 24 hours, and with that one simple task, a beautiful life was created.

We do recover.

My Judge Sentenced Me To Recovery, Not Jail

My Name is Herb. And I’m a person in long-term recovery from addiction.

The first time I used, it was alcohol and I was right around fifteen years old. I had no idea what was in store for me when I took my first drink. Addiction is a progressive disease, and mine was no different; within a few short years I experienced the bitter ends. I was addicted – not so much to one specific drug at first, but to altering my mood. I didn’t like the way I felt, I avoided discomfort, I used to cope. I used to increase pleasure or decrease pain.

I always felt like an outsider, and drugs and alcohol helped me feel like I finally fit into this world – until they stopped working. Eventually, it was all about decreasing pain, and running from the chaos the drugs were causing in my life. By the time I was twenty-one, I was homeless and on the run from the law – living in the woods. From there, it only got worse. Multiple arrests, overdoses, and deeper and deeper bottoms. I reached a point in my life where suicide became the only option.

Once I got to prison, I laid in a jail cell contemplating how I was going to take my own life. I was going to go out of this life as a statistic. I was willing to let addiction win. Suicide by overdose. But then I was shown grace and mercy.

My judge thought that recovery would be more appropriate, a long-term therapeutic solution to my problem. He sentenced me to a year in a local sober living home, the Respite House in Valparaiso. The judge was right! We cannot incarcerate our way out of this battle with addiction; adequate treatment and long-term after care are the answer.

You see, I’ve been to many different jails throughout the country and the only thing they’ve ever done is introduce me to more connections. They surrounded me with people with no desire to be there or get well. Jails and prisons are just a holding tank for addicts, and they’re flooded with drugs. They’re a crime school. No wonder our recidivism rate is so high in this country. But I digress.

That year in the sober living home was exactly what I needed. It was a great place for me to transition through during early recovery. It introduced me to recovery-minded people with an honest desire to live in recovery. I jumped in with both feet.

Since my sentencing to the house, I’ve graduated successfully; gotten my son back in my life; established healthy, supportive relationships in the community; made amends with my entire family; moved into my own home; published a book; and found a career. I share my story every opportunity I have – on behalf of numerous agencies in our area with hopes of combating the heroin epidemic in my region. I am not ashamed of who I am.

I’m an intervention coordinator and have the distinct honor of helping addicts and their families find recovery. I have a new puppy, amazing friends, integrity, peace of mind, and a brand-new place in this world. All things I wouldn’t have if I were still using or sitting in prison.

The world needs more places to give addicts opportunities to turn things around. I wouldn’t be here – in recovery – if I hadn’t gotten that second chance. I’m truly blessed and humbled beyond belief – we do recover!

Recovery Gave Me Purpose & Saved My Life

In 2007, my world came to a screeching halt. I was 16 years deep into a decorated law enforcement career when alcohol dealt me a significant blow. Not only was I a SWAT team member at the time – but also a SWAT Instructor – as well as a basic recruit instructor. Over the course of those last 16 years, I experienced much success but now my career was on the line as result of a DUI crash. At that time, I didn’t know what recovery was. Or that it was even possible for a guy like me.

Up to this point in my life I had already burned through 2 marriages and was working on a third. My kids were coming around less and less, and if I wasn’t on-duty I was more-or-less drunk, all the time.  After a leave absence to get my legal issues ironed out, and a trip to my second spin-dry treatment center, the department brought me back and imposed only one stipulation: I had to find a recovery program and stay sober for 5 years.

I didn’t know how to stay sober. Nor did I want to. But I tried. The issue I discovered, however, was that when I stopped drinking I became unbearable to live with. Meaning, I couldn’t stand how I felt. I was extremely irritable and had an almost impossible time carrying out tasks as simple as going grocery shopping. At times, even my skin hurt. I tried going to some meetings, suggested by my boss, but they weren’t for me. I wasn’t that bad. At the time, I even remember telling myself “if the people at those meetings felt as horrible on the inside as I did, they would want to drink too.” And so, I got loaded again. By March of 2009, I was unemployed. My life spiraled out of control, and I soon found myself heavily involved in the use of pills and methamphetamine. This led to more treatment centers, hospitals, the county jail, and eventually homelessness. I compromised everything I ever believed in. I sunk to a low that was unbearable to face, so I stayed drunk or high for the next 4 years. I couldn’t stop for the life of me.

December 10, 2014 – a moment of clarity hit me. I was on the backside of an 8-day run, completely out of my mind and no one left in my life. I basically came-to, realizing for the first-time ever, the magnitude of my situation. My insides were screaming. I could no longer get high enough (or drunk enough) to stop the emptiness.  Once again, I pondered suicide. Thankfully, during a brief unexplained moment of peace, I convinced myself that maybe I could get sober and stay sober.

On that day (12/10/14), I made a decision that I’d no longer be a slave to addiction.  As painful as it was in the beginning, I threw myself into the world of recovery. I did what was suggested by those who were living lives that I had never dreamed possible. I met men brimming with love for their fellows, who were down in the trenches, caring for our brothers and sisters that remained trapped in addiction. It had been a long, long time since I had concerned myself with needs of others. The thought initially frightened me, but I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.

My life today is nothing like the old. I am free from the obsession to drink or use, and have been some time. I no longer suffer from anxiety, depression, or fear. I have successfully entered back into the work force, and am a valued employee. I have reconnected with family and have friends that care about me and I about them. I am engaged to an amazing woman who journeys upon a common spiritual path. But the craziest thing I have today? I have purpose. 

My purpose today is to reach out and help – in any way I can – those still suffering. I do that by hanging out on skid-row, visiting detox centers, helping men get jobs or housing, and showing others how I got sober.  When I do these few things, I experience peace, joy and a renewed self-esteem. I never thought in a million years that living a purposeful life in recovery would be possible. Now I know, there is no other way to live.

My name is Kylie. And I’m a woman in sustained recovery.

The mind is a powerful thing and recovery is possible.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been told that I can do anything that I put my mind to. It’s crazy to think that the one thing that could help me obtain anything is also the same thing that has kept me from living my life to its fullest.

In my case, my mind eventually became dangerous. For 10 plus years, it told me that I couldn’t function without meth or alcohol. What’s scary is it didn’t start that way. At first, meth was the solution to what I thought was my biggest problem in life. How awesome it was to find this substance that could help me lose weight faster than any workout or diet plan and allow me to eat anything I wanted. It also gave me this extra boost of confidence; I could talk to anyone and was more outgoing than ever before. I had what felt like endless energy.

Over time, the only thing that stayed constant with my meth use was that I stayed thin, everything else in my life fell apart. However, at the time I didn’t see it as a problem because at least I was skinny. As the years went on, my meth use increased and that’s when it truly started to take over my world. My tolerance went up – and I was beginning to need meth just to get out of bed. Instead of doing things to better my life, my days consisted of finding ways to get high. I drifted away from everyone I knew that didn’t use. I was kicked out of my home and started wandering the streets all night and sleeping on people’s couches, staying in random hotel rooms smoking my life away. There were times I thought about quitting, but the fear of putting on weight was enough to put that thought to an end quick. I was hopeless and I just couldn’t stop. I wanted recovery but I was too ashamed to ask for help.

My anxiety levels were unbearable, and I started to constantly have that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my own skin. Instead of stopping, I found that when I consumed alcohol it brought me back to what I felt was normal. I just needed another mind-altering substance to get me there. I came up with a system that helped me get through the days – using meth when I woke up, all throughout the day. And when I got too high, I would just take a few shots of alcohol and be good to go. This became my life and this is how my mind became my own personal prison. I wanted a way out!

I wanted to be free from my addiction but my mind told me there was no way in hell that could ever happen. I was stuck. And the years kept flying by. Any solution I came up with was shot down because my mind told me I couldn’t function without meth or alcohol, that I wasn’t worthy of recovery. My mind told me that I would gain weight if I stopped using meth.

Luckily for me, I reached a rock bottom and saw the destruction addiction was causing in my life. I finally asked for the one thing I had never asked for – help. I wanted more for my life; I didn’t want to be controlled any longer. That mindset and the willingness to stop was just the push I needed to turn my life around. And I’ll be forever grateful that help was accessible when I needed it the most. It saved my life.

Once I detoxed and rid my body of the poison I had been contaminating it with for years, my mind had a chance to breath and process life without any mind-altering substances. I am here to tell you I have not needed a mind-altering substance for 327 days, just shy of 1 year. I’m finally free, living a life as a woman in sustained recovery from addiction. As corny as it sounds, I truly believe that I have the world at my fingertips. I feel amazing, a genuine kind of amazing. It’s pure, and not in any way the same as I felt when I was drunk or high. I not only feel better – but I also look better than I ever have because today I make the effort to live my life in a healthy way. It’s more rewarding and I’m proud of myself. So, as I was saying the mind is a powerful thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told in my life that I can do anything that I put my mind to. It just requires action, perseverance, and facing your fears! Recovery is a beautiful journey and I remind myself of that every day.