Like a lot of stories I hear, I had a pretty traumatic childhood. My mom was 16 when she had me, and she and my dad got married because of the pregnancy. When I was 9 or 10 years old, they divorced, and my mom married a preacher who was also a child molester. Since that kind of sickness has no cure, he eventually began molesting me and physically abusing my brother and me. I know that can be difficult to hear, but I make sure to tell this part of my story because there is always someone who has had a similar experience and needs to hear that life can still be happy with such tragedy. There is hope.
I was a junior in high school when I had my first drink. Until this point in my life, I wasn’t allowed to go to parties, date, or even wear makeup. If I stayed at a friend’s place, my parents were called and I was checked on, so I didn’t stay over too much because of the embarrassment until I found a friend whose mom was “cool”.
One weekend I decided to stay at my friend’s house and we went to my first party. All I had was a single cup of beer from a keg, and I blacked out, passed out, threw up, and made out with a guy I had a crush on. I felt free, like I could do anything, and couldn’t wait for the next party. Alcohol became my answer because it made me feel whole on the inside. The next drink I took was during my 5th period English class a few days later. Again, I blacked out, and all I know is that my 6th period Art teacher was very angry at me.
My Achilles’ Heel
It wasn’t until after high school that I used anything other than alcohol. Drinking did the trick for me and I was afraid to try anything else. But after I got out of school, my drinking took off and I started smoking weed. Then I began snorting cocaine. Then smoking meth – which is where my life took a serious nose-dive. Meth led to popping pain pills, smoking crack, and shooting heroin. I just didn’t want to feel, so I would do anything that was put in front of me. Every time I drew a line in the sand, I would always cross it.
After some time, my disease started to take control of everything. I lost jobs, was late picking my children up from after-school programs, wasn’t paying bills, living with my mom, and was miserable. And nothing I took was doing the trick anymore. My “solution” became my Achilles ’ heel. Drugs and alcohol had taken me and I lost my power of choice.
I tried going to meetings a few times but never stuck with it because I didn’t feel like I needed THAT much help. But then social services got involved in my life because of my neglect of my children, and they wound up being put into foster care. All because I wouldn’t stop. So, due to a “nudge from the judge”, I started going to meetings again. I even got a service position and felt like “I was going to do this”. And for a while, I did. I was able to get clean for four years. I wound up getting my kids back, and life was awesome. But eventually, I would use again. I wound up doing that three consecutive times – get sober for four years, then relapse. TRUDGIN
During my third stint of sobriety, I met a woman during a meeting I went to. She seemed pretty rough and scary at first. Then, as we left the meeting and went to my car, she noticed my vanity license plate that read “TRUDGIN”. She told me that she had recently checked into a place nearby called “The Healing Place”, and every morning they would walk a few miles, which they called “trudging”. Then she asked with a bit of sarcasm “so are we trudgin’ the road to happy destiny?”, and I told her “No, we’re trudgin’ the road OF happy destiny. We’re on it right now”. She began to cry and whispered, “I hope so.” I knew she was a big ‘ol creampuff from that point forward. Just like we all are – hard exterior, but soft on the inside. We remained close during her whole time at Healing Transitions. After she completed the program, she would eventually be hired as the chef at HT. And to this day, Chef Kathy continues to help people in their recovery journey.
Seeing her experience, I thought Healing Transitions was a brilliant program – for other people. I was still setting myself apart from others with this disease, though. So when I relapsed and was suggested to go to HT, I didn’t want to at first. But eventually, I gave in and was taken to detox at Healing Transitions. While I was there that first weekend, I heard the stories of the women who were about to complete the program. So I decided to stay because I was obviously missing something, and this place seemed to have “it”.
What I was missing was complete honesty. Transparency. I always twisted the truth. As I began the recovery program, I did well until an old behavior popped up. Something that I wasn’t telling the truth about because of the shame of feeling like there was something really wrong with my mental health. I would obsess over other women. And just like using drugs and alcohol, I would try to convince others that this behavior wasn’t a problem. I would arrange my day around it, and spend every waking moment thinking about it. It was another addiction. And when that untreated, unidentified behavior crept in, I knew I was in trouble.
After several warnings from my community, I was asked to leave HT and was ineligible for services. A few weeks later, I relapsed and had the biggest blowout of my using and drinking history. Three days and $5000 later, I lost everything. My relationship, a place to live, a really good job, and the trust of my kids and myself. So I moved to Virginia into a sober-living house.
It was at this Oxford house that I had a decision to make. Either I could keep going, leave HT in my rearview, and build a new network of support. Or I could honor my commitment to complete HT’s recovery program, which is what I decided to do. When I came back to Healing Transitions, I committed to myself that I would do anything it takes to STAY clean and sober.
Working through behaviors
As I progressed through the program, my peers and I worked on my troubling behaviors. Like the time I was called out for sucking up to someone who was working in the planning room. Her name was Keitha, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but it was a form of manipulation. If I charm those who are in charge, then I can get away with more things. She would always tell me “those who get the most help are the most blessed”. I’ve always wanted to thank her for helping me, she has no idea how many times that saying pops into my head each week. I think about it when I’m really struggling in a situation. It reminds me that I never fail, I either win or I grow. And failure is just feedback.
Another pivotal time was when I was teaching a class one afternoon, and the readings we were going over told how the alcoholic leads a double-life. Presenting a character on the outside, one that she wants her fellows to see so she can enjoy a certain reputation while feeling like she’s undeserving of it on the inside. It was like the room got quiet and dark all around me and a light was shining down on the book when I read that. It said to me that I can’t continue to put on this front with all who know me, or I can tell all of the truth and be free.
That led me to admit my obsession with other women to my mentor. I told her I couldn’t stop thinking about someone, and she asked “so you’re obsessed?”. I told her that that makes it sound so bad, and she just said “dude, it’s just your disease. We obsess”. My jaw hit the floor. This whole time I kept that to myself because of the shame – and it’s just my disease? That means I have a solution for it, too! Ever since having that conversation, I haven’t had another obsession. And it’s been almost eight years. Today, I encourage everyone to be as honest as you can. No matter what. Your recovery will go much more smoothly – and it’s so liberating!
After traveling back and forth from Virginia for several months, I completed all of my suggestions and completed the recovery program. I am proudly Silver Chip #109 in good standing. I think Healing Transitions is a divinely inspired program and is brilliant. It’s a place where anyone can go. It is peer-run, and who could be better to call you on behaviors than another person who thinks and is wired the same way you are? That is why this program works – it’s one person giving another person hope.
Today I am very grateful for my recovery. I am a mother. I am comfortable in my own skin and I am totally digging who I’m becoming. I have real fun. Authentic fun. I do not want to be altered (I can’t believe I’m saying those words). I am a business owner, a grandmother, a daughter, a friend, and a woman of dignity and grace. I trust myself today and am very active in my recovery. I get to give back what was so freely given to me, and it is a total honor and joy to do so. Healing Transitions gave me a life that I never knew I wanted, and I will be eternally grateful.
Join Healing Transitions for National Recovery Month as we try to raise $150,000 to give 200 people their first month in recovery! On September 25th, we will cap off the month with a Day of Giving, where an anonymous donor has generously offered a $20,000 day-of-giving match! This means the impact of your gift on the 25th will be doubled dollar-for-dollar up to $20,000! Find out how you can help out HERE!