I am extremely grateful for Tara. She is a leader and one of the ladies on the front lines. We share common interests, and a couple of those are helping break the stigma of addiction and allocating resources to help those in and seeking recovery. She, like many of us, works on this in so many capacities! She is the chapter lead for Young People in Recovery (YPR) in Louisville, KY. I am truly honored to be able to share an amazing story of strength and perseverance. She is driven by her purpose! Thank you for all you do daily Tara! You are an inspiration!
I have been in recovery since April 25, 2011. If I could only choose one positive change as the biggest in my life, I would definitely say it is going back to college. In college, as well as life, we gain wisdom and knowledge through experience. Going to school and continuing my education has taught me not only literature and culture but also how to handle various types of stress in a positive, constructive manner. I have learned the importance of a balance and routine in my schedule to ensure success in my classes as well as in my life. I discover who I am every day in class and what I like and don’t like about subjects and/or ideas. This enables me to build not only my professional life but also my personal life.
When I was in high school, I was successful scholastically. I earned a scholarship and graduated with a 3.9 GPA. My first semester in college exposed me to a life I thought was magnificent, but I lost myself in alcohol. I stopped going to school. I had great opportunities at various companies but could never manage to keep my position because of absenteeism and tardiness. I didn’t have stable housing. I began to be truly careless with my actions and behaviors. I became homeless, jobless and soulless. I was an empty vessel. I thought only alcohol could fill the void and keep me going every day. My substance abuse grew even more treacherous as it progressed to other substances that were even more potent and life-threatening. I found myself alone, scared and praying for death. I felt as though life was not worth living if “this” was all it was. I remember looking at myself in the mirror asking, “How did I get here?” I could remember a time when life was fun and vibrant, now suddenly days became bleak and full of despair and tragedy. I sought refuge at a homeless shelter with a treatment program. It was there that I found what I was looking for. Hope.
The turning point for me was when I realized I had been doing a pretty terrible job trying to manage my life and let someone else teach me how to live. I figured they couldn’t possibly damage my life more than I had already done myself. I gave it a try. It was fairly simple at that point. Everything else I had ever tried did not work.
What did I have to lose?
The one important truth I learned in this process is that not everyone will understand or even agree with the life I choose to live. This is okay. As long as I know, that is what truly matters. I stand with integrity and know my own truth, I am a person in long-term recovery. I know who I am today and who I want to be as a person, a member of the community, a family member and a friend.
One of my main goals since being in recovery and finding my own path is to help others do the same. I have helped many people get back into college or go for the first time. I have encouraged them to follow their dreams just as I have done for myself. The amazing part of doing this is to see them a year or so later still going to school, smiling (though maybe complaining slightly about a class or a test coming up). Joy radiates through them, and they are proud of themselves. It is not just about college. It is about people finding their purpose in life. When you have a destination, whether or not you end up there is not important. The opportunity to walk the journey and FIND the destination is the purpose. If I can help with any of it, I am a willing participant.
I think one of the biggest struggles I still have is explaining my past to employers. I have a rather large gap in my work history due to treatment, and it can be awkward trying to explain this to a potential employer. What I have come to find is that honesty is the best policy. Let them judge your character, not your past. If that particular employer is unwilling to give you an opportunity, have faith that you are being redirected to something greater. My current employer interviewed me and asked me to return for a second interview. I returned on a following Monday, and he noticed the lapse in my history and questioned me. This was my response: “To be honest sir, I am a person in long-term recovery, and what that means to me is I haven’t used any alcohol or substances in over three and a half years. I made some poor choices in my past and had difficulty holding on to employment. However today I am in my second year of college, and I currently work. I am making better decisions for myself and for my future, and that has brought me here today.” He thanked me for my honesty which I thought was sure to completely destroy any chances I had as an interviewee. We went on with the interview process, and the next day he called and offered me the position. Not everyone will be so forthcoming, but this is how I stood in my own truth. The result was completely out of my control. I just did what I thought was best.
Some of the goals I set for myself in recovery have been to stay in college, get an apartment and a car and have a stable residence. This may sound quite simple to some, but for me all these things have been a huge accomplishment. I love getting up every day and going to work. My day usually does not end until after 7pm because of classes. I want to learn and develop professionally as well as personally. I have been in college for two years, and I have goals beyond my degree. I am planning on getting my bachelor’s degree in political science and continuing on to law school. I am currently looking to see which school I wish to apply to, but the point is I am going to apply! I thought my future was over a few years ago, and now it is just beginning.
One statement that has helped me in so many different situations is, “Never give up, and when you want to, remember all the reasons you began in the first place.”
It doesn’t matter if you believe in your recovery or not right now, you just have to do it, and after you do it, that is when you will believe it. Only through experience do we learn, believe and trust.