- Friends & Family
How long have you been on your recovery journey?
14 years on March 27, 2015.
It really is. It really is. I always think about when I started. And I still like to go to newcomer meetings, because I like to remind myself of how lost in the sauce I was. I did not expect long-term recovery to be this rewarding. I didn’t know what it would look like. But it has given, and given, and given, and given in different ways over the years, and it continues to give in new and refreshing ways.
What’s the biggest positive change in your life since your recovery started?
I can be in my life. I can actually be in my life, as opposed to looking at it from my other position. I can actually contribute to the growth of my own life. I can star in it, as opposed to just watching it slip away from me. That’s the biggest change. And from that position, all things are possible.
Are there any other changes you’d like to talk about?
Everything has changed; every single thing. Not one thing is the same. My life then, in comparison to my life now, is unidentifiable. It’s that much of a brilliant change, a true metamorphosis. I am the same person on the inside. I recognize myself. But everything outwardly is completely unrecognizable.
What led you to your need for recovery?
I hit it hard very early on. I was about 14 or 15 when I picked up, and I just went with it until I was in my mid-30s. What led to my recovery is that it wasn’t working anymore. It just wasn’t getting me where I needed to be. It was impacting every facet of my life. I ran a risk, at the point I was at, that my husband would leave me, and he meant too much to me.
This is my third marriage, and he’s a good man. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t carry the load anymore. And that was, I guess, the linchpin because I had a feeling in my heart of hearts that he couldn’t keep up with it. So much had slipped through my hands over the years. So much had slipped through as a result of my using, and I did not want to lose that. That was pivotal. My husband had helped me get so much of my credibility back while I was still using, but he had had enough. So I really do think, I didn’t see it then, but I recognize it now, that that was the pivotal moment of, “I’ve got to do something about this.” And I didn’t know what I could do.
What was your drug of choice?
Alcohol, amphetamines, crack cocaine, any form of cocaine. But mostly drinking and speed were my two go-to substances.
What was the turning point for you?
My husband had suggested I go see someone to try and get therapy. And I was hoping a therapist could tell me I was crazy. And in the back of my mind I thought, perhaps, by pursuing therapy, I could get drugs also. I spoke to the therapist, but it took a bit to reel me in, to be able to sit down to talk to somebody, because I wanted to make it about everybody else. And we talked and talked some more. We talked about my drinking, we talked about my drugging. Eventually I shared, but not at first. I did not reveal…because I thought that nobody could tell. I see now that way of thinking was bull crap because everybody knows. It was pretty obvious. But this therapist was able to get me to recognize some things that perhaps could be addressed.
I was given anti-depressants and they messed up my cocktail. They threw a real wrench in the works of my drug use. But, mercifully, it enabled me to put the drinking down first. I was able to put the booze down and continue on with the combination of prescriptions and the drugs, but even that wasn’t working. It allowed a window to open, where I could see some hope.
Something happened. I feel like that was the beginning of my miracle, really. I mean, it is a miracle, because I could not stop using on my own. I really do feel like that was the turning point. And it was slow. It was another three months before I was able to put everything down and get clean. I did detox, and some outpatient stuff, and 12-step support meetings. It took a bit to get there. It was a crawl. But that’s what worked: that combination. I don’t think I could have done it without the help that enabled me to slow down a minute and not think I was going to die without it, because that’s what it felt like. It felt like I would die without using.
What is one important truth you’ve learned through the process?
The most important thing, the biggest freedom, is that I now take responsibility for everything I’ve done. That is the biggest important truth. And when I do own my behavior, I’m free to do anything else. And it’s empowering, it helps me feel strong, it helps me feel capable, and it helps me feel brave, too. I don’t have to be proud of what I’ve done, but I can be proud of being honest about what I’ve done.
What is one of your biggest struggles in your ongoing recovery and how do you overcome it?
I’m trying to think of the biggest one, because there are always things that come up. One of my biggest struggles is sometimes I get nostalgic for the past. And I was thinking about it and praying on it this morning. My reflexes still say to do a certain thing, and I have to use the tools I have learned to move forward. My addiction will be with me forever, so I am an addict. I am an alcoholic. But I do not drink or use drugs anymore. So I have to work diligently to exercise the muscles within me to help me stay sober.
One of the biggest struggles is to not move toward those reflexes that would get me going again. And sometimes it’s in disguise. It looks perfectly reasonable to do a certain thing, but then I get tripped up. One of my biggest struggles is to think before I open my mouth, and to think before I act, and be composed before I move to action because it will be with me forever. That’s okay. I can still live a good, honest, strong life…a sturdy life…a healthy life. But, I have to recognize the reflexes and be able to act accordingly.
What part of your life do you find most satisfying since you’ve been in recovery?
I love the simplest things. I can sit on the couch with my children and watch a movie. I can go to the grocery store and pay for all my things. I can wake up in the morning and want to get out of my bed. I have a bed to get out of, with clean sheets on it. I take care of my father, with my mother’s blessing. She passed away and she gave me that responsibility, which I did not deserve. Relationships have come back to me in my life that I feel I do not deserve. Goodness follows me wherever I go. There are moments when I feel like I do not deserve it. It is an abundance of riches that I have in my life. The smallest, smallest things are truly the most beautiful.
I feel like I have everything I was looking for when I was getting messed up on substances. I wanted kaleidoscopic beauty, and I might’ve gotten it the first few times around, but then it eluded me. I tried to get it back and never got it. I have it now in my sobriety. I have all these beautiful, raw things that I find compelling in my life now. I can have this conversation with you. I have a phone to use. I have a phone that works. It’s just amazing. It’s really amazing.
Sometimes I think to myself, “Is everyone as happy as me?” And I have to say, “No.” So I realize how fortunate I am. And I’m fortunate because of all this messed up stuff gave me perspective. So I am, in a way, grateful for my hard times because I’ve been able to grow from them. I come from them to a new place that I would not even know existed had I not sunk so low, had I not been so down. It’s a really unique angle to be approaching life from. Like a rebirth.
Material things are nice, but there is so much more, there is so much more to life, so many beautiful things to do with life. You can miss it if you’re not careful. I’m not saying I wish everybody were a recovering addict, because it would be a really busy place. But it is a great thing. It’s a super opportunity for someone like me. It’s a great way to give back to others. I don’t want to be anonymous. That was a recent thing, within the last several years. I got to a point in my recovery where I felt sturdy. So I decided to be more vocal about my own recovery, and talk to others about it more than just in the rooms, and speak to my friends about it. We moved from one place to another, which is a dangerous thing because no one knew me. And the first thing I thought was, “I’m gonna pick up a drink if I’m not careful.” Because I go to these nice parties with these lovely ladies, they’re standing around with a drink in their hand, and they don’t know me from a hole in the wall. And I’m thinking, “This is a dangerous place.”
So there’s the thing about long-term recovery that is tricky. Because you find yourself being embraced by new experiences and I find myself in a whole new world, with the same old Mary, in ways. I find myself with the same old thinking of knowing those reflexes. So it was so important for me to step out of my comfort zone as far as who knew and what they knew. And it helped me be more proud of myself. And if anybody I know ever sees me with a drink in my hand, they better slap it out of my hand, because that would be a terrible situation. And I’m okay with people knowing that, because it helps me stay safe.
Is there a piece of advice that someone shared with you along the way that has helped you?
Early on, I met some very good people who were not perfect, but they had what I wanted in recovery. They had a way about them. They seemed to be able to handle life on life’s terms. They seemed to be able to get up and function, and do jobs, and earn money, and take care of their families. And I wanted that very badly. I wanted some stability. And I wanted to be in my life. Their thing was to go to meetings. They were strong in the program. To get what I wanted, I needed to get to meetings. Get outside of myself. There’s the message. Stay outside of your own head. Because in my own head, I thought I could fix everything, and look how that worked out.
So get outside of my own head and be with others. Talk to others. Listen to messages. Don’t judge. Oh, my God. That may be the biggest one: Don’t judge anybody else. Don’t take anybody else’s inventory. Keep your own side of the street clean. Don’t judge. And it’s so difficult. Because I am human, and I could look at someone and I’ll size them up, and I don’t know shit about them. So how dare I. Truly, how dare I do that? But there’s one of my reflexes. I’m a know-it-all. I think I’m going to know everything about you before you open your mouth. And shame on me. So I work on it– because I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want to miss a chance at something excellent. I wasted too much time.
What would you tell someone who is at the beginning of his/her recovery journey and is afraid that he/she can’t do it?
I was afraid. I was so afraid.
Try something new. Try something new, like recovery. Because I was once at that point where I was too afraid, and I didn’t want to give it up even though it wasn’t working anymore. It was not working. In a magnificent way, it was not working. And I was hitting it so hard that, truly, death was next. Death was so close that I could almost taste it. I didn’t know what that would look like, but it felt so dangerous, chaotic, and hysterical.
Try something new. Because every time I come at it from a different angle, I’m still ending up at the same place. Embrace that strength, to be able to give it a chance, and give it a minute for the hope to get in. Because all you need is a minute of hope. I was blocking it, blocking it, blocking it like a crazy person. I would not let it in. I made bars, I made the wood, and I nailed it shut. Nothing was getting in. And then something got in. So give it a minute. A minute is all you need to give it, to allow that change to occur. And then hold on tight. No matter what, hold on tight.
And in the beginning, do the basic things you need to do to live, if you can. It’s hard, because your life’s in a terrible place. Your life’s in turmoil. So you still need to do things; like if you’ve got a job, go to the job. If you’re good at getting high, you’re high at the job, so how are you supposed to do that? How are you supposed to do something so foreign to you? But you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to do something different. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor. Get some friends in recovery to lift you up. Talk to them. Let them talk to you. Go to sleep. Sleep, eat, move your bowels…basic things, just really basic things to try to get on track. Try to do something that feels abnormal and go to this wonderful, strange new place where you can give yourself a chance to survive.