- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
After 22 years of sobriety, my life has stabilized in a way that I would have never imagined. Today, I am 48 years old, and many of my years have been marked by the turmoil of drinking, drugs, and addiction. Now I live in Texas, where I work in business development for a treatment center after a long and successful career in retail. I’m single, with two cats and a puppy. I love my life today.
Times were different before I got sober. I don’t ever remember alcohol not being part of my life. As a child of alcoholics, I got alcoholic beverages from my parents at a very early age. I can’t even remember my first drink.
I remember that I began to more fully seek alcohol, go to parties, get drunk, and black out at age 15. It all began when my family moved from a farm in Iowa to the large city of Houston, TX. I made new friends. We stole the alcohol from our parents. We also started to take drugs, mainly marijuana. There were no boundaries or consequences at my home or at the home of my best friend. So we just went with it. Both of us had older siblings that helped us to get drugs. As I got older, I progressed in my drug use, but alcohol was always my drug of choice.
I barely graduated from high school, and I couldn’t go to college because I wasn’t in any shape to do that at the time. After high school, I basically just spent time at home and drank. Little jobs came and went; I never held them for long. My mom paid all my bills and I didn’t do anything productive at that time. I was just immersed in my disease and getting crazy. Arrests started to happen. My first DUI happened at age 21, the second one at 24, the third at age 25. I only went to college after I got sober.
I grew up with alcoholics and I swore many times that I would never be like them. Then I recreated that exact life. I didn’t realize that I had turned into an alcoholic. Once I received my third DUI, I had a moment of clarity. I kept looking in the mirror and thinking, “Why you behave in ways that aren’t true to yourself? Why you do all the things that aren’t who you really are? Why do you keep getting in trouble?”
In that moment, I turned the corner. I reached out to a friend who had already stopped drinking. I told my friend that I was worried that my drinking had brought me serious trouble in life. I was ready to go to jail for 30 days and my friend told me to call him after I got out if I wanted to go to a 12-Step group meeting with him. That’s just what I did.
I immediately fell in love with the 12-Step fellowship. It was a group of friends. I had just spent my first 30 days of sobriety in jail, but this group welcomed me with open arms. We were friends, running around together, hanging out together, going to three meetings a day together. I felt like I could be myself around these new friends. I never had that feeling as a kid. Once I went to the fellowship, I found old-timers that were willing to love me until I was able to love myself. Everything that I craved my entire live was given to me right there and right then in the rooms.
My parents divorced long time ago, soon after I was born. When I got in trouble as a young person, my father would try to shame me by saying, “How could you turn out like your mother?” Years later, my mother, who was an alcoholic, watched my recovery process and noticed the change in me. Two years after I got sober, she stopped drinking herself. I was the first in the family to get sober, and I’m glad I could do it with the new family that I found in the fellowship. They were my biggest support in my recovery.
If I’m in active addiction or alcoholism, it affects my family. If I’m in recovery and living sober, it still affects my family. We affect everyone around us at any stage of our disease.
For a very long time, I felt that I was re-raised in the rooms of the fellowship. I started to do service work by helping at events. Soon, I was leading the events, then I was placed on boards, and even became president of boards. Everything I needed to learn as a child or young adult, I finally got taught in the fellowship.
I immersed myself into recovery for many years. I was working in retail and since my behavior changed, I started to get promoted and promoted, leading to a corporate retail career that sent me to Los Angeles. Just before my job opportunity came up, my mom passed, my stepfather passed, and a very good friend also passed away. I kept moving forward and I left Houston for the amazing career opportunity. Once I was in Los Angeles, I started to fall apart. I was in more pain than ever before in my life. I went deep inside myself, got external help, and worked harder on myself than ever before.
Soon, an old friend called and asked me to work for his treatment center in Texas. After many months of thinking and meditating, I took the leap. I left my corporate career for a position in operations at a treatment center and soon became executive director of that place. I didn’t feel fulfilled for long by that position, and changed into business development, where I work today.
After a year of sobriety, I started playing softball and played for many years. Playing softball really taught me to be in the moment. Before that, I never knew how to be in the moment. All my life, I was living in “yesterday” or in “tomorrow”. If you play sports, you have to be in the moment or you get hit in the head with the ball! Playing softball was important for my recovery.
My time in 12-Step groups is incredibly helpful, but much of the time spent in group is spent analyzing ourselves and talking about the disease. Sports give me the opportunity to just hang around and have fun with other people. We are not constantly looking at ourselves, we are talking about the game and have fun. It gave me some freedom I needed.
It doesn’t have to be softball. When I was in Los Angeles, I played a lot of kickball, which was a lot of fun. Find whatever suits you.
I love the quote from Albert Einstein: “You can’t solve a problem with the same knowledge that got you into it.” As I was falling apart, I had to ask for help and get new information. If I would have known how to handle the situation, I probably would have done so. Reach out and ask for help.