- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Abby Foster
I have been in recovery from substances for nine years. I was given a hard shove into recovery.
When I was twenty years old, I was working for a lawyer. I had an ex-boyfriend that worked with me to forge some extra paychecks for us to fund our habit and I was charged. I’d never even had a speeding ticket, and suddenly I was faced with jail time. It was the first time I actually sat down and had some time to get honest with myself. I saw jail was a revolving door for many people. There were people around me who would cycle in and out of jail every few months, and I knew that wasn’t me. I knew I deserved more than that.
One of the most important things that I’ve learned in all of this came from people who have said, “You did something bad, yet you’re not a bad person. You deserve life, you deserve to have good things. You don’t have to punish yourself for the rest of your life. You don’t have to be your addiction or your past.”
You’re not defined by your past. You’re defined by your present, your future and what you choose to do with it.
I am most proud of my children, being a good mother to my children, and not repeating my patterns or behaviors. Being able to see (with a clear mind) those things that really hurt me, that pushed me toward an addiction, along with those changes and behaviors that I know were triggers for myself helped. It was important not to do those things to my children. I wanted to be able to see from the outside exactly how my substance use could be hurtful to them. I realized that the things I did could scar my children. How do I change it and do things the complete opposite?
Then also just being here (at a conference for recovery professionals) helps. It helps to be in a room where you’re not weird and judged, and you’re not alone. Everybody has a story. It’s a shared experience of rising from the ashes to be something you never could have thought … you couldn’t do it without have gone through your struggle.
Dealing with my own mind has been one of my biggest challenges. Like anyone, I get down about myself and about my past– but even in the present moment I tend to think that I could/should do more. I feel complacent; I feel like I’m here but I don’t have any letters on my name badge. That type of thing does get to my head and it drives me absolutely crazy.
Whenever I’m feeling negative, I look at something else. I think, “Okay, what are my goals?” I started writing them down. First, I thought, “okay let’s finish the case management. I’ll do that—I’ll go after and do anything I can to look into getting a degree in counseling.”
I just try to find the nature of what makes me happy. I even took courses on writing children’s books. I loved it. If I can get a counseling degree, I could write a book that way. How can I incorporate everything I know, everything I’ve done, put it altogether and make it work for me? As long as I write something down, I feel like I have a plan, things to look forward, things to work toward, I am ok.
For those just starting their journey, my advice would be to embrace self-love. You have to take a good, honest look at yourself, and realize that you are worth it. You have to look at what’s good enough about yourself. People would say it all the time, “You have to want it. You can’t do it for everybody else.” You actually have to get really honest with yourself, dig and find out what the root of it all is. Then what is going to actually, in the long run, make you happy or fix that or fill that void in a positive way?
For me it’s getting creative, writing. I do a lot of writing. Finding hobbies, something where you feel like you’re actually doing something. Something that you can see, something you can do and see results, maybe baking, learning a new skill and seeing the things in life. I can remember, at one point, getting high and being like, “What do normal people do? Their life must just suck. You get up, you go to work, you work for somebody. You’re just like a little mouse in a maze, what is life for you? You play by all these rules.”
Now I’m like, “Oh my gosh. What does a person do who doesn’t have this? Who can’t just find the simple joys in coming home and having a family dinner, a meal.” That’s a huge thing. Learning, just keep learning, and doing. Recovery makes that possible.
When you get it and you finally get sober, don’t run from it. Don’t push it back. Don’t keep it your little dark secret. Put it in the forefront and do something like this, share your story. Give back. You’re going to feel so much better because your experiences are going to help so many people. People will call me in the middle of the night and I can help. Volunteer just to be helpful and give back of yourself. In a way, it repairs your soul.