- Mental Health
Hi, my name is Kyczy and I am in long term recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and relationship dependence. I have seen the disease of addiction from all sides: the granddaughter, the daughter and the parent of people with the disease; I also succumbed to its terrors myself.
My mom was brave, talented, smart and loving. She was also the product of an alcoholic home. Silence, secrets and suffering were the fabric of daily life. Escaping into college and into a professional life that would take her away from the family was a step. But we choose what we know. My mom found my dad and he was not that different from hers. My dad was also frozen in feelings and erratic in his expressions of love. He also had numerous psychological issues that simmered beneath the surface. His physical conditions (narcolepsy and tremors) were more obvious. He himself was the child of an active alcoholic and was in an out of orphanages until he left home in his late teens. These two dear people didn’t have much of a chance themselves.
While they both loved us children to distraction, it was expressed in a distracted way. Mom became an active drinker. She did come to recovery in her later years. I was in my late teens and was on my way out the door. Before mom stopped drinking, though, the disease had weakened her liver, taken her teeth, and with her addiction to tobacco she eventually succumbed to lung disease. The residual illnesses of a life of sherry drinking had weakened her immune system and she had little defense against a host of ailments. Both parents died young after suffering through lingering illnesses.
Growing up, I reacted to my parent’s disabilities by being the grown up. The oldest of three (my siblings are 18 months and nine years younger than me) I was perfectly positioned to be the caretaker, the organizer and the magician. I would manage the “kids”, pretend all was well, try to deflect attention from the fact that mom was passed out through the stories of flu, food poisonings, headaches and other ailments (many of which later became true). I tried to be perfect in order to avoid being the reason for the drinking or for the fights. I urged my siblings to be perfect too, or at least to be out of sight. Discord and unpredictability were a huge part of family life; I took these characteristics into my daily life when I left home. Rebelling against them I, like my mom, found people outside of my family to reproduce the exact drama that I was running from.
“I will never be like her!” I remember pledging to myself that I would never treat my children the way she treated us. I wouldn’t be a drinker, I wouldn’t be with a man who was mean to me, I wouldn’t yell and be unreasonable, I wouldn’t pass out in pee, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, until I did. I started using drugs in junior high and added alcohol in high school. The story got not better nor different than others who are addicts. I used and drank and barely made it through school. Then I moved. I moved again. I got a new guy; I got another. I got pregnant and moved again. Going back and forth between working undemanding jobs, spinning out under the influence, and grounding myself back in junior college, my life ran thoroughly off the rails into the realm of unmanageable.
This is where I would tell the drinking and using stories– both the humorous and the painful. We all have them. But this is my story of redemption and recovery. So after the moving from state to state, the experiences with the police and with dealers, the embarrassing and the frightening, I eventually surrendered. Not all at once. This is how it happened.
July 5, 1983 I was at home. I had returned early in the morning from yet another “fun evening” with dinner and friends that turned into a late evening search for drugs, and another shameful night of drinking and using. For me that last night was not the most humiliating, not the most dramatic but it was exhausting, and expensive, and emotionally wrenching. I had made enemies of my friends and a stranger out of my partner, once again. My children were with me at home as an afterthought. There were times when having been at someone’s house, I would forget if I had left them there or brought them home. This time I had brought them home. They were sleeping across the hall in their beds.
I sat on the bed watching the dust fly in and out of the thin line of sunlight passing between the edges of the ragged curtains. I was sick. I was sick and tired. I was too tired to keep going, too wrecked to take care of the kids, to try to make dinners, to pretend to work at my job, too exhausted to make nice in my abusive relationship. It was all overwhelming and no longer of any importance to me. I felt I had only two choices.
My two choices were: I could stand up, collect as much money as I could from the hiding places around the house and quietly leave. I would just disappear onto the street and into the drug houses and abandoned places that burn outs like me could crash. I was teetering on the edge of watching my spirit leave my body. I could imagine it, sitting on the bed, witnessing my soul leaving my body like letting go of the string on a helium balloon¬ just watching it float away. Once I decided to leave¬ I would be bailing on my kids and fading into the unknown. I nearly felt OK about that.
My other choice was to make a call and get help. I knew from my mother having sobered up that there was a place, the rooms of recovery that could make a difference. She tried many times and finally succeeded. Maybe in this way I COULD be like her. Maybe I could sober up, too.
And that is the choice I made. I called a friend who had gotten clean half a year prior and she took me to my first meeting ten long hours later, that night. I didn’t get it, I was sick and I was unable to understand what was going on (I thought that if they have been sober for five years¬ then they don’t know how bad it is. No one who wants to drink like I do could stay sober for five years!) But I didn’t drink again. I have stayed SOBER from that day until this.
I relapsed on drugs for another 20 months. My clean and sober date is 4/29/1985 and I am a grateful member of the recovery programs. I am a woman in long term recovery.
The road from then to this day has not been without speedbumps. Two months into my first try at C&S (November of 1983) I was diagnosed with cancer: it was totally curable and it gave me my first dose of pure gratitude. If I had waited to have my kids until I was married, or wealthy or clean and sober I would not have had them. My higher power lifted that guilt early. I had my kids when I did so I COULD have them.
I was not mentally well for nearly three years. It took the work of outside help, lots of meetings and my sponsors to help me gain the capacity to really do the steps, to look at my life, to understand what impact my choices had on others, and to understand that I needed to accept responsibility for myself. That brings me to my other addiction: relationships.
I have looked outside myself for acceptance and signs of acceptability. Just as I used to check out my parents for signs of what kind of day it was going to be, and for their approval of my efforts to hold the family together, so too I looked to others (mainly men, and then my job, and then my friends, family and students) to let me know if I were worthy. Deep inside I still felt empty. As I felt empty I looked for someone to fill that void. That void used to be filled, or the feeling used to be numbed, by alcohol and drugs. Now I was looking to him, to them, to her to get feelings of esteem and wholeness. I did not know myself, and I had no relationship with myself. That is a terrible burden for others and terribly disrespectful to myself.
The past decade has been focused on feeling my feelings, not what I think “you” would want me to feel or denying what I needed, paying attention only to what “you” or “they” needed. I also have been coming to terms with the results of past trauma and terror that have lodged in my body. Yoga has been a huge part of that recovery.
Yoga has been a wonderful tool for me, not just the physical practice but the breath, meditation and the philosophy. I now have additional tools to rewire my brain to feel compassion for myself. That has led to true emotional (not intellectual) compassion for others. I am smart. I know what to think, but it is only in the past ten years that I have discovered and trusted what I feel.
My redemption has been integration. My redemption and recovery have come with the kindness of people in the rooms, some whose names I know and others whose names I don’t remember but whose wisdom I cherish. Across the country and around the world meetings have offered me a place to hear what I needed to hear so I could learn what I needed to learn. On top of that being able to explore my feelings without my brain on yoga mats near and far has “sealed the deal” on being able to maintain my long term sobriety.
Sobriety date April 29, 1985