- Mental Health
My name is Jamie Marich and I am an addict in long-term recovery. I choose to identify that way because, as my story reveals, there are multiple paths of recovery that I’ve needed to pursue in my quest towards wellness, growth, and spiritual awakening.
How long have you been on your recovery journey?
I’ve been continuously clean and sober from drugs and alcohol since July 8, 2002. I began seeking help and going to meetings about a year and a half before that hallmark date. My recovery journey is ongoing as I still work on issues connected to codependency, compulsive overeating, and workaholism. I am a textbook case for cross-addiction and how easy it can be to replace one addiction with another. With every day of my recovery journey, my Higher Power continues to challenge me as I address the entire picture.
What is the biggest positive change in your life since then?
Wow, what a question. I am not sure that I can name just one. When faced with the challenge of identifying the superlative, I guess it would say a decrease in and eventual elimination of suicidal tendencies. Because of concurrent mental health issues, I lived in a state of chronic suicidal ideation for about fifteen years of my life. My emotional lows went so low that eliminating myself always seemed like an option. My drinking and drug use added fuel to this destructive fire, and towards the end of my active using I describe my consumption as passively suicidal. I didn’t care if I woke up from a binge. The suicidal ideation continued into my second or third year of sobriety. However, being in recovery gave me the strength required to seek the trauma-informed mental health services that I so desperately needed to celebrate my life instead of regret it.
What led to your need for recovery (from substance abuse or some other issue)?
I had a mini “bright light” experience during Thanksgiving weekend, 2000. I came to following a night of hard partying and I heard the little voice inside me say, “If you don’t do something, you’re going to be dead by Christmas.” Although it took a little while for me to receive the help that my Higher Power was placing in my path, this moment is the one that most comes up for me when I think about what led me to seek recovery.
What was the turning point for you?
My recovery journey has been a series of turning points. Yet when I reflect on one of “the” major turning points early on, it was the last six months of my active use. At that point I’d been going to meetings and working with a sponsor (at least in a half-motivated way). Having a little bit of recovery knowledge became a major spoiler on my drinking and active using! Those last six months were hell. I was 22 going on 23 and I felt like I was so exhausted from living, I would have been fine if God removed me from this life at any time; I literally felt ready to die. Looking back on it now, those last six months were so impactful because I knew what I was and what I needed to get well, but I refused to accept these truths. The existential exhaustion that resulted was truly my bottom. When I took my last drink of wine on July 8, 2002, I actually spit out the first sip. It’s as if my body was telling me, “You’re done.”
What is one important truth you’ve learned through the process?
I do not have to be afraid of who I am and the emotions that I experience. So many of my behaviors of addiction are avoidance strategies to keep from feeling what I am feeling in any giving moment. Working through the shame that often accompanies difficult emotional experiences has been a major component of my recovery. Today I can accept that feeling the feelings fully without apology or judgment is the easiest way through a dark passage. My spiritual practice that connects me to the God of my understanding helps me to engage in this process. Having an awesome support system also helps!
What are you most proud of about your life today?
The family of choice I’ve acquired along my path of recovery. This includes my incredibly supportive husband and two beautiful stepsons, and a gaggle of personal and collegial friends who feel like family. These people accept me for who I am, warts and all, and challenge me to keep growing. My dog Scrappy and cats Joy and Misty are a vital part of this circle too. 🙂
What is one of your biggest struggles in ongoing recovery? How do you overcome that?
Working with old scripts like “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not deserving,” or “I can’t make good decisions” that can creep up from time to time. Although messages like these lost their significant charge years ago, because they are part of my history they will likely remain an issue on some level until I die. I don’t see that as failure, I see it as a call to continue seeking help, walking a spiritual path, and ultimately, working on myself. I know that when I stop growing I am doomed.
What part of your life do you find most satisfying since you have been in recovery?
I derive a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from my work as a professional counselor, clinical educator, writer, and yoga/conscious dance facilitator. I truly love what I do and recovery has made all of that possible. The shadow side to that is I sometimes overwork and find myself consumed by my drive to make a difference in the world. Thankfully, the family of choice that I already referenced does an amazing job of keeping me in check!
Is there a truth or piece of advice someone shared with you that has helped you on this road?
My first sponsor Janet L. was a rock star. I owe my life to that woman. Because she worked her 11th and 12th steps, I am alive today. I met Janet when I was serving as an English teacher and humanitarian aid worker in Bosnia from 2000-2003 and she introduced me to recovery. Janet was incredibly trauma-informed; she knew that a hard line approach alone would not work for me. She was willing to listen to the nuances of my story and validate many of my experiences as traumatic or wounding, yet she always challenged me into action. These words she uttered during the early days of my seeking help have remained the bedrock of my recovery: “Jamie, after everything you’ve been through, it’s no wonder that you turned out alcoholic. So what are you going to do about it now?”
What would you tell someone who is at the beginning of his/her recovery journey and is afraid he/she can’t do it?
Seek help… please, please, please don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether that comes from a professional, a mutual help group and the support you can build there, or your Higher Power. I know that I couldn’t have done it without help, which for me meant supportive validation coupled with some healthy doses of challenge. Know that you are worthy and deserving of the help you seek, regardless of what any traumatizing figure from your past may have told you.