Like any good addict, I wanted to be the first (and the best!) to share my recovery story with you. But as I sat down to write it, I realized that I didn’t know how to share my story with one of my idols. Of course, I had the feelings of “I’m not good enough.” “My story isn’t important.” But after attending a 12-step fellowship for years, I know that’s not true. My disease likes to tell me things that aren’t true all the time. Like, “I could just have a few drinks, and not shoot heroin.” With that, I’ll tell you a little about what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.
I grew up in a small town in upstate NY. My earliest childhood memories were all traumatic. But it wasn’t until I got clean that I figured that out. I didn’t realize that others had “normal” (whatever the hell that is) childhoods. I remember my dad dropping his crack pipe down the sink, and at 4 years old he asked me to stick my hand down there and get it out. I almost cut the tip of my finger off. My dad would get drunk and high to the point where he would have seizures. I remember him putting his head through a fish tank while having a grand mal seizure. My sister and I were more concerned about getting a bucket to save the fish, than to call 911 to save my dad. It was just a regular occurrence in our household. My dad shot off a gun in the hallway once, and it went through my bedroom wall, and skimmed the tip of my knee. But I thought this was normal.
My parents got divorced when I was five. My father held us hostage in the house for a week. My mother finally convinced my father that if they didn’t send me to school or answer the school’s phone calls, that CPS would show up. The next day, my mother sent me to school with a note in my pocket that said, “Call 911.” When I got off the bus that day, there was a swat team in my yard. My father went to prison.
Over the next handful of years, I led the “normal” life. It wasn’t until I was 13, that I used for the first time. Long before I picked up my first drug, my disease had manifested itself in other ways. Books were my first drug. My first escape from reality. Anything to get outside of myself. And then, it was boys. At 13, I met this 17-year-old boy at a metal concert in a church basement, and I was “in love.” You know the feeling, right? That first love. Obsession absolutely consumed me. He had older brothers that had an apartment downtown, and they threw parties there all the time. I lied to my mom and said there was a metal show downtown. She dropped me off at the church. I ran around the back side of the church until I knew the coast was clear, then ran down the road to this apartment. Even before the drugs were in me, I was a liar. It didn’t bother me at all, to lie to my mom so I could party with a bunch of old, strange men. I drank, I smoked, I did other substances. From that day on, that was all I wanted to do.
I did ballet most of my life, until I used. I did well in school, until I used. I remember there was a point where friends asked why I used the way I did or drank the way I did. I don’t know if it was actually true, or if it was something I told myself to continue my using, but I always said, “I know that no matter where I am, or where my father is, I know we’re doing the same thing, at the same time.” It was this strange connection that I felt I had with my father. A daddy’s girl, with no daddy.
Over the years I came up with all sorts of excuses for my using. All the things I said I would never do, I did. “I won’t drink, I don’t want to be like my father.” Well, that went out the window. “I’ll never smoke cigarettes.” I did. “I’ll never snort drugs.” Did that too. “I’ll never shoot up.” Eventually, I did that as well.
My story isn’t unique. We all used a substance that brought us to our knees. At 19, I got a DWI. I met a man who didn’t drink, and I thought that would be the solution to my drinking problem. Instead, we just did a lot of drugs. I got pregnant while using. I continued using. By the grace of God, I delivered a healthy child. Today he is 9 years old and is the love of my life, and one of my greatest motivators to stay clean. But I was a horrible mother. I was young, and high, and had no idea what being a good parent meant. I was emotionally unavailable. I was quick to pawn him off on my mother so that I could use. The last time I shot up, I remember him standing there looking at me. I’ll never forget the look on his face. Like he knew that it was wrong.
In December of 2016, my life was unmanageable. For a long time, I didn’t think my using was “that bad,” because I could hold down a job. I worked as a manager at a few different places over the years. I could pay my bills, (when I chose to not spend all my money on drugs). But, that December, I couldn’t. I lost my job. I was driving back and forth from the city to get my next fix. On Christmas Eve, my car broke down on the Tappan Zee bridge. I had my car towed. I took a cab into the Bronx to pick up the drugs, then I got on a Greyhound to go home. Halfway home, the Greyhound broke down. I didn’t get home until 7 at night, Christmas day. I missed all of Christmas with my son, and my mom had gone through my house and found paraphernalia everywhere. She told me I needed help. And for the first time in my life, I agreed. December 28, 2016, my mom sent me to treatment in South Florida. This was my introduction to recovery and 12 step fellowships.
I wish I could say that I’ve been clean since that day. I lived in a halfway house after I got out of treatment for about 60 days. I “fell in love” again. We had a nice rehab romance and moved right in together. I was using the moment I was out of that halfway house. It took no time for our relationship to go to shit. He went back to treatment; I stayed out using. I lost my apartment and ended up homeless. I had a tumultuous relationship with the owner of a bar and thought that it was all I had ever wanted. Shortly after I ended up in treatment again.
After getting out, I stayed clean for 11 months. Life was really good. Fun, even. My parents bought a house in Florida, and I moved in with them. It was time to step up and be a mom. I didn’t know anything about my kid. I didn’t know if he was potty trained. I didn’t know what he liked to do, or what he liked to eat. Over time, I figured it out. But what I really figured out was how to drink and get away with it. I worked as a bartender, and thought I was hiding my drinking from my family. And I did… for a little while. As always, life got unmanageable, and I was miserable.
Once you spend a little bit of time in a 12-step fellowship… it gets under your skin. YOU KNOW that you’re not living the way that you’re supposed to. At least, I did. Over the next few years, I was in and out of the fellowship. I could not put down the drink. I kept thinking that I could drink like a “normal person.” There it is again. Normal, whatever that is. I would come in, get a little time, and then stop doing the things I needed to do to stay clean, and go right back to the drink.
August 24, 2020… I came crawling back to the fellowship. I cried through every meeting for at least the first few weeks. I took the suggestions. I got a sponsor. I started working steps again. I got there early and stayed late. I went to a meeting every day. I had the shakes like you wouldn’t believe. (Forget having a cup of coffee at the meetings.) Slowly but surely, I got my life back. And some.
Over the last few years, I worked at Amazon, a homeless shelter, and now co-own a business. I got into a relationship in early recovery (I’m not recommending this). We got engaged last year and married this year on March 10th. I finally moved out of my mother’s house, and we got a place together. We have my son, and his kids with us.
None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gotten clean and taken the suggestions that were given to me. Time and time again, I went back out and used because I stopped taking the simple suggestions. Today, I call my sponsor every day. We work steps and traditions in the fellowship we belong to. I’m of service to that fellowship. As I type this, I’m waiting to go to Orlando for our Regional Service Committee meeting. I make myself available to the newcomer. Whether that is working steps with them, answering the phone when they call, or picking them up for a meeting. Sometimes I think I just replaced one addiction for another. Drugs & drink, for meetings & fellowship. But there could be worse replacements. I’ll take this life, over the meaningless life of finding ways and means to get more. I remember early on hearing old timers say, “I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.” And I thought, “Okay, yeah right, asshole.” Now, I’m that asshole. My dreams weren’t very big when I got here. So it wasn’t hard to have a life beyond my wildest dreams. But today, I have the life that I didn’t know I was seeking. Once upon a time, if it was in a bottle, a baggie, or blue jeans, I was doing it. Today, I’m free.