Recovery – A Family Affair

I am the oldest of 3 girls – and all of us have the disease of alcoholism. I was what we called a garbage head because I used many drugs and took whatever I could find.  By the time I was 19, I was married and divorced. At 20, I was raising a beautiful baby boy while in my active addiction. For the next 18 years I was a functional alcoholic and drug addict. What I mean is I was a good provider, my son did not lack anything, and it is a miracle that he is healthy and has made a good life for himself.  When he was in his teens, I began to fall apart emotionally and physically. I was hopeless and wanted to go to sleep and not wake up! By this time, my baby sister came home from a drug and alcohol treatment center. She was going...

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Decreasing the Shame

I dabbled with drugs for years (I was a child of the '70s), and ended up addicted to prescription pain pills. I am an RN and as things got worse, I ultimately had an intervention done on me at work and went through an alternative to discipline program (with my RN license "held in abeyance" for 5 years).  Following my completion of the program, I was asked to facilitate peer support for healthcare and now run a peer support program for people in recovery.   I have co-authored a book: Re/entry: A Guide for Nurses Dealing with Substance Use Disorder. The book has been published by STTI and has won two book-of-the-year awards from the American Journal of Nursing.   I love my life in recovery – I never knew life could be so full! – and I feel strongly about getting the word out to decrease the stigma and shame that...

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A Journey Toward Hope

Alcohol use was central to the foundation of my family and upbringing. I have seen many in my family reach their trigger point and cross over into alcohol dependency. Unfortunately, I never witnessed any of my family stop, stay stopped and maintain long-term abstinence. From what I witnessed, there was no hope for anyone suffering from a substance use disorder.  When I became alcohol dependent myself and became aware that becoming abstinent was necessary, I was petrified, as from what I had seen, nothing worked. A friend referred me to his union’s health team, which referred me to a psychiatrist who convinced me that I might benefit from some education on alcohol since my family was peopled with drunks. One of the things his rehab required was the reading of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, which I read with passion. Several weeks into my rehab, I experienced a moment of...

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Who Am I?

I am in early recovery of an addiction to methamphetamine, which I used practically every day over the last 4 years. I recently decided to get clean because the realization was "I ABSOLUTELY HATED GETTING HIGH," even though the disease of addiction had such a hold on my life that I had a hard time stopping and therefore at the end I didn't like who I was.  The addiction has left me at a complete loss for who "Amanda" is – or was – and I am desperately working on my recovery in order not only to conquer sobriety, but to redefine who I am. -Amanda Z., Pennsylvania, sober since September 2014

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What's Wrong With Me?

I watch people around me drink the same way I do but they don’t get wasted like me. There must be a trick, some secret or learned way of drinking that I haven’t figured out yet, but I will. I’ll try beer instead of vodka. I’ll try eating more before I drink. I’ll find a way—there must be a way. It’s not like I’m a drunk or something! I’ve never lost a job, I’ve never gotten a DUI, I never drink in the morning. If I was an alcoholic, I wouldn’t be able to say that. This is simply a matter of getting a grip on drinking, figuring out the way to do it. Welcome to one of the many scripts that ran through my head before I got sober. They varied a bit here and there, but they all led to the same conclusion—I could not accept that I was...

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Getting the Message

The first time my daughter came home drunk, I’m embarrassed to say, I thought it was kind of cute. She was only 15, but she was swearing like a sailor. So I sloughed it off. But, unfortunately, it didn’t stop there and her behavior began to get more and more problematic. For a kid who used to love school and had a lot of friends, things started to change, and by the time she was 17 my wife and I were truly concerned. When we talked to people about it, they often expressed the idea that it was just a phase that would pass, but before long we realized it wasn’t getting any better. We tried all the usual things – grounding her, telling her she couldn’t hang out with certain kids who seemed to be a bad influence, withholding her allowance, thinking this would limit her ability to get hold...

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My Sister, an Alcoholic

My younger sister and I are two years apart, and were very close growing up.  After high school I moved, and we lived on opposite coasts but talked all the time and saw each other on holidays with the family.  Then suddenly she stopped calling. I would call and leave messages, and rarely get a call back.  I knew she drank and smoked weed, but at the time had no idea she had started messing with dope. I called her job, only to find out she'd been fired months ago.  My parents went to her apartment to find her gone, unopened mail filling the mailbox.  Now we were really scared.  We all felt so powerless.  When the money ran out my sister showed up at my parent’s house and was sent to rehab.  But when she got out, she started to use again.  Like before, she disappeared. I felt worried, sick,...

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I Stopped Running

I reached a bottom, an awareness that this was not working enough to numb the pain and other difficult emotions I was being tormented with inside of my head and heart. One day, I awoke for the first time with a feeling I needed to make a change in my life around this pattern of drinking and drugging. So I went to a meeting. I met a young person who then introduced me to another person in my age group and I saw that this was working for them. I wanted what they had. I developed a support network of friends that helped me embrace a program of recovery, which has managed to keep me sober.  - Juan, 17

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No Shoes

On June 15, 1998,  I entered a rehab facility. I was 18 years old, confused and abusing drugs.  Alcohol was my drug of choice but I smoked pot, popped pills, used acid, crack, cocaine--whatever I could get my hands on. It wasn’t about a particular drug. I just wanted to escape, get away from being me, so to speak. I started drinking when I was 14. I agreed to 30 days of treatment, ended up staying for 16 months. Today, I remain employed at this same place. Back then, I had heard crazy things about this rehab and what they made you do. I was scared, desperate and broke. I needed something to turn my life around. Treatment was the only option I had left before I killed myself from using drugs. I used drugs from the time I got up in the morning until I fell asleep, whatever time that was. Just before I...

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Sweet Seventeen

I was 15 the first time I went through treatment. I had no idea what was going on and wasn’t ready to listen. I knew it all, and no one could tell me different. Drugs and alcohol were the only things that I thought made me happy. I was having fun. When I was 17, I came back to treatment beat up and ready to listen. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was young and not sure if I was going to be able to stop drinking and drugging. I struggled, trying to decide if recovery is really what I wanted or if I wanted to continue to use. I was in treatment during the holidays and came up with an analogy that worked for me. I thought back to when I was a little girl and couldn’t wait to open up my Christmas presents to see what kind of toys I...

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