“My mom said that when I was 11 years old, I picked up a wine cooler at a family picnic and downed it in front of her. I was regularly drinking by age 14 and had a drinking problem by age 16. I didn’t care because drinking helped me with everything. I felt less awkward and bigger than life, like I was the funniest, smartest girl in the room.
Fifteen years ago, I was suicidal on a daily basis. I was a straight-up alcoholic and dope fiend and had to make a choice if I wanted to live or die. I didn’t want my parents burying me. Somehow through my work I was able to get into treatment in a safe environment. Going to Alcoholics Anonymous changed my life.
I told my mother my addiction had nothing to do with her or anybody else. If someone loving me was enough to get me sober, I would have done it. Instead, I had to do it myself with my God. Unless you are an addict or an alcoholic, you can’t understand what cravings feel like. Most people don’t know what it feels like to live on the street and not know where your next meal is coming from.
At one point in early recovery, my house was in foreclosure, and I was about to lose my job. It’s easy to say, ‘Screw it, I’ll get drunk again’. I was taught to take sobriety one day at a time, but there were times where I was taking it one hour or five minutes at a time. Sometimes it was just the next sober breath.
I’ve been clean and sober for 15 years. Now I live every minute of my life, walking in love and trying to do no harm.
Society looks at male alcoholics and female alcoholics, even in recovery, in different ways. My husband has been clean and sober for 28 years. People say a man has a drinking problem, but he’s a good guy, a good husband, or a good father, and he will figure it out. But for a woman, it’s Oh my God, how could she do this? They say she’s not taking care of her kids. She’s a terrible wife. She’s a terrible mother. She’s a whore. Addiction doesn’t discriminate between men and women, so we shouldn’t either.
I’m also diabetic, but society has no problem with diabetics. I take my medicine each day, monitor myself, and do what I need to do. It’s the same with alcoholism. I stay in touch with my sponsor and do what I need to do on a daily basis to keep myself sober.
It’s scary today with the opioids. I’ve been to more funerals of people in recovery than in addiction, and every year it’s more and more. I open Facebook and a friend has died, or a family just buried their son or daughter. There’s not enough resources for the people who need them. People can’t afford treatment or to go somewhere safe away from the dope and the drug dealers.
I’ve been saved by the grace of God. Giving back and helping others is all I want to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s speaking with women in a treatment center or in jail; if I can share just a moment of hope with a woman that can’t see any, then my job is done.
The world would be an amazing place If everyone could learn to live by the 12-steps program and traditions, If we could simply learn to walk in love, do no harm, and be of maximum service to others. That is how I want to love each day for the rest of my life.”
August 31 is Overdose Awareness Day and September is National Recovery Month. We have so much to learn from people in recovery or family or friends who lost a loved one to a drug overdose, so I am going to share some of these stories over the next six weeks. If you have a story of recovery, substance use disorder, or losing someone you care about to an overdose, message me because I would like to hear it.
If you are in South Alabama, come to After Dopesick: A Conversation with Steve Loyd and Friends This Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. at the Saenger Theater. I will be on the panel with Dr. Steve Loyd and Beth Macy talking about addiction, recovery and what more our community can do about it. Dr. Loyd’s early medical career and addiction became the inspiration for the doctor played by Micheal Keaton in the hit Hulu series, “Dopesick.” Based on the best-selling non-fiction book, “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” by Beth Macy, the series was watched by 10 million viewers and was nominated for 14 Emmys.
The event is free and sponsored by the Drug Education Council.