Looking at me might bring you to a preconceived judgment, to hear me might lead you to an assumption that you know what makes me tick, to judge me might rob you of the opportunity to strengthen your network and complement our crossing paths. I say this from a place of humility, a place of collected lived experiences that have made me a better person, courageous and part of the greater good of humanity.
I am one of the millions in long-term recovery, which means I have not used a drug including alcohol since July 13th, 1995. I believe with all that I have been given a second life in one lifetime, and I don’t take that for granted. It has taken a lot of time and work to get to where I am in my life, and it’s what I needed to build up my confidence, self-esteem, and integrity. In spite of the fear, I have been able to accomplish things people told me I couldn’t, that I believed I couldn’t. I’ve had to ask for help even though I thought it was wrong and I was weak. I now know that the stigma and isolation caused by the disease of addiction are just as detrimental as the illness itself. Speaking out heightens the levels of hope and possibility more can find their way to recovery, this is what has been bringing me my greatest pleasure, and where I have found my purpose.
I spent years of my life trying to keep people away from my old wounds, trying to keep myself protected from being seen as vulnerable and scared. I was exhausted by the time I found recovery, exhausted from all the secrets, exhausted from seeking approval from people that didn’t have it for themselves to give. Too much energy was spent on wanting people to like me and approve of me. The difference now is I no longer need them to like me; I like me.
The principles and skills learned in this process of recovery continue to evolve and develop in my life. These tools were complimenting each other while they were strengthening and preparing me for one of my biggest discoveries which I would survive without leaving the process of recovery. Just before my 20th year in recovery, three days to be exact, with the love and support of my friends, I was hospitalized for severe depression. By the time I surrendered and accepted this part of me, my humility reached a new level. I found a sense of freedom from self that I only heard about in fairy tales and witnessed in other people. Now I’m able to mourn the behaviors and defects that I needed to deny and survive this part of myself. I’ll always appreciate these parts of me for what they had provided, time and patience have served me well. I have been freed on a deeper level now and taking this new found freedom forward into action I’ve created a two-year plan, a future that will make a difference.
Going forward on this journey I continue to learn new ways to communicate so speaking out about the disease of addiction gets easier and doesn’t carry such shame. The key to obtaining the solutions for recovery is education, and my hope is to make this readily available to all who want it. I needed to learn how to read better when I first got into recovery, then I started college at the age of 42 and haven’t stopped yet. I think the most beautiful thing about learning is you can’t get worse. So at 53, I feel I’m just getting started. My heels are dug in, and the trajectory of my future is stable. Advocating for change through lived experience speaks louder than any other advice or information I’ve come across, it can inspire the hopeless and give permission to the isolated.
My life is always action packed, a testament of my gratitude. The moment my alarm goes off in the morning, I hit the snooze button, and I realize I have been given the mercy of another day. My first nine minutes in snooze mode brings awareness to the possibilities that are outside of my bed and prepare my sense of curiosity for a new day. Gratitude is an action word, and if I’m living to the best of my ability, taking into consideration my whole self and the people I surround myself with, no matter what life brings, I will be ok.
Looking back at this journey thus far, looking into the hindsight of patterns and behaviors, I only see a few things I wish I had known prior: 1.) I wish I had kept my eyes and ears open, and my legs closed, there would have been less pain and discomfort, 2.) I wish I could have learned the art of flipping sooner. The art of flipping has to do with seeing life as happening for you, not to you, which helps to alleviate opportunity for the disease to settle into self-pity, and 3.) I am amazing, beautiful, strong, capable, and smart. Would knowing these things at the beginning of my recovery made things much different? Who’s to say, I don’t waste my time on the should have, could have, would haves.
I felt compelled to become part of this project “I Am Not Anonymous” after viewing the documentary, “The Anonymous People.” It was one of many great shifts of action that helped to raise the volume of millions of voices around our country and the world. We, meaning all people with substance use disorders, our families, and our communities will be stronger united. No matter of age, race, sexual identity, disability, wealth, religion or lack of worship, the disease has no mercy on whom it affects. Our diversity should be seen as a strength when it comes to the solutions, and we never know who’s going to be put in our lives to save it. This project is just one more way to share our stories, one more way to continue the healing process, and one more way of honoring those that didn’t make it while bringing light and hope to those who haven’t found recovery yet.
It takes courage to be in recovery, I am COURAGEOUS and…
“I AM NOT ANONYMOUS!”