I refuse to be ashamed of my journey. I will always strive to keep my disease in remission. I will not be silent and guilt-ridden anymore.

Hi. I’m Kelly. I am a woman in long term recovery from alcoholism. What that means to me is that today I am accountable as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, and a human being. That hasn’t always been the case.

Five years ago I was a hopeless alcoholic. I had reached that jumping off place where I couldn’t imagine another day with or without alcohol. I had given up on myself. Everyone in my life had written me off, and rightly so, except for my 14-year-old son. He confronted me one night after finding my stash of 5 bottles of vodka and wine hidden all around my house. He asked me what was in those bottles that was so much more important than him. I’d like to say I stopped then and there, but of course, I didn’t. I drank everything in the house that night and went back for more the next morning. Two days later I was committed.

It has been a long, difficult, painful, amazing, road since that time in my life. I have to work hard every day to remember that I have a disease of the brain that is chronic and progressive. Personally, I believe that our disease affects us physically, mentally, and spiritually. In my alcoholic bottom, I had hidden from God. I was raised in the church and have been a believer my whole life, but I didn’t want God to ‘see’ how I was living. I abandoned Him as I had abandoned my family, my friends, and my soul. In sobriety, I have found God again. He was right where I had left Him. He kept me alive all those years that I spent trying to kill myself drinking. I am overwhelmingly grateful for His Grace and Mercy.

There are days that I am still sad that the damage I did to my son can’t be undone. It is the one thing that can take me back to a dark place if I let it. He was just a young kid when I was at my bottom. He saw a lot of things I wish he hadn’t, like being passed out on the floor, or me raging drunk fighting with his Dad. He had to grow up awfully fast. I regret all of that deeply, but all of the ugliness of my disease set him on his path in life. He is a fine young man of 19 today. He is a college sophomore, a hard worker, and my favorite person in the world. He loves me, and he has forgiven me.

When I got home from rehab, my son and I were driving somewhere, and I asked him if he was mad about the lovely pool of genes I had passed on to him. He responded, “No ma’am. I can’t be mad about that. I just have to accept it.” I remember thinking that if he could accept that, then surely I could start to work on accepting myself and my disease. His forgiveness freed me to begin to forgive myself slowly. We are told that you have to get sober for yourself. Well, I got sober for him. I didn’t want to flip on the TV in a drunken stupor one day and see my son on Jerry Springer. So, yeah, I got sober for him because he deserved better than a drunk for a mom. I have stayed sober for me, though because I love the mom, I can be in sobriety.

In my son’s senior year of high school, I found a paper he had written for school on the kitchen table. The title was “The Person I Admire Most.” It was me. In this paper, he talked about how I had changed everything about my life and that I was committed to living my life in Recovery. He talked about his admiration and love for me and how he had learned from his experience with my alcoholism that when a person has a problem in life, they have to face it and go on with things, it’s that simple. Out of the mouths of babes.

The greatest gift of my sobriety has been the restored relationships with my family. My Dad is my biggest fan and supporter. He is so proud, as is everyone else that loves me. I think he is just glad to have “me” back. Dad used to say “Just stop, Kelly. You’re losing everything”. He knew he hadn’t raised me to be so oblivious to what I was doing to my family and everyone that loved me. Today, he understands it wasn’t that simple. He understands I have a disease. His pride in my sobriety is a gift to me.

My brother is one of my favorite people in the world. He and his wife supported me all along through my journey. I made my amends to my brother for not being the sister I should have been throughout my drinking career. I love my niece and my nephew so much, and I am so happy that I get to be a part of their lives today. My nephew is two, and he will never have to see me drunk. What an amazing thing!

I believe we, as a community of people recovering, must show the world that we are strong, loving, intelligent, employable, beautiful, unstoppable people!

And of course my husband, my poor husband. He loves me dearly today, and although it has taken him a while, he understands now that I have to put the same effort into Recovery as I did my drinking. He doesn’t know what to do with me some days! I am not the same person. It turns out that I am pretty independent as a sober woman. He has struggled with me being open about my Recovery, just because he didn’t want to see me hurt by people’s judgment and criticism. He sees today that I can handle it, though. He recognizes how much better things are for our family with me sober and he is grateful for my sobriety.

My mother died of Alzheimer’s a little over a year ago. Because I am sober, I was able to help take care of her. I was able to be a part of our family as we all watched her sweet soul slip away. Because I have a choice today, I was able to stand up at her funeral and give her eulogy. I miss her so much, but I have the consolation of knowing I was present for her in the last years of her life. Sobriety did that for me.

I work in the same Recovery Center in which I got sober. I have made some amazing friends there whom I love and care about. They have my back. I love going to work even though it can be hard and sad work. The gift is that almost every day I get the privilege of watching the light come on for some recovering person. It is a beautiful thing to witness.

The stigma attached to this disease continues to baffle me. We as a society have routinely accepted a 10-15% success rate for treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction. We wouldn’t accept those statistics for any other disease. As a person in Recovery, I feel it is my obligation to talk about this disease. I want people to know that we DO RECOVER and that we flourish and make a difference. I believe we, as a community of people recovering, must show the world that we are strong, loving, intelligent, employable, beautiful, unstoppable people!

So, here I am, sober and thriving in Recovery. Every day for the rest of my life I intend to help shine a light on the disease of Addiction. I will no longer hide in dimly lit rooms drinking myself into oblivion. I refuse to be ashamed of my journey. I will always strive to keep my disease in remission. I will not be silent and guilt-ridden anymore. Today I am accountable to MYSELF. I have realized that I am worth the effort. It has taken me a long time to say this, but I love myself today. I have a lot of work left to do, but I will continue this journey with enthusiasm and joy. For the rest of my life, my hope is that I will be able to stand up tall and say “My name is Kelly and I am a woman in long-term recovery. I once had a problem with alcohol, but today I do not.”