For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible. Thomas Aquinas
In general, that sums up my feeling regarding my recovery. Except here I am, trying to create some degree of understanding among those who don’t understand…
My name is Kim and I believe that I am genetically pre-disposed to my addictions. There is a lot of alcoholism in my family (and a couple of other “isms”) and while those people did not make me drink and drug, I grew up in close proximity to the disease and some of my family still suffers.
In earliest sobriety, I was labeled as a mild case. Really? What the hell is that? I think not: it was anything but a mild problem for me. I have learned that at what level I hit rock bottom is very personal; it’s a spiritual low and it makes no difference if you have personal belongings and a roof over your head or not, it’s rock bottom. It’s what got me to get help – (with a personal intervention from my mom.)
My first 10 years of sobriety were focused on staying sober and not going crazy! Still being a bit rebellious I got pregnant straight out of rehab. Was it my hormones or my detoxing? Nine months later I first held my son – a beautiful baby. And so, one day at a time, the 12 steps brought me my miracles. Who knew that to change, all one has to do is be willing? I sure didn’t, and to this day, 22 years sober, it still amazes me that when I become willing to change, the change begins to happen!
I thought after getting clean I would no longer be judged the drunk/junkie/alkie that I had been called in the past. That’s not what happened: it took many years to live down the stigma. For instance, at 5 years sober, I was invited to my mother’s beautiful summer home in Rhode Island. After the 3 hour drive, late in the evening after work, we arrived. To my horror, before I’d even unpacked, she asked to speak to me and told me that she knew I had relapsed. When I vowed I had not, she insisted that it was my denial speaking and it was ok to admit the lapse. (A little program knowledge is a dangerous thing to an earthling). What had happened was this: having been blessed with a young child, I had cut back on my daily work on myself and it was my attitudes that were suffering and causing me to simulate behavior close to a relapse. That was the key to understanding for me, the disease of the attitudes. Now I got it, big time. From that day on, just about every day, I do something for me, to keep my sobriety. Sometimes, just a thank you to my higher power, or a gratitude list, is enough to put me back on track. Sometimes a call or a meeting is still more in order.
At 10 years sober I was miserable. I blamed my young mildly special needs son, I blamed my husband, I blamed the events of 9/11, but nothing took away the misery. Then it hit me: I had stopped working on myself; I had become too busy. So I got a new sponsor and went back to Step 1, a move I am truly grateful for. With my new sponsor I worked through my issues, my co-dependence, and how to ever expand my life.
I am most grateful for my recovery because of my two kids. (My boy was joined 4 years later by a beautiful little sister). I was blessed in never missing a birthday or a special day in my kids’ lives. And they have never seen me under any influence. But we now live in a very scary world where drugs and alcohol play a huge role in kids so much younger than when i started. I remember thinking I was invincible too, but it all seems so much harsher now. I listen to the stories of my kids’ friends who started out in a small way and are already being arrested. My kids have an advantage: because I am clean and sober, not only can I be there for them in all times of need or joy, but I can also explain to them what I have been through and I continue to pray they don’t go down the same road. I choose to be very open with my kids – I answer questions and explain issues whenever they ask. It’s very different telling a child what they should or should not do, than actually reliving experiences for them to use as examples.
In my opinion, slogans like Just Say No are a terrible thing to say to kids, or anyone else. Why? Because saying no because someone tells you to, is almost bound to have the opposite effect: (I know l still come away with paint on my finger if I see a sign that says wet paint! ) And that’s how kids are. They are much more likely to say no because they understand the consequences of not doing so, i.e., they understand the risk of what can happen, and they choose not to take that risk because they feel it is the right decision for them. My children were both taken to meetings at a very young age and continued for quite a while. They saw the end of the road but not the beginning – the fun, the excitement, the romance of the life before addiction takes over and sucks the life blood out of you.
It’s time for us to educate our young people (and all people). We can be a living Big Book. We can help stop the stigma of addiction that points the finger at us as being horrible people who chose this sad life. We can correct this widespread misconception by explaining our struggles, our lifestyles and our successes to everyone. That can’t happen if we remain anonymous. All people deserve to learn, and hopefully we can help educate them. Who knew that my one days at a time would bring me to the point of teaching values to young men, As a cub scout leader for 15 years, I still smile in wonderment that all these parents entrust their boys to me and I make a difference!
How can you understand? By becoming educated by those who HAVE been there.