I have been in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction since I was 24 years old. On September 16, 1985, I entered a residential treatment program for my eating disorder. At the time I didn’t recognize that my alcohol and drug use was a serious problem although I had been using both since I was age 15. At this time is when my recovery life began. In treatment, I learned about the process of addiction and how drugs and alcohol had changed my brain and numbed my anxiety and uncomfortable feelings. What I began to understand was that I was not a bad person and that my using drugs and alcohol changed my personality and my behavior. I discovered that I could stop hating myself for the things I had done, the people that I had hurt and I could become a better person, the person I hoped I could be. After 60 days of treatment, I returned home to Houston, Texas where I began attending daily recovery meetings every day and connected to a whole new community of people. Three weeks after returning home tragedy struck when my 32-year-old boyfriend died from a heart attack due to his cocaine use. I was devastated, scared and blamed myself for our past drug use together. I only then believed that my disease of addiction was life threatening and I clung to the support I received from other people in recovery who helped me remain sober.
Since 1985 my life has been a gift, a second chance to live with purpose. I know recovery saved my life. I am now 55 and have an amazing life. I actively attend my weekly meetings and have an incredible host of recovery friends in my Utah community, where I have lived for 30 years. I have friends from all over the country who are in recovery. Both of my parents and my sister are in recovery! Best of all, in 1991 I married my best friend Shawn, who is in recovery 36 years. We have two amazing adult daughters who have never seen us sick from addiction. They share close relationships with many of our friends in recovery who have become their extended family.
I returned to college in 1987 and became a Licensed Substance Use Disorder Counselor. My husband returned to college and received a Masters in Public Administration. Both of us have worked in Utah’s addiction treatment and recovery support services since 1987. We are fortunate because of our work we can talk openly about being in recovery from addiction. This is not so common for people whose employers and co-workers do not understand the progressive nature of substance use and addictive disease.
In 2007, I joined a grassroots effort in Salt Lake City to establish an addiction Recovery Community Organization (RCO), and in 2010 I had the fortunate opportunity to become the Executive Director of USARA, Utah Support Advocates For Recovery Awareness. USARA is a non-profit, non-clinical RCO where peers in recovery and family members have become advocacy voices and provide recovery support services. The USARA mission is to support individuals and their families in all stages of recovery from alcohol and other drug problems. We have learned from the National Recovery Movement how to celebrate recovery and support people to navigate resources needed to recover while working at an advocacy level to increase public awareness that long-term recovery from addictive disease is a reality for many. It is truly one of the most amazing places to work. Our Utah recovery community has grown into a larger movement of service and hope that touches many lives. There are now hundreds of advocates throughout Utah, individuals and family members who are open about their healing from addiction and recovery. These advocates are making a difference in each other’s lives and helping others who are still struggling from the harm and devastation of addiction.
I am a believer that “WE” as a Recovery Community, individuals, families, groups and communities can change the landscape of our lives that has been damaged by addiction. While I have experienced tragic consequences and loss that untreated addiction causes, I have witnessed high hopes and joy in the many lives that have found recovery! Thinking about how I would best sum up my recovery is that I am grateful for many blessings. My recovery and the journey that I share with others inspires me every day. Inspired by the recovery movement, “We can recover, and we do make a difference helping one person at a time to live happy, healthy and free.”