My name is Nora and today I am living a life free from drugs and alcohol…..
What does it mean to be free from drugs and alcohol? Well, first it would mean that I acknowledge that at some point I wasn’t. That some point lasted about 27 years. The problem with suffering from a disease that centers in your brain distorting your thought process is well…you’re usually the last one to know you have it! Denial is a powerful thing and mine went on for a long time and greatly fueled the progression of my disease. From the first time I took a drink of alcohol my brain was triggered into a delusional thought pattern. That was at the age of thirteen. What I know now, is that every decision I made from that point on was influenced by my diseased alcoholic and addictive thinking. My decision making capacity while excessively mixing drugs and alcohol was exceptionally poor and I usually suffered a lot of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments that landed me in some very bad situations. I subjected my parents to countless trips of rescuing me from jails, hospitals, and the streets.
My brain could rationalize any reckless behavior and it seemed that I had endless amounts of energy to continue living my life with the main focus of getting and using drugs and alcohol while trying to put on the appearance of some sort of normalcy. This was an exhausting full-time job in itself and one that I failed at frequently. I would exert great effort at finding new jobs, new relationships, and new places to live thinking these external changes would fix my feelings of being less than or worthless. I got married, had a child, and went to school and for a time I felt more positive about myself, and my life. It wouldn’t last for long though, and I would slip back into my natural state of being restless, irritable, and discontent. My drinking and drug use increased as well as behaviors that I could no longer find acceptable. As a result, I just stopped looking at myself in the mirror and began using to numb out all of life. I truly thought, like many people do, that my problem centered in a moral failing and I just had to try harder. What I know now is that with this disease at some point I lost the power to choose, but it would take a long time and a lot of pain to admit that.
I was very self-sufficient and I didn’t trust people at all. Also, I had this terrible affliction of thinking that I knew everything and following directions was nearly impossible for me. As my using increased my world got smaller. I couldn’t navigate relationships with others and isolation began to take over my life. I distanced myself from all my family for years through many geographical relocation's. The only person who was still in my life was my son, who by the age of 14, was already plotting his own escape via his own drug use. Well I had a lot of plans in my life that didn’t work out, but to even consider that my son would end up in the same places I had was one plan I could not accept. I did not want him to endure the same path that I had been on my whole life and with that came the sudden realization that I was possibly the one who had led him to exactly that path! Suddenly, the reflection in the mirror that I had avoided for so many years was right there staring back at me in the face of my son. I had no choice but to take a good look at myself.
That was six years ago and I made a decision to stop using all substances for “a while.” I still had this insane notion that I was the one making the choice. One of my favorite sayings today is “The beatings will continue until the attitude changes.” In my experience this was very true and boy did I ever endure some serious beatings! I gave recovery an effort doing it my way and this is where the inability to follow directions was a problem. Also, I had an ego problem, a fear problem, a judgment problem, an anger problem, a defiance problem, and a God problem. I really just thought that using excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs was my only problem! Over the next year I got a new kind of education and it wasn’t one I liked very much. I was introduced to the concept of powerlessness and to alcoholism as a true disease. I was also introduced to the concept of a Higher Power which I promptly rejected!
Staying in a painful state of self-sufficiency soon led me back to the drink, the drug, and the gift of desperation. There comes a moment of clarity when you become completely aware, when you have tried to beat this thing in every way possible and it is finished. I finally arrived at a moment when I knew my disease had complete power over me, it was in that moment that I knew with all my heart that this thing was going to kill me! I knew in reality it had already in some ways and that was good. There were parts of myself that needed to die to be able to open myself to a new way of thinking. My survival no longer depended on not trusting anyone. Instead, it depended on trusting at least one person who could show me the way out of my self–inflicted prison. I was as desperate as the dying and was finally willing to follow a direction and truly put aside my thinking. The breaking open of my completely closed mind that was always fueled by diseased thinking was incredibly painful. It was easiest for me to hear God when I was stripped of pride and arrogance, when I had nothing left to rely on except God. It was so painful to get there, but when I did God was there…He was always there. I arrived at the complete and utter desire to change from the inside out. I knew I had to get sober for myself and I had to learn to live in a completely different way. This was a life changing process that I could not do alone and I have to work on it every day! My recovery support system has saved my life and the people God placed in my life showed me a whole new way of living.
As I put years between myself and the last relapse that should have claimed my life, I see more and more just how sick I truly was, and how certain it is a miracle that I am here. Not only do I see it as a miracle, but I see it as a plan. I know today, nothing happens in God’s world by mistake and my life isn’t just a gift, it is a calling. To think of a life lived in service and humility didn’t seem to appealing at first. To be honest, it sounded mundane and boring. To always have to think of others and do the next right thing was not an easy concept, but I began to practice it like my life depended on it because well…it did! What happened over the next four years has been nothing short of amazing. It has become about giving and not needing anything in return and yet receiving everything in the form of a smile of deep appreciation and gratitude that validates why it is so important for me to stay sober. I work every day at growing into an individual who is God centered with an ability to love and accept others with compassion because of what I have been through. I have been given a new sense of value and a purpose in my life that has led me to some pretty amazing places. I have traveled all over the world in this “boring” life of service and I am blessed beyond belief.
I have healed relations with all of my family most importantly with my son. I came to recovery hoping to “save” my son from his addiction and recovery did “save” my son. It saved him from me! To have the courage as a parent to let him go to experience his own suffering has been the most difficult thing that life has asked of me in sobriety. Walking through the pain with grace, dignity, and continued faith even in the darkest times is a true testament to God, recovery, and the people in my life. Without their support I would have never found the resources to meet such an unthinkable process and stay sober. Accepting that my son suffered from the same disease took me to emotional bottoms that were worse than my own alcohol and drug fueled bottom. In the end though comes the same surrender and acceptance that I am completely powerless over his addictions. Through that surrender came even more freedom. Today, I can see that much of my pain came from always viewing setbacks as failures (his or mine) instead of viewing them as periods of growth that needed to happen. Through this realization, I can let my son go to be all that he is and all that he is not. I can let go of my expectations, my timeline, and see that he is ultimately very successful in his journey in his time with his Higher Power. I am so proud of him for not giving up and for facing the challenges in his life. He is a beautiful spirit and he moves me to be a better mom and a better person.
I have learned the value of not judging and truly having compassion for others. I can honestly accept all of myself exactly how I am and I can accept others exactly how they are. I am okay in my skin and that is what I was always looking for every time I put a bottle to my lips or a needle in my arm…I was searching for peace. Now I have true peace, inner peace and I am free! I am not only free from drugs and alcohol, I am free to be a better person. I am free to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. I am free to travel the world giving back through humanitarian efforts. I am free to show up and fight for causes that I believe in. I am free to reach out my hand to others and help them when they are down. I am free to tell my story so that it may bring hope to just one other person and help them find a life of recovery. I am free to live the truth of who I am without shame or stigma! I am free to be me! My name is Nora Milligan, and I am a woman in long term recovery from drugs and alcohol since October 15th, 2009 and I am free…..You can be too!