I try, with passion and love in my heart, to share the news of addiction being a disease and recovery being a point of pride and strength.

My name is Rachel and I am in Long Term Recovery. For me, that means that I have neither had a drink nor a mind-altering drug since October 20, 2004.

My life today is happy – I find joy in so many things – I am free from the bondage of self and addiction.

When I was a young girl my life was beautiful – my parents were wonderful, loving people and the three of us had a beautiful relationship. My mother had a rare illness and by the time I was 9/10 she was dependent on alcohol. Although it was challenging and painful, at times, we were a team and worked together through her trips to rehab and relapses. It didn’t change our love.

I, however, changed. From the first time I got high or drank alcohol, I learned how to lie – and I was good at it. I used her illness and alcoholism to manipulate them. I was hooked from the first time at around 12 years old and chased the feeling until I was 34. I took advantage of my parents and lied to keep drinking as often as possible.

I can’t give any specific reasons for my alcoholism and I gave up on ‘excuses’ when I started my journey of recovery. The point is that I was an alcoholic from a young age and did whatever drug was offered. I rarely sought out drugs, but if they were available, I was ready. Booze was my friend – I thought – and I could never get enough.

I passed up a wonderful education and incredible opportunities because my disease led the charge. I lost friends and chances to expand my horizons because I was so selfish. I tempted fate so many times and put other people in precarious situations.

That’s what it was like – so, what happened?

What happened was that I had hurt my husband badly enough that he gave me the One Last Chance – and I took it – although it took a couple of weeks to really get going. Frankly, I wanted him off my back so I started going to 12 Step meetings. I kept drinking – I think I have three 24hours chips. On October 19 I heard something that pushed me to ask for rehab. I was in rehab within 14 hours of asking – my surrender.

I took it all in – I listened, I wanted to learn, I decided to follow directions and suggestions – I stayed away for over a month and returned home (to live with my father, not my husband and children) for another month+. I went to meetings every day – I went to Intensive Out Patient – I got a sponsor and a home group – I started working the steps. I started feeling feelings for the first time – it wasn’t easy – I kept going forward.

I would like to address the Stigma of active alcoholism, addiction and recovery. I was blessed (hindsight is 20/20) that my mother was in recovery. I wasn’t scared of it – I was scared of not drinking, I wasn’t scared about what a meeting would be like or what a rehab setting would be like…I had some experience with that as a young girl. Also, my father was a Judge and promoted recovery opportunities. I had a glimpse of that offering of help and second chances – I saw how important it was to our community. Years after his death people still refer to him as the most fair man they had ever seen on the bench.

I try to remind them that they embraced me. They embraced my recovery.

So – when I left The Caron Foundation and returned to the land of preschool parents and teachers, I was, in my mind, ready for the inquiries. I was, also, ready for some folks not to be accepting of me upon my return home – that was the exception. When asked how I was, I made light a little – mentioning it was nice to only have to make my own bed and do my own laundry for a month – I broke the ice. I spoke openly about my alcoholism and recovery.

It was beautiful to see how my friends and acquaintances opened their hearts to me. Many told me of their family members and friends in recovery, or still struggling. A few asked for suggestions on how to help their loved ones. As I openly embraced and owned my recovery, so, too, did my friends.

What I, also, experienced was how Stigma hurt people who wanted help. Over the last ten years I have had many conversations with friends who don’t want to be seen at meetings – they are angry that their family members would dare to call them alcoholics or addicts. They say the words as if there was dirt in their mouths.

I try to remind them that they embraced me. They embraced my recovery. I ask them if they looked down on me when they heard that I went to rehab…

I, now, Choose To Shine. I choose to be a voice and face of recovery. I try, with passion and love in my heart, to share the news of addiction being a disease and recovery being a point of pride and strength. I try to lead by example.

My husband and I survived. We just celebrated 19 years of marriage – my first meeting was on our 9th anniversary.  I live my amends to him the best I can. I try to be humble – I try to get out of my own way – I, definitely, have learned to laugh at myself, and we can laugh together. We have faced some tough times – and we Hold Hands and Stick Together!

My sons are, today, 13 and 14 – they were 3 and 4 when I left home to ‘get well’. They are very open with their friends about my recovery. They celebrate with me and for me. They know so many people in recovery and are in the garden cutting flowers for anniversary nights. They are broken hearted when we lose friends to this disease. They cheer for those yet to take the first step. They keep the faith. They hold my hand. They are Recovery Carriers, too.

…and what it’s like now: Amazing! Beautiful! Shiny!

Thank you for letting me share – ILY, Rachel