How do you share a journey when you are not sure when it began? My first conscious thought that I was different came at the age of four. Way before a drink or drug was involved. I always felt out of place. I grew up in a wholesome, traditional family, having everything I ever needed, and usually everything I wanted. I should have been happy. That is not my story though. I was miserable.
I was an actress and played everyone's part. I compared my insides with everyone's outsides and I lost every single time. I thought having the perfect clothes, car, home, job etc., would finally make me happy. Sure, everyone saw me smiling because that was what I wanted you to see. I was the homecoming queen, the girl with good grades, the softball star and the cheerleader. However if you asked what my favorite color was, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. I have a quote tattooed on me, and it says, "She's a mess of a gorgeous chaos, and you can see it in her eyes." God, how I wished someone could have seen in my eyes and recognized the hopelessness that I truly felt.
When I picked up that first drink and drug, I had that moment. That moment where I wasn't trying to impress you with my words or looks, but where I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. I finally stopped thinking. I never intended that moment to turn into years of incomprehensible demoralization. I had good intentions, but my aim was so off. I chased that moment at any cost. I went from prom queen to public alley.
It wasn't about hurting anyone else. That was and would be the biggest lie I ever told anyone. I truly believed I was only hurting myself. The detox, the hospitals, the rape kits, the waking up in the hospitals or random places, my family stepping away, as they should have. The "great guy" whom I let define me. The horror on people's faces when they saw what I was becoming. None of that stopped me.
I sat in a battered women's shelter and this woman shared her story with me. The crazy part was, her new chapter was different than mine. She was happy. She had a life she was proud of. She was comfortable in her own skin, something I had only dreamed about. I honestly don't know what clicked, but I listened. I not only listened, but I heard. She beamed and she had recovered from the same place I was sitting. I knew she was honest because she was telling me how I was feeling and the only way she could understand was if she had lived it herself.
I found that gift of hope in her eyes, and it gave me a nudge of willingness to grasp what she had: inner peace. This was something that nothing material ever gave me or was going to give me. Alcohol and drugs were my only solution and I had no idea that this journey of recovery was going to give me that inner peace I had always searched for, but couldn't find.
Today, I have 4,121 days of recovery! I have heard my story more times than I can count, and I have told my story and shared that gift that was given to me to those souls who seek but don't know the way. I have rebuilt my life. I love myself even with my imperfections. The gifts of recovery are more than I could ask for. All it took was a small bit of willingness. I wish I had known all of this earlier in my life. However, I am now a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
I see people, and I hear them mutter at that girl that was just like me, "why doesn't she help herself?" Sometimes, I want to scream, "She doesn't know how!" These same people offer me a glass a wine, and of course, my response is "I don't drink." There is then that dreadful question, "Why?" When I have answered, "I don't drink because I am a recovering alcoholic and addict," usually the quick judgment and hairy eyeball come my way, along with a comment “you should try to keep that to yourself.” Why would I keep this gift a secret, I sometimes wonder. It seems to me that everyone knows a friend, family member or co-worker suffering from an addiction in which they cannot understand. Why wouldn't they want to know someone they can have someone call, whom might just be able to inspire hope, which inevitably inspires change? After all, had that woman not found me, who knows where I would be.
I have a host of friends, too many to count, that I can call at any moment who would be there for me. I never knew that was possible. I have learned to trust. I am now trustworthy. I have learned that in order to gain self-esteem, I am to do esteemable acts. I have learned that I really can't dance. I do it anyway. I have become an active participant in my own life as well as society. I am just happy with me, a feeling I never remember having. What a beautiful gift that is.
In recovery, I have experienced stigma and judgment despite of my actions because of the words "alcoholic" and "addict." People tend to fear what they cannot understand. People don't realize that I am the author of my own book called life. The beginning may have been shaky, but I am going to have a great middle and end. Don't base your judgments off my shaky beginning. After eleven years of a life in recovery, I still grow each day. I realize that every day is a gift and I have to live in the moment. My insides match my outsides now. I am not only capable but I am worthy of happiness and I make sure I pursue that on a daily basis.
I am very proud of the person I am today. I am proud that I can share and hopefully inspire others. I get great joy, almost goose pimples when I see hope flash across someone's face. I am an employee, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a mom, and a niece. I have a new life where I have real conversations. Every morning I wake up to the joy of a new day. I have found that I am a spiritual being living in a material world. I have found that I am enough. I have learned that stepping on that ledge of giving up, crossing my toes across the brim, and carefully taking a step back was the best decision I have ever made. I wouldn't trade my life with anyone else.
In closing, recovery absolutely rocks! I have done amazing things in recovery that I would have never accomplished if I was still drinking and using. It's just an amazing way of life. It is so difficult to explain the amazing joy and appreciation of life that I have. I appreciate other people. Whether we agree or disagree. Everyone is a teacher in this life and we can learn something from anyone. There aren’t people I don't know, just friends I haven't met yet.
My name is Shannon, and I Am Not Anonymous.