I thought it could never happen to me: I am smart, hardworking, I come from a good family… The list goes on and on but I learned very quickly that addiction truly does not discriminate. I did not fit the “mold” of what many people think of when they hear the words alcoholic or addict. That is part of why I am here to tell my story. There is no mold. There is no cookie cutter picture of what addiction looks like. There is no script to follow, no instructions to go off of. There is just raw unadulterated pain and suffering. I did not grow up wishing to become an alcoholic or an addict. My addiction was a prison of my own making, it was like living in hell. Yet, I am incredibly grateful for the journey I have had to take to get to where I am today. Today, I am the face of RECOVERY. I am the face of hope and hope is a force not to be reckoned with.
My story looked anything but hopeful in the last years of my drinking and drugging. You see, for a long time, I managed to “keep it together.” I went to school, stayed out of trouble, graduated, went to work, etc. I even got a Master’s Degree – in the grips of active addiction. Being an addict and alcoholic does not make me stupid or dumb. I am actually incredibly resourceful and bright. But all the smarts in the world could not stop the downward spiral I was in, I couldn’t even see what was happening around me. It was as though I was completely detached from reality. I really tried, I tried to break free, to be “normal,” to feel something other than pain on a daily basis. I tried therapy, antidepressants, new friends, new boyfriends, new clothes, new cars, a new job. I tried to find any fix I could to not feel so utterly miserable and hopeless but nothing worked. I could not find anything that could soothe the anxiety, discomfort, the agony I felt as I tried to get through each day. Drugs and alcohol were the only things that could ease the pain. I felt so alone, so hopeless, I was defeated, I had nothing. It got to the point where I tried to commit suicide on numerous occasions but could not overcome the fear of dying long enough to be successful. And what a gift that was because today, I get to LIVE!
For me, especially in the beginning, recovery felt like it was the end of the world. I had to be forced into it: backed into a corner and completely out of options. If there was another card left to play, another trick to pull, I would of kept trying. At 27-years-old, I thought my life was over. There would be no more fun, no joy, I would never laugh again because of how painful this life had been for me and I no longer had a buffer. I did not know another way, I had no tools to cope with anything let alone live in this strange existence of nothingness. BUT there were others just like me, who felt how I felt, knew loneliness and pain like I did, yet they were living and laughing in ways I could not have believed to be real. People, just like me, overcoming addiction and learning how to live. I remember the first time I laughed so hard that I cried. It was learning how to boogie board on a North Carolina beach. A North Carolina beach. Boogie board. Me?! It is so silly but it brings me to tears just thinking about that moment. I felt so alive. I felt free for the first time in my whole life.
I would love to say that it was smooth sailing from there on out. It wasn’t. It’s life. No one said that when you get sober all of life’s problems go away and everything is sunshine and rainbows. I struggled a lot, it was HARD. Remember how I said alcoholics and addicts are not stupid? Well recovery is not for the faint of heart. It is for the strong. I had to learn how to live again and I did. I learned how to cope with life free of substance. I developed an unshakeable network of sober supports that helped me get through everything I encountered. I even gained confidence and self-esteem in that process. I was more than an addict and alcoholic. I was more than my disease. I was a dreamer, a friend, a daughter: I was worth it and this was just the beginning. I even became a sober support for others and passed on what I had learned and what had been given me by those who came before me.
In recovery, I met someone that introduced me to a whole new world, one I had never experiences or ever imagined. He showed me how to have fun, how to live more fully, enjoy more freely. I learned that I really loved the outdoors and being physically active. And I mean LOVED the outdoors. I started hiking, and bike riding and working out. Heck, I even went camping. For a girl like me, that is a very tall order. My life completely changed. I surrounded myself with people who felt the same way both about recovery and about physical activity. It was magic. Magic. Little did I know, we were laying the foundation of ROCovery Fitness, outside of getting sober, ROCovery is what I am most grateful for (and my “friend” of course – who just happened to ask me to marry him). Let me tell you about ROCovery Fitness….it is a nonprofit sober active community in Rochester, NY. A NONPROFIT SOBER ACTIVE COMMUNITY! THAT SEAN AND I STARTED?! What?! ROCovery is a peer led organization committed to recovery, wellness, and physical activity. We hold 3-5 outdoor events each week and it is just the beginning. We hike upwards of 40 clean and sober people strong. We ride bikes together. We kayak, workout, we camp together. We climb mountains. We leave no one behind. We are more than addicts and alcoholics. We are more than our disease. WE are the faces of recovery. Together, we raise awareness about the disease of addiction and the hope of recovery. We are shattering the stigma and building a community where clean and sober is the norm. Today, WE are an unstoppable force.
If I had only known then what I know now, I would not change a thing because today my story is my source of strength. Today, I am not ashamed. Today, I am the face of hope. This is what recovery looks like. Recovery looks like me. Join us and GET BUSY LIVING!