Monday, July 16, 2012

My story of 4 years of recovery

July 15, 2012

Four years ago today, I took my last drink.
By the grace of God and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am sober today.  I am happy.  I am useful.  I feel love for myself and others.  I have peace and serenity.  I have a spiritual connection with and reliance upon a Power greater than myself.  I have solutions.

My whole life has changed since the day I walked into the Hacienda Valdez in Desert Hot Springs, California for treatment on July 16, 2008.  I couldn’t do it anymore, the drugs, the drinking, the desperation, the misery.  I entered that facility completely broken and ready to change.  I had children that I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years who were being raised by their wonderful father (the husband that I abandoned in my addiction).  My children were growing up thinking (I imagine) that they weren’t worth their mom getting sober, that I loved drugs more than them.  When I looked back, I thought I did.  My actions said that.  But, in treatment and in Alcoholics Anonymous, I learned that I did not voluntarily choose those actions.  I was sick.  I had a physical illness and a mental obsession.  I had a deep soul sickness.  I could overcome these maladies if I was willing, honest and open-minded.  I needed to trust in a Power greater than myself to help me recover.  I was definitely ready to surrender.  It was time to let go of the past, look toward the future and do the work.  It was time to get well and let the healing begin.

Fast forward 4 years…

Sobriety – recovery – has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams.  Often, I marvel over how different it is today…  It’s the little things, like laying in my best friend’s pool yesterday, listening to the trees moving, feeling peaceful and grateful, not wanting or needing to be anywhere else or do anything except what I was doing.  You see, I was never able to “be present” or feel serene before I got sober.  My mind was always “over there,” plotting my next move, not satisfied for long in the moment, no matter how precious or perfect it seemed.  My life is different, too, because of the big things, like having relationships with my 2 beautiful children, having the opportunity and privilege of being their mom.  Because I am available for them, sober, and have allowed them go through what they have needed to go through during this process, those bonds have gotten better and stronger, one day at a time.  Patience, love, acceptance, gratitude, trust in God and the process; those are terms and ways of living I’ve learned in recovery.  Being a loving and caring friend, a good daughter, a trusted employee, a faithful girlfriend, an honest person, one who experiences true joy, who has priceless and meaningful relationships, who is willing and happy to serve others… those things I’ve become from living the Steps, living the program and listening to the experience, strength and hope of other members of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I have changed.  I believe that, today, I am the woman that God intended me to be.  AA’s “design for living” has taught me how to be that, has given me more miracles than I could ever convey here.

I love my life today.  I love myself today.  I get to be of service today.  I have people in my world that I cherish and who cherish me.  I have a job at St. Christopher’s that I adore, where I find purpose and satisfaction in performing needed tasks and carrying the messages of hope, treatment and recovery.  I am challenged to do things I have never done, while surrounded by incredible, supportive and dedicated people.  When times are good, I am grateful for them and know I am worthy of the gifts.  When problems arise or I’m feeling out of sorts, I have solutions, hope and faith that things will get better, if I stay connected to my Higher Power, do the next right thing and think of others besides myself.  (I don’t always do that, and I continue to feel pain.  But, at least I know WHAT the solution is and can choose to follow it!)  It’s not always easy, and I am far from being perfect, but it is so much better!  I have gone from having almost no life at all to a magical, miraculous existence in recovery.  For that and so much more, I am truly thankful and grateful. 
By the grace of God and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am sober today.  I think I’ll stick around!


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Monday, July 2, 2012

Heart and Home

A FEMA trailer (travel trailer) in front of a ...
A FEMA trailer (travel trailer) in front of a formerly flooded house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Say a prayer: “God, inspire my heart, mind, and fingers as I write these words so that I create something meaningful, purposeful, and helpful – or, at least something not selfishly self-centered, boring, or just plain wrong.”
Begin the story:  After Hurricane Katrina I fled to the Ozark Mountains.  I remember crying all the way there as I saw mile-long  military caravans on their way to help us try to put back together the shattered pieces of our homes, our people, and our ways of living.  Those mountains were as magical as I am sure Dorothy must have felt Oz was when she finally arrived.  I stayed through winter, but the call came and I returned to New Orleans.
I was on staff at the first substance abuse treatment facility that opened in the city.  Counselors lived in FEMA trailers in the parking lots and many had been eating MREs for quite some time.  Clients began to arrive and, although almost all of us were suffering from some form of PTSD, we began to treat them.  I provided therapy, I got therapy, we dealt with the trauma, and after a year, I moved on.
I arrived at St. Christopher’s homeless and with my car, some clothes, and the determination that nothing, not even that awful hurricane, would stop me.  I focused all my attention on the intensive outpatient program, entered the doctoral program, and began really rebuilding my life.  There are no words to express the gratitude I have for the support and help that came from the people at St. Chris.  After two years I left St. Chris for a year, and then returned at the first chance to “come home”.
End the story:  Recently I went back to the Ozarks, looking for the sweet thrill of magic that I’ve felt most times I have been there since Katrina.  It was not there this time.  Puzzled, I looked for it…and, finally, when I got still, I realized that I have lived the story of Dorothy in a very real way.  My heart is with me now, and I am in Baton Rouge with my family – my son, siblings, and many people I work with at St. Chris.  What does Dorothy say? Something like this; “if I ever think I have lost my heart I only need to look as far as my own back yard, because if I have to look farther, then I have not really lost it”.
Make meaning:  Someone once said this about St. Chris… “People make their way here”… and he was right.  Some make their way and stay a short while, while others stay for a very long time.  Regardless, it is a place of wholeness. There is a spirit of healing and “heart” here that permeates what we do.  It was what I was looking for all along.  You see, “getting” the science part of my work as a therapist was easier than I ever imagined; it was the heart and soul lessons that were a little trickier to navigate!  And, whether I stay a short while or for a very long time, I am a better human being, a better therapist, and a better supervisor because of my time here; and, St. Chris will always be part of my heart and home.
Close:  We at St. Chris believe that we must do our own work in order to truly be able to help another human being heal from the ravages of addiction.  It is a gift to be a part of this healing community.

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