Hello everyone! I’ve been given the honor and privilege of sharing some of my personal journey in recovery. Anytime I do, I usually preface it by disclosing that, what lead me to recovery was not substances. Part of the reason that I choose to work in recovery is to remove the stigma that only people and family members of people with SUDs, need, or should, have access to recovery.
The fact is that growing up, the term “Addiction”, and what I had associated with it, was a concept that filled me with a fear so intense that I had an extreme aversion to illicit, illegal, or recreational substance use. I left parties because of it. I ended friendships with no explanation over it. If there was a poster boy for the, then, drug awareness school program “Scared Straight” I was it. “Just say ‘No”, that was me.
If I was told back then that one of the demographics that I would so closely identify with, and have empathy for, would be with people battling SUD, I would have bet my last dollar that wouldn’t happen because I didn’t use drugs, and the world of someone who does is so far out of my wheelhouse that the very idea of any commonality would have been preposterous.
The question then becomes, if I had it all figured out, how did I end up here, right? Unfortunately fear is, again, my answer. My life was ruled by the level of fear involved at any particular moment. More specifically, the level of fear that my abuser would instill upon me from about as young as I can remember until I was about 14 years of age. To be even MORE clear: after the age of 14, physical fear wasn’t a primary concern for me. The mental, verbal, emotional and spiritual abuse was still a constant threat, and just like the physical abuse, it was summoned sometimes for no reason and with no warning. My entire childhood, and most of my adult life, was lived on “High alert”.
It would do no justice to my story if I didn’t mention the absolute nightmare I had become in socializing with children my age. To put it succinctly, I was either being bullied, or I was bullying someone else. The victims of my rage were those closest to me: my family, and anyone fool hardy enough to either be my friend or be forced to spend time with me. My emotional range was angry or not angry.
The unfortunate circumstances of my upbringing did not help create a well-adjusted young adult. I couldn’t put a name to what I was experiencing until after I was mugged in my early 20’s. That’s the first time I was treated for my anxiety disorder and panic attacks. I was absolutely terrified of whatever “this” was. In hindsight, and to the casual observer, it’s very easy to connect the dots between childhood traumas, abuse, anger and rage to the insecure, and psychological plagues I was experiencing. I had assumed my lot in life was to carry this burden as best I could.
At about 42 years of age someone in my life asked me if I was codependent. They mentioned that they had gone to a 12 step meeting for Codependency. I had no idea what the word even meant, but I googled it the second I got home. I immediately recognized that this term was applicable to me, but I needed a deeper understanding of it. Two days later I was in my first Codependents Anonymous group. These people “got me”. They understood my insecurities. More importantly, I finally felt heard.
From that moment on, I was all about recovery. I went to any and all meetings I could find. 12 step fellowships, spiritual groups, meditations, workshops, one on one coaching and sober social activities being just among the few pathways I explored. I absorbed anything about recovery like a sponge.
Two things changed for me when I discovered recovery. The first one was that I found a never before discovered empathy for all people in pain. The self-discovery of how much pain I was in and carrying with me in my daily life made it blindingly obvious how much pain my brothers and sisters in recovery were going through using substances. The second phenomenon was that people were coming to me, of all people, for support in their recovery!
The salvation I found from recovery demanded that I if I was going to help others in anyway, that I do my absolute best to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible, to be the best peer possible. My desire for recovery is just as strong today as ever. Since my Google search, I have completed 12 steps, I have attended trauma workshops, I have gleaned invaluable insight from the entire spectrum of SUD recovery, I’ve volunteered my time, I’ve facilitated meetings, I took peer coaching classes and now have my CRPA-(P). I am lucky enough to have a fulltime job that keeps me enmeshed in the fabric of what I’ve needed for such a long time. The label that I was sure I couldn’t be associated with is now what defines me. I am so grateful. I am extremely fortunate. I am in recovery.
-THRIVE Staff Member