Stories Of Successful Recovery

Excerpts from National Recovery Month.gov

Carol P's Story

My name is Carol P. and I am recovering today. I went through treatment on an outpatient basis in 1993. I relapsed in January of 1994 and knew right away that I would have to stay involved if I wanted to continue to remain free from substances.

I have ten years plus now of sobriety and have a greater quality of life than I have ever known. Since that time I have gone back to school and completed my high school diploma, my associates degree, and I am working on my bachelors degree. I have raised a successful and healthy son. I have receivedmy license for substance abuse counselor and have been working in that capacity for the past three years. I went back to work right after I got my high school diploma. I also participate in service work in my community and feel that it is important to support your community. Treatment and Recovery is real and it works....I am living proof. If I wouldn't have gotten treatment I am sure I wouldn't be alive today. Thanks for letting me share.
Price, Utah

Dan Griffin's Story

I heard someone once say: "I don't know if I was born an alcoholic but when I took my first drink, an alcoholic was born." That was my experience. This is certainly not the life I would have chosen if they were handing them out when I was young - but it is the life I have and it is far better than anything I imagined for myself when I was using.

I started off drinking at home when I was young. Alcohol was available. My father was an alcoholic. My grandfather, two uncles, many cousins, are just some of the other family members who have this illness. I had no idea what I was up against when I started drinking. I was a control drinker from the start. I saw what alcohol was doing to my father so I figured if I drank beer, everything would be okay. I did not know anything about the science. About genetics. Then I also discovered marijuana - and everyone knew that was harmless. So I drank, got high, and then began experimenting with other drugs.

I loved being drunk. It made me forget about me. It gave me things I never could imagine myself attaining sober. I could talk to girls. I could stand up for myself. I could look people in the eye. I was funny. It is the same ole story we hear all of the time.

My using took its toll on me early. The times that I drank hard liquor I blacked out. While driving one of our family's cars when I was 15 I ran into the other one in a blackout - friends had tried to stop me from driving. That same kind of chaos followed me through high school and college. Numerous detentions. Kicked out of class. Almost expelled - twice. Dropped out of sports. Gave up on life. College for me meant the freedom to drink even more, smoke even more pot, and try things I had not done before. The last thing on my mind was studying - I regret that to this day.

I am convinced that if I had kept using I would have moved to cocaine because it was all around me - whether it was crack or powder. But I did not go down that road. I had the good fortune of getting sober at the age of 21. Alcohol had stopped working. The marijuana was making me so paranoid that I thought people were trying to kill me and I ran home or to my car all of the time with my key out and ready for the shadows in the bushes to attack.

I had just graduated from college. I had been trying not to drink for eight months - doing all of the different experiments they talk about in recovery meetings: just drink three, don't drink for a month, don't drink and drive, throw away all of the pot paraphernalia, and throw myself into my studies. Like most addicts I was quite smart when I applied myself - I was on the dean's list one semester when I took 21 credits and then I made high honors when I took 23 the next semester. Just another way of me avoiding me.

So, on May 21, 1994 I got sober - I chose sobriety. I chose to surrender to the reality that with all of the effort I put into not ending up like my father I did. It did not make him bad or me bad - but I did not really get that at the time. We both were two sick people who needed to get well - not two bad people who needed to get good.

I have worked hard in my recovery. I have worked hard to become a healthy member of society and I have achieved that goal. Like many people, life continued to happen to me while I was sober. I learned how to go out without drinking, how to pay bills, how to have fun without drinking, how to let other people drink without them having to be alcoholics, how to focus on myself and not have to save the world. I worked, got fired, got hired, got fired, buried my father from chronic alcoholism, buried other family members, went to graduate school, began learning how to date, began exploring my spirituality, began taking responsibility for my life and the decision I was making, went to train as a CD counselor at a well known treatment center in Minnesota, fell in love (or lust), learned how to exercise again, how to eat healthy, broke up, broke up again, went through a domestic abuse program, broke up again, left the treatment center for another job, had that job offer rescinded, surrendered to the fact that I had other issues in my eighth year of sobriety and got on medication, took a job, another job, and another job. All of it was life happening and I stayed sober through it. Just as those who had come before told me I could do - I stayed sober and got through the pain.

Today I have 10 years of sobriety. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother. I have a good relationship with my sister. I am married. I truly fell in love this time and have been given the blessing of an incredible woman. She truly is who I imagined myself being with when I was first sober. I have a job that I love. I am doing things today that I never dreamt possible only three years ago. I have opportunities to do more things in the future that are even more incredible. I imagine nothing but a wonderful future for me and my family. And, again, it is all because I am sober.

I have broken a cycle that has killed many of my family. Like so many other diseases, this one has run throughout both sides of my family. Like people with so many other diseases, I am in recovery. I know what I need to do to take care of myself and I do it. Just like the diabetic who I was sitting next to in a meeting for work the other day - I, too, have the daily things that I need to do to take care of myself. It is what it is.

I am so thankful to be in recovery. I am so grateful for the life I have today. I hope more than anything that Recovery Month will only grow larger and that someday those of us who are in recovery from alcohol and other drugs will look back to the days when we needed a movement to have a voice and a face in order to be real to so many people who just don't know that Recovery from alcohol and other drugs is America's best kept secret.

Dan, 32, Minneapolis
10 years sobriety

Dick B.'s Story

I was a late bloomer to recovery. In the early years, I was a top student in high school, college, and law school. And I practiced law with great success in San Francisco and Marin County , California for many years. Then, the joy of a martini and sleeping pills overtook the joy of living. Alcohol became my solution for family issues, for depression, for loneliness, and for boredom. On April 21, 1986 , after a week's blackout, I surrendered. Marched into the rooms of A.A. Spent a month in treatment. Resigned from the State Bar. Went to the VA psych ward for two months. Spent 33 days in State prison. But all the while, I kept two objectives foremost, believing there was light at the end of the tunnel. I became deeply involved in Alcoholics Anonymous and much reliant on the help of my Creator. In the ensuing 18 years, I have found a new life of service, have traveled all over the United States on research and interviews, and have now published 23 titles, over 60 articles, and a website that tell the almost forgotten story of early A.A.'s Biblical roots and astonishing successes. I've never had a drink since my first decision to quit in 1986. Anyone can quit with determination, God's help, and a support fellowship like AA.
Kihei , Hawaii

Jane's Story

My story begins like many others-I never felt like I fit as a child. I felt less then that from the beginning. I felt like an alien in my family. My family was abusive-physically, emotionally and sexually. Because of the abuse, I never learned how to feel my feelings and of course, even if I had felt my feelings, there was no way to communicate them. I always felt like I was the problem-that someone, how I was flawed. I began drinking when I was sixteen and when I was eighteen, I left home. I just disappeared one night and ended up on the street partying with strangers. For two years, I was on and off the street and experienced many horrific events, sick relationships, and rape.

I met a man and married him-it seemed like the thing to do at the time. I had children, then picked up again, this time not only drinking, but pills. I ended up on the street again.

I have now been clean and sober for two years. I had been in and out of twelve step programs for about 4 years or so. In the beginning, I wasn't willing to change my whole lifestyle, make amends, or forgive myself or my family. I thought I could give up substance without giving up the "addict" lifestyle-"crash and burn", "dangerous relationship", "dishonesty and selfishness." I still held bitterness toward my family and myself. Sorting out the issues was very hard and I am still working through them. Forgiving myself and realizing I did the best I could at the time and that I was not a horrible person, but a sick one, was key to getting sober. Making amends is an ongoing process. I had to learn to be friends with women.

I have been in a relationship now for two years with a sober man and I have a great job helping others. Most days, I am extremely happy. I know the signs and symptoms of relapse. Everyday, I try to spend some quiet time and I can finally say that I have found some peace of mind. I pray that others who read this may be encouraged.
North Carolina

Jeff Ball's Story

What started out as a fun thing to do as a teenager eventually turned into the full blown disease of alcoholism and addiction. I won't bore you with "war stories" but suffice it to say it got bad, very bad. Alcohol, pot, and cocaine to begin with but later, any drug that would change the way I felt. In the end I was smoking methamphetamine. Several DUI's, wrecked cars, wrecked relationships and destroyed families were the wake I left in my path. I couldn't live with it but I couldn't live without it. In January of 2001 I finally hit my bottom and sought treatment. I had tried treatment before but this time I was there for all the right reasons. This time I was there for me. Now, three and a half years later not only am I still clean and sober but I lead the Celebrate Recovery ministry in my church. From a drunk and junkie to a Pastor. That's a pretty big stretch isn't it? Not really. Not when God decides he wants to use you for something. I've attended and still do attend several different groups twelve step meetings but the one constant in all of them was that they promote a deeper relationship with God. That's who'spower is keeping me clean and sober today. Left on my own, I'll drink again. And for me, to drink is to die, or wish I was dead. I don't say these things to brag on me. I say these things to brag on God. My God is Jesus Christ but whatever name you call your God, you'd better call Him something. I share this story so that everyone out there might have hope. God hasn't given up on you and neither have a lot of good people around you. You ARE important. You DO matter. You CAN overcome this. Reach out, ask for help and if you don't find it on the first try; reach out again. Once the change is made, you will never be the same. I know, I'm living proof. You are welcome to see more about our local program at our church website. www.tvcc.us Then click on Celebrate Recovery.
Puryear , Tennessee

John S's Story

My Sense Of Self Today

For the past twenty-five years I have explored self on a regular basis. A poor attempt to inventory myself. During those periods of examination, usually in the grasp of depression, intoxication or recovering from another binge, I always refrained from the feeling part of that morbid look into my inner places. It appears I was too busy trying to get out of a legal mess or manipulating someone who I had hurt; usually a family member or significant other who seemed to always be the recipient emotionally, verbally or in some cases, physically during those periods of self-degradation. At the same time, I was told, You need to get help and you need to do it for yourself. It is not only my self-examination I question, it was and is the ever-present ignorance of society and the never-ending hypocrisy and stigma of those who profess their understanding for a practicing addict that causes pause in my now sober thinking and feeling. Why cant normally intelligent people realize that by the time we are to the point of being told these things, there is little, if any self left and we are barely functioning as a person? To be so observant and ignorant at the same time would have caused Freud to change professions.

Despite this, we find some inner ego or remembrance of times gone by that gives us hope. It may be the thought of life lost, some remote feeling about who is buried deep inside or we are just tired of being tired. Somewhere a morsel of dignity surfaces at just the right time. My belief is that it may be more our spirit than dignity. That spirit that is in each of us that gives rise when it seems all else fails and we are sucked dry by life or some challenge we never thought we were capable of accomplishing. General William Tecumseh Sherman in Somewhere inside we find courage, often through fear. Those human elements that offer us hope and spirit that seem to be so elusive during most of our using lives surface from some mysterious place. It appears that having lost those essential parts of our being is another of the weapons addiction utilizes to bury our virtues in a heap with the rest of our qualities that are used to define us as good people.

It is with these thoughts and feelings I write this to those of us who are enduring the terror of using and are moving to a place that, while far more peaceful, is in some ways just as consuming, burdensome and complex with not only the stressors of life, but the daily reminders that we were once out of control. According to many, even some working with addicts, it is with certainty we will always be beyond trust. I understand that my drug of choice opened the gates for the monster in me. It is how I am perceived by some, coupled with my fears, feelings, anger and guilt, that at times encompasses and causes frustration in my recovery. Those who think the miracle for us is not a second away but is measured in light years is that part of society that at times weighs most heavily.

However, while my thinking and feeling becomes more sober, understandably the past still surfaces on occasion. One looks at self and is unable to comprehend ever having been that lost or that afraid of life. But strangely, as time passes, that place to be feared becomes safer to accept and I am more willing to look deeper into the why rather than the what without the fear of total humiliation. On some level, we want so badly to go back and fix the past and all of those we hurt, but it is not ours to choose. Those victims play a greater role in our recovery than we would ever have admitted when we were using. We can live with embarrassment and disappointment but remorse can be crippling. In the throws of my addiction, those people were only a means to an end and mattered little. They were there to be manipulated and abused whenever the moment presented itself. For me, and I assume others, facing what I was and having no control over making amends with them is very difficult, particularly those we still care for or those who deem us forever a menace to society and ourselves. The ghost of our addiction raises its head and constantly reminds us that we no longer can control those who were in our lives. It has taken me time and patience to realize while this is complex, it is a positive reflection of our moving forward. Realizing one cannot control others but only themselves is not an epiphany, but simply a caring for and acceptance of self and others. It is no longer a price to be paid, but a new conscience of ourselves. Life on life'sterms. To paraphrase a line from the movie Tombstone , There is no normal life, there is only life. It doesn'tmean we forget, only that we embrace the feelings and have the courage to face them and learn. Facing the consequences of our past takes courage and it is the sense of feeling that is paramount, not just what we are feeling but how we approach the fact that we are in a place that used to be reserved for an excuse to use. Any excuse would do. So it faces us, life on life'sterms. It is not a revelation or crucible but simply normal human feelings. Accept them for what they are and allow them.

On April 29, 2004 I, like millions of others before me, hit rock bottom. It was not my legal situation or my relationship with my significant other that hit me between the eyes. It was something far more personal, far deeper and far more complicated but somehow simultaneously simple. It was, in some fashion a satisfying death, a running to life rather than through or from it. More specifically a plan of the moral execution of what I had become. Having heard the term rock bottom hundreds of times during my drinking career, I often pictured a scene from an old movie with the drunk passed out in the alley, layered with filth, no job, an empty bottle pressed near his chest. I thought that person woke to a revelation of sorts, besieged with guilt and ran directly to the nearest priest or clergy to confess all of the hellful sins committed during their lifetime. Any picture would do, as long it wasn'tof me. For me it was recognition of self. Maybe I was just tired. I cant define what occurred, I could only relate to it in my own way. It was mine; I owned it and I knew. It was not a bolt of lightening or some vision. It was more subtle, a sense of courage and commitment inside myself. I just knew it was time and I was face to face with me. Facing life on life'sterms after all of those years. What an anomaly, to be happy with self!

I have spent most of my adult life thinking that if I worked hard enough, studied more or challenged my intellect further I could come to terms with my addiction, which unknowingly had become self. It turned in to a maze with no exit, denial in its purest form. It was far deeper than denial; it was who I had become. It was far more involved than that, encompassing my entire existence. I was feeling more than just a need! I realized it somehow (this is going to sound weird) had to do with why I was even placed on this Earth. Not just the alcohol, but also the life that I had been living. This was going to be my legacy? I realized there was several of me inside and outside. The feelings that were hidden, buried deep inside of my body and I was about to compete against myself; to go to those places that I never went because it was not only too difficult, but it may cause me to expose those secrets that would force me to literally fight for my life. For some unexplainable reason, I chose that path. I quit hiding myself. My imaginary friend had surfaced and it was I, waiting to be tested, to be attacked by a need to be sober. I didn'tdecide to work on my sobriety, I committed to it. I allowed it to happen and while I didn'thave any idea what was going to take place, I was going to go through whatever it took to find out. I was, in some strange way, willing to face hell and whatever that meant. I had fallen but I could get up.

My first challenge was to not drink. While I have great respect for the nectar of the gods, I was one of the lucky ones. I wasn'tphysically addicted to alcohol; therefore I didn'thave to go through the agony of detoxification. I have witnessed that and while it reeks of death, it is a cleansing that few people can survive without help. It seems to endure detox as not only a beginning but also an end. It is a tiny, but necessary step to free ones self from using for the moment. Just the agony of the experience would be enough to entice a weaker spirit to give up and use again. Somehow those people reach inside of themselves to a place we think doesn'texist for us and find the will to stay with the pain and survive. Their own private battlefield where, when the war is over, there are no cheering crowds, only the self fulfilling sense of surviving a tiny step toward living. Not the same kind of sense of courage that one must have felt in a traditional battle; those end at some point, at least from a physical standpoint. It is the emotional and mental moment that you win.

Taking your own life back is only the first leg of a lifelong journey that will not only be agonizing but rewarding and overpowering. It is reminiscent of a fire. Just when the smoke has cleared and you drop your tools, the flames engulf you so quickly that you find yourself back in the middle of a blaze that takes your existence back in a matter of minutes and you find yourself using again. That is not the fire, but the dropping of your tools that has re-ignited the addiction. To forget where we came from and the struggle is a step toward relapse. There is no secret therapy or magic pill that will keep us from stumbling but if we never give up and keep our faith alive, we can persevere. It is a slow process this sobriety business, but each day I find more seeds of hope, pride, dignity, honor, courage and faith scattered throughout my life. I need to constantly tend them as a parent cares for a child with understanding and discipline. Being perfect is not the answer. Seeking it, knowing it may never happen and accepting that helps me in recovery. I have realized we are not as fragile as we think. We can endure the pain and survive.

For me, the challenges of daily life are difficult, as they are for most people, addict or not. While there are many thoughts and feelings that surface from time to time, I am amazed with my ability to recognize and process them in a different way. Often I think of the past and how horrifying my behaviors were and how many times I was out of control. With that thought comes yet more feelings and reflection regarding the bad times. Not once, that I remember, did I ever have problems in my life that were not related somehow to my alcohol use. As I look to those times and try to discover some thought process to make them less agonizing, I try to rationalize them as explainable, often to no avail. The truth of the matter is, there is one common thread; my use of alcohol and the subsequent behaviors. Thankfully, at times humility overtakes me and in the big picture, its presence often blesses me with acceptance. I do not and will not accept my past in the traditional way, but will respect it as part of my recovery and know that it is and was my illness.

To this point the experience, even though new in terms of time, has been beyond anything I could have imagined. I certainly am in debt to my family and friends who, as written, stuck with me. I would never have reached this point without the help of the caring people at Cedar Ridge in Linn Creek , Missouri . Their experience and approach to recovery gave me the tools needed to confront this terrible illness. Without their guidance and care, many of us would not have been on this journey. While I learned so much about recovery, I learned more of myself. For me that is one of the major steps in any endeavor, regardless of the addiction. They trusted me and I learned to trust them. That for me caused a refreshing re-birth and I absorbed that trust not only for them but also in myself. I learned that everybody does this recovery thing in a different way and must work their own program their own way. The interesting thing about it all is that it constantly changes, which gives it a kind of morbid comical twist if you keep an open mind. Life is often difficult but good.

I have made a commitment today. I will not drink. Tomorrow is what it is; a new beginning. Yet another opportunity to continue my journey. To accept life on life'sterms and to thank my higher power for what I have found and the strength that I will never lose it is what gives me hope and faith. I will continue my journey and praise those who have gone, in part, with me. To those who truly know what love is and have their own form of faith, I will forever be indebted. I will honor those who traveled this road before me and always reach out to those who follow along this path. Thankfully this is a communal effort and using others to remain sober is not only acceptable but also encouraged. I have learned that to give up on others is to give up on self. I have also learned that this life of being sober is very simple and complicated at the same time. While I am older, it is the joy I remember in my youth when I face each day and live life on life'sterms.

Courage is a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger and a mental willingness to endure it. ~General William Tecumseh Sherman

Lachele Young's Story

I was eight years old when I was first exposed to drugs. My mother and her boyfriend were selling Pot out of the apartment and the police came and busted the house. My mother went to jail because the apartment was in her name. She got out in two days because the police busted the apartment without a search warrant. My siblings and I were questioned by the police as to whether or not we have ever noticed green stuff or white powder in the house. We were small children and didn't have a clue; our mom never exposed us to that. We knew she smoke something that smelled different than cigarettes, but we didn't know about anything else. Word got out that we were busted, and the bigger kids teased us. I couldn't wait to move. When I was 11 years old my father tried to have sex with me. He died 10 months later from an overdose of heroin. After we moved, I had a friend that knew my mother smoked. I was around 12 at the time, and she asked me where my mother keep the stuff so I showed her. She taught me how to roll a joint and we smoked it. I was so high and everything was so funny. When mom came home she knew someone got into her stash, because we mixed the seeds in with the pot. She confronted me about it, I told her yes, and she said it was ok for me to smoke Pot, but only in our house.

Everyone in the neighborhood thought Mom was so cool. This went on for while. I started to steal. I was rolling 11 joints a day when I went to jr high school. I was so popular and everyone wanted to be my friend. I earned the name Pothead when I got to high school because it was a well-known fact that I would turn people onto Pot for free, and they did not have to spend any money to get high. When I graduated from high school my mother asked me, What do you want for a present, a car or a party? You know which one I choose theparty, and people are still talking about that party when I run into them this very day, twenty-three years later.

I met my 17-year old daughters father, who is Jamaican, and he gave me all the cocaine I wanted for free. Little did I know that it would lead me to a life of hell and destruction. I started off by snorting. Then I made drug trips for him, flying to Tampa Florida , carrying kilos of coke.

The police stopped me to check my bags. I went on a Friday, returning on a Sunday, and the police wanted to know why was my trip was so short. They didn't find it in my bags; I had it strapped to me. I only weighed about 99lbs. The cocaine was so strong and pure it burned the side of my thighs. When I made it threw security, I told him I was going to flush the coke down the toilet on the plane, and he told me he would kill me if I did that. I was so nervous. I thought the security would bust me at National airport in Washington DC on my return, but they didn't. After that episode, I did another trip, but on the Greyhound bus, carrying drugs strapped to me. It was too much stress. I had paranoid thoughts that everyone who boarded the bus were policemen, so I stop making these drug runs. Then my mother started doing the trips for him. He paid her $2500.00 but make the money back from her since she was buying it from him and smoking it. I didn't know about smoking cocaine just yet. Then when I did learn about this, I tried smoking it. My mother and I were high every single day. My boyfriend wanted me to stop, because I had a habit then that cost about $300 to $500 a day.

How could I stop, I did not know. He ended up leaving me for my very best friend causing me to prostitute myself for the drugs. My two children were born addicted to cocaine. My daughter had to stay in the hospital because she had the shakes so bad. The social worker wanted to take my son away from me. I had to sign papers stating I would make sure he got special care for the withdrawal for an infant.

I said to myself I was going to stop then, but I didn't. I continued to use for another two years. I hit rock bottom with a heart attack at the age 29. I had smoked crack all day with out anything to eat or drink. I was getting high with my sister, and I told her to take me to the hospital. She told me I was tripping, and I told her no, something is wrong with me. If I didn't make it to the hospital on time, then I would have died from cocaine intoxication. The hospital told me they were going to release me, and I told them if they did I would jump in front of the first subway train that came by at the station, so they put me on the psych ward. I didn't care I needed help, and I knew if I went back home, then I would use again and die leaving my three children at that time.

I went to meetings, got a sponsor, and went to a recovery house called Safe Haven. THANK YOU LORD for those women. They taught me how to live. I was the first to graduate without being kicked out for using.

My 40th birthday party was last February, and I had a big crowd because people thought it was going to be like 23 years ago. Little do they know that I am clean now 10 1/2 years.

I am a counselor now, and I work with people who have disabilities. I am so grateful that I am able to help someone, just as someone helped me, unconditionally. For those who are reading this story, if you are using, stop now. There is an easier and softer way of living without using anything to change your mood. And if you are not using and know of someone who is, please share my story with them. I will be 11 years clean in January 2005. For all the grace of God, keep clean it will work if you work it. Love Lachele

Lachele Young, Maryland 40 years old

Theresa M's Story

Hi, my name is Theresa and I am Clean and Free today as a gift from Narcotics Anonymous.I don'thave time or space to tell you how I got to the bottom but I got there. The bottom for me was several raids by the narcotics strike force, losing custody of my beautiful daughter, racking up charges in 2 counties. Little did I know my excuse this time would save my life.

I said, I am an addict and some wonderful people presented me with the opportunity to go to treatment. My journey began with detox in the county jail. After 8 months of treatment and incarceration I gained the ability to try to live again. While in jail I graduated from high school.In fact my high schoolgraduation and my daughters kindergarten graduation were the same week.

In treatment I got a sponsor, I began to call her everyday. I work steps, I go to meetings, I am of service to others in recovery as well as in society. I say this all in present tense because what worked for me 6.5 years ago is still working today. As a result of this perfect formula working for this less than perfect addict I went to the University and obtained my bachelors in Social Work and am looking forward to graduate school. I currently work in a job that I love where I have the opportunity to give back to the same city and county that I created havoc in.

Through the spiritual principles of a program of recovery I have learned to like myself. To accent my qualities and pray that HP removes my liabilities daily.I treat otherswith unconditional love and respect for who they are and exactly where they are at. I learned to be a loving parent to my teenage daughter and as a result she actually likes me and enjoys being with me. I recently married the love of my life and shortly after our return form our honeymoon we learned that HP had blessed us with a child. 4 months ago our son was born and today I am learning more about the principles of patience and tolerance. Not how to be, but realizing I have had these qualities all along.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to be heard. My gratitude speaks when I care and I share with others

Love to all my recovery brothers and sisters.
Theresa M.
Ogden, Utah