My Story ...
.... as presented to The Next Step Service at Ginghamsburg Church on June 28, 2014
Hello, my name is Lori and I am a person in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that I have not used any alcohol or drugs for over eight years. And because of that, my life is a whole lot better. I can’t wait to tell you how it is better, but first let me go back to the beginning.
I figure I had my first drunk when I was around 15 or 16. And I got drunk. A bunch of us girls had concocted a plan to get a ride to the zoo, bring in the little travel bottles filled with all kinds of alcohol, and have a day at the zoo, drinking and having fun. Somehow the ride didn’t pan out, so there was no zoo, no event. I found myself at home with a bunch of alcohol and nowhere to go with it. I remember opening my bedroom window, putting on some music, and drinking all those little bottles. And I got drunk.
Years later, here in Dayton, when I was getting help through the Turning Point program, the one thing I remember them saying was that a good indicator of whether you are a good candidate for alcoholism, was that you got drunk the first time you drank. I figure I met those criteria.
My childhood was marked by two major events that I think would have had some kind of big impact on a kid. First, we moved in fourth grade and that meant a new school. A little Lutheran school, two grades to a classroom. As if that wasn’t enough, I became the only girl in my grade, which became a daily struggle of fending off rude comments and giving the boys cooties. That ended in 6th grade when 3 other girls started school there as well, but by then I was used to it and didn’t want anyone in my territory, worried that I would lose the attention I was getting.
The second event was my dad’s death due to a heart attack the summer before I was to start high school. I was only 13. Not something that an adolescent, let alone my mother, now a widow, left with four kids, could understand.
The winter of my freshman year, I smoked pot for the first time on a skiing vacation away from home. When school started up again, I eventually replaced all my straight-laced friends with the cool ones. By the end of high school I was smoking pot, cigarettes, drinking all kinds of hard liquor like mad dog 20/20, snorting angel dust, doing Quaaludes, speed and anything else my older brother told me to try. I even tried shooting up one time; they missed my vein, and I was relieved as much as I was terrified.
I hid it well, and did ok in high school. I went to SIU for college and stopped using angel dust abruptly, but got busy with school and college partying. I graduated with a near perfect GPA in 1982 as a graphic artist. So far so good, I thought.
Somewhere around 1990 I knew I had some kind of control problem with drugs and alcohol. I had quit the coke habit, but that left me drinking the same amount of alcohol, as when I was when I was snorting coke. Without the coke to pick me up, when I drank, I almost always got drunk.
This is the point where I called Alcoholics Anonymous and decided I should see what this was about. I went to my first meeting, and when they found out it my first time, I felt like the vultures of a cult had descended upon me. They told me of how I needed to go to meetings, meetings and meetings and change my WHOLE life. I didn’t have time to do all that, not to mention I thought they were all nuts and part of cult with all their God stuff. I ran fast and far.
I did stop drinking by 1992 when my son was born, and for the next several years I experienced motherhood and the family life. It wasn’t until I got divorced from my second husband, a recovering alcoholic himself, and moved to Ohio from Chicago, that I thought, “I can drink now.” By acting on that thought, I triggered an escalating drinking pattern that caused me to take a look at what I was doing.
The continued drinking, combined with regular cocaine use, had started to create the problems that we all know so well. Missed days at work, a DUI, suspect and judgment from the neighbors, cleaning up my social messes and disorderly conduct to name a few.
It was Good Friday, Easter weekend 2006. The drinking started right after work on Friday and after a weekend of excessive drinking and drugging, my boyfriend and I were wondering what to do, how to stop… we needed to do something. We had been up all weekend, but I suggested we go to church. We got more coke instead and, of coarse, I called off on Monday, and together we decided to get help.
For me, my bottom was about FEAR. The fear of not being able to be there for my kids if they got hurt; being too drunk to go to the hospital. Fear that I would get charged with negligence. Fear that I would hurt or kill someone driving drunk. The fear that I could arrested going and copping coke on the west side. I was thinking, “What mother does things like that?”. Fear and more fear.
I was full of fear, I knew I had a problem and needed help, but I wasn’t sure if I was in the alcoholic category. I had tried all kinds of ways to stop on my own. Some had worked for a while, but it was a struggle and never stuck.
I went to Turning Point outpatient. They wanted me to go to AA meetings and gave me a book. I told my counselor that I didn’t really like AA because they always went over the same stuff, read the same stuff, over and over. It was boring. I “graduated” and continued to go to meetings.
I went to this one meeting a few times and I really liked what this one woman was saying. After about 3 or 4 times of going there, I decided to ask her to be my sponsor. I really didn’t even want one, but everyone tells you to get one, so I figured I would ask her. I had to practically run after her in the parking lot, and I said to her. “I was gonna ask you to be my sponsor, but I am afraid of what you are gonna make me do.” She said, “Read to page 58 and give me a call.”
And from there, the real growth started. I did as she said. I learned that I did in fact have a problem. That it was a two-part problem. A mental obsession and a physical allergy; I underlined, I wrote in the margins, wow, this was explaining everything and I could relate! They called it powerlessness. A lack of power. I kept reading and discovered that there was a solution. That solution was power, also two parts. The Fellowship and the Vital Spiritual Experience.
I learned that the fellowship is the testimony that the program works, but the Vital Spiritual Experience only comes from working all the steps in order. Twelve simple, but not easy steps. I did steps one to nine, one after another, not wasting any time. Now it was time to practice what I had learned.
I was taught how to rely on a Power greater than myself , to give up running my own show. I practiced tapping into this new-found power. When I was fearful, like making a hard phone call to my mom, I would ask this power to take away my fear, to make the words come from my mouth, that You know what I need to say, and to do it for me. And when one second of peace would come over me, I would press “dial”. And He would take over. He would speak for me. I found that this worked! And once it worked, I kept trying it. Then when some bigger situations came my way, I tried it on that too. And it worked. And so I came to rely on this Power greater than myself. And once I used it solve bigger problems, instead of drinking, I knew that I never had to drink again, because I had gotten through tough times tapping into that Power.
I went to that meeting for three years straight. I learned so much. I sponsored other women, and this completed the whole process, coming full circle.
Fast forward to about summer 2012. I found out my daughter was shooting heroin. Even with all my knowledge about alcoholism and recovery, this was the devil’s roller coaster ride that I hard a time navigating. I got to thinking that if this horror has taken me for such a ride, imagine what it is doing to those who do not know about us. I made a decision to start a support group for families of addicts. The name, FOA, the logo, the tag lines, all of it, just came to me, really easy. God at work. I started a Facebook page and designed a website, neither of which I had ever done. I started putting our story out publically. I did this, because I read over and over about parents that had lost their child to heroin addiction, and that their message was, “Tell them you love them, and parents, say something,” So I started to say something.
I had seen a quote that said, If you Want to Change, You Have to Willing to Be Uncomfortable. I believe this to be true. But I know that when I rely on God and tap into His power, I can be ok with uncomfortable. Trusting and relying on what His will is for me. And with this trust, I have been able to create FOA and become an advocate for change publically on how the people of Dayton perceive the addict and addiction. I think the biggest reason I can do this, is that I know my past is my greatest asset. Stigma and shame are not a part of who I am today, because of the AA way of life.
God is using my past as my greatest asset, and where I need help, I call on Him and He is there. I do the same thing now as I did in early sobriety. Asking Him to remove my fear, and to do it for me. And this works still, every time.
This trust and reliance has enabled me speak about heroin addiction in the same way Marty Mann spoke about alcohol years ago. To be a public voice to promote change.
I am doing things that without my sobriety, I could never do. FOA is hosting the Anonymous People movie on July 15th at the Neon. The goal of the movie is change the public conversation from addiction to the solution. 23 million Americans have the solution, but the stories that the public hears are not of success, but those of failure and tragedy. The movie is a huge motivator for people like me and you, people in long-term recovery, to step up publically where we can, to form a recovery community. A community that helps the suffering cope and get help, so that they stand half a chance while waiting for treatment, or just coming out of treatment. A community that offers all kinds of paths of recovery, so that one can find the person that has what they want, and gravitate toward it, without it seeming like looking for a needle in a haystack. Recovery is a way of life so why would we not want to create a successful environment for recovery. The Anonymous People is an awesome documentary that shows how this works and what the benefits are.
And to prove how great God is, after a chance meeting with a couple of guys marketing their rehab in Florida to people in Ohio, they gave my daughter a very generous scholarship to their facility and continued care in sober living opportunities after. They are going to help sponsor the First Annual FOA Rally 4 Recovery on September21st. Everything happens for a reason.
Trust in God and in the plan He has for you. Everything happens for a reason.