I have my own story too...
My story as presented to Ginghamsburg Church Next Step Service
Saturday, January 2nd, 2016
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 alcohol or drugs for over nine years. And because of that, my life is a whole lot better. Most of you probably know me as being the founder of FOA Families of Addicts and don’t realize that I have my own recovery story, so I’m gonna go back 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 this – that a good indicator of whether you are a candidate for alcoholism, is 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 a big impact on a child. 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 began 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 – at 45, my dad died of a heart attack the summer before I was to start high school. I was only 13at the time and the grief was something my family never quite processed. My mother, now a widow, was left to raise the four of us kids on her own.
The winter of my freshman year, I smoked pot for the first time on a family 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, angel dust, Quaaludes, speed and anything else my older brother told me to try. I even tried the needle one time; 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 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 a control problem with drugs and alcohol. I had quit my cocaine habit, but found that I was drinking the same amount of alcohol that I was when using cocaine, so I almost always got drunk.
This is the point where I called Alcoholics Anonymous and decided I should see what it 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 a cult with all their God stuff. I ran fast and far.
I did stop drinking with the help of AA 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 another look at what I was doing.
The continued drinking, combined with regular cocaine use, had again started to create the problems that I knew so well. Missed days at work, a DUI, suspect and judgment from the neighbors, cleaning up my social messes and disorderly conduct were just 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 drug use, 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 did more drinking and drugs instead, and of coarse, I called off work again on Monday. That day we decided to get help together.
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 would get arrested getting drugs the west side. I was thinking, “What mother does things like this?”. 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 a “real” alcoholic. I had tried all kinds of ways to stop on my own. The “easier, softer way”. Some had worked for a while, but nothing permanent.
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 AA 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 didn’t even want a sponsor, 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’re 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 and I learned that I did in fact have a problem. I learned that it was 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, a fancy way of saying – a personality change sufficient for recovery.
I learned that the fellowship is the testimony that the program works, and 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, which I call God, so I could 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 God to take away my fear – to make the words come from my mouth, because He knew what needed to be said … and to do it for me. And when one second of peace would come over me, I would press “dial”. And God would take over and 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 those too. And it worked over and over again and I came to rely on this Power greater than myself. I realized that the 9th and 10th step promises in the Big Book were coming true!
The Book says, “We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.” And that was the miracle for me!
I went to that meeting for three years straight and I learned so much. I sponsored other women, and this completed the whole process, coming full circle, living life in steps 10, 11 and 12.
My recovery was on track, and life was good. Fast forward to the summer 2012 when I found out my daughter was using heroin. Even with all my knowledge about alcoholism and recovery, this was the devil’s roller coaster ride that I had a hard time navigating. I got to thinking that if this horror has taken me for such a ride, imagine what it’s doing to those who don’t know about addiction and recovery. 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. It had to be God at work. I started a Facebook page and designed a website, neither of which I had ever done before. To date, the FOA Facebook page has over 4,500 likes so far! I started putting our story out publically because I had read over and over about parents that had lost their child to heroin addiction and their message was the same, “Tell them you love them, and parents, say something,” So I started saying something.
I had seen a quote that said, If you Want to Change, You Have to Willing to Be Uncomfortable. I think this to so true. I know that when I rely on the God of my understanding, I can be ok with uncomfortable by trusting and relying on what His will is for me. And with this faith, 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 am able do this because of the AA way of life. I know that my past is my greatest asset – stigma and shame are not a part of who I am today.
The has been a journey for sure, and when I need help, I call on God and He is there. I do the same thing now as I did in early sobriety by asking Him to remove my fear, and to take over. This still works every time. I am doing things that without my sobriety, I could never … or would never, do.
We just had our last FOA meeting of the year on Wednesday. 54 people showed up for it and it amazed me that the day before New Year’s Eve so many came out for it. We were taking our last “Faces & Voices” picture of the year and everyone was excited about it. FOA has helped so many people in the two years since I started the group. We help everyone – the whole family. It is amazing that our total attendance for the Dayton meeting alone has been over 2,000 people this past year. So many people comment or message, thanking me for all that I do and that FOA has done for them. It is an honor, but God gets the glory, not me.
I will pray and tell God that I’m tired, and He’ll say, “No you aren’t!” My life has been consumed by FOA with no paycheck, and I’ll ask Him, “Is this the right thing to be doing?” And He’ll say, “Keep going”. I pray, I listen, and the answers come. Page 164 of the Big Book says, “God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.”
This is the great fact for me, and it can be for you too. Trust in God and in the plan He has for you.