I don’t think my story is too different from the millions of us who long for, or actively engage in, recovery from substance use disorder. Like many, substances have been part of my family lineage, permeating the code and culture of both sides of my family for generations. In fact, I am one of only two living family members who’ve sought freedom from this “legacy.” Sadly, I am the only one currently in long-term recovery. My recovery date is June 29th, 2012.
My 25-year tenure with alcohol started with a black-out alcohol poisoning admission to the local ICU after the Friday Night Lights of small town Texas. I was only 14, and had a BAC of 0.29. Despite the near-death experience, my flirtation with these behaviors continued. As a young adult, I began to try some of the other things that people try when they’re already drunk. By age 21 I had tried almost everything, except heroin and MDMA, mostly because those things just weren’t available. I am sure I would have, given the opportunity.
The alcohol was never out of the picture, and my relationship evolved from a pastime into a love affair which took me away from my marriage, my children, my parents, and an almost completed doctoral program. I won’t delve into all the things I did. You don’t have to know me to know those things. You only have to know addiction, either first-hand or by virtue of loving someone with first-hand knowledge.
After my divorce and a spiral of alcohol-infused depression, I’d fall asleep (OK, pass out) wondering if my kids would be better off without me. The first time I had the thought, it scared me, because I was a clinician working in behavioral health. I knew it was a warning sign. I’d quit tomorrow. But each tomorrow would bring cravings wrapped in fear, passively suicidal thoughts, self-loathing, and shame.
One day, I had a vision of my oldest daughter (who was 9 at the time) following my path, barefoot and wobbly, over craggy, uneven stones, in a setting that was grey and foggy. I had the thought, which didn’t seem to be in my own inner voice, say, “Every drink I take is a brick I lay in the path for her to follow.” This thought scared me, so, on June 29, 2012, I went to a noon meeting and snapped up a “desire chip.” I kept it in my pocket and rubbed it when I felt scared, weak, or unsure.
My mother came to town the next day, as we’d previously scheduled a visit. I picked her up from the airport and handed her my chip, explaining what it meant.
I was so lucky to have my mom there over the next few days. She went to meetings with me and has been supportive of my recovery ever since. I was open with my daughters as well, and we’ve worked together to heal as a family. I firmly believe that my recovery is my children’s prevention. I don’t beat them over the head with abstinence, however. I urge them to think about their genetics and our family composition, and consider those factors as they mature.
Today, we advocate for and celebrate recovery. Today, I help spread the word that there are many pathways to recovery. I have a rewarding job in recovery support, and get to develop innovative projects like housing. I am married to a man in long-term recovery, who is incredible. I am free.
I mean, it is not all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it is hard, and painful to feel things and live in this reality. But I have discovered a few things. You cannot feel joy if you cannot feel at all. You cannot deal hope if you are hopeless. But if you can feel pain, then you can offer hope, because the joy of recovery bridges you through the process to reach another who’s also in pain.
This is the beauty of recovery. I’m ready to be someone’s bridge today. What a blessing. I am so grateful for everything the last five years has brought and taught.
For more than 60 years, LICADD has successfully delivered evidence-based programs designed to prevent and treat substance abuse and addiction. LICADD offers crisis intervention, screenings, brief interventions, referrals to treatment and several family and parent education workshops to help Long Islanders struggling with the effects of addiction. Through our Open Arms, EAP Program, LICADD has provided targeted solution-focused support to companies all along the East Coast, serving over 60,000 employees and their families.
LICADD is Long Island’s premier non-profit agency providing life-saving alcohol and drug prevention and intervention services to at-risk children, individuals, and families across the region. With offices in Mineola, Holbrook and Riverhead, LICADD conducts evidence-based prevention programs, community outreach initiatives, and a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents and public policy advocacy.
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CONTACT: Angela Brooks, LICADD