Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 7

Although Cherie’s story is phenomenal from beginning to end, this part is, by far, my favorite part! This occurred many, many years ago, but I have also become very good friends with Angie, whom you will soon read about. Long before we met, this part of Cherie’s story created within me a very deep respect for this woman named Angie. As I continue to publish this story, you will see that this one selfless, reaching-out act of kindness and trust became the first step in many life-changing and life saving occurrences in both of these women’s lives. Let the following be the foundation of some truly inspiring experiences that have given me a whole new perspective on life.

The still anonymous young woman looked at me with compassion as I entered the room and sat down. Although she said nothing, I was bolstered by the caring concern in her glance. I told Bob after the meeting to set another place at the table. “That is if it’s still an open invitation for me to join you and the gang today. I could sure use some good company.” He smiled and winked.

Then, in turning to the woman of mystery, who was watching me from a distance, Bob said, “Angie you are expected at my place. No excuses.”

Neither of us spoke for what seemed like an eternity. We sat near each other and toyed with the food on our plates. But, despite the tension you could cut with a knife, something else was passing silently between us. She stood and readied to leave. I felt my heart sink. “I’m going for a ride. You want to come,” I barely heard her mumble.

“Oh yes, please, that would be wonderful,” I quickly replied trying to pull my broken body out of the chair.

“Wait here, I’ll get the truck and then, help you.” She had no idea how this simple extension of her hand in friendship had already helped.

A word here, a phrase there and finally, the deafening quiet was broken. Soon, we were ending each other’s sentences. We listened to music and drove around New Orleans for four, five, six hours. I was attracted to the long-haired hippie chick, but it went beyond that. She had an understated intellect and superficiality was totally alien in her persona. I felt in communion with her and sensed the feeling was mutual. Another couple of hours and many miles passed. Neither one of us wanted this interlude to end, but we knew with the approach of dawn it had to. She drove me back to my car and insisted on following me home to be sure I got there safely. I watched her leave and was overwhelmed with loneliness. I turned and slowly started to walk to my apartment with heavy heart not knowing when or if I’d ever see her again.

Angie and Cherie
(Sorry this picture isn’t bigger, but is the only size I have.)

I heard the sound of the Ford 150’s chugging engine getting louder and louder. A truck door slammed and before I could utter any exclamation of surprise Angie was back at my side, taking my elbow and giving me support. I was enveloped with gratitude and a true sense of hope for the future. If someone this honest and good and wise could take a risk on me, maybe she saw a glimmer of light I had never seen. Maybe I, indeed, wasn’t worthless and deserved saving, as I never quite believed. Angie never left my side or withdrew her loving support and so, began our ten years of life as a couple. And so began the true growth and recovery promised in the Programs.

In this the last installment of my story I will address how my life has dramatically changed in the past 30 years. Angie and I, first and foremost, made a promise to each other to be honest and open in our relationship. We continued to attend meetings jointly and individually at least three times a day, as was my practice for the prior years in the 12 Step groups. Our social life was mainly centered around sober and drug free events and get-togethers, although we also visited both of our families on occasions.

A legal battle manifested in regards to Beverly’s assault on me and I learned firsthand in dealing with this fiasco how vital it is to always place “Principles Before Personalities” and why “Anonymity” is so crucial in most individual’s recovery. I guess it came down to human nature and curiosity that made fellow members start snooping into the case and our private business. Needless to say, sides were taken.

I had decided to stay mum on the subject with my peers and did just that. I also made it a point to go to different meetings than Beverly since I was acquainted with all sorts of groups around town and she only felt comfortable in a select few (gay). Choosing this, rather than possibly invoking a confrontation where it had no place whatsoever, would cost me dearly. In my absence at those regularly attended meetings it was assumed I was running away out of pure cowardice or worse-guilty as accused. Stories began to circulate around the rooms and the French Quarter community. Half truths bloomed quickly into full-blown lies. I was shunned if I happened to see someone I knew or attacked verbally. On more than one occasion I was even threatened with physical violence by those in Beverly’s camp.

I’d go to a new group only to come out to find my tires slashed and vile notes taped to the windshield of my car. Phone calls were endless warning me not to attend this or that group or there would be retaliation. I’d arrive to speak at a meeting and with the snap of fingers the entire room would clear. It was mean, ugly, and almost cost me my sobriety. But, I knew that A.A. and N.A. was not a select group of people but the fellowship as a whole and I would not stop until I found a place I could safely go, share not vent, and be welcome.

Before it was all over lawyers stepped in and those harassing me the most were told that it cost no more to add their names to a law suit. I ended up winning the counter-suit against Beverly, but lost many so-called friends in the process and never ever felt comfortable within the rooms where I initially got sober. I was totally vindicated and Beverly’s ludicrous and blatantly false accusations against me were retracted. But it is very doubtful that to this day any of the individuals who saw fit to go after me have read the truth because I’ve yet to receive apologies.

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 6

Finally, I am going to post part 6. Part 7 will follow immediately after. At this point there is no need for an introduction. If you have been reading this amazing story from the beginning, you are ready to pick up where you left off. If you have not, please find links to the first five parts at the bottom of this post. I have been away for a couple of weeks and have a lot of catching up to do, but the update will be posted, of course, in a Just Me posting.

Ok, now on to Cherie and the next portion of her story:

Perhaps, I became too confident or lax in practicing the teaching of my Programs, but when I was three years sober, I really put all I had worked for in jeopardy. It should come as no surprise a woman was involved, and insult to injury, someone in N.A. and A.A.

The dark-haired, sexy, little Italian woman instantly caught my attention. She was not a familiar face around the tables, but she sure talked the talk and seemed to be pretty centered. I must have reached her also with what I shared because we made a b-line to each other as soon as the meeting ended. Within fifteen minutes we were laughing and talking over coffee and before the waitress came by with a refill we were in bed at her place. And what a place it was-pool, Jacuzzi, tennis court.

Holy Shit, I always attract the wealthy ones and this one was a psychologist. Jackpot! When she informed me she was just three months clean (I later learned she was using the entire time we were together) I faced a terrible dilemma. It wasn’t like I hadn’t 13th-Stepped in the past, but my affairs were always with women with over a year at least. This was a baby not even six months around the rooms. I gave in to my passions and let myself believe I could handle both my and her recovery. It wouldn’t take me long to learn my selfish decision would have dire consequences.

Our honeymoon existence was short-lived. Pointing to her credentials on the wall, gave Bev the authority, in her mind, to criticize my time in the Programs and quality of recovery. She was a Primal Therapist and decided the 12th-Step groups fell by the wayside in truly addressing all the maladies that plagued Cherie. She would sensory deprive me and then proceed with reparenting. As if my first parents from Hell weren’t enough, now I had her and the padded room to contend with where she did her thing.

The E.R. staff and the Police stood by the gurney as I was being worked on. “I count 13 stab wounds so far,” a nurse said, “There could be more, but the two at the bottom are the worst. They are deep and her intestines could be perforated.”

“Tell us who did this to you. Just say her name,” the officer whispered in my ear, “Don’t let her get away with this.”

“I fell. I fell. Please get Bev,” I pleaded. “No, no drugs. I’m in recovery. I refuse any drugs.”

“Yea she fell over 13 times on a butcher knife,” I heard the surgeon sarcastically say, “How can someone so protective of their recovery be so self-destructive?”

I was healing and threw myself into my work at the University. I went to breakfast, lunch and evening meetings outside of the Quarter and began to make new acquaintances.

The voice on the other end of the receiver sounded so weak, so fragile. “I have cancer, Cherie. Come home, please. I promise I’ll never hurt you again. I disregarded my sponsors’ objections. I reassured my concerned friends I’d be fine. I returned to Bev and a fate I could have never imagined.

It was devastating watching her deteriorate physically and mentally. I did everything in my power to make things easier for her, but to no avail. She was terrified and angry and I was the only one there for her to take her frustrations out on. It all culminated one morning when instead of having scheduled surgery she fled the hospital with her ex and mother. Upon my arrival at the house, the three of them, as a group, attacked me. They were in mass denial of the malignancies eating away her body and my concerned presence was the rude awakening they sought by any means to escape. They beat me and kicked me about the head, face, neck, stomach, and back. They went inside to get a gun, Bev telling her cohorts, “I’ll shoot her and say she was one of my crazy patients. It’ll be self-defense.” I crawled away as fast as I could and hid in a neighbor’s yard.

I was rushed to the hospital and was in very bad shape. I had broken ribs, large clumps of my hair were ripped from my scalp, my right eye was dislocated from its socket. I had a hair-line fracture in my cervical spine and another one in my lumbar region. But, I managed to refuse drugs again as the doctors and nurses did their procedures. I might be a total fuck up in every other regard, but I would not let anything or anybody get me to pick up again.

When I left the hospital I needed to be cared for and turned to a woman with whom I had had a brief affair over a year prior. She and her husband were both members of N.A. and were warned by Bev to steer clear of me or they would be sorry. When the cab dropped me off at their doorstep, I was met with a very cool and highly suspicious reception. I didn’t understand what was going on, but found acceptance in a mysterious young woman they had over for backup should trouble ensue with me. I decided it was better for me to be alone with the mess I had let happen and so, despite their transparent objections I prepared to leave. The quiet woman, who I had seen at many meetings but did not know, stepped forward and appeared to want to come to my aid. But, she was stopped in her tracks by a glance from the couple. I left and headed to my apartment with no earthly idea how I would survive the night.

I did everything, save take a drink or drug, to alleviate my physical agony. But, my mental and spiritual pain and anguish, at that moment, were beyond soothing. I had survived far worse atrocities in my 30 years, this I knew. As far back as I could remember fate dealt me cruel and near fatal blows. Perpetrators far more devious and maniacal had done their damnedest to annihilate the child, the teen, the woman I was. Yet, I had risen each time, perhaps not like a phoenix, but I did always manage to struggle to my feet and persevered. This time would be no different.

“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” I had heard said. I certainly didn’t feel strong, anything but. I was long past tired and totally disgusted, not with what others had done to me, but what I had done to myself.

No, this time would definitely be different. I felt something stirring within my ravaged body and throbbing brain. This time would be totally and unequivocally different. I felt a strange warmth in the pit of my belly and it was getting hotter with each passing second. By the time the fire consumed my being I realized I was angry. I was seething with rage. I was still around for a reason, I had no idea what, but I would damn well fight for my right to be, I would fight for Cherie. If I had to crawl on all fours I would be at Sunday’s N.A. meeting and then, I would join the members of the group and hang at Bob’s for dinner and fellowship. I was going to take a stand and defend my place in this world, my freedom to exist. And I could only do it fortified with my Programs.

To Be Continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 5

I apologize that this post has taken so long to be finished. I have been very tired and think I may be getting sick. I am trying to get plenty of rest, but did not want you to miss the next installment. I believe the length of these posts have deterred many readers from taking the time to indulge, so for this week, I have shortened the post.

I, as always, encourage you to comment. Your thoughts and feelings really add more meaning and depth to Cherie’s lessons and learning, her troubles and triumphs. I realize I have not taken the time to respond to the comments already made regarding this guest blogger and again, I apologize. I give you my word, if I do not get to them this weekend, i will start with them next weekend.

Read and share, find strength and pass on the hope. Take care, my friends, and thank you one and all for your continued support of my blog. It gives me great joy to be a part of your world and for you to be a part of mine.

And now, the saga continues…

My first year of sobriety was far from easy. I was faced with many monumental obstacles and traumas, that without the 12-Step Programs and steadfast support of its members, I’d have certainly faltered and, in all probability, drank and drugged myself to death.

As I said in the first installment, I attended meetings upon meetings, never less than three a day, for the first decade. Often times I’d be half-asleep, sitting propped up in a folding chair in who knows how many church basements and school halls around New Orleans and Mississippi. But, I was willing to be there and some way, somehow the messages shared by my peers made a deep impression on my mind. I didn’t just listen with my ears, I listened with my heart and gut.

I voraciously read any and all material I could get in an earnest effort to learn and develop a better understanding of my disease and how I could better apply the steps and principles of Al-Anon, A.A., and N.A. (its Big Book came out in the early 80s) in keeping its deadly manifestations in check. I did journals, and workbooks, and written assignments as my sponsors directed me to do.

I was not permitted to moderate, let alone chair meetings, until I had over 365 days, a full sober year in the rooms, under my belt. I was allowed to share, but if I dared to lapse into venting, I was immediately silenced. You went to a sponsor with that type of personal verbiage. A meeting was not a dumping ground or place to feed my ego with ill-founded ideas I was profound or wise, since I was no more than a struggling newcomer with a lot to learn.

I was in constant contact with my sponsors, plural. There were times I didn’t think I could take a shit without checking with one of them beforehand. But, the phone calls, the one-on-one visits, the dependence on these caring mentors reinforced that I was worth saving and I did have a chance to make it as they had. I was not alone and never needed to be alone again. If I hesitated or balked at a suggestion made by them, you can be assured my obstinance was dealt with severely. I loathe to remember how many times I was made to clean the kitchen floor with a toothbrush because I made the mistake of saying, “But.”

One especially memorable occasion was when I threw a tantrum in front of the three drag queens, who were my first sponsors. I think I mouthed off perhaps a couple of minutes before they threw their boas off and butched up. From out of thin air they pulled a sleeping bag and zipped me up to the neck in its confines. To make matters worse, they broke off the zipper making it clear I wasn’t going anywhere. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to lay there and hear their tough love critiques of my behavior for hours and hours and hours. But, it was a lesson well learned. Perhaps, they didn’t have all the answers and maybe they too were capable of mistakes, but there was one thing they knew how to do and could teach me. They knew how not to pick up a drink or drug and for that I was willing to go to any lengths, no matter how bizarre.

“What’s a ‘slip’,” I casually asked the guys one day. I thought for a second my lips would be ripped off my face and whipped with my tongue.

“There is no such word in your vocabulary,” they screamed in unison. “Maybe there is a different definition in Webster’s, but in your dictionary, Cherie, and that’s the only one that counts, it means just one thing. Slip=Death. There is no going back out and strolling back in. You get no second chance. You’ll hear people say, if you can’t remember the last time you used then it wasn’t. Well, you better recall every detail of that nightmare on July 15th, because that was it for you. You may still have the luxury of being crazy, but you can never drink a drop or pop an aspirin again.” The men were livid, but through the ranting I saw the fear in their eyes that I would even broach the subject.

“Slip! How ridiculous,” they continued to yell, “You don’t just trip and fall and end up back out there. It’s a deliberate, self-sabotaging decision a person makes. A person that wants to run from the scary world of living sober and clean because it takes guts to follow the steps and be rigorously honest. It’s nice and Pollyannaish to throw around the slogans ‘One Day At A Time’ and ‘Just For Today’. But, you better wise up, Honey, this isn’t a 24 hour proposition for you. It’s forever. It’s a lifetime. Get that through your thick skull and you will never consider for a moment gambling with a ‘Slip’.”

If there was one thing that made the most of an impression with me throughout my years in recovery it was that lecture. Tragically, these guys couldn’t practice what they preached. Each went back out and never returned. I buried them all.

I was taught, from the beginning, the importance of giving back what was freely given to me. In the early days, I accompanied old-timers on hundreds of 12th-Step calls. I, likewise, joined them on visits to various hospitals and institutions in the greater metropolis. Of course, I was not permitted to personally deal with the patients and inmates because of limited experience in sobriety and chemical freedom, but I was allowed to set up chairs, dump ashtrays, and make coffee. After a year or so, I graduated and was given the honor of being a greeter at the door of Intergroup.

I watch people come and go in large numbers these days because they are rushed and expected to “get it” in a six-week period or god forbid, before their insurance runs out. I was told I was a work in progress and it took me a long time to get sick and it would take an even longer time for me to get better. I was once told by a newcomer that he had a month in treatment and that was equivalent to five years in the program. Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

Living in the solution and not the problem was making my life far different from anything I had ever experienced before. Of course, I still made many, many mistakes and used horrible judgment. However, I never picked up a drug or drink and learned from those transgressions and was constantly trying to be the healthiest and best person I could possibly be.

To be continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 4

Finally, the weekend is here! Whew! I have had a long and exhausting week, but that is for another time and another post.

For those faithful and dedicated readers, here is part four in Cherie’s story. If this installment doesn’t touch you to your core and bring tears to your eyes at least once, nothing will. I encourage you to read this post, but more specifically, please do read it to the last paragraph. It is this paragraph that is most important and will encourage and inspire you, give you strength and hope, motivation and courage.

For those of you who have not yet read any part of Cherie’s story, please read this part and then, if you are interested in how she came to be an alcoholic and addict and what she went through during her active addiction and alcoholism, you can go back and read parts 1-3. All reflections can be found under Recovery Detours along the right side of my home page. If you choose not to read it, I assure you, it will be your loss.

For all others, here it is…Cherie’s first year in recovery. Enjoy and please do comment if time permits.

“WHAT HAPPENED”

It didn’t take me long to realize I could not fight this battle alone. Many of my acquaintances and friends were very encouraging and optimistic. But, the old adage “Misery Enjoys Company” couldn’t be disputed when I was met with sarcasm, scorn, and outright ill-will by other so-called friends. “You’ll never make it. You’re hopeless. Here let’s get loaded,” they repeatedly taunted. I divorced myself from these individuals and closed the door behind me on my former haunts.

I continued to entertain the thought, when the jonesing enveloped me and clouded my thinking, that if my lover only got her act together I could return to drinking and drugging, but only in moderation of course.

I picked up a Reader’s Digest and flipped through its pages. A story caught my eye written by Lois W., the wife of Bill W., co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Dr. Bob.

 Lois W. and Dr. Bob’s wife, Ann Smith, had started the group Al-Anon, which was for friends and family members of alcoholics. I hungrily read her message. Too bad I didn’t digest it. “I’ll go to one of those meetings and get some pointers from the pros. Once I trick Diana into stopping her crazy drunken sprees I’m home free. I’ve proven I can control myself. It’s been months since I picked up. I don’t have to go berserk and make an ass of myself anymore. I’ll be bellying up to the bar before Happy Hour starts on Friday. Please, please, please let my dealer be there.”

The Pillsbury housewives and execs in Brooks Brothers suits watched as I sauntered into the room. A chair was pulled out for me at the table and I was told to sit and listen. I was polite and I did appear to give full attention to the people speaking, often times it seemed directly to me. “Holy crap, what the fuck have I gotten myself into,” I mused, “These folks seem happy enough, but they are goddamn loons. And where are the tips? I haven’t heard one person go after their drunk. It’s all how we can get to be better and healthier people using the Steps. And what the shit are the Steps? Where are they? Maybe there is a more advanced group upstairs.”

“Amen”

“Amen,” I repeated. I was instantly surrounded and welcomed with pats on my back, extended hands, warm hugs, and phone numbers. Lots and lots of phone numbers.

“Don’t be afraid to call, Cherie. Reach out if you need to at any hour. Please come back and see us,” they sincerely urged.

I heard myself agree, I actually agreed to return. “What the hell. It appears these poor saps need a little excitement. I’ll grace them with my presence again. I’ve nothing better to do. Maybe next time they’ll get into how to manipulate the drunken bastard.”

Something clicked. I began to listen. Sitting by the coffee pot in the Jesuit Church Tuesday after Tuesday at the High Noon meeting was starting to have a positive influence in my life. I still couldn’t share with the straight-laced people who filled the room. I mean how could I tell them the drunk I was involved with was a seemingly demure “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth” ex-debutante that beat me nightly and did everything in her power to get me back to using. They would boot me out in a second and I couldn’t bear the rejection. This group was becoming an increasingly vital part in sustaining me in my struggling existence.

Old habits die hard and this incurable flirt was always eyeballing the ladies and looking for her next conquest. I had my sights set on the woman who eloquently spoke each week at the meeting. She was older, stately and absolutely gorgeous. Maybe it wasn’t the message touching me, but my desire to touch the messenger that kept me coming back. I asked her to be my sponsor.

I had to get to the Gulf Coast and I had to without delay. I’ll find them. It can’t be that hard. But, then again that place is a mecca for trailer trash. Who’d have thought the grand dame would end up in Gulfport, Mississippi of all places. My son was living with my mother and step-father and I had not been in contact with any of them for quite some time. My lover forbid it. But, I sensed something was gravely wrong and it was imperative I check out things to ease my mind.

Call it maternal instincts. Call it being psychic. It hardly matters. I sat on the stoop outside the door of their dingy motel room and waited and waited for them to show up. Startling images coursed through my brain in the interim. I shook in terror. I almost puked with dread. My parents pulled up. Steven was not with them. But I knew he wouldn’t be. “Who told you,” my mother cried in astonishment, “How did you find out?” My glare silenced her questions. “Take me to him and take me now,” I screamed.

My 10-year-old son looked so tiny and helpless as he lay in the hospital bed in ICU. Wires connected to buzzing and humming apparatuses were attached to every inch of him and a machine was his only means of breathing. He appeared to be peacefully sleeping. “He died three times and it’s a miracle we got him back,” the neurologist informed me. “We had to induce a coma. His brain is severely swollen and without a doubt there is damage, most probably to a grave extent. I cannot in good faith tell you he will ever wake up, but if he does the prognosis is poor. You might have to make some very hard decisions.”

I shuddered and then felt a feeling of intense warmth and comfort overtake me. All fear vanished. “I can do nothing. I am powerless. I surrender. I trust what will be will be and a Higher Power, my Higher Power will continue to protect and guide both me and my son.”

The High Noon group, especially my sponsor, and an old-timer named Duke and a gay guy named Patrick took me under their wings. People consistently checked on me and made sure I was not alone for a moment in my anguish following Steven’s accident. He was still in a vegetative state and I was being pushed by the doctors to pull the plug. My mother adamantly refused to even consider that option and for once I was in total agreement. “When in doubt do nothing,” I was advised by my Al-Anon friends. I played the waiting game and filled any free moment I had with program people.

My sponsor would have none of my bullshit and nipped in the bud any of my hopes to bed her. I didn’t take kindly to her kicking to the curb my sexual advances, but was even more offended when she had the nerve to tell me if I didn’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous and pronto she was turning me over to someone else for sponsorship. “Granted it’s been a horrendous time for you with your son and the ongoing crisis’s at home with your friend. Not to mention, you aren’t even six months sober,” she said, “But unacceptable behavior is unacceptable behavior and I don’t take it from anyone, especially the likes of a dry drunk like you, Cherie. There’s a meeting in the Quarter and I know you will definitely fit in with these people. My friend is picking you up tonight. Be ready at 7:30 and don’t you utter a word, just nod your head yes.”

“Right on time,” I cheerfully said climbing into the car, “What the fuck! It’s…It’s you.”

“Just shut up and get in. I’m not thrilled about being stuck with you either. But, a 12th Step call is a 12th Step call.” Hoppy and I had run into each other over the years in the bars, but were definitely not friends; in fact, we pretty much loathed each other. “You of all people in the program,” she snickered, “Well I never…”

“That’s obvious and you probably never will either,” I quipped.

“Try not to make a horse’s ass out of yourself like you usually do and maybe tonight you might learn something, Smart Ass,” she grumbled. We rode the rest of the way in silence.

I had been in this apartment hundreds of times. And usually not in a vertical state. My friend Rique threw wonderful mixers with the most eclectic variety of attendees. But, he was more known for his outrageously lavish gourmet dinners. With rare exception for desert a wild orgy was always on the menu that would last days on end. How ironic, how fucking ironic. This is where the meeting is that is going to change my life. “Get some cappuccino and doberge cake and park it, faggots. I don’t have all goddamn night. Ooooh, we have a few butches gracing our midst. Hoppy, have your friend introduce herself,” the effeminate man commanded. She nudged my elbow.

“Hi, I’m Cherie and I’m an alcoholic and…”

“And nothing. Sit down and shut up. You have nothing to say that we want to hear. You are here to learn not vent. You can’t give what you haven’t got. Oh and welcome, Cherie to your new family.”

Each and everyone was telling my story. Perhaps, they hadn’t descended to the depths I had, but I felt their pain and I knew I belonged, especially in the safe confines of this a strictly gay group. Once the Lord’s prayer was finished the real sharing began. In fact, we had a marathon gab session that lasted well into the morning. Exhausted but basking in a new exhilaration, I returned home with unfamiliar but fantastic new feelings. For the first time I truly felt optimistic and hopeful.

My clothes and possessions were strewn about the courtyard. I guess [Diana] made good on her threat. She warned if I went to one of those low-life loser meetings there would be hell to pay. My heart sank. Knowing her, this was just the tip of the iceberg. I was right. I stood in the doorway of my bedroom and watched for only a second before I let my presence be known. Both women immediately stopped their lovemaking and broke out in uncontrollable laughter. Obviously, I was the joke. “I told you, go hang with those drunk fucks and I’d replace you,” my lover sneered, “Now get lost you are cramping our style.” Diana’s guest passed me and snickered as I was carrying my things back into the apartment. My partner was drinking a martini and had a smug grin on her face. “Every time, Cherie. Someone will be in your bed with me every time you go, I promise you.” I must say she was a woman of her word, but by the third or fourth one-nighters I had decided I was done with the beatings and her other bullshit. My new love affair would be with A.A.

Steven opened his eyes after over nine months in a comatose state. He could not speak and only had movement in his right index finger. But, needless to say, we were encouraged. I was now working in the Emergency Room at the hospital where he was a patient. I felt it was the least I could do to show my appreciation to the staff that had saved my child. Every moment I could spare I was at a meeting. I attended never less than three a day and continued this practice without exception for the first 10 years of my recovery.

“Mama, I’m sorry,” my son whispered.

“About what? There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”

“Me, Mama. Me. I’m sorry and afraid that because of me you will go back drinking and be like you use to be.”

I unballed his tiny fist and place something within it and closed his fingers around the gift. “Hold that tight, Steven. It’s more yours than mine. It’s my 1 year chip and it holds my promise to you. Mama won’t ever be that person again. Mama won’t ever drink or drug again. Mama won’t ever be anything but the best Mama she can possibly be.”

To be continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 3

 

I know I said it would not be until tomorrow morning when I would post this, but I have been waiting anxiously all week for the weekend to arrive just for this reason, so I can’t help it that I am posting it now. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of Cherie on my computer from this time, really, so her pics will have to be included in later postings.

I do have a song, Dying to Live by Edgar Winters, I will post at the end of this post though. I just learned this week that Cherie listened to this song over and over and over again when she first became clean and sober. I asked her if I could share the song as well when I posted this next piece of her story and she said I may. I enjoyed listening to it several times over while she proudly, and with some nostalgia, sang along with the lyrics. And as I am listening to it now, I feel this enormous swelling within, emotions once again rising. I hope you enjoy the song as well!

By all outward appearances I was still a little girl, but legally I was a woman. This newly acquired power coincided with the arrival of “Flower Power” in the city. With baby in tow, I established myself as a leader in the hippie community. That’s not to say I stopped hanging with the “Squares” and my beloved Bourbon Street strippers, but there were too many new things to try, and it could never be said I didn’t do something at least once.

I followed every big name band and was the main groupie at every festival and concert. Hang with me and you were guaranteed one helluva ride. I always had the best drugs in copious amounts and fulfilled the wildest of erotic fantasies to dudes and chicks alike. Fortunately, I was so fucked up at the New Orleans Pop Festival that when I shot up some heroin back stage with the Dead I got deathly ill. I equated the bummer to the horse and as a result never rode the pony again. But, there was no other drug I ever refused. And no amount was ever too much. My stomach was pumped so many times I gagged at the sight of a straw. I bounced off Charity Hospital’s 3rd Floor padded cells so many times in a straight jacket they called me “The Ping Pong Ball”. I was arrested a couple of times and carted off to jail, but by this point if I wasn’t fucking those who could cut me a deal I was their supplier.

I was the absolute best at what I did and what I was doing was destroying myself. Years and years of drinking and drugging were taking their toll. By the time I was 18 years old, I was a diagnosed a chronic alcoholic and addict. I was warned that if I continued using I wouldn’t make it six months. I had lost half the top of my stomach to ulcers and my liver was dangerously swollen following a bout with hepatitis. I had screwed well over a thousand men and the women’s count was a close match. I had three spontaneous miscarriages and one baby was terminated when a guy I was using with threw me down a flight of stairs and kicked the fetus out of me for messing with his girlfriend. I was shot in the arm while roaming the projects trying to cop some downers. (This skinny little white girl should have known better.) I was stabbed by a jealous lover, but was so stoned I didn’t know I was hurt until I woke up in the hospital days later. I buried my beautiful stripper after she killed herself. She had gotten married in an effort to get back her child (She had been incestuously raped by her father at the age of 13 years old), who was being raised by her parents. When the custody battle fell through she grew even more suicidal (I lost count of all of her attempts) and begged me to move in with her and Buddy and help with her duties as a wife, especially in the bedroom. Sadly, I hesitated and by the time I got to her house to tell her I would agree to becoming part of the open marriage, she lay with the gun in her hand and was dead. She was only 19. I was so grief-stricken Buddy insisted I stay with him and I did. We lived together during my period of mourning, but I finally left because I couldn’t take laying on the dried blood soaked and brain splattered sheets a second longer. Buddy loved for me to lay contorted within the confines of her police taped image when we had sex. That even got too weird for me and I was taking everything I could get to cope.

I decided a drastic change was in order and following my true desires and orientation I decided men were definitely expendable and would live my life as a lesbian from then on. Now even more doors opened to me and I walked through them without a care as to what was on the other side.

I still got beatings and suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, broken shoulder, broken knuckles and more concussions than my joggled brain can remember, but it was well worth the pain. I loved women and they loved me in return. My ladies, young and old, certainly knew how to wine and dine me and lavished me with gifts. Whereas, I enjoyed the good life off and on in years prior, now I was in a totally different bracket. The high maintenance creature I am today can be blamed on the decadent indulgences my beautiful females bestowed on me. I jetted here and there to have a drink and could always be found bumping elbows and other parts of my anatomy at Studio 54 in New York City in its heyday.

Not only could I walk and chew gum, but I could go to college, get a nursing degree (not a physician, but what the hell!), and not miss a night out gallivanting and carrying on from Coast to Coast with my lovelies.

My son was living with my mother and she was trying to get permanent custody of him. (She eventually succeeded in stealing him from me and delighted in holding the papers over my head. But, I later found out I was tricked and it was solely custody of his finances she had and which she and her husband squandered.) If I was out of control before, now I was a whirling dervish. At this point my soul objective was having a good time and living in a constant state of being inebriated and high. I viewed life either in slow motion or at blinding speed. There was no in between. I started hanging with old queens at wrinkle bars attracting young straight guys into their web so they could pounce. I kept my habit well supplied by this little game. I remember Buzzy once saying, “You should be swigging down Aqua Velva the way you drink, but night after night it’s only the best you are knocking back. Chateau Lafitte Rothschild 1961!!! Honey, do you shit gold?”

“No, but you do Darling,” I chuckled, “You want that blond? Get another bottle and I’ll get you the trick.”

The chandelier lay in shambles on the floor. I guess it wasn’t made for swinging. I tried to run through the dining room wall. Funny, it always seems so easy for cartoon characters. The governor’s granddaughter wouldn’t listen to my pleas for help. I took the butcher knife and plunged it into my belly and started pulling it across hari-kari style. Perhaps, she was too drunk to notice. I took it out and plunged it again and guided the blade toward my hip. “Well, don’t think I’m taking you to the hospital, Cunt. You won’t embarrass me. You’re the genius. You’re the nurse. Sew it up yourself,” she commanded and topped off her drink. I grabbed the bottle, found a needle and thread, and did exactly that. I didn’t have a problem, she did and if she stopped drinking everything would be fine.

*I had been bleeding from both ends for some time, but if I knew I was up for a really wild weekend I made sure friends donated blood in advance so there’d be no problem with me getting transfused.* *I was still recuperating from flipping a brand new Camaro five times and nearly killing us both, but the cops only said I was driving recklessly and they saw the half bottle of Southern Comfort in my lap. “Where do you get off telling me I was loaded and have a problem, Mother Fucker!”* *One call and I’m ready to hit the streets and party hard. There’s no one, no how better than me. It doesn’t matter that I pee and shit on myself, I clean up good.*

I raised the German Luger to my temple, lowered it and aimed it at her instead. “Will you help me now? Will you get me help? I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live like this another day.” The apartment was totally demolished and I was equally broken and destroyed.

She shook her head and adamantly said, “No. I will not be embarrassed.”

I put the gun closer to her face for emphasis. “I mean it. I need help. Go and get me help, please. I’m begging you.”

“You’re pathetic. You’re a worthless loser. Fuck you, Bitch.” Instead of getting angry and firing off a shot I pulled her to her feet and threw her out of the apartment. I watched her circling the courtyard at a frantic, haphazard pace. She looked like a rat in a maze. I loved her once. Look at what we had come to. Me holed up about to bring my sorry existence to its inevitable end and Diana…

They rushed me and the gun flew from my grasp. I recall the rifles drawn and pointed in my direction-cocked. I was thrown to the floor and handcuffed roughly. In a weak and childlike wail I blubbered, “Arrest me. Commit me. Shoot me. Just make this all stop. Please. Please. Please.”

One of the SWAT team officers stepped forward. “I want to talk to her. It’ll be ok, guys. Leave us be.” He gently helped me raise to my feet and lead me into the bedroom. I repeated my lament over and over and over. “Who did all of this,” he kindly probed glancing about what was left of the once luxurious apartment.

“I did. I did it all. I’m insane. I’m crazy. She won’t help me.”

“And you threatened to kill her and yourself,” he went on to ask.

“Yes, I did it all. I can’t take this anymore. Just put me out of my fucking misery. Take me to jail or a hospital. Better yet just put a bullet in me. I can’t live like this anymore,” I cried.

“Look at me, Cherie and listen to me. I am here to help you and I will. You aren’t crazy and you aren’t insane. You are sick. You are an alcoholic and drug addict.”

“But, I can’t stop. I’ve tried so many times only to go back and use more.”

“Get on your knees,” he commanded.

What?”

“Get on your knees and ask God, or whoever you pray to, to help you.”

“But I don’t know how to pray,” I argued.

“Cherie, you have survived this long; someone or something is watching over you. Now, pray to that power and beg for help, beg like you’ve never begged before.” I closed my eyes and beseeched the Angels, the Saints and all I knew Holy to come to my assistance. I also called on St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, to aid me in my distress.

“You won’t hurt her if I let her back in here will you,” he asked.

“No. I would have never. I just wanted her to help me.”

“She can’t help you. Only you can do that and now you know how.” He removed the handcuffs and stood to go. “Cherie, I believe in you. Always remember that. And more importantly, I want you to know and this I promise you, you will never ever drink or drug again.” That was July, 15th, 1977. I never knew his name or could find him at the precinct to personally thank him for saving my life that miraculous day. But, my angel was right—I never did drink or drug again. As long as I live I hope to continue to honor him by remaining clean and sober one day at a time.

To Be Continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

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Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 2

I cannot promise a daily entry of this series of posts, but I did have some down time today and really want everyone to read about this remarkable woman’s life and many triumphs. I hope this post will get you a little more hooked as well as better acquainted with my dear Cherie. I realize that they look like long posts, but I promise you, once you start reading, you will finish long before you want to.

So far, Cherie has made it through some really tough circumstances with the aid of drugs and alcohol. Coming up, her sobriety begins, but life doesn’t get better for her for quite some time to come. Be sure to read the next post and see how her strength flourishes through many more tragedies and traumatic experiences, this time, without drugs and alcohol.

Until then, here is the next part to Cherie’s story. Comments are encouraged as I will be sharing them with Cherie along the way. Any and all thoughts are welcomed and wanted, so again, please do comment.

“””My mother was flying high and flitting around the Vieux-Carre herself. She had proven I was indeed raped by those men and was a one woman vigilante against them. They all fled to Mexico with charges of statutory rape looming over their heads. I believe my vindication was just a means to an end though. Her main objective was to party and she was having the time of her life. At around this point, she introduced me to a Senator and his “wife”. Even I was suspicious of the barely legal buxom blond in stilettos on the politician’s arm, but I said nothing. “They will help you get your life together,” my mother promised and left me at the Uptown mansion. To this day, I don’t know what her pay off was.

“What did you do to my wife,” Peter accused. I was groggy, disoriented, and felt totally depleted. I stuttered and stammered. “Well, you are going to have to stay here again and we’ll see what you do tonight. I can’t believe you would do such a thing. But, then you were locked up in that place with all those bitches so, it makes sense.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but whatever it was I was to be tested again later. Meanwhile, the party was fun and lots of people filled the house and danced by the pool. I drank and smoked and it was that night, in fact, I met the aforementioned judge. But, his advances were thwarted, the Senator would not have that. This prize was not to be shared, at least not for the moment.

Peter’s blame now fell on deaf ears. What I thought I’d imagined the day before I now knew to be fact. It wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare. And I didn’t instigate it, they did. I was drunk and high, but still watched with heightened curiosity their little scenario. They came to me as I lay immobilized but fully conscious. They were both undressed and I, immediately, realized I was also. Judy began to fondle and orally seduce me first and then, after instilling a contraceptive deep within me, Peter mounted my limp body and finished. “No, I did nothing to Judy,” I argued, “But, if you let me stay, I will.” I didn’t realize at the time that was my coming out party, but a party was a party and the ones at the big pink house were amazing.

In my time with my new “family” I was well-indoctrinated into hedonism. I was a very quick study. Because of my youth, extremely good looks and willingness to please I commanded the attentions of A-list celebrities, high-ranking government officials, and my favorite-singers and musicians. No man was ever permitted to touch me except for the Senator, but they were allowed to watch. Judy tired of me quickly which was very disturbing because she was my first lesbian lover and I was totally smitten with her. (I came to learn she lost interest in all women almost as soon as they agreed to follow her upstairs.) It was joked I was a human vibrator because I would so often be called to finish for her paramours when she got bored while making love to them. Yes, my adventures with that couple, in and out of bed, could fill volumes.

Although, I never tired of the endless supply of booze and drugs at my disposal, even I had to admit I was living in total excess. It was a catastrophic ending, but when I was required to recruit other young girls for initiation into our home, I had to take a stand. I did, actually, bring a few exchange students over from my high school and watched as they were being led into the trap with drinks and pot and countless pills. But, before they reached the top of the stairs and fell prey to what fate I knew all too well, I stepped in, grabbed Judy by the hair, pulled her to the diving platform on the balcony and threw her in the pool. I grabbed a bottle of Courvoisier, a bag of dope, the three young Peruvian girls, kissed Peter goodbye, and made my getaway in a waiting limo.

English: French Quarter - New Orleans

English: French Quarter – New Orleans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was alone in the French Quarter, very little money and no more mansion to call home. While munching on a burger, in a dingy hamburger joint, stoned out of my mind and contemplating what to do with my life, an obvious pimp sauntered up to me. Before he could open his mouth I told him, “Beat it, I only like girls.”

“Then have I got a girl for you,” he quipped, grabbed my arm, threw money on the counter and led me down Bourbon Street. She was exquisite and I was mesmerized. It was love at first sight. She, on the other hand, was not quite so taken.

“Get that fucking kid out of here,” she demanded, “You’ll get us both busted.” He disappeared in a flash and she and I were left alone. “Well, you can only stay here until I get off work and then, you are gone.”

“What do you do? Where do you work?”

“I’m a dancer, a stripper. I work downstairs. It hardly matters. I’ll be back and then you are high-tailing it, I shit you not. But, hey kid, have some fun while I’m away.” She threw me a joint. I pulled out my large stash. “Well, maybe you can stay until tomorrow,” she smiled and closed the door behind her.

Little did I know I was being watched and all of my movements were being reported back to my father. Hippies had not yet infiltrated and made their mass presence known in the Quarter, so I was more visible than I could have ever imagined, especially to the spying eyes of the hired detective. I had met an old male acquaintance from my Row days and in retaliation to my stripper’s flagrant cheating decided to give heterosexuality a whirl. It, definitely, wasn’t for me, but the guy was entertaining and I had nothing better to do. It was also a better place for me to hide when I skipped school. I was now enrolled in an exclusive college preparatory academy. At first, the administrators wouldn’t hear of my being included in their prestigious school, but my admission test scores were through the roof and I was granted acceptance without any further protest. Not too many of my fellow alumni were ever invited to join MENSA, as I was in future years, it should be noted.

“I work for your father and you are up shit’s creek, unless you play by my rules,” the clean-cut man flashing a badge told me. “We can get it on or you’ll be in a blue jumpsuit before nightfall.” I really didn’t have much of a choice and so, followed the private dick back to his uptown apartment and let him do whatever he wanted with me. Comparatively speaking, he ended up being a nice guy despite holding all the cards and never letting me forget the deck was stacked against me. I had also found another obscure place to hole up.

Well, my mother sure snapped to attention when the doctor delivered the news. I heard the grotesque bastard’s diagnosis, but was more concerned with dodging his touches and snide comments. “Yes, she’s pregnant and if you plan on getting her an abortion you better get on it and quick,” he advised and jotted a number on a piece of paper and passed it to my mom. He looked down on me and sucked his teeth in disgust and shook his head.

“You think I’m just about nothing don’t you, Doc? Well, I was good enough when you forced me to give you blow jobs. That’s right, mom, the good doctor had me do him and not once, but every time you sent me here to get the B-12 shots. There will be no abortion. No giving up the baby for adoption. It’s mine and I’m keeping the kid.”

Pregnancy didn’t cramp my style or partying one iota. I, probably, drank and drugged all the more since I had another little being to get high. If anything, the hormones made me all the more desirable and I had dozens of guys competing to give the tiny bump a name. I made my choice and the drag queen was the winner. I’d give him the good news when he returned from offshore.

My father lay in the hospital bed, but continued to hold court even in his weakened state. He and my mother had divorced (my mother blaming me for the termination of the 20 year marriage) and he had seen me on only a couple of occasions since my release from OLR. “Make your decision and make it fast. I will provide you with the best education money can buy and all of this crap will be forgotten. You will be somebody. You are the best of the litter. You will be the one people hold in the highest esteem…”

I ventured to interrupt him, “But, daddy I can’t leave my mother. She has no one and if Jerry goes with you to Illinois she’ll be devastated.” I did feel a loyalty to my mom, but was more concerned that he would discover my pregnancy and not only would I lose the baby but my freedom for five years.

“Your mother is a two-bit lying, whoring drunk. I will make you somebody.”

“But, daddy I’m engaged.” “What? Who? You are barely 16!”

“His name is Steven and he works offshore and also on a tug,” I offered.

“My daughter with a low-life tugboat swabbie. Never. Make your decision and think hard because the wrong one will cost you dearly.”

“My mother,” I whispered choking back tears.

“Then, Cherie, I will tell you once again, and I promise you this is final, you are not my daughter. You will never be a Leahy. I disown you. Don’t you or any of your bastards ever show your face to me again. Now, get out of my sight. Get out. Get out.” I heard my father’s voice echoing through the hospital corridors. His last words to me resonated in my brain, in my heart for thirty-three long years. I often wonder, what if I would have said yes?

I married Steven Douglas Smith on October 23rd, 1967 in a rushed ceremony to avoid being committed to a mental facility by my father. As Steven’s bride I was emancipated, considered an adult and my husband, not my father, was now in charge. A large Catholic wedding was held in St. Louis Cathedral in November. Rita Alexander, the infamous Champagne Girl of the Sho Bar was my maid of honor and the founder of New Orleans Jazz Fest stood in for Steven. My father and little brother boycotted the service standing outside of the church in protest. Our reception was in Jackson Square and the vino and grass passed freely among the hippies, bums and tourists alike.

With my mother roaming around downstairs praying the goddamn rosary oblivious to what was happening, I prematurely delivered Steven Douglas Smith II (biological father is anyone’s guess) by myself in my upstairs bedroom on January 30th, 1968. I cut his cord, but it took some doing to get him breathing. Once I got him to take a breath, I crawled to the bathroom and flushed the stash of drugs I had on hand and had planned to sell. I couldn’t take any chances with the authorities coming to zip us to the hospital. It was always better to be safe than sorry. And I was quickly learning to be always one step above the law.

Cherie with Baby Steven

I left Big Steven at the end of March when the baby was about two months old. We lasted about six months altogether. But, my father was correct Steven was not Cherie material. He was sweet, a good provider and very doting, but not what you would call an intellectual challenge. The last straw was when he decided he really enjoyed married life and wanted to go straight. I gave him his one and only lay and left him the following morning.”””

To Be Continued… 

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

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Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 1

This particular reflection will come in a series of about ten separate posts. This was written a few years ago by my roommate and best friend, Cherie, on her blog Goin To The Dogs of New York. Her blog is amazing and also contains many, many stories of her adventures with the dogs she walked in New York. She has gotten away from her blog due to recent health concerns and with her permission, I will re-post her story here. If you enjoy reading her writing, please let me know and I will add her as a writer on my blog.

I have read this several times and the effect on me the first time I read it was quite traumatizing. This story tells of things that have happened to Cherie, a woman I love with all of my heart and soul, so when I read through it, it causes me great pain and distress. Fortunately, she is a remarkably strong woman with more fight in her than any wild animal in any kingdom, anywhere. Posting this today is very fitting as today, Cherie is celebrating 35 years clean and sober. Keep that in mind as you read each and every post.

Now, without further ado, I introduce to you, Cherie.

“By the support and unconditional love of the thousands of people in the 12th Step Programs of Al-Anon, A.A., and N.A., from The Big Easy to The Big Apple, I have not picked up a drink or drug since July 15th, 1977. I am especially indebted to my sponsors, fellow members, and friends who went back out, used and died in the throes of addiction, so I didn’t have to end up the same tragic and needless way. You taught me so well, I would give anything to share my special day with you at my side. Instead, I am only left with my memories and lament about what could have been.

I have been asked to share my story by numerous people and have decided to post it for all to read online. It is the tale of hitting a very, very low bottom and so, not an easy one for me to tell. Recounting the years I was out there living in the problem and not the solution is an exhausting and debilitating task. But, perhaps my experience, strength, and hope will touch another and my journey on recovery’s path will have still more travelers joining me.”

WHAT IT WAS LIKE

(from left to right) Kenneth, Jerry, and Cherie Leahy

“I was born to an upper middle class old New Orleans’ family. I was the first child born to my father (Jeremiah III) and the second to my mother (Gloria). My older brother’s father was married to my mother twice. He was older, abusive and a notorious womanizer. She finally divorced him for a second time when he was accused of the rape of a young woman. He died within that year of complications from alcoholism while in prison. My older brother Kenneth (Ken) was adopted and raised, as his own, by my father. Two years later we were joined by my younger brother Jeremiah IV (Jerry).

One of the most vital and influential people in my life was my maternal grandmother (Delta). She was my stability, my protector, my mentor, my champion.

A birth defect, which affected the vision in my right eye, was diagnosed when I was a few months old. As a result, I was subjected to years of excruciating treatments and exhausting procedures. I wore glasses from the age of six months. I was kept in a cocoon and treated like a fragile little anomaly. My earliest memories were my father’s blatant displeasure and disgust that his little girl wasn’t perfect. And, it goes without saying, I was the brunt of much teasing and taunting by insensitive children.

The big white house on the lakefront held so many secrets. My father travelled a great deal and when he was away we were left to my mother and her inner demons. She was bi-polar with schizophrenic tendencies. I need not mention they went untreated. She exacerbated her condition with bouts of alcoholism. My younger brother and I were the victims of her neglect, abuse, and psychosis, I in particular. Because Kenneth was years older, he was spared much of this insanity.

When my father was home life was not ideal either. Yes, we had a full-time maid, the house was immaculate and three meals of gourmet food were on the table daily. My mother’s illnesses were in check and she appeared to be the personification of a true southern lady, wife and doting stay-at-home mom. But, despite the rare and priceless gifts daddy showered on us from around the world and his wonderful laugh and outlandish humor, he was strict and an unwavering perfectionist. He demanded the best of his children and would berate and scream until you literally shook from the vibrations of his verbal tirades if you fell short of his unattainable expectations. Our intelligence and aptitude were constantly tested and the scores ranked and evaluated by professionals. I was found to excel and thus, began my grooming to become a physician from the time I was in grammar school. Studying Latin with the Carmelite nuns, while other children enjoyed summer vacation, was just one of the sacrifices I was forced to endure in pursuit of my father’s ambitions for me. One needn’t be surprised the only thing I can rattle off now is Pig Latin and only curse words at that.

When my mother wasn’t laying catatonic in her own filth, while Jerry and I went hungry and dirty, she sobbed and bemoaned her life incessantly. I once went to the principal of my school, after I was ridiculed and punished for arriving to class in an “unkempt” and “slovenly” appearance, and asked her to intervene and help my mother who was sick. This nun’s reaction to a little child’s plea was to backhand me across the face drawing blood. I was told to remember the 4th Commandment. A few years later, this same Bride of Christ and another, equally cruel and sadistic, teacher stood me up in front of the entire school assembly and went point by point, in a vicious and demeaning way, why no student should be like me. The vile laughter, stabbing sneers, and sanctioned torture by my peers haunts me to this day.

It was always the worst, though, when my mother’s moods swung the other way out of proportion. We would be taken to bar after bar with her. “They’re restaurants,” she said, “I have to talk to my friends on business.” But, I remember and I remember well. The endless flirting of the tall, beautiful and vivacious woman was how each occasion started. The indignation, snubbing and rejection by her to the advances of the men she had teased for drinks for hours on end was how it progressed. I remember because it was me who had to pay for her salacious actions. How many times was a little girl under the heavy weight of an angry, drunk, retaliatory man my mother had whipped into passion only to turn over to her young daughter? I still see her watching through the rear view mirror at what was happening. I still see her doing nothing to stop the vicious rapes she, in fact, had orchestrated.
Satanic and Ritualistic abuse was prevalent in the wealthy community in which I was raised. In fact, prior to Hurricane Katrina finally obliterating the evil home I grew up in, such practices still occurred there and in other neighboring houses in the area. As a member of “Believe The Children” in later years, I helped expose a well-established coven (day care center) and aided a mother in the safe escape of herself and three children to an underground network.

The inverted cross was branded on the base of my scalp when I was an infant. I was made to witness hideous and horrific acts of cruelty to both animals and humans alike, including the butchering of an infant and murder and draining of the blood of a man. I was sodomized and voraciously used sexually from the time I was six weeks of age by men and women alike in the various rituals of black magic and Satanism. These individuals were friends and acquaintances of my mother and all upstanding and honorable members of New Orleans society. My father knew absolutely nothing of this abomination. (Despite denouncing them and fighting to be released, in one way or another, I was still held within the clutches of these cults until I finally broke free and moved to New York City.)

I was, primarily, alone in the nightmare of my childhood and the only true light in the darkness was my grandmother. For the most part other adult figures had long ago betrayed me and, more often than not, used me for their sick and demented fantasies. Mama Delta was my friend, my companion, my savior. She defended me when she could and comforted me when she couldn’t. At the age of ten, my dear grandmother lost her battle to cancer and I lost my battle with maintaining any semblance of sanity. I remember at her funeral having to be pulled out of her newly dug grave site and pried off of her lowered coffin. My soul had long ago been murdered. I was already dead. Why couldn’t I be with her? Whereas, I probably split prior to this, it is with this trauma Cherie’s survival personalities became more pronounced.

I began drinking and drugging with the urging of an older woman. She lived across the street from my family and I was babysitting her children. I was fourteen and very sheltered and naive. Barbara knew so many fantastic people. She had even met the Beatles, when they played at City Park. And if I listened to her and did what she said, she was going to introduce me, me of all people, to some of them. I was as much as star struck.

The lights in the bar were blinding and the music was deafening. We walked into the French Quarter night spot and all eyes were upon us, especially me. Instantly, a glass of champagne and numerous kinds of pills were in my hands. “They will make you beautiful,” Barbara said, “Everyone will adore you.” I gulped the bubbly and popped the colored capsules without hesitation. She was right and, within what seemed like seconds, I was surrounded with the most gorgeous men and women I had ever seen. They were stroking my face, fluffing and smoothing my hair, twirling me round for appraisal. Not one was rebuffing or ridiculing me, no one demeaned or denigrated how I looked. All were lavishly praising my appearance. All were smiling, laughing, hugging and kissing me. Me-Cherie. Me-The Ugly Duckling. Barbara, my Fairy Godmother, had performed a miracle with her magic potions and pills. I was now a Swan.

It was not a hard choice for me to make between the loathsome days of constant taunting and torture at school with my mean and malevolent mates and the wondrous times of blissful exuberance and unbridled pleasure at the Row with my new friends and devotees. I was there every chance I could get and soon on a constant basis with school falling heavily by the wayside. Needless to say, my drinking and drugging escalated because I believed the only way I could continue to flourish in this new-found land of fun and frolic was to take my magic elixirs and those special pills and tablets, that were given freely to me.

But, soon a price was to be paid and reimbursement fell to moi. I watched Barbara talking with the manager of the band. He handed her money and a small envelope. “They will be recording a new record in a few days. Take a ride with him and just maybe you can play tambourine,” she suggested leading me to his waiting Cadillac. Two women were next to him in the front seat, I climbed in the back. When he pulled over and let them out and three men jumped into the car I knew something was terribly wrong. For the next four days and nights I was raped and beaten repeatedly by this group of individuals non-stop. I didn’t know in actuality what they were doing to me because of my naiveté, but I knew if I didn’t heed their orders never to tell I would be killed and my family’s name would be ruined as they warned. I was found bloodied and dazed on the railroad tracks by some gay guys who knew me from the bar. They cleaned my wounds and returned me to the Row at my insistence. I was ripped from one end to the other, covered with bruises and cuts, but I damn well shook that tambourine.

My mother didn’t comment on my appearance. She stared at me vacantly and withdrew into her depression. But, infection had set in and I was sick from the attack. I was in a perpetual state of intoxication trying futilely to stop the pain wracking my body and mind. The person I was a mere few months prior was unrecognizable at this point. My older brother put in an emergency call to my father in Paris.

“What have you been doing,” he bellowed. His face was contorted with rage. I tried to explain, but what could I say? I really had no concept of the gravity of all I had been involved in as of late. I watched the knuckles on his hands, griping the table, go white. “You’ve been fucking around and hanging with fruits and dykes,” he screamed. I had no idea what he meant. I didn’t know what those words were. He repeated his accusation. I, then, tried to tell my father, in detail, what had happened to me in that car and how my new friends in the French Quarter helped me. I can only imagine that hearing the tale of the debauchery of his only daughter drove my father into madness. He leaped from his chair and came to me and punched me squarely in the face. (He had never lifted a finger to me before in my life.) “I will destroy you so no other man ever wants you again,” he cried, as he pounded me over and over and over again. My mother came out of her stupor for a moment to plead, “Stop. No.” Then, just as quickly, whimpered, fretted and turned a blind eye to the ongoing attack. Finally, Kenneth pulled my father off of my broken body. He was still ranting. “You have defamed our family. You have ruined our reputation. You are not a Leahy. You are not my daughter. Go to your queers. You are not welcome in this house.”
He called his lawyer, who in turn called the authorities. “Tell me who got you into all of this,” my father demanded, “Was it that bitch across the street? Tell me and I might go easier on you and not prefer charges.” I refused to betray her. I still believed despite what she had done to me, that she loved me. And that in loving me she had helped me blossom into who I really was meant to be. No matter what, I was a swan.

I was handcuffed and shackled. I had spent over a month in a youth facility mainly in isolation because I was vulnerable to assaults and had already been jumped and beaten to a pulp a few times. I was going to court and would soon be with my parents and out of the barred cell. I was so scared and would do anything to get home. I had learned a hard lesson and would never do it again. My ears rang when the gavel came down. I was guilty of the runaway charges of U&U (Uncontrollable and Unruly) and sentenced to a year in Our Lady of the River Reformatory. I was led away by deputies to what would be my Hell for the next 10 months.

I was cut down and the rope was removed from around my neck. I couldn’t drink or drug. Suicide was my only option now that crawling into myself and withdrawing from my surroundings wasn’t working. *They held her down and screwed her viciously with the broken bottle. She fought and yelled but it was useless. She died within minutes.* *They took the small gaunt girl out of the closet after over a day of confinement in its darkness. She was unconscious and barely breathing. She had clawed her face and neck and it was a mass of bloody streams. She stopped screaming after a while or maybe I stopped hearing her. She never returned to the dorm. I wonder did she ever return to normal.* *One after another they disappeared over the gate. The shotgun boomed. Was freedom a bullet in the back or drowning in the quicksand in the swamps?* *Black fists, white fists came from every direction. Kneed and kicked until I begged the last contact would mercifully kill me. No staff to defend me, they too would teach me that just because I was a little rich girl I was no better than anyone else.* *And what were those noises I heard at night? The moaning, the panting, the cries? I’m not like that. I’m not. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. Please don’t touch me.* *”Good Night and God Bless You,the nun making rounds whispered and sprinkled the holy water on me as I lay in my bed each night. Was that the same God whose name she cried out in ecstasy when she was molesting us?*

“If you mess up in any way, shape, or form you will serve five years with no parole in an even tougher place. You hear me,” the Judge menaced from his bench. I nodded and, literally, bowed walking backwards with my attorney out of the courtroom. I guess a few months later this same Juvenile Magistrate didn’t consider I (a minor of 15) would be “messing up” when he tried to seduce me after plying me with liquor and hash at a well-heeled party I was attending.

I tried, I really tried to fit in at the boarding school, but my stint in Puppy Prison was the talk around the classrooms. I was the tough, wild girl, which was so far from the truth, and all the trouble makers flocked to me. I was so terrified of getting in with the wrong crowd and being re-incarcerated I returned to the only other crowd I knew. Within months of release, I was sneaking back to the French Quarter, where I felt safe.

To Be Continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

A Necessary Prelude

I have been posting reflections of others in recovery. I would really like to post the reflections of my roommate and best friend, Cherie, who will celebrating 35 years clean and sober tomorrow. Hers is, like on of my own reflections, a story from beginning to just a few years ago and spans about 46 Word document pages. For this reason, I would have to post her story in about ten different posts.

The main reason for this prelude is that she has been through some very ugly things in her life, in which she goes into detail. She also uses a lot of strong language that is not suitable for children. Actually, the entire story is not suitable for children, so each of these ten posts would be marked with a warning about its contents.

Now that I have put this out there, I would like to know, would you be interested in reading the story of an amazing woman and all that she has endured and overcome? If you would like me to proceed with this, in spite of its somewhat unsavory content, please like this post. If I feel there is enough of you interested, I will post the first entry next weekend.

In my opinion, it is definitely worth the read and will at times blow your mind and at others inspire you like never before. I look forward to the voting and hope I get to post her story!

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #3

Photo courtesy of Donna at .my.blind.world.

I recently read a post, i’m taking back my power by donna at .my.blind.world. I cannot tell you how many times I have been encouraged to take back my power over the course of my recovery. This story is inspiring and is written by a woman, whether she realizes it or not, whom has conquered another enemy from her addiction and won, victoriously, another major battle.

Another step up, a clearer view forward, and another obstacle overcome! To some it may seem silly, but this is the kind of story I get really excited about. When someone has learned something through experience and has grown stronger as a result, it is a very big deal in a life of recovery. I also gain a new level of hope and am encouraged in my own recovery. WE Are Never Alone!

I am reposting her Donna’s story here on my blog, exactly as she wrote it. You can also click on the title of her post (first sentence of this post) to read it, or you can click on the link to her blog, .my.blind.world., and find many more posts like it.

one of my biggest emotional challenges in life is to not let you control my happiness. not let how you are feeling, determine how i will feel. i have a really bad habit of absorbing other people’s energy, and making it my own. so if a co-worker, or friend, or lover is angry, sad, defeated, hurt, etc., and i am in their presence, my mood can change in an instant. i can go from giggly and happy, to very serious and dark in no time at all. i turn my power over to others when i let them control my happiness and my emotional behavior….based on their own happiness and emotional behavior.

the other way i donate my power to others is by being so concerned with how you feel about me. i’m an alcoholic, and like many alcoholics, i am a major people pleaser. i’ve improved, but i still have this pleasing need in me. if i feel like you are mad at me or upset at me for some reason, the thought will consume me. it will affect every molecule in my body. and i become miserable until the situation is sorted out, or until i find out that i am actually not the cause of your disappointment or anger. most of the time i haven’t actually done anything that i am aware of to piss anyone off, but because you might be acting “off” today, and not so friendly, happy, or the like, i will assume you are mad at me. it’s really selfish and self-centered thinking. again..the alcoholic mind. it is not all about me. i do not affected your life. why would i even think i had such power? crazy ego-based thinking. hey, at least i can recognize it nowadays.

why is it so hard for me to just control my own happiness and my own emotional behavior? and not hand it over to you? I’ll tell you why….at least in part…..it’s because of the underlying fear of rejection, abandonment, and dislike from others. this goes way back into childhood and my experiences as a youngster. without going into a long drawn out story, i will leave it at this….kids were cruel and tossed a lot of rejection my way. some psychologists might also blame this fear of rejection on the fact that i was given up for adoption as a baby. i question that. but i don’t discount it entirely. with that said, i simply don’t want you to reject me as a human being and toss me aside. so i don’t want you to have any ill feelings towards me. and if i feel you might, it consumes me…it’s a vicious cycle. and it’s no fun. and really, handing you the responsibility of my own happiness is just not cool.

but this behavior of mine is manageable.

it’s manageable now because i recognize this life long pattern when it begins to creep up on me. i talk about it (or write about it). and since i can feel it coming on, i have the ability to stop the insanity from progressing and ruining the beautiful day ahead of me. of course, sometimes my self-centered and generally false beliefs still gets the best of me and i have trouble getting out of my own misery. but more times than not, i am able to dig myself out before it’s too late.

basically, i am becoming more and more autonomous. it’s that simple. im letting you off the hook, my friends.

i am the only one in control of my happiness and my emotional behavior. maybe i should tattoo that on my forehead.

~Donna at .my.blind.world.

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #10

A great place to find online support groups, believe it or not, is Facebook. Usually these groups are closed or secret, which means that only group members can view anything posted there. The group’s postings will show up in your news feed, but it is only visible to you and the members of the group, not by anyone on your friend’s list (unless, of course, they are also in the group).

How do you become a member? Another member already in the group must add you, so your best bet is to post a message that asks your friends to please add you to any recovery groups they are involved in. If that does not work, you may send me a friend request (Cindy Clark Riemersma), I will accept and will add you to any group I am in, once you let me know you would like to be added. I belong to about 10 or 12 of these recovery groups. By the way, I also belong to a group called Breaking the Cycle that is for survivors of abuse, if anyone is interested.

One of the groups I am a member of, and in my personal opinion, one of the best of the bunch, is called Relapse Prevention. There is a lot of good recovery there and a little joking around for fun. There are also many documents regarding recovery that the founder, Mike Vedovat, has posted. One such document contained the 12 steps in a simplified form. I originally thought that Mike had written this version and wanted to get his okay to post it on my blog before I did so. I have recently learned that he did not write these simplified steps and that he does not know who did, but Mike strongly encouraged me to post them for all to see.

If you are in recovery and follow a 12 step program, then you may get a kick out of this. If you are not, but always wondered what the 12 steps are and how they could possibly help someone in the razor-sharp grip of the talons of addiction, this just may clear it up for you. Believe me, these steps are crucial to the healing and growing process that we gain within our recovery. They take time and they take hard work. And every step is important.

Step One—There’s a power that will kill me. 

Step Two—There’s a power that wants me to live. 

Step Three—Which do I want? (If you want to die, stop here. If you want to live, go on.) 

Step Four—Using examples from your own life, understand that selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear control your actions. 

Step Five—Tell all your private, embarrassing secrets to another person. 

Step Six—Decide whether or not you want to live that way anymore. 

Step Seven—If you want your life to change, ask a power greater than yourself to change it for you. (If you could have changed it yourself, you would have long ago.) 

Step Eight—Figure out how to make right all the things you did wrong. 

Step Nine—Fix what you can without causing more trouble in the process.

Step Ten—Understand that making mistakes is part of being human (When you make a mistake, fix it, immediately if you can.) 

Step Eleven—Ask for help to treat yourself and others the way you want your higher power to treat you. 

Step Twelve—Don’t stop doing 1 through 11, and Pass It On!!

As you can see in step 12, once you have made it through each one, you are not done, you are not cured, and you do not graduate. You continue working the steps, pass them on to others who are recovering, and understand that where drugs/alcohol/gambling/eating/etc. were your way of life, now recovery is your way of life. You must follow this program for the rest of your life. It is, what addicts like to call, a solution. The solution. And for those who stick with it, recovery is ongoing and so much can and will be restored to you.

It is not just our minds and bodies that have been wrecked. It is our relationships with family and friends; it is our financial history, credit history, criminal history, and over all reputation that is part of the damage. During active addiction, we have proven to be untrustworthy, unreliable, and unwanted for things such as jobs, apartments, and bank accounts. It is through the work of the steps that we begin to cut out our self-inflicted cancer and begin to build all things healthy. The steps for us, are literally the ladder out of our hole.

My hope in posting this is that those who are in recovery can see how simple the steps really are, and those who know people in recovery may gain a new level of respect for the work that goes into our solution.

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #2

I am very honored, pleased, and excited to present to you the next Reflection of Recovery by a guest blogger from Rockdweller’s Blog. Who is she? Allow me to introduce her as she has introduced herself on her blog, as I believe it says it all

I do not want to be the Rockdweller any longer. The creature at the bottom of the river, clinging tightly to the rocks. Resisting the current, fearing the unknown.
No, I wish to let go – to become the Riversurfer. To surf the currents of the river, wherever it takes me
.”

Riversurfer’s sobriety date is December 13, 2011, so as of today, she now has 151 days sober! Though she wrote this post four months ago, she is continuing to succeed in sobriety, and, by the way, the job interview mentioned was very successful. Riversurfer is very bright, very insightful, and her journey of recovery is strong and true.

This story is but a blink of her recovery and I encourage you to check out the rest of her blog! You will laugh and you will cry, you will feel inspired, you will feel grateful, and you will shout Hurray! And if you really take the time to pay attention to the words she writes, you will find that she is both a very unique individual and very much like you and me. I have personally gotten a lot out of her blog, and, as a matter of fact, this is the second time this week that I have reposted something she has published.  Read on and be blessed…be encouraged!

Forty-one days sober and I have been blessed with a few days in a row, completely disburdened from any thoughts of drinking. Living is the key, simple as that.

When I stopped drinking it was with this crazy and wild idea that I wished to live life to its fullest. No more hiding, no more running away, no more cowardice. And with my mind and heart set on this LIVING mode it is as if I had opened a door, and I must tell you that there is a constant flow of life in and out through this door. By life I mean—thoughts, emotions, occurrences, interactions, relations, senses, advancement, reflection, appreciation, and oh, so much, much more. Sometimes life flows gently, sometimes a whole tsunami surges in or out. And yes, I have been tempted to quickly slam shut that door, only for some peace and quiet. But the peace and quiet in the mind of this alcoholic means to run away and to hide from life. To be completely alone… Would I have given in to the temptation of closing the door, the next step would have been to seek out my old friend, the wine bottle. Because, I really do not wish to remain alone.

Where I stand today, at last with a little distance to the alcohol – I can look back at my life with drinking and take a good look at the present. And I am so thankful to be able to tell that there is a gigantic difference between now and then!

And that was one of my greatest intentions when I became sober (and always will be), to make big changes in my life. I don’t mean on the material level, everything remains basically the same on that plane. No, the changes that are to be made are all regarding my body, brain, and soul. And so determined have I been that I can see that change has begun, and for that am I immensely grateful. I am more willing than I have ever been before, to carry this through. To maintain my sobriety.

Would I have not become sober, then I would not have had the meetings and conversations that I have had with friends and so many other people. These meetings have been very insightful and meaningful and I have not brushed them off, so that I could quickly move on home to the wine that was awaiting. Instead, these meetings have helped me keep my mind and heart open. Would I have not been sober, I am sure I would not had been asked to come back on a third job interview to that same place, next time to meet the people who might just become my future colleagues. Would I have not been sober then I wouldn’t have stopped in the hallway when I come home, to cuddle my welcoming cats, who only want tender love and care. Now I love them to bits and then I take my shoes and coat off to enter the apartment. Previously in my life with drinking, I’d step over my cats, as I take off my backpack to get the wine out. Quickly I’d need to pour up a glass and have a gulp. Then I’d return to the hallway to take shoes and the coat off. But my cats would’ve been forgotten, as I wouldn’t have any minutes to spare for them. Minutes were very precious and sadly all dedicated to alcohol.

When I was drinking, Sundays caused me great anxiety , knowing that tomorrow I must, yet again, take care of all my duties. A job interview would only be another pressure, a lump in my tummy, another reason to drink. Oh… I don’t even want to think of the prison that I lived in 41 days ago; it makes me sick, makes me want to weep, it hurts and it makes me feel so dirty. What have I done to myself!?

Being where I am right now, safe and sober, gives me courage to return to those days and sense that horrible life that once was. To remember… today is light compared to yesterday’s darkness. And in comparison to yesterday, today seems brighter than ever before. I have peace in my soul and I am truthfully relaxed. I have cuddled my two boys to sleep and I listen to their soft breathing. I’m enjoying a delicious cup of green tea with honey and my body, brain, and soul are not influenced by any alcohol—only purely by life itself. Bliss.

~ Riversurfer

If anyone has a reflection from their own recovery and would like to be featured as a guest blogger on my blog, please let me know. I would really like there to be a variety of experiences that others who are recovering from addiction can draw hope and strength from.

 

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #1

I follow many blogs of others in recovery, whether it is from drugs, alcohol, eating disorders—overeating, under or not eating, and manipulative eating. There are other types of addiction as well, such as gambling, sex, shopping, to name a few. I have read some incredible posts and have often thought of asking some of my fellow recovery bloggers if I could feature one of their posts under my Recovery Detours.

My son, Jeremiah, recently took a writing class at Portland Community College and wrote a reflection of his own addiction/recovery for an assignment. He received an A on his paper. So, to break my own nervous ice, I have asked if he would mind if I posted his experience as my first “Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger,” though he is not currently a blogger. He eagerly agreed, sent me a copy, and I am now presenting his story to you. Jeremiah is my oldest of two sons and will be 20 years old on July 14th of this year. He is currently awaiting a call from Job Corps in Astoria, OR, where he is on the waiting list. I miss him immensely and am so very proud of him!

I used to shake the bed with my tremors; at the time I could not sleep until I got nauseous. Alcoholism is no joke. There are plenty of reasons to cut yourself off after one or two. Before I share my experience, let me start by saying an hour or two of feeling good is not worth the hangover, or possibly a lifetime of black outs and regrets for actions that sometimes you don’t even remember.

The pain of withdrawing is mind numbing. It is like a hangover, but ten times worse. My stomach felt rotted, shriveled up, and my insides felt destroyed. I would be so weak, I couldn’t move other than the shakes I had no control over. Keeping something in my stomach was a real task. Even water was difficult, but booze went down great. Stupid, right? Trying to fix the problem with the cause—that’s an alcoholic for you.

The emotional dependency of alcohol depends on the person. For me, it was worse than the physical pain. When you are going through tough times, booze paints a better picture for you. I believe that it enables you to deal with life’s problems in a sober state of mind. To take a few swigs and have your problems go away is tempting and addictive. Your problems are what you make of them, big or small, a crutch is never needed.

As you can tell, booze took control of me. I sold my belongings, have stolen from stores, and robbed people for their cash. Of course, I am ashamed, but it is another reason to not let booze take the wheel. It is a mental illness and should be treated as one. The fact is when you are craving, you tend to rationalize the things you do, no matter what it is.

Overall, avoid addiction. The pain and emotional dependency—it’s all bad. It is better to be in control. I am not against drinking; I just believe in moderation. If you can drink one or two with friends and walk away, there is no problem. But, if you can’t, be careful, because all it takes is one drop, and the next thing you know, you’re drowning.

~Jeremiah Messer

If anyone has a reflection from their own recovery and would like to be featured as a guest blogger on my blog, please let me know. I would really like there to be a variety of experiences that others who are recovering from addiction can draw hope and strength from.  

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #9

I may have mentioned before that I attended my first 12-step meeting on the evening I had six months clean. It took a half a dozen more meetings before I started going because I wanted to and not because it was a requirement of my treatment. More and more people began to talk to me, recognize me, and address me by name. I would participate in conversations that were started with me, but it was a struggle. Eventually, I started being asked to go for coffee with some of the other members after the meeting, and for the longest time, I always politely declined. Was it because I was shy? That may have been part of it, but the shyness had to come from somewhere. The truth is, it did.

When still in Florida, while in high school, and long before I began using drugs, I did have friends and did go out and do things with them, such as go to the beach, to parties, or for different interesting day trips. Half way through my 11th grade year, I was “caught” skipping school for five or six weeks in a row. Long story short, I ended up going to a private, self-study school that was run by a church. My mother suggested that we attend the church services since we were members of the school, and so we did. Eventually, I became involved with youth activities, the choir, and a few other things. I began making friends of a whole new caliber. I wasn’t a very outgoing person, but I do not believe I would call myself introverted either. I could be social and I could spend hours alone in my room, depending on what was going on at the time.

After graduating high school, I moved to Oregon, and continued my involvement with the church. This is where I met the man who I would later marry, which came about under shady circumstances, and believe me, I paid for it! One of the costs for me was that I stopped going to church. Another was that I was forbidden to speak to others and maintain friendships or relationships of any kind. Toward the end, I was cut off from my own mother and sister, and was kept very isolated. Once that nightmare was over, I started a new relationship with a woman I would spend the next 13 years with. This is when I began a life of drug use and all that goes with it.

For those of you who have not experienced a life of drugs, more than any other addiction, it is one that involves a devious group of people—disreputable, dishonest, and disgusting. Everyone you come in contact with is only interested in drugs or your money. Even when you may think someone is your friend, you are wrong. So, for another seven years, I did not have friends and was not a sociable person, rather, I was again isolated with only my partner and my kids…and my drugs.

When I began going to meetings and meeting people, I was shy because I still had this sense that socializing was not allowed, was not safe, and that no one could be trusted. I was shy because I had not had a healthy relationship in over 14 years by the time I reached recovery. I was shy because I did not know how to socialize with others, even if I wanted to. I was shy because I believed I could never measure up, as I had been told for many years.

One evening, and one I will never forget, I made the decision to accept the invitation to coffee. This decision was based on several reasons. The first was that on this particular evening, I was in a good mood and did not want to go right home. I figured that feeling shy in a group of people I barely knew would be better than choking on the silence at home from the people I knew best. Secondly, the group going that evening was smaller than it usually was, so I felt I could break into this new involvement slowly and without a lot of pressure. And finally, I thought to myself, these meetings and the whole concept of recovery is really working for me; it’s time to muster up some courage and see what else life has to offer. So, I went.

Though there were several places members would go after a meeting, the most often was to a restaurant/bar called the Tik-Tok. The bar was separate from the restaurant, but at this time, it was one of the few places left where they allowed smoking in the restaurant part of the building because of the attached bar. At first, there were four of us. James, a very tall man with a very deep voice and Dale, a man with longish blond hair and funny and kind and sweet. And then there was Patrick. Patrick’s clean date is one month and three days after mine and we became best friends throughout our recovery. We sat down at our regular table, one that was often saved for us every night, and we ordered coffee and some f us, something to eat. James and Dale sat and played cards while Patrick and I talked.

Patrick is highly intelligent so talking to him, for me, was a fascinating experience every time. A few more people came in and joined us and Patrick being the polite and friendly soul that he is, included them in our conversation. So, again, my shyness started to creep back in, as I did not know those who joined us. I sat quietly, listening, smiling, and nodding, and suddenly I heard this huge roar of laughter coming from my left where the restaurant entrance is located.

When I looked, I saw Renee coming right toward us. I knew Renee by name and a little about her story from things she had shared in meetings, but I had never spoken to her, though I have always wanted to. Renee is a very happy, positive person and is laughing all the time, while at the same time, very serious about her recovery. Because of my tendencies to feel inferior to just about everyone, I had always felt that I would not be someone Renee would give the time of day. (As I write this, I realize that that kind of thinking was unfair to Renee.) And on this night, I learned how wrong I was.

Renee sat right across the table from me. She ordered some breakfast and chatted with the waitress for a few minutes. When the waitress walked away, Renee began talking to me. She shared with me some recent conversations and letters between herself and her oldest daughter. She talked about how she was learning how to handle different situations that are common with a teenage girl and sometimes she had to just admit that she was unsure what to say and would tell her daughter that she needed time to think it through and be prepared to answer her correctly, rather than guess off the top of her head. I also learned that Renee has two other children, a son and a daughter, both much younger than her first-born. Her oldest was living with Renee’s parents, while the younger children were in the custody of their father.

The conversation that I shared with Renee that night is irrelevant, but what is important was that she not only talked to me, but felt comfortable enough to share personal thoughts and feelings. That night was the beginning of a friendship and a milestone of confidence and the shedding of my hermit state of mind. As a result, I began opening up, venturing to let others in, letting them be my friends and learning how to be a good friend back. And to this day, the friends I have made in recovery are not only the best friends I have ever had and still have, but their friendship has far exceeded my expectations of what a friendship is supposed to be like. Just one of the many blessings and benefits of being in recovery!

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #8

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  I found this on one of the recovery pages on Facebook that a fellow recovering addict posted. The author is unknown, but it is really a fun read and carries a pretty good message. As I read through it, I kept thinking it sounded a lot like a conversation my former sponsor had with me very early in my recovery. Though this is done cleverly as a technical upgrade, the concept is still very much the same. I also felt this was worthy of a reflection post rather than just a random post. It depicts, for those who are not addicts and know little about recovery, one of the many transformations that occur as a result of doing the work. It reflects the self-esteem and emotional growth that we gain in recovery that is beyond the mere abstinence of drug use.That being said, it can also be a useful guide for anyone who is struggling emotionally. As you read through this, you will see that it is not specifically geared toward the broken addict, but to any human who suffers with a lot of negativity and very low self-esteem. It is not as simple as installing software on your computer, because it does take human effort, but it is not as complicated as computer programs generally are. Just like anything else that goes with the territory of change, it is a process, not a magic trick. Give it a read, then give it a try, and then pass it on.

Customer: I really need some help. After much consideration, I’ve decided to install LOVE. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes, I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready to install it now. What do I do?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your HEART. Have you located your HEART?

Customer: Yes, I have, but there are several other programs running right now. Is it okay to install while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let’s see… I have PAST-HURT.EXE, LOW-ESTEEM.EXE, GRUDGE.EXE, and RESENTMENT.EXE running now.

Tech Support: No problem. LOVE will gradually erase PAST-HURT.EXE from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory, but it will no longer disrupt other programs. LOVE will eventually overwrite LOW-ESTEEM.EXE with a module of its own called HIGH-ESTEEM.EXE. However, you have to completely turn off GRUDGE.EXE and RESENTMENT.EXE. Those programs prevent LOVE from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: My pleasure. Go to your Start menu and invoke FORGIVENESS.EXE. Do this as many times as necessary until it’s erased the programs you don’t want.

Customer: Okay, now LOVE has started installing itself automatically. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes. You should receive a message that says it will stay installed for the life of your HEART. Do you see that message?

Customer: Yes, I do. Is it completely installed?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other HEARTs in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops. I have an error message already. What should I do?

Tech Support: What does the message say?

Customer: It says, “ERROR 412-PROGRAM NOT RUN ON INTERNAL COMPONENTS.” What does that mean?

Tech Support: Don’t worry, that’s a common problem. It means that the LOVE program is set up to run on external HEARTs but has not yet been run on your HEART. It is one of those complicated programming things, but in non-technical terms it means you have to “LOVE” your own machine before it can “LOVE” others.

Customer: So what should I do?

Tech Support: Can you pull down the directory called “SELF-ACCEPTANCE”?

Customer: Yes, I have it.

Tech Support: Excellent. You’re getting good at this. Now, click on the following files and then copy them to the “MYHEART” directory: FORGIVE-SELF.DOC, REALIZE-WORTH.TXT, and ACKNOWLEDGE-LIMITATIONS.DOC. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching any faulty programming. Also, you need to delete SELF-CRITICISM.EXE from all directories, and then empty your recycle bin afterwards to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My HEART is filling up with new files. SMILE.MP3 is playing on my monitor right now and it shows that PEACE.EXE, and CONTENTMENT.EXE are copying themselves all over my HEART. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets downloaded at the proper time. So, LOVE is installed and running. You should be able to handle it from here. Ah, one more thing.

Customer: Yes?

Tech Support: LOVE is freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everybody you meet. They will in turn share it with other people and they will return some similarly cool modules back to you.

Customer: I will! Thanks for your help!

~Author Unknown

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #7

Recovery is truly a beautiful process. There is a lot involved in recovering from drugs and alcohol. It is not just the abstinence from the mind altering, body destructing, life ruining, family alienating, job losing, home wrecking demon we ingest in the form of pills, powders, liquids, and gasses. It is about change, growth, and being comfortable with who we are, as we are. In recovery, we say that in order to remain abstinent and continue to heal, we must change our playmates, play things, and play grounds. In other words, we find others in recovery and form new friendships, we find new activities to do with our time that are legal, healthy, and acceptable to ourselves and others, and we spend our time in meetings, having coffee with our new friends, attending pot lucks, and repairing our homes and families. Some of us go to church, mass, synagogues, sweat lodges, and the like.

We are told many things when we enter a room of recovery. These are called suggestions, as they are not requirements, but rather the things that have been tried and worked in aiding other addicts to a successful path of recovery. We are told that the lot of us are there to support and guide you, not make demands of you or threaten to through you out if you do not do it our way. As a matter of fact, we learn that each and every individual’s process, or program, is their own and it is not always the same as the next guy. It is not a race. There is no finish line and graduation comes only when we pass from this life to the next, still clean and sober. There is no cure for addiction, only the treatment of recovery and it is a life long journey. All the suggestions are essential and if followed, we will and do recover.

Some of the more common suggestions are to attend 90 meetings in 90 days, obtain phone numbers from other members and to practice calling, so when you struggle to stay clean and sober, you are able to call for help, get a sponsor who acts as a mentor, and start working on the 12 steps that the program has been built on. We are told that it is not an “I” program, but a “WE” program; you cannot do it alone, but together we can! When we come into the rooms, most of us are spiritually broken and emotionally bankrupt. We are bound by shame and guilt and self-loathing, so the suggestion of giving yourself a break is a wise one. We did not become addicted in one day, so we cannot expect to recover overnight. It takes time. It takes a desire. It takes an effort. And it takes learning and practicing the principles that are foreign to us.

Throughout this process, and usually in the second and third steps, we need to determine for ourselves and accept a Higher Power. This is one of my favorite things about the 12 step programs of recovery. We decide, individually, who our Higher Power is. “…a God of our understanding.” Now, God, in this statement, does not necessarily refer to the Christian God, unless, of course, you want it to. The beauty is, it can be religious or it could be non-religious. Your Higher Power could be God, Buddha, Dalai Lama, the Creator, or some undefined spirit. On the other hand, so many of us either flat-out do not believe in a God or the like or we are just so destroyed that we are unable to believe. For some of us, we need to think long and hard about what we do or do not, or could or could not believe before we know who or what our Higher Power is. Some believe that the Universe serves well as their Higher Power. Others look to Angels, or their own personal Guardian Angel, to guide and protect them. And it is not at all uncommon for others to view the group, other recovering addicts who comprise the meetings, to be their Higher Power. No matter who we acknowledge as our Higher Power, we do need to come to believe that someone or something is bigger, stronger, and more in control than we ourselves, by ourselves, are.

I will break it down even more. Let us take a look at the definitions of higher and power individually. Though they each have many meanings, the ones that are mathematical, statistical, political, and such are not what is meant by Higher Power as we are taught is recovery. What the words do mean in that regard are as follows:

Higher—having a great or considerable extent or reach upward or vertically; exceeding the common degree or measure; strong; intense; exalted in rank, station, eminence, etc.; of exalted character or quality

Power—ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something; the possession of control or command over others; authority; ascendancy; a person or thing that possesses or exercises authority or influence; to inspire; spur; sustain

Now, you can piece these definitions in any way you like that is conducive to your idea of what or who you want your Higher Power to be. One thing that is often suggested is to think of what you think a Higher Power should be, if there was one that you could accept and rely on. For example, my Higher Power is tolerant and forgiving, caring and nurturing, and never gives up on me. My Higher Power listens to me and loves me and accepts me as I am. My Higher Power is always with me and knows much more about me than I will ever know myself. My Higher Power supports me and protects me. What my Higher Power looks like or what I call my Higher Power are irrelevant. My Higher Power has my best interests and well-being as a top priority and I can truly depend on my Higher Power in all situations.

In meetings, you may hear others suggest using a door knob as a temporary Higher Power until you come to accept someone or something different. In one sense, it is an exaggeration to make a point that your choice of Higher Power can never be wrong. It is also metaphorical in that a door knob will open the door to a new life, a new beginning, new opportunities, to a meeting, etc. When you complete the first step, the admitting that you are powerless, you essentially, to some degree, acknowledge that something else has the control, and you are on your way to not allowing the drug or alcohol to have that control, but something else that will lead you to a better way of living.

The beauty of this concept is that, had this program been built up around God, or what is thought to be the Christian God, many would run at the mere mention of the word. If it is not because we do not believe in this particular God, it is because we do not want to be sucked into a religious cult or feel as if we are going to church rather than a support group. In a lot of cases, it is not uncommon for us to come into a room of recovery filled with anger towards God. Until we can take responsibility for our actions, we often blame others and “God” is not immune to being blamed. Some of us just cannot fathom that any God could forgive us or would want to help us and therefore end up feeling doomed right from the beginning. I personally believe that the teaching, tolerance, acceptance, and encouragement of any form of Higher Power is one of the most crucial in new comers’ sticking around and coming back. I love it!

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #6

I have never been real, or even partially or tolerably, comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. It is not uncommon for recovering addicts/alcoholics to share their personal story at their birthday meeting each year, but because I would get such a case of nerves, I cut it down to as little as possible, so I didn’t have to talk for too long. I have, slowly but surely, built up my courage, but to date, I have never really told my entire story. So, here it is…

I had been with my ex-husband for almost seven years. He was a mean and very controlling drunk. I was not allowed to have friends and can’t remember at what point I wasn’t even allowed to call my mother or sister, both of whom I was very close to at the time. (I instead called them from work, and since it was long distance, the company’s phone bill reached over $5,000.00 and I nearly lost my job because of it.) I was only permitted to wear make-up when we were going to be around his friend’s and I could be shown off. I was only permitted to wear a perfume called Red which was made by Giorgio. I was not allowed to watch certain shows that I enjoyed, such as ER and 911, probably because he didn’t want me getting any ideas of “telling” on him. I could only read books he approved of, which were anything that contained not one word of sexual reference of any kind. I had to ask if I could take a bubble bath. Well, I think you get the idea.

When I finally found the courage, the support of family, and had a safe place to go, I left. I could have had the support of my family much sooner had I told them of what was going on. But as many battered women are, I was ashamed and embarrassed and did not want to risk lessening my value in my family’s eyes. It was my ex-husband who actually drew their attention to the abuse I was enduring.

One evening while I was at work, he was, of course, drunk and called my sister to tell her what an awful, worthless person I was and all I deserved as a result. She later said of the call that she could tell right away that he was highly intoxicated, knew me well enough to know that all of what he said was beyond ridiculous, and was both shocked and immediately concerned by the violence he claimed I had coming to me. From there, she made a call to my mother, who spoke to my step-father, who then called my father, and then called me. My step-father first asked me to tell him what was going on and I feigned I knew not of what he was asking. He said he already knew most of it, but wanted to hear it from me, but that in the meantime, he gave me the name of three lawyers that he had personally selected in my state, told me to meet with each of them, and to get back to him with the name of the one I felt most comfortable with. He and my dad were going to split the cost of the lawyer and I was going to get a divorce.

At first, I think I was relieved, and before doing as I was told, I was invited by a colleague at work to move into her apartment with her. The apartment was large, on the ground floor (safer for my young child and infant) and she had an extra bedroom. For some reason, since the day we met, she could see right through me and knew more about my situation than I had ventured to reveal. I agreed and decided I would leave the next day. She helped me remove the backseat from my Chevy Spectrum, so there would be more room to fit any of mine and my children’s belongings that I would need. Her apartment was in Oregon, a mile from where we worked together, and I had been living in Washington and commuting 60 miles, one way, to work, five days a week.

She drove me and my car back to the house and because my ex never let me have keys, we had to break a small pane window, the bottom left of a nine pane window, in order to unlock the door to get in. This window was in the back door that opened into the small laundry room. When we entered the main part of the house, we closed the door to laundry room so we would not track glass through the house. My ex’s father, step-mother, half-brother, and half-sister, lived on the three acres that were adjacent to our two acres, so on that day, his sister heard us drive up and then the glass break. She then began watching us through binoculars carrying quite a bit out of the house and loading it into the car. That led her to call her mother who in turn called my ex-husband.

I was unaware of all of these occurrences until well after the fact. When we were finished, I first went to my oldest son’s elementary school there in town to pick him up for the drive back, but learned when I got there that he had already been picked up by my ex. Startled and in a panic, we drove back to Oregon and next went to the daycare where I had dropped off my nine month old son just hours before. Again, my ex had beaten me there by 20 minutes. I was hysterical!

We went and quickly unloaded the car, replaced the backseat, and I then called my step-dad. He instructed me to go to the police station in Washington, explain to them that I was leaving and why, and ask them to, at the very least, accompany me to the house to check on the children and make sure they were not in danger. I did that. The gentleman officer I spoke to, as I told him my story, seemed to shrink more and more with my every word. When I finished speaking, he asked me to meet him at the inner door, then led me back to a small, quiet office.

The officer sat me down at a table and then seated himself across from me. With a most uncomfortable grimace on his face, he proceeded to tell me that there was a restraining order against me and that I was not allowed within 1,000 feet of my own home and children. He said that my ex had come in and filed the complaint on the grounds that I had broken windows in the house and left shards of glass throughout, without concern for the safety and welfare of the children. I was too shocked to even speak. He then gave me the information on the emergency court hearing that would take place the following day and said I needed to be there. I was exhausted, very distressed, and my mind had completely shut down. I could do nothing more than go back to the apartment, my new address, and get as much rest as possible before defending myself in court.

Though I defended myself as best I could, the judge felt it warranted further investigation, so he gave me visitation every other weekend, instructing us to do the “exchange” at the police station so that there was no danger for all parties involved. He also ordered that a guardian ad litem take our case and to report back to the court their findings and recommendations. This process, ending with the divorce and final custody rulings, took ten long months. During the course of all of this, and learning how to live making my own decisions and not having them made for me, I realized something, that once was a relief to me, now felt like another situation of control.

I am not sure what you could have called my state of mind at that time. Maybe I had been in denial and was transitioning to the anger stage. Whatever the case, I had come to the conclusion that my step-father had just “decided” that I was going to get a divorce and never bothered to ask me what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong; I now know that the timing could not have been better and that it realistically saved my life. But at the time, I was learning how much control my ex had over me and couldn’t help feeling that I had relinquished his control over to my step-father and once again, the events in my life were being chosen for me. I did not like that one bit!

Also during this time, the friend that I was living with was (is) a lesbian. I had told her over and over again that I wasn’t “like that” and that all we would share is friendship. What I later realized was that it was not hr that needed convincing; it was me. One day while leaning against her on the couch with my feet up, watching television, I turned to her and without a single thought in my head, I kissed her. It was soft, sweet, very tender, and it lingered. In that instant, a hundred different things in my life suddenly made so much sense! From there, a whole new kind of relationship began. Unfortunately, the good, memorable, and most enjoyable part of what turned out to be a 13 year-long relationship, only lasted a little over the first four months.

My new lover introduced me to some of her friends. Through them and a few others at work, I heard a lot about “getting high” and “getting loaded” and I listened more than I spoke. Prior to my marriage, I was a daily journal writer and now that I was out of his reach and he could not find and read my every thought, I began to write again. So, I pondered this “getting loaded” and what it meant and all of my thoughts, such as what does it feel like, is it fun, and all that goes with a new curiosity. Occasionally, I would ask my then girlfriend about trying it. She repeatedly told me, “No, we are not going there.” One Monday in the month of June 1998, I asked again and she flipped, saying what she always said and followed by “…and that is the end of this conversation.”

Uh-oh! Something inside of me snapped. I yelled right back to her that I had just left a man who told me what I could or could not do, when I could do it, and with whom, and that I sure as hell was not going to let her tell me no. I said that if she did not want to do it with me, I would find someone who would. Between her knowledge of the drug world and the people in it and understanding how very sheltered I had been most of my life, making me quite naïve, she felt I would be safer if she was with me and finally relented. We made plans to get high on the following Thursday, June 11, 1998. No, I will never forget that date as long as I live.

I was 27 years old that first time using meth. After the first few days, I HATED it, but I continued using for several reasons. First, to go along with my partner and do as she did; second, because I believed that since I was no longer being abused by my ex-husband, which I believed was my punishment for having turned my back on God (he was married and he and his wife were both members of the church I once attended, at the time we got together), I used to continue the punishment I was certain I had coming to me; and finally, I reached a point that no matter how many times I said, “This is the last time,” there was always a next time.

On two different occasions in seven years, my partner and I quit for a few months, only for me to discover that she had started using again, so, of course, I joined her. One thing led to another and we lost our apartment and everything in it, as we were locked out by the sheriff, lived on the street with my kids for almost a year, and then child services took my boys from me. We went back and forth to the courts for over two years, were told sole custody was being given to my ex-husband, who was still drinking, and then one day in court, I lost visitation and phone rights to my kids. I did not know that my lawyer had that decision reversed just three days later, and so I did not see or talk to my boys for 4 months. Things had gone too far and I was not going to let it keep going downhill, so for the first time since I started using, I told my partner that I was quitting with or without her. I was doing it for me.

On my 25th day clean, I made a commitment to never use again. It was four months in that I finally got into treatment, which required attendance to a 12-step program on at least four occasions. After I attended the four required meetings, my treatment counselor asked me, as a personal favor and not a requirement of my treatment, to attend four more. She said she really wanted to see me succeed. It was the first time in so long that someone really cared about my well-being, I promised I would go, and I did that night. I didn’t like the meetings at first and was on my out the door to go get loaded when someone called me by name…”Hi, Cindy. I was hoping you would come back.” Her name was Amy, and because she knew my name, a flicker of hope sparked inside of me and I have been coming back ever since. It took another two years, but I did get my boys back also. I now have 6 years, 6 months, and 3 weeks of continuous clean and sober time and I am living a life of recovery, happy, joyous, and free!

Reflections of a Recovering Addict #5

I have a copy of the following poem in my journal and I read it almost daily. It was written anonymously by an Native American Indian woman while she was in jail. Unfortunately, she died of a heroin overdose two years later, but her perfect description of the power of drug addiction still resonates with intensity. This was first given to me by my treatment counselor and the first time I read it, it shook me to my core. I still get chills from its raw truth. This described my life at the time to a T. Whenever I think I can’t remember the last time I used drugs, a memory that is one of many “musts” in the process of preventing relapse, this will bring it back to me with crystal clarity.

If you are an addict of almost any kind, nothing else has to be said. If you are a non-addict, especially one who has a family member or friend who is suffering from their addiction, please know that as chilling as these words are, they are not at all an exaggeration. Read this twice if you have to. The addicted one is not having as much fun as they may have you believe; they are not enjoying any aspect of their life at all, and in most cases, wish that life would cease rather than continue the way it is. Though the addicts imprisonment at the hands of their vice, that is nothing less than destructive, does cause the family and friends great distress, pain, anger, and resentment, no one suffers as much as the addict themselves.

I destroy homes, tear families apart, take your children, and that’s just the start. I’m more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold, the sorrow I bring is a sight to behold, and if you need me, remember I’m easily found. I live all around you, in schools and in town. I live with the rich, I live with the poor, I live down the street and maybe next door. My power is awesome; try me..you’ll see, but if you do, you may never break free. Just try me once and I might let you go, but try me twice, and I’ll own your soul. When I possess you, you’ll steal and you’ll lie. You do what you have to just to get high. The crimes you’ll commit for my narcotic charms will be worth the pleasure you’ll feel in your arms. You’ll lie to your mom; you’ll steal from your dad. When you see their tears, you should feel sad. But you’ll forget your morals and how you were raised, I’ll be your conscience, I’ll teach you my ways. I take kids from parents, and parents from kids, I turn people from God, and separate from friends. I’ll take everything from you, your looks and your pride, I’ll be with you always, right by your side. You’ll give up everything; your family, your friends, your money, your home, and then you’ll be alone. I’ll take and take, till you have nothing more to give. When I’m finished with you you’ll be lucky to live. If you try me be warned this is no game. If given the chance, I’ll drive you insane. I’ll ravish your body; I’ll control your mind. I’ll own you completely; your soul will be mine. The nightmares I’ll give you while lying in bed, the voices you’ll hear from inside your head, the sweats, the shakes, the visions you’ll see; I want you to know, these are all gifts from me. But then it’s too late, and you’ll know in your heart, that you are mine, and we shall never part. You’ll regret that you tried me, they always do, but you came to me, not I to you. You knew this would happen. Many times you were told, but you challenged my power, and chose to be bold. You could have said no, and just walked away. If you could re-live that day, now what would you say? I’ll be your master; you will be my slave, I’ll even go with you, when you go to your grave. Now that you have met me, what will you do? Will you try me or not? It’s all up to you. I can bring you more misery than words can tell. Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell…  ~Anonymous

The good news is, recovery is possible. The reality is, it is only possible if and when the addict wants and seeks it. We cannot be talked into, convinced, threatened, bribed, or begged to get the help we need. We have to discover for ourselves that the life of drugs and alcohol (or over-eating, or gambling, etc) is no life at all. We have to make the decision ourselves that a new life is necessary and believe it is attainable. The most successful of recovery program is the 12-step program, that if worked diligently, can and will break the cycle of active addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous was the foundation of all 12-step programs that came after, essentially the same, but tailored to the specific addiction in which it provides support and guidance. First and foremost, with a desire to quit using/drinking, followed by honesty with self and with others, a willingness to do whatever it takes, and an open mind, we do recover!

 

 

Reflections of a Recovering Addict #4

I was browsing through the news feed on my Facebook page one day and saw that a fellow recovering addict, and very dear friend, I might add, had posted the following: “I need some input… What is your idea or definition of HOPE?” She was going to be speaking at a meeting that evening and wanted to share not only her own perspective, but that of other addicts too. Several people responded, including myself. I really enjoyed reading the different points of view on something as simple, yet life-sustaining, as hope. I wanted to get more views, so I asked this friend if I may repost her question on my page, and with her blessing, I did.

Unfortunately, I did not get many responses, so posted it again and again on a recovery group page and was pleasantly surprised by some of the answers. By definition, hope is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; a feeling of desire for something and confidence in the possibility of its fulfillment; a thing, situation, or event that is desired; to feel that something desired may happen; a reasonable ground for this feeling; a person or thing that gives cause for hope; to trust, expect, desire, rely, or believe.” I found these definitions on dictionary.com. I also found an acronym, and though I believe it is some sort of marketing for a company, I feel it hits the nail on the head for those in recovery.  HOPE—Health Opportunity for People Everywhere.

Some of the responses that were given were similar to the academic definition, while others were very different and offered an insight that only experience could provide. Hope is different for everybody, and it can mean different things in different situations. I am writing this to record some of the answers that I received to this question, so if ever I feel I have lost all hope, I can come back to this and find it again. Here are the responses; do any of them resonate with you?

“Hope for me comes with wanting something and having faith and hope that it will happen. Also putting something into action and hoping for the desired outcome. Hope for me comes with faith, action, willingness and prayer.”

“Possible. (living with my heart not my head, not letting my limited knowledge keep me from trying)”

“Hope to me means there is always something to hold onto. If you have no hope you have given up.”

“Hope for me is when I hear other women’s experience and strength in the rooms, it keeps me hopeful that I too can achieve what they have. For example listening to their experiences and what they had to endure to get their kids back and all the other gifts of recovery. Hope is the truth for me.”

“Hope is one of those words that is hard to define without using the word. But for me hope is about faith…trusting the outcome.”

“Faith that something is possible.”

“Narcotics Anonymous”

“Honesty; Open-mindedness; Willingness; Patience; Empathy…”

“Hope to me is… Getting through to the other side; if all else fails I still have hope, the light in the midst of my darkness , a reason to press on, an application of action and faith in God for the results; food for my soul …”

“For me Hope is a fact not yet realized but none the less a fact.”

“It means i have a chance at a real life now.”

“Hope is being kicked while your down, having drama, shit and heartache thrown at you and still believing in yourself that it will get better.”

“Hope means that I believe “it works for you” that it could also be right for me!”

“To me… Hope means light in the darkest times. To have hope has saved my life.”

“Hope is my middle name… It gave me strength courage and the will to keep on fighting everyday in the face adversity!”

“Hope for me was the beginning of a faith that I never knew I was capable of.”

“For me Hope is the dream of a soul awake.”

“To me, hope means there’s a real possibility I won’t have to drink or use today.”

“I try to lead by example. The need to see that there is another way of life and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. [A showing of] all the benefits of recovery, a new and better life free from the horrors of drugs and alcohol.”

“The first message of Hope I had heard in a long time: “We know who you are, and you really don’t have to live that way anymore if you don’t want to.” One day at a time, that’s been true for me for 30 years as of yesterday.”

“Faith in things unseen…”

“A belief that God could do for me what I could not do for myself.”

“Step 2 is what gave me hope.” (Step two: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.)

“Hope is that I am alive“

“Hope is that deep inside I know it’s not all over yet…”

“Trusting that things will turn out through faith!”

“The Hope is that I can stay sober one day at a time and all I have to do is not pick up the first drink and trust in my Higher Power. The days become weeks – the weeks become months and the months become years. Plus I know it works. Blessed assurance. “

“The first real hope I got was at my first speaker meeting. I saw hope that I could be alright. I heard similarities in the speakers story. If she could do it maybe I could too.”

“Just keep into action with faith, leaving result s to your Higher Power.”

“Hope to me is seeing the experience of others who [have] grown up and changed their lives and shows their bad days turn into good by working and giving to others time to spend.”

“Hope changes from day-to-day.”

“The night before sentencing.”

“I see hope as desire… If I desire to stay clean, I have hope. If I desire to succeed, I have hope. If I desire to live, I have hope. If I lose my desire, I lose all hope.”

This last response is the one I gave; however, as I have read through these individual responses again, I have learned a lot more about what hope is and what it means to have hope than I ever thought possible. One last thought I would like to offer and that is if you reach a point where you do not believe there is any hope left, reach out to someone. They may have enough for both of you.

Reflections of a Recovering Addict #3

When the newcomer stepped out of the car and approached the door, she hesitated. She really didn’t want to go in, but she had promised the counselor that she would. This was her fifth time in this room, the first four times were required, this time her presence was voluntary. The room smelled of fresh brewed coffee, probably the only thing that was comfortable to her, and there next to the coffee pot was the over-animated woman whose personality didn’t seem to fit her body. Good, they were the only two there so far. As the newcomer poured herself a cup of coffee, the animated one began her song and dance. “Good to see you back. This really works if you work it.” Blah! Blah! Blah! All these repeated phrases were accompanied by the big bear hug.

Eventually others began to file in and get their coffee, and hugging and chattering commenced. The newcomer still felt so out-of-place because she knew no one and really didn’t want to. I can’t do this. I know I promised the counselor that I would try this again, but I cannot take one more night of the Stepford Wives, their superficial smiles, plastic antics, and ritual chants. You see, when a newcomer joins the group, it is customary to try to make them feel welcome. Sitting in a room of 30 or so people all saying things like, “You are welcome, wanted, and needed,” or “Keep coming back,” or “I am so glad you are here,” all sounds so artificial. To the newcomer, it is very foreign and even to some degree, sickening. How dare someone tell me they love me when they don’t even know me!

The newcomer is told that they are in a safe place and are invited to share very personal things, such as fears and failures, with the group, who are all strangers. They assure the newcomer that what is said in the room, stays in the room. She is also told, “if you want what we have, do what we do.” Are you kidding? I could never do this!

Promise or no promise, the newcomer had decided it was time to leave and go to the dungeon instead where she could get the fix that, in spite of the fact it turns her into a prisoner, was familiar and normal. As she reached for the table to set down her coffee before leaving, she heard, “Hi Cindy! I am so glad to see you again. I have been hoping I would.” There stood one of the strangers, but this one knew her name. This one asked the newcomer to sit by her. This one stood and chatted with her on the break. And this one said, “See you tomorrow night,” as if they were old friends.

Why was she so happy to see me? Why did she choose to sit with me and talk with me instead of all the others she actually knows? Why does she want to know more about me? Hmm… Strange. I guess I will have to return tomorrow and see what her angle is. The stranger’s name was Amy and the newcomer was me. Because Amy greeted me by my name, I stuck around that night. And I did come back the next night, and the next, and I continue to go back as often as I can. The result is, I no longer use drugs and have been going back and staying clean for almost seven years now. The subculture in which I am a long-standing and lifetime member is Narcotics Anonymous.

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #2

One of the most gracious and heart-felt gifts I have ever received was given to me by a very dear friend and fellow recovering addict, Lovisa. I have never met her face to face as she is in Iceland and I in Pennsylvania; however, I met her online through Facebook, along with quite a few other recovering addicts/alcoholics, from around the world. We support each other online and especially when it is difficult, or sometimes impossible to get to a meeting, these lovely women are always there for me, giving me strength and hope, and I try to give at least as much as I get.

During a time I was having particularly stressful difficulties with my children, I started reaching out to these women and Lovisa wrote something to me that I will never forget, giving me something I cherish. She wrote that she was sending me a hug and 1,000 more to put under my pillow for when I needed them most. For some, this may sound really silly, but I truly took that to heart and went through the motion of physically lifting my pillow and placing all those hugs there. And I have since paid it forward, giving this simple little treasure that has had and continues to have a huge effect on me.

It has been a great comfort just knowing they are there. In the many months since, when anxiety would snag me from reality and grip me in its iron clutches or when depression enveloped me in the darkest of chilly clouds, I would sit on my bed, lift my pillow and the warmth from my gifted hugs melted my anxiety and gently blew away those gloomy clouds like a summer breeze. I could almost see the light that radiates from her smile and I would close my eyes and allow myself to feel her genuine embrace. Taking a deep breath, I remembered receiving this gift and how it touched my heart. I have always felt much better afterward, even if it was only a distraction from the storm inside my head. Fortunately, I still have plenty of those hugs left, but if ever I come close to running out, I know that all I have to do is ask and she will happily replenish my supply.

Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #1

How does humor play a role in my life? It has kept me alive when little else could. I am a recovering drug addict with nearly seven years clean and sober. Living without the constant chore of searching for more drugs and the avoiding of landlords and utilities service workers leaves a lot of empty free time on your hands that you only know one way of filling, and that way is no longer. So, what to do?

It is, to me, very much like sustaining an injury that leaves you paralyzed. You’re used to walking around, taking showers, getting something to eat, going to the bathroom, and going out to shop, visit, or work. It is a normal daily routine and once you have lost the use of your legs, there is nothing normal about it. At first you are stuck, lost, confused, and helpless.

Eventually you find the will and just enough strength to make one simple change, and then another. You begin to focus on these small changes and then rack your brain every second on what the next possibility might be. And then you hit a snag. Something doesn’t go just how you imagined it should. You feel you have failed and have to fight the urge to just give up and remain disabled or addicted or whatever the circumstance might be. But throughout your process, whether you realize it or not, whether you worked hard to create it or not, you remember that you have people in your life who are your constant support. So you make a phone call.

Someone answers on the other end of the line. Immediately you go off hysterically about how everything is wrong. The person on the other end just listens, because they are very familiar with the weight of your burden. As you puke your soul out over telegraphic lines, you realize how silly it all is. You comprehend that the problem was just a minor mistake and already you have learned what went wrong.

The voice on the other end of the line says, “Wow! All of that? And you called me? I’m just a lawyer. I couldn’t possibly fix that and you certainly couldn’t afford my fee!” The tension is broken. The relief that you are okay comes in a flood of tears, and the laughter the two of you share is something you will both remember when the next snag trips you up, or the next time your phone rings and you hear a familiar, hysterical ranting from someone who is crossing that spot in the very road you are on. Humor can come from within. It can come from another person. Or it can be shared in a valuable lesson with a ripple effect that can go on long after the laughter subsides.