out of spiteMy first year in recovery, I stayed out of spite. A woman said to me, “You know, 10 percent of you will make it and you’re not one of them.”

That was one of my early examples of what I now call “The Art of Flipping”—that time I used spite as an asset and proved that lady wrong.

A speck of hope brought me to recovery on July 13, 1995. Ten days prior I was given direction to fly to Ontario, California where I would spend the next week or so servicing a couple of the elders of a motorcycle club. Not one of my proudest lived experiences when I’m sharing with others, and I still couldn’t tell you how I got home to Connecticut.

Prior to leaving, I felt this knowing, a certainty that this event was either going to kill me, or get me beat down and put in the hospital. I couldn’t keep wandering through life high, I was so tired. I didn’t know how to ask for help; it felt like a weakness. When I did make it back home and I woke up the next day I fell into a dark mental state. Nothing changed and nothing was going to change so I proceeded to take drugs and participate in self-harmful behaviors.

For me, self-harm felt deserving and came in different forms. As the day went on I came up with a more extreme idea. I had a small 22.Beretta, I didn’t so much want to die, but I did feel if I hurt myself enough I would be absolved of my wrongs, my shame, my guilt and how bad I felt about myself. I could start new.

This moment was my last attempt at controlling an outcome, when unbeknownst to me all I had to do was surrender. For some unknown reason, I found myself with my phone in one hand and my gun in the other. I called a woman I had met at a motorcycle fundraising event who told me she had not used drugs in eight years. Even though I had met her during the fast-paced lifestyle that included active addiction, bars, and motorcycles, I was desperate to believe she was telling me the truth. I just could not see myself keeping up the charade any longer. I didn’t know how to live without the use of drugs, including alcohol and I didn’t know what to do to get help.

She answered the phone. From this raw and vulnerable state I purged some very old pain, and a lot of fear. I held onto the gun and the phone for about an hour wrestling with years of self loathing while being drawn toward the hope of something different. She knew what I know now to be the window of opportunity to help someone, and this window of opportunity would be short-lived. It couldn’t have made much sense, but she listened and together we worked on a plan.

Flash forward to three days before my 20th recovery anniversary. That’s the day I was hospitalized for severe depression. I had achieved so much in recovery yet felt separated, segregated, alone and I had missed most of the life markers imposed on people by society. I stringently believed in recovery, yet was so very confused about mental illness. I wrote quite a bit about my thoughts and feelings around mental illness in my I Am Not Anonymous story.

The disease started talking to me and the place I was in got very dark, dark and weirdly familiar. I came to understand that this was depression and this had been going on all of my life and I was embarrassed. I was 20 years without drugs, including alcohol, yet I hadn’t shared or surrendered to this darkness and the other demons.

I had my own stigma around mental health and I sure as hell didn’t want yet another diagnosis to set me apart from others. My family’s what-happens-in-the-house-stays-in-the-house mentality and suck-it-up attitude nearly killed me. The ways I dealt with my traumas and the story before the story were turning on me.

Thank God I’m a planner; my back-up plan probably saved my life. I ended up telling on myself. I called my best friend of over 40 years and asked her to help me. I gave her signed checks, my passwords, emails, my mortgage, my bank accounts and credit cards. I had already called my EAP and FMLA from work. I was crashing.

What I know now is as good as I was in recovery, nobody in the the 12-step rooms could help me stay alive until I completely surrendered to the fact I needed help with my mental health. My BFF who I mentioned earlier, called the cops to come to my house when I stopped responding to her text messages on July 11th, 2015. I had been trying for a few days to get help by phone and was unsuccessful.

By this time suicide was an option; there had been a plan I visited over and over again for years, once even taking my dog into consideration, learning how to time an email so he would be found after the fact. My BFF knew this and calling the cops was the most loving and difficult thing she knew to do. That day I walked onto the back of an ambulance.

I had a two-year plan to immerse myself in meditation and intensive trauma work once or twice a week. I was on short-term disability for four and a half months, the longest time in my life I didn’t work. After 10 months, I was laid off after 26 and a half years with the company–six months short of my plan of starting early retirement.

I just kept moving forward. I started college at the age of 42, it took me seven years to get a bachelor’s degree in art of social sciences, and certifications as a Recovery Support Specialist, Progressive Recovery Coach and Hypnotherapist. This year I got a degree as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor and certificate as Substance use Counselor.

My new life is my third life in one lifetime and it is allowing me to dream big. I’ve started two companies, first TriCircle Restoration LLC, about to go live with “The Paraphernalia Project” and the other is TriCircle, Inc. a 501(c)(3). These two projects are rich in purpose and what I have dug my heals into when I got out of the hospital. My Aunt Kathy started helping me offload everything out of my head and onto paper–I’d been planning these big ideas for over four years.

I believe there are missing components in how we treat people and the length of stay in a safe environment is one of them. TriCircle, Inc. is working on a new way of doing things in a three-phase process.

We’re actively looking for property to launch the program part of Phase One for TCI. We have our non-profit status already and are looking to offer day and evening intensive outpatient services. Phase Two will be gender-specific housing.

Phase Three will be a 15-month residential program fulfilled in three five-month cycles. We’re going to create an environment conducive to recovery as well as healing the brain from trauma and creating community.

Finally, I have been working with others to bring a recovery high school to Connecticut and included in my dream is for TCI to house it on our Phase3 campus.

When I first got into recovery, I believe I’d been given a second life in my continuing recovery process–just for today I survived addiction. Now I think I’ve been given a third life and I’ve survived my own recovery! It’s a whole new level of surrender.

Now instead of feeling alone, I’m constantly searching for more connectivity, more resources that will lead to success. I wish we could all learn that working together means everybody wins. Together we are stronger.