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After 20 Rehabs, My Brother Has One Year in Recovery

My brother John and I have always been close. John first entered recovery at 22. He finally entered long term recovery again 25 years later, after his life had become unbearable and he began to drink again. Within a month of relapsing on alcohol, he was using meth and didn’t approach long-term recovery for another five years.

Elizabeth EssexMy stomach clenched every time my phone rang in those days. Was John on the street, in a hospital, in jail, in detox? Did he need money (always), clothes, a hotel room, smokes, food?

Sometimes John’s voice would contain a hint of his real self who loved me and wished he was in recovery. Sometimes his voice was cold and angry. When there were no drugs left, he’d get furious when I suggested that rehab would have food or a bed.

“You can’t make me go to rehab!” he yelled.

“You can’t make me give you money!” I’d answer.

Once he said, “You’re not my sister anymore!” because he knew that’s what I feared the most. I was trustee of his dotcom money (a decision John made in a period recovery) so it was his money, but I had to decide when and how much to send him—painful decisions every time.

Those years were utter hell for both of us, a continual cycle of detox, rehab, and relapse. I was there every step of the way. I talked to intake nurses, Fedexed clothes to him when he had nothing. I made sure he had a guitar—this was not only essential to John’s recovery, but the first thing he pawned when he relapsed.

John struggled in rehab. Meth messed with his mind and the paranoia was intense. John would call, terrified, and tell me that the rehab staff was poisoning his food, imprisoning him, laughing at him, plotting to steal his money.

All of these were reasons to run—and of course I understood that. Who wouldn’t run from such people? I’d tell him to just hang on for another day or two until I found another place. I was hoping the psychosis would fade, but that never worked. “I won’t use, Liz, I just have to get out of here,” he said and then nothing until the next call for money.

Those times were the loneliest of my life. I read every addiction memoir I could find. Broken by William Moyers was particularly helpful in understanding relapse. My sister-in-law told me to detach. But I didn’t want to. I was the only one John called regularly and I was afraid he’d be lost forever if I abandoned him.

“You must be so relieved that he’s in rehab,” relatives said, but I wasn’t. It’s not like a TV show with a fast forward to 60 days in recovery and everyone is happy. Getting to rehab was the beginning of another round, that’s all.

“Go to Al-Anon,” friends said. I finally found an online Meth-Anon group and felt understood, but still lonely. Some nights, in desperation, I even asked Siri “Where is John?” or “Is John alive?” It felt good to speak those words out loud.

John’s money dwindled—rehab is expensive, after all. During one period of recovery John suggested an agreement to avoid fights about money. If he relapsed, I was to give him $400 per week from the trust. No more, no less, and no questions asked.

“Why are we planning for relapse?” I wanted to know.

“Just in case,” he said, knowing the inevitable was coming. It’s hard to convey the constant urgency, stress and dread—the drama—of loving an addict to those who haven’t lived it.

John EssexAs John gets close to his 12th month of sobriety, I am enjoying the calm nights, punctuated with the occasional dream that he has experienced a recurrence. A 213 area code on my phone still triggers anxiety, and if John and I don’t talk or text for a couple of days, I worry. Perhaps it will always be this way. I’m clinging to the peaceful days. My anxiety creeps up sometimes, but every day waking up joyful that John is in recovery and that he’s in my life.

I realized finally that I could do nothing to help John except answer the phone and say I love you always, and wait for the day that he had the strength to stay recovery. It was a long wait—over 20 detox/rehab/relapse cycles—but I had faith that John would find his way. How he did that is his story to tell. Meanwhile, those of us who love people with substance use disorders live one day at a time, too.

Good Orderly Direction: Recovery for 41 Years

I came from a middle-class family with good core values. However, I always had a strong self-will and despite warnings and admonishments from my parents, I began drinking alcohol and experimenting with mind-changing and mood-altering substances at an early age.

I got drunk for the first time at 14 and it was transformative. I couldn’t get enough! When I was 17, my older sister was killed by a drunk driver. Her fiancée and best friend were in the car, too. They, along with the drunk driver who hit my sister’s car, also died. I swore I would never drink and drive again, but broke that promise to myself within a matter of months. I drove drunk countless times thereafter.

I was married at 18 and a father at 20. I was a child of the 60s: pursuing sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. I was drafted into the service during the Vietnam War. My marriage was disastrous and I began to drink not only for fun and recreation, but also to cope with my failed relationship and with my emotions.

I blamed everyone and everything for my problems. At 25, I checked myself into a psychiatric ward at my local Veteran’s hospital where I spent the next 2 months trying to “get my head together.” While there, I was coaxed into attending a 12-step meeting, but immediately determined I wasn’t that bad. I drank and used other substances for the next year, desperately trying to control or stop my use.

I experienced a rude awakening at age 26 following a head-on car accident while highly intoxicated. I was spiritually, physically, and emotionally broken and finally willing to fully accept help. I entered a wonderful 28-day 12-step oriented treatment program and followed the good orderly direction they recommended. As a result, my life profoundly changed for the better. I’ve been totally abstinent and in recovery ever since.

I returned to school and obtained my Master’s degree in Human Services. I entered the addictions treatment field and several years afterward started my own private practice. I later became the director of a local health department outpatient addictions treatment program and eventually became involved in prevention and recovery advocacy efforts. I remarried and raised a family and have dedicated my life to being of service to others in need of help.

I’m now semi-retired. I’ve had a wonderful life. I recognize that I’m deeply blessed and remain passionately committed to recovery advocacy.

Instead of “suffering addict,” this is what my bio says today:

John WinslowWith over 41 years of continuous recovery, John Winslow, M.H.S, is Coordinator of the Maryland chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence’s Recovery Leadership Program. He is also past President of the Maryland Addictions Directors Council (MADC) and until retiring from State service served as Director of the Dorchester County Addictions Program and oversaw the DRI-DOCK Recovery & Wellness Center in Cambridge, Maryland. John has been an active participant to statewide public policy agendas and provides critical information to legislative committees in Annapolis related to professional issues in the overall treatment and recovery system.

From Coaching Future NBA Stars to Recovery Coaching

My name is Mark Vick, and I am a person in recovery from a substance use disorder. For me, that means I haven’t taken a drink, drug, or other mind altering substance since May 27, 2015. Since that time, my life is no longer unmanageable and has never been better! I have regained the respect of my family and professional colleagues.

I started regularly drinking at the age of 15. I was popular and a successful athlete and student, and got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees immediately after high school. I was a so-called ‘All-American guy’.

I then worked professionally as a men’s basketball staff member at a couple NCAA Division 1 institutions. One of our teams made the March Madness Tournament, and I mentored four future NBA players.

All the while, my life was growing into something unmanageable, without a clear reason why. Even though I drank nearly every night, I didn’t see the connection. As a divorced man with no kids, I still rationalized I deserved my “me time.” I worked hard, so I drank just as hard.

Bosses and family members brought attention to my excessive drinking, but I continued. I lost jobs and friends. After a while, I was working road construction for $9 an hour and as a bouncer at a small-town bar. This was just two short years after coaching games on ESPN.

Mark VickThe picture attached is of a Trailblazer that I totaled while drinking in February, 2015. As scary as that may have been, this still wasn’t the end of my drinking. I needed a few more months of research to figure out I had a problem and needed help. For me, will power wasn’t enough!

I am now a recovery coach with Northern Michigan Substance Abuse Services (NMSAS). I have collected over 50 Continuing Education Units in substance use disorder advocacy. I’ve worked with and been mentored by nationally renowned advocates, and I am working to become a certified peer recovery mentor.

I’m am thankful to my Higher Power. Connecting to a spiritual source, as well as to like-minded individuals, has saved me. I now can help others who struggle. This is what peer recovery support services does. In my opinion, PRSS is the best and most effective way for people like us to recover. People like us includes people that are most often described by using insensitive and stigma-perpetuating terms like: druggies, pill-heads, junkies, and drunks.

Many disagree on whether our issue is a disease or a choice, but either way someone feels the stigma. Hurtful terms create barriers to recovery and end up contributing to the 144 American lives lost everyday! I ask all to please be sensitive and educate yourself before making such statements.

Mark VickIt is very liberating to share my experience. I now aim to carry a message of hope. Recovery is possible. I want to say this to those who are struggling or have a loved one who is struggling. My family is now starting a new community friendly business. We’re bringing excitement, energy and hope to our hometown, which has been struggling since the most recent recession.

Love to all who have supported me over the past two years!

Substance Use Affects “Nice” People Too

My story starts at the bottom. The morning before I got entered recovery, my breakfast consisted of nearly a bottle of red wine and a few thick lines of cocaine. I got dressed, checked my teeth for lipstick and my nose for stray coke, put my laptop in its case, and picked up the paper on the way out to work at my big New York City law firm. I felt sick, afraid, and completely alone. I know now that I was wrong about the alone part.

More than 20 years ago, I became an associate at a big New York City firm and almost simultaneously spiraled into alcohol and drug addiction. I was 25 years old, with the ink still drying on my law degree. The work hard/play hard environment of a top law firm was intoxicating, literally. Long days in the office turned into long nights in the bars and clubs. Unfortunately, another long and stressful day in the office was always just a few hours away. It was a terrible dynamic for someone like me, with a Type A personality and a then-undiagnosed depressive disorder.

After a 10-year decline to the bottom of my addiction, I landed in a seedy New York City detox. When doctors strongly suggested a 28-day stay at a rehabilitation facility, I refused to go. It would have meant telling my law firm the real reason I had been out “sick.” Instead, I went to outpatient rehab two nights a week. One week and one day after checking into the hospital, I was back at work. It was not a smart approach after being diagnosed with a chronic disease. With the right mental health diagnosis and tremendous support, though, I celebrated 13 years of recovery in April.

Lisa SmithWhen people learn that I’m in recovery, they often say that they wouldn’t have guessed “that” about me and that I don’t look like a “drug addict.” Somehow, I don’t think that similar comments are made to people with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. And just like people with those diseases, we look like anyone and everyone else.

I wrote my memoir, Girl Walks Out of a Bar, to try to help the next person who suffers to know they’re not alone. You can be a nice girl from a nice family, a straight-A student and an overachiever, and still be a person with addiction. I want people to know that life can get better, no matter where you start from.

I never imagined a life without drinking. Now, I wake up every morning feeling grateful that I have been able to build a life in recovery, alongside tremendous people walking the same path. I want to help the next person to join us.

Not All Addiction is Substance Use

Living in recovery with mental health issues can be a tough journey, as I have learned. I am a loud advocate for gambling addiction and mental health. Many people don’t understand that gambling is a real addiction, just as dangerous as drugs and alcohol. Today, suicide claims the lives of more people with a gambling addiction than any other kind of dependency. I myself have attempted it twice.

Catherine Townsend-Lyons 1My recovery journey started in 2006. I woke up in a hospital as the result of another failed suicide attempt, then went back to an addiction and mental health crisis center for a 14-day stay. The problem wasn’t that I gambled again; the problem was not taking my psych medications for a few weeks. I thought I didn’t need them and that I could be normal like everyone else around me. That didn’t work out too well for me.

I had a few severe financial crises happen, and since I had not taken my medication and had worked through all of my savings, I panicked and chose to steal from someone. What a mess! Of course, they pressed charges. I was arrested, went through the court process, and paid steep consequences for my poor choice.

My point? You have to do the work in all areas of your recovery, including your finances. I had not done all the work necessary for a well-rounded recovery. Even though I was not gambling, my financial and legal troubles told me I still needed to more work. After my problems emerged, I worked with an addictions expert for a year as I went through the legal mess I created.

After this second suicide attempt, I learned I did not have a full plan. I also learned that God, my Higher Power, had bigger plans for me. My purpose is helping those reaching out for recovery from the cunning illness of compulsive gambling addiction. After I was released from the crisis center in 2006 and began working with the expert, I got my mental health under control. I also began to see the stigma surrounding those of us who choose to live in recovery. The people who suffer from a mental illness have a huge hurdle in our path.

Being a dual-diagnosed person who lives in recovery and has mental health challenges, obtaining recovery is a wee bit more work. The addicted thinking habits I’d relied on in the past needed more correcting. Working with the gambling specialist was eye opening. He helped me break down the cycle of addiction, and we also worked with tools and skills for dealing with financial problems that may arise in recovery.

I was given a fantastic recurrence prevention workbook as well. Although I didn’t revert back into gambling, this book has helped me develop a plan for any financial or life event that may arise during my recovery journey. You need a plan before life events come.

Another tool that helped was journaling every day. I have always done this, but my specialist showed me how to relieve stress and learn more from my journaling. My journals helped in writing my memoir, which is now a published book. Writing my story and experiences was a very healing process for me. I shared about my gambling addiction and alcohol use; my past childhood trauma, abuse, and sexual trauma; and what it is like living with mental illness.

By doing this, I hope to shatter stigma around gambling addiction, recovery, and mental health. I want to be a voice for those who feel they do not have one. I want others to know how devastating compulsive gambling addiction is and how one can become addicted. It truly is a silent addiction!

It is time to have the discussion about gambling addiction. I want to inform and educate people, and I raise awareness of the effects it has on our communities and families’ lives. The expansion of casinos and for-profit state lotteries is making gambling more accessible today and is now touching our youth.

Currently, 1% of our population are problem gamblers. Gambling is the #1 addiction claiming lives by suicide! The best advice I can give? When starting off in recovery, learn about this addiction. Work with a specialist or recovery expert to learn the “cycle” and then learn the tools and skills to interrupt it.

Also, a reliable recovery needs to encompass mind, body, spirit, and finances. There are many ways to recover, including inpatient or outpatient treatment, 12 Step meetings, and whatever works for you. Try anything and everything you can find. Sticking with only one option may not be enough for success and longevity in recovery and being “bet free.” I learned this the hard way.

I have reached over 10 years in recovery from gambling addiction and alcohol. Now, my mission and God-given purpose are to reach out to others and share my story. I hope that one more life isn’t taken by suicide due to gambling addiction, alcohol addiction, or mental health issues.

No more suffering. I am loud, proud, and Facing Addiction!

I Love Being A Recovered Dad to My Disabled Son

I came out of an opiate induced blackout, in treatment, on June 27, 2009. I don’t remember how I arrived there, but I do remember what led to me being admitted.

For a couple of years, I had been inching closer to oblivion. My son was hospitalized in early 2007, due to a rare seizure disorder. We were told he would most likely die. He spent four months in intensive care. My drug and alcohol use had already caused many financial, social, and medical problems in my life. However, the drugs and alcohol could not ease the pain of seeing my 5-month-old son, hooked up to all those machines. It was a feeling of powerlessness I hope no one ever has to experience.

I tried my best to be there for my family. I showed up physically, but I stayed as loaded as I could. My son survived, but a few months after we returned from the hospital, his mother left me. I used to be angry with her, but now I realize she did what was best for everyone.

She told me time and time again, “If you don’t stop smoking crack, I’m going to leave you.” I couldn’t stop. In this time, I acquired and lost a couple of promising job opportunities. I went into a tailspin when she left and were it not for the kindness of my grandmother, the love of my little brother, and divine intervention, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Sometimes, our lives are held together by the tiniest threads.

I got a job in another city, and was flown to Germany to train for my new position. Though I drank heavily while in Germany, I put some weight back on and began to get my life back in order. I got to see my son again and learned how to care for his disabilities. I even made a decent living. But I couldn’t run from myself and eventually I caught up with me.

I began using opiates more heavily, and graduated to intravenous drug use. My job began to suffer and hopelessness loomed large. I couldn’t seem to overcome my problems. Depression overtook me. Finally, I crashed and burned. When I lost that job, I lost all hope. Death became a welcome thought.

I moved back in with my parents, but they kicked me out because I couldn’t stop stealing. I pawned all of their belongings to buy drugs. I became an absentee father because I couldn’t stay abstinent from drugs long enough to be with my son. My car was repossessed and no one wanted anything to do with me. My grandmother took me in and, to repay her kindness, I robbed her blind. She slept with her purse and suffered mightily because of my actions.

I became everything I have ever hated, and was sure I would die with a needle in my arm and a crack pipe in my mouth. I wanted to stop, and tried to stop, but I kept losing the fight against myself. The last thing I remember is getting my grandmother to drive me to a seedy gas station so I could shoot up in the bathroom.

The funny thing is, when I started drinking and getting high, the goal was never to become addicted. It was about having fun, letting loose, and being with friends. It was about relieving stress, giving me courage, and making me feel free. I never thought smoking weed and drinking would one day lead to shooting dope and smoking crack. In treatment, I learned that for people like me, drugs and alcohol have a different effect. Willpower just doesn’t cut it and they need help. I am one of those people. From there I could make a new beginning, and so I did. I went to recovery housing, and started on my path to recovery.

My recovery has not been without struggle. I coped with PTSD from childhood molestation. Depression and shame from how I’d behaved made early recovery hard. My little brother, who served three tours in active war zones, overdosed and died when I was 15 days in recovery. I only saw my son a handful of times in my first year. But the people in my recovery community were there for me. They showed me how to survive, picked me up when I was down, and taught me to thrive. To them, I am forever grateful.

Christopher ClarkToday my life is amazing. At two years in recovery, I gained full custody of my son and he moved in with me. I’ve had the same job for over seven years. I have a key to my parents’ house. I have repaid all money I stole and made peace with most of the people that I harmed. I am respected and loved, but most of all I have self-esteem and integrity. I like who I am today.

Raising a disabled child is challenging, but nothing has been more rewarding. His love is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Finally, I spend much of my free time trying to help the next person, as others once helped me. There is hope for the hopeless and love for the unlovable.

My name is Christopher Clark. I have been continuously in recovery since April 20, 2010. I live in Auburn, Alabama. I am 37 years old. I am a (good, I hope) father, son, brother and in recovery from my substance use. Thank you.

First Drink At 2, this Veteran is Now In Recovery 22 Years

I am blessed to have twenty-two years in recovery at this time in my journey. I am fifty-six years old and was born addicted to alcohol. I took my first drink in my mother’s womb and my second drink at two years old and my last drink at thirty-four years old. I used every drug available from the age of until thirty-four.

I dropped out of school in the eighth grade since it got in the way of my substance use. I joined the Army at the age of seventeen in order to escape my addiction. It didn’t happen. I cannot remember a day during these years that didn’t involve the obsession to find, get, and use any substance to stop being me. I longed for a way to stop using alcohol and drugs, but really couldn’t imagine a world without them. I tried to commit suicide twice in active addiction and once in early recovery.

I went to treatment at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore for ten days on August 10, 1995. This was my one and only time going to treatment for my addiction. I met an incredible counselor who changed my life by showing me what recovery could be. I moved into a military-based program for addiction treatment called McVets. I stayed in outpatient treatment at the VA for two years. I learned from this group that treatment and recovery were always evolving and that I must allow my thinking to evolve as well.

I have been working in the addiction treatment field for eight years. I started out as security at a long-term recovery program for sixty men. Next, I did direct patient care for a twenty-eight day program. I’ve also worked as an addiction counselor trainee, aftercare coordinator, addiction counselor trainee for an outpatient program, and community outreach coordinator for addiction treatment.

I have received my Associate of Applied Science Degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling. I will graduate in 2017 with my Bachelors Degree in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Alcohol & Drug Counseling. I will start my Masters Degree program in the Fall 2017 Applied Psychology with a concentration in Alcohol & Drug Counseling.

I know personally and professionally how to combine both addiction treatment and recovery into a workable program. I’ve loved Facing Addiction since it was first organized and have been an active member since day one. Recovery is attainable for everyone that wants it, but it requires a person to fully accept that if active addiction exists, active recovery must exist, too. For me, the most important word is “active.” Be it in addiction or recovery, it requires me to be pursuant in my belief.

I love being able to tell anyone: “I am a person in long-term recovery and this is what it means to me.” I have been active in both of the other fellowships, which has helped me in my recovery. I have witnessed so many people find recovery over these twenty-two years. The world may never know about their victories, because of the vow of invisibility that we take in the fellowships.

That is why I love Facing Addiction. It is achieving change by giving a voice and face to what recovery looks like: me and you. I am not afraid to share my journey through addiction to recovery with the world.

I’m offering my story to change the misconception that recovery doesn’t exist.

Paramedic Survives 9/11 and Opiate Addiction

As I sit here and reflect on a life riddled with hurt, shame, and failure, my gratitude overflows. I am exceedingly blessed to share my experience as a means of lending you the courage to speak your truth. The deep, inner hurts that we carry can only die in the light of exposure. Our struggles are how we connect with each other and paradoxically lend us our greatest strengths.

I was the last of triplet boys and for some reason always felt like I was the crap left over, unworthy and insignificant. I was puny, uncoordinated, and had big glasses at a young age. I can still hear the echo of the harsh words that the cool kids would say.

I was the kid who cried at soccer camp and had to be picked up at lunchtime on the first day by my mother. I can remember when puberty hit, the desire for a girlfriend hit. My solution? Ask every girl in seventh grade out: not exactly a great promotional opportunity for me.

I was the normal kind of awkward, but soon things went from plain old bad to truly horrible. I was 14 years old when a man who was a recognized spiritual leader attempted to molest me. I held it in for a week.

When I finally gathered my courage and spoke up, his leadership and even my parents just brushed it away. The crushing feeling of abandonment and shame took me down a a road of searching for peace through any means possible for the next 20 years.

When I did get the chance a year later to date a cheerleader, I messed that up purely out of fear of messing it up. I tried too hard and drove her away. A few months later, she and I were assigned to stand next to each other at a Christmas choir concert. I became overwhelmed with the desire to apologize to her for my behavior, but didn’t out of fear of rejection.

She was killed an hour later in a car wreck. So that added regret to hurts I carried on my shoulders. I joined the local fire department and found some hope, only to realize years later that it was my way of being a rescuer because no one was there to rescue me when I needed it.

I threw myself into my work and spent every waking hour responding to emergencies. I finally found my place in life and maybe a sense of peace, however fleeting it was.

Stephen KavalkovichThen came September 11, 2001: the day the world changed forever. Our nation was attacked and innocent people needed help. I was tasked to go to NYC and join the rescue effort. I walked into Ground Zero that night and will never be able to describe in words what it was like.

There was no way to really help and I carried that defeat for many years. I used it as an excuse to act out and numb myself. I began drinking heavily to stave off the nightmares and guilt that would progress to the point of death 14 years later.

My illness intensified. I began working as a paramedic and it wasn’t long before I was stealing pills from the medicine cabinets of those I was entrusted to help. I got married, had children, and bought a house full of stuff, but nothing made me feel secure.

I cheated on my wife many times, lost more jobs than I can count, and gambled our money away between long hours of helping others. I worked for two out of three counties in Delaware that both fired me for unprofessional behavior.

My first attempt at treatment was in 2008. My counselor, a convicted murderer who’d found recovery, had to teach me basic skills like laundry and not lying about everything I said. My wife stayed with me until another job loss. Then, she moved in with her mother. She finally gave up.

Who could blame her? My reputation and career were ruined when my second and third treatments didn’t stick. Even though I’d been through treatment, I showed up to work high. My certification got revoked, which led me to shopping for a doctor who’d prescribe me more painkillers.

My only fuel was an insatiable need to numb myself. My greatest fear was jail, but soon that came and went, too. I still kept going. When the money and pills ran out, the little bag of dope was introduced and in desperation I gave in.

There is nothing like the demoralization of being revived from overdose by an ex paramedic partner on not one, but two occasions. I found myself in my mid 30s with my score card at zero. I’d tried many therapists, rehabs, and medications for symptoms related to my destroyed state of mind and body, but they didn’t work.

I am grateful to say that utter brokenness brought me to the realization that no outside treatment or “help” would ever be enough to make me like myself. That was an inside job. I finally became beaten to a state of willingness and reasonability.

In order to get better, I had to go deep within and explore my deep-seated hurts, behaviors, and beliefs about myself. I had always tried to fill the same hole that all humans are born with: a God-shaped hole I was trying to fill with man-made things.

I sought peace in material creation instead of the Creator. My goal is not to preach, but to share what worked for me. My recovery came from relationship with myself, accepting myself for who I was, and uncovering what was inside me all along. It came from putting others first and learning to serve rather than be served.

Stephen KavalkovichNow, I am not perfect and would never want to be. But life is good. I sleep these days instead of blacking out. I feel deeply, love without expectation, and offer myself in any way to whoever has a need that I can fill. I am just one beggar telling another beggar where he got the bread.

I found that I had been asking the same question society asks about addiction. Why do they do make bad choices? The more relevant question that offers solution is, Where does the pain come from?

I began exploring that and freedom came on like a tidal wave. It is now my mission to share my story with you as a way of connecting us and giving you a voice. We are all floating in space on this big round ball and none of us are getting out alive. The best hope we have for world peace is peace in ourselves, followed by connection through our struggle and weakness.

If a guy like me, who was educated and saved people for a living and was supposed to “know better” could all but kill himself, no one is immune. Drugs are not the poison we choose to cover our feelings: it is the feelings that break us. If we are lucky, we live to tell others, and it is our mission to do so.

Fearless Girl to Empowered Single Mother

My name is Kelly Mahoney, and this is my story of how a single mother transformed from a fearless girl to an empowered woman.

Kelly MahoneyI am a person in long term recovery. For me, that means I have not found it necessary to pick up a drink or a drug since January 5, 2016. Recovery is something I never saw myself experiencing. I was convinced I was just a bad person. I have since learned I have a disease called substance use disorder.

As a small child, I always felt out of place. I had lots of friends, and felt different from all of them. I never felt comfortable in my skin, and for a young girl, that’s pretty scary. I wanted to get away from myself and my life. Not that life was terribly bad—this feeling had just always been with me.

I was a sensitive, emotional, and intense kid. People always told me, “Don’t take everything so seriously.” I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t help it, and I didn’t know why I was the way I was.

I had my first drink at 12. At that moment, it was as if the right key finally unlocked the right door. I had arrived. Years went by, and I continued to drink recklessly. For me, drinking led to blackouts, bad choices, and experimenting with drugs, and I was always able to succeed at school.

I mastered the double life. I was dying inside, and I told myself it would get better. I would get better.

This disease is insidious and progressive. One day, I was graduating from college, the next I was calling my first detox because I was addicted to opiates. When I came out of detox, stark sober, I couldn’t deal with life. I didn’t know how to be just me, without any substance to help.

See, drugs weren’t my problem—they had become my solution. That’s where my disease takes me. Without alcohol and other drugs, I was just me. I felt exposed. I was still a fearful, anxiety-ridden, indecisive girl. I was miserable. I couldn’t find the courage to end my own life and I prayed every night to not wake up.

God had other plans. One spring day, for no reason, I had a small glimpse of what life might be like sober. That was the moment of desperation for me. It was just enough to get myself to a meeting. I’d attempted a 12-step program before and never gave it a fair shot.

Kelly MahoneyThis night was different. Something guided me there and gave me the strength to raise my hand and say, “I’m new, I need numbers.” I also started seeing a therapist to deal with adult child and mental health issues.

Today, I feel hopeful instead of hopeless, useful rather than useless. I’m human, so I make mistakes. And those mistakes no longer define me.

I volunteer at a local peer recovery center and it’s amazing—there’s something special when people get together to help others, in the most selfless way. Today, I have hope. Today, I’m comfortable in my own skin and I never want to lose this feeling.

Recovery Gives This Special Forces Veteran Happiness

This is going to be a night to remember, was the phrase I kept repeating to myself.

It was Friday, December 23, 2016. My wife Lauren and I had a lot to celebrate: the holiday season, her birthday, our engagement anniversary, and our new baby boy, who was due to arrive on December 28. We ate at the Palace Café right on Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans, and went to the Nutcracker ballet at the Saenger Theatre.

I remember looking at Lauren with this renewed feeling of love, listening as she reviewed the night’s events. It was a perfect night, spent with the woman I adored.

Suddenly, at 2:30 a.m., her water broke. At the time I couldn’t believe this was actually happening—it was Christmas Eve! Her due date hadn’t come yet.

Within minutes, she started having contractions. I quickly gathered our bags and assisted her to the car. The car ride was painful for my sweet wife; I wish I could have endured it for her. We arrived at St. Tammany Parish Hospital at 4:15 a.m. We were the only ones there on Christmas Eve. Not a baby was crying, not even a mouse.

The rush of anxiety, eagerness, joy, and love was amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like the emotions I had during my son’s birth.  After my wife labored for 15 hours, Joseph P. Untz III was born. He was 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and healthy as could be.

What I felt at that moment cannot be expressed with words. Nothing had to be said. Just the very presence of him was something so profound and life-changing. I will never forget this moment I experienced with my wife and our baby boy. It was lovepure love.

For someone like me, being in recovery and present for the birth of my son was like a fairy tale. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to share this story. Only six months before my son was born, I was using alcohol and other drugs to cope, deal with, and suppress my problems. I couldn’t nor wouldn’t feel the pain that was building inside of me.

It wasn’t until my pregnant wife walked out on me, my finances diminished, my family and friends couldn’t stand to be around me, and I was trapped in my empty house all alone that I started to accept that I had a problem. My problem with substances cost me every other relationship in my life, including my relationship with God. I was being selfish instead of self-less.

On that day in July, I’d been up for a week straight. I was completely stripped of everything I once knew and loved.  I was a complete shell of the man I used to be. No longer was I a loving husband to my wife, a son to my parents, a brother to my sister, a Special Forces Operator who fought three tours for my country.

No, I was none of that. I was a sick body, a decaying mind, and a barely flickering spirit. I needed help.

That morning, my father-in-law pulled into my driveway. There was something about the way he approached me and the way his words left his lips. He treated me with the utmost care and love.

“Son, I’ve been worried about you all night. I think you need professional help. When can we do something about this?” he said.

I looked back at him and simply replied, “Right now, Pop. Right now.”

At that very moment, I made a conscious decision to no longer live this way. I would no longer run from my issues. I was willing to look fear right in the face and say I’m not afraid to feel anymore. I would do whatever it took to recover and get myself, my life, and my wife back. Whatever it takes.

I called Lauren to pick me up and bring me to my father’s house so I may confess my problem of addiction to my parents. It was the moment of truth. I sat them down and looked them both in the eyes.

I said, “I have a problem. I need help and I can’t do this alone. Will you please make the call for me and get me into some sort of treatment? Because I won’t. Dad, please keep me here and don’t let me leave until you have somewhere for me to go.”

Wow! The look of relief, the weight that had just been lifted from their hearts, and the willingness they had toward helping me was immeasurable. They’d waited so long to hear those words from me and I am so grateful I said them.

No one could tell me I had a problem. No one understood my pain. I always thought my situation was unique, even though it wasn’t. If I was going to surrender, I had to come to that point on my own. My pride, ego, and false beliefs would not allow me to ask for help. It wasn’t until I gave it all up and completely surrendered to a power greater than myself that I began to heal.

And in December, I  was in recovery and helping my wife give birth to our son. How was I able to get to this point? Well, I had to be ready. I had to accept my situation and make the conscious decision to do whatever it took to change my life into something more.

That’s one of the most beautiful gifts we are blessed with: the power to make a choice and change at any given moment. But nobody could do this for me. I alone made that decision. Then, all I had to do was act! That’s rightact on my decision to change. I did, and by the grace of my Higher Power I was sent to treatment in Florida. That place gave me the tools I needed to recover. I learned to live in recovery, day in and day out.

Getting into recovery was no easy task. For me, it requires continuous, daily practice and application. Today, I am willing and I’ll do whatever it takes!

I extend my greatest appreciation to my treatment program. I am so grateful to everyone who’s been there for me through my worst. You all helped rebuild me into my best. Recovery got me back to my family to be present for my son’s birth. I am forever grateful.

Suzann McMann: Authenticity in Connection is Key

I have always wanted to belong. Drunk or sober, I have spent most of my life feeling “different” and separate. I originally drank to “belong.”  Then, so many years later, breaking off my relationship with booze meant severing almost all my relationships – or the Suzan McMann She Recoverschanging up of those that remained.

I have spent so much of my sober journey alone – because I felt separated from the community that I originally got sober with.  Getting and staying sober looked different to me, and as in so many other areas and times of my life – I didn’t fit in.

I headed out on my own.

Never once did I think, I am just going to get out there and do this on my own.  It just kind of happened that way.  When I’d run into people who knew me from the rooms, one of the first things they’d always tell me was that I’d better get to a meeting.  Problem was, I didn’t believe them.  I’d just nod and smile – and walk away feeling that much more alone.

I stopped drinking almost 13 years ago now.  Long story short – my beautiful boy (3 at the time) won.  I stopped clinging to the hope that Booze would bring back that warm feeling of connection that was long gone.  I stopped my daily begging – in the form of a grip on the bottle – for those warm feelings to return.  I stopped using Booze to console me on lonely-mornings-after where I could feel nothing but loathing for myself.  My boy won.  I did it for him first – and then I realized it was for me all along.  I started tearing down the wall of isolation that Booze helped me build.

So, yes, I was in the rooms for a good year, stopped going.  I will always be grateful, but I didn’t fit.

That said, I still thrived.   I built a new life – new family, new career, and new business.  I built new friendships and work relationships.  I remarried and had another child.  I built new hope and pride and courage in myself.   I  allowed an unfaltering relationship with my higher power.  I built a healthy recovery outside of the rooms and, except for my one mentor who stuck with me all of these years, I did it with no sober community.  That’s not to brag.  It’s a fact.  And I have always felt a longing for a community of like-minded women but didn’t find them.She Recovers NYC

Then I landed on the She Recovers Facebook page a few years back.  I was blown away.  A community of like-minded women!  I messaged Dawn and realized she was just as real as she seemed and that this community was everything I’d been wanting all these years.  The words, “We are stronger together,” entered my life.

With this community, I am enough.  I am worthy just as I am.  With this community, I can be real, raw, and honest.  I can do me and be seen as courageous in the doing.

Now, I will stand in a room in NYC and feel the energy of these amazing souls each doing recovery their own way – with no judgement towards any other approach.  With this community, we are not alone.  We are all a part of the beautiful whole.  Thank you, She Recovers!  Let’s get this party started!

Jennifer Matesa: Healing Alongside Our Sisters

The She Recovers NYC conference is the first-ever international meeting to pay attention to the particular needs of women in recovery. Aside from being one of the happiest celebrations of recovery on the planet, She Recovers NYC is built to help us heal from serious problems that compromise our recovery.

It’s just real that, as women, we face some challenges that are different from those of our male counterparts. One of the most prevalent and important is the level of trauma in our histories.She Recovers NYC Sisters

Whereas no more than 20 percent of men in recovery have experienced trauma, one reliable study found trauma in the histories of roughly three-quarters of women. About two-thirds of those have experienced physical trauma, and a significant fraction have experienced sexual trauma, including childhood sexual abuse.

Five hundred of us will cross state and international borders to gather in New York, and three out of four of us will be dealing with trauma in our pasts. And as the long-running Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study has pretty definitively shown, trauma is highly correlated with the ways we drank and used drugs.

We have to take care of this trauma. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, and we also can’t allow its fallout to tempt us back into that life.

When I heard that Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong and their team were putting this conference on, I knew I had to go. I wanted to be with my sisters who are struggling with the same problems I and so many others grapple with.

I know what those problems are. I’ve heard about them firsthand. For my last book, Sex in Recovery: A Meeting between the Covers, I interviewed more than four dozen ordinary people in recovery about their sexual histories inside both addiction and recovery.

Men talked about physical abuse, usually from their fathers. But woman after woman—one of my sisters after another—talked about sexual trauma: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, performing sex-work to get drugs.

I also heard from women in recovery who have been celibate for up to 12 years, who desire relationships and sexual pleasure but have no idea how to go about getting there without drinking or using a drug.

Talking with so many women convinced me that substance abuse has roots in a lack of healthy touch in society and in our failure to talk in reasonable ways to our kids—or even with each other—about sex.

Recovery awakens desires for healthy and loving sexual relationships, but because we don’t talk about sex in the culture, we have no language to talk about any of this.

She Recovers NYC is not just a party—it’s also a balls-out effort to help women heal from serious problems that may compromise our ability to stay clean and sober. Interactive workshops are designed to help women begin to talk about sexuality, desire, trauma, numbing ourselves with sugar, and fear of abundance. Yoga sessions are designed to help us stay inside our bodies. No way could I resist going.

Marty Mann & Alcohol Awareness Month

As far as I’m concerned, Marty Mann – one of the first women to reach long-term recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous – is the reason April is Alcohol Awareness Month.

Marty MannIn May of 1991, when I entered recovery, I knew nothing of Marty Mann. Five years later, in 1996, when I went to work for the Kansas City affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), I didn’t realize that I owed my job to her. Mann founded the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism, which later became NCADD, in 1944.

Writer, historian and recovery advocate William L. White says Mann’s vision of educating the country about alcoholism as a disease was the “kinetic moment in the rise of what’s been called ‘the modern alcoholism movement.’”

When she was asked how she was inspired to lend her voice and passion to de-stigmatizing alcoholism, Mann described walking along Park Avenue in New York City, looking up at all the apartment building windows. She said she knew that others just like her were hiding behind those windows, maybe even thinking they were insane, as she had until 1939.

How well I understand Mann’s thoughts. I, too, hid from alcoholism, ashamed, afraid and alone on the inside while I danced with the devil on the outside.

It wasn’t until I started working with Greg Williams and his first documentary, The Anonymous People, that I began to appreciate Mann’s role and immense significance in the history of addiction prevention and the recovery movement.

Here was a professional woman who had worked in advertising and publishing, as I did before, and in early recovery. Here, also, was a woman who out-drank most men she knew, as I did.

Mann traveled the country, speaking about what alcohol does to the body. She shared her own experiences, saying that she wanted to offer hope for others who still suffered. She was “electric” on a platform and had a dynamic, charismatic voice.

The NCADD archives contains a Reader’s Digest story from January, 1963 that tells the story of a man waking in a Jacksonville hotel after a week-long drinking binge. He heard Mann on a radio station broadcasting from New Orleans.

According to the story, the man heard, “No alcoholic wants to be the way he is. Alcoholics are not bums. They are sick, and they can recover from this disease just as from others.”

After hearing the words, the man called the New Orleans radio station and asked to speak with the woman who had just talked about alcoholism.

Mann not only spoke with the man, she connected him with someone in Jacksonville.

When I think about the growth of recovery—one person talking with another, one person connecting with another—gratitude fills my heart, especially during Alcohol Awareness Month. Today, I realize the trajectory of my life, and so many millions of others, was forever altered thanks to a courageous pioneer named Marty, a woman ahead of her time.

Some of you are old enough to remember a television game show called To Tell the Truth hosted at one-time by Gary Moore in the 1970’s (also a man who was publicly in long-term recovery from alcoholism). The game consisted of a panel of celebrities had to pick who they thought was telling the truth from a group of three contestants.

During one show, three contestants – two men and one woman – introduced themselves as Marty Mann, each of whom described themselves as a recovered alcoholic who had founded the National Council on Alcoholism.

“When ‘the real Marty Mann’ stood, the panel of celebrities and the audience were astounded to learn that the only woman among the three, this handsome, poised, articulate, dignified woman, was Marty Mann, a former drunk.” – Nancy Olson

Of course the celebrities and the entire audience were speechless when the real Marty Mann turned out to be a woman. I think the astonishing part of the story is not that Marty was a woman, but that she was a brave person in recovery telling her story in whatever way she could. Marty blazed a brand new trail that today many are walking in order to change public perception and improve how each one of us is facing addiction.  

During this 31st Alcohol Awareness Month, I hope and pray that we honor Marty Mann’s legacy by telling our own stories in whatever way we can. Together, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

 

Andre Johnson, Detroit Recovery Project: Winning Combination

Andre Johnson’s long-term recovery was made for the Detroit Recovery Project and vice versa.

In 1988, Johnson was 18, “a parolee, a fugitive and a high school dropout. I was on the run because I ran off with three different dope man’s drugs that I was supposed to have been distributing and selling.

“I ran into the drug treatment center trying to escape the streets of Detroit for fear of harm or possibly death,” he says.

Thirty days of love and compassion from folks at the treatment center turned into 60. Early recovery for Johnson slipped into self-esteem and self-respect that allowed him to eventually go back to school. His GED turned into a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Early recovery morphed into 10 years. Johnson returned to Detroit to work in the field and to mentor other young people as he had been mentored. He took a job with the city of Detroit.

“Imagine working at the city of Detroit Health Department and being charged to embrace, empower and educate the recovery community in Detroit,” he says.

Johnson served as the director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Detroit Coalition and then became the president and CEO of one its spin-off programs, the Detroit Recovery Project (DRP).

“It (DRP) was created ultimately as a safety net to assist people who exit our local drug treatment programs,” Johnson explains.

But early into DRP’s first federal grant, “the program just kind of took off and began to have a life of its own.”

Johnson is proud that DRP is a true community program supported by federal, state, county and city funding. He and the staff have worked hard to develop relationships with law enforcement (local police departments, the sheriff’s department, Detroit DEA and judges), community organizations, churches and faith-based groups so that individual recovery is community recovery.

“Recovery is cost-effective, and the benefits are long-term, and it’s worth it in so many ways,” he says.

In its 12 years of existence, the Detroit Recovery Project has opened two recovery drop-in resource centers and three recovery homes for men. Programs include recovery support, recovery management, strengthening families, health education, H.I.V. prevention, the Recovery Training Institute and a youth prevention program.

“One of the pluses of our organization is that we’ve always designed programs beyond traditional work hours of nine to five,” Johnson explains. “We develop support groups for people in long-term recovery that have secondary illnesses. And, we don’t discriminate against a person’s race, creed, religion, lack of religion, sexual orientation or age.”

In other words, the DRP staff figures how to meet the needs of its community. As a result, the city of Detroit accepts and even welcomes its residents’ recovery. That happens because people have learned to “carry a solid message of recovery.”

Johnson’s vision is big. He wants to continue to expand the DRP presence in Detroit and to make it an institution. He envisions “recovery drop-in centers throughout our country where people in recovery can expected to be greeted by people in recovery and where people in recovery are treated with dignity.

“My goal is to create a national center where we set standards to help people create recovery community organizations throughout the country.”

Johnson’s passion and enthusiasm for recovery makes that goal entirely achievable.

Stacia Murphy: Pioneer Recovery Advocate

Although Stacia Murphy thinks she may have started working in the addiction field by accident—it wasn’t a passion of hers—she’s managed to build quite a career as an advocate for recovery from addiction.

After years of taking recovery into prisons and working re-entry programs for people coming out of prisons, then serving as the executive director of the Alcoholism Council/Fellowship Center of New York from 1984 to 1999, Murphy was selected from a national field of candidates as president of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). She served there from 1999 to 2006.

She points out that she didn’t really want most of those jobs that kept her in the field for nearly 30 years. Even as she resisted the NCADD post, Murphy recognized that “this was the work I was supposed to be doing at this point in my life.

“I said, I’m probably being guided and I just need to surrender to that fact.”

As a woman in long-term recovery, Murphy speaks passionately, even reverently, about NCADD’s founder, Marty Mann, considered the first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Marty got sober after a horrendous time with alcohol and not understanding it was a disease,” Murphy explains. “She began traveling around the country with Dr. Bob and Bill W., the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, because they were helping people get sober, to learn about addiction and alcoholism as a disease.

“And she experienced stigma, with no programs and no services for alcoholics and their families. She said, ‘This is terrible. We need to do something about it.’”

Murphy says, “I think we underestimate the power of stigma. There’s an inability to embrace this as a disease because people who have diabetes don’t shoot you, they don’t beat you up.

“Good people do bad things. They do horrible things, sometimes seemingly unforgivable things. And for those people who are affected by those seemingly unforgivable deeds, they’re still locked in the pain of that. And until individuals who have been affected by alcoholism—by those who are afflicted with alcoholism—can release their own pain, we continue to stay stuck.”

While not minimizing the recovery journey that family members and friends choose (or not) to take alongside the person with whom they’re in relationship, Murphy says it’s time to be blunt because Americans seem to have a false sense of recovery.

“I sometimes think people refuse to get it. If you can look at those individuals in your own life and how different they are, and if you can’t come to a place of forgiveness and acceptance, they you have to look in your own souls because there’s something wrong,” she believes.

Murphy believes America will successfully deal with alcohol and other drug problems. First, prevention. “there needs to be a concerted effort to deal with young people who are starting down this road.”

Second, “I believe that families will heal and be more of a resource to each other.”

Finally, “I think we will normalize recovery, and it will be accepted as a complex medical problem like heart disease, like cancer, like diabetes, like hypertension.”

Murphy is still a street-level, community advocate. “People say, ‘you don’t look like an alcoholic.’ I don’t know what an alcoholic looks like, but let me tell you a story. Let me tell you my story. And that moves people.”

Representing recovery through the years has enhanced her own recovery, she says. “To me, it’s a moving experience. It’s a movable feast of pleasure and purpose and growth and learning. Each day is a new possibility. It’s excitement. It’s joy. It’s tears. It’s passion.

“That’s what enhances my life.”

Coach John Lucas, SoberBowl Superfest

Coach John Lucas has a long history of helping athletes, from superstar professionals to youngsters in after school programs, stay away from drugs or find recovery from addiction.

This Sunday—SuperBowl Sunday—the pro basketball icon and person in long-term recovery will join other sports greats and artists for the first annual SoberBowl Superfest in Houston.

We caught up with Coach Lucas, as he traveled with the Houston Rockets, and talked about his more than three decades of shaping and molding athletes. Why is he connected with SoberBowl Superfest?SoberBowl Superfest

His answer is honest and simple: when the organizers approached him, he thought the idea of combining his background of working with athletes and sports with that of music and the arts to create a festival venue safe for sober folks who want to watch the SuperBowl, was a solid idea.

“Thirty-one years ago I was given the gift of desperation,” Coach Lucas said. His recovery path took a lot of twists and turns as he struggled to figure out who he was and why he did the things he did while drinking alcohol and using other drugs.

But once he finally realized that basketball was what he did, not who he was as a person, there was no looking back.

In 1986, John Lucas Enterprises (JLE) founded a wellness and aftercare program primarily for NBA and NFL players. Lucas says one of the primary strategies in working with athletes is helping them “come to believe they have to surrender to win—a hard concept for athletes.”

In the 1990s, JLE started a program called Students Taking Action Not Drugs (STAND) which was first a crisis center but later expanded into a hotline for teens and a school-based program in nearly 80 schools in the Houston area.

Today, after 14 years as an NBA player and more than a dozen coaching, Coach Lucas is the director of player development for the Houston Rockets. And his companies—John Lucas Enterprises (JLE) and the John Lucas Foundation—continue to champion sobriety and healthy living. Both companies are sponsors of SoberBowl Superfest.

The event, billed as “counter culture party space,” will kick off at 11 a.m. on Sunday with yoga at the White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main Street in Houston. From 2-5 p.m., the free show will feature musical guests Royce da 5’9”, Carolyn Wonderland, FINLAY, Tommy Gunz and the Texas All-Star Band.

In addition to Coach Lucas, NBA and NFL greats John Lucas III (Minnesota Timberwolves), Willie Tullis (Houston Oilers) and Ryan Leaf (San Diego Chargers), will be on-hand.

The grand finale, the official NFL kick-off watch party will get underway at 5:30. Coach Lucas loves the idea of an alternative to a drinking environment.

He said in a 2015 Houston Chronicle interview that “addiction amputates your spirit.” One way or another, Coach Lucas will probably always do whatever he can to help save as many spirits as possible.

Anita Devlin: “We Can’t Keep What We Don’t Give Away”

Anita Devlin recalls a moment of clarity as she and her husband Michael drove their son Mike to treatment.

She describes a quiet car ride on a bleak, rainy day. Mike was asleep in the backseat as she stared, exhausted, out the window.

During those moments, Devlin suddenly realized that everything was real; all her attempts to manage the unmanageability of addiction had failed. In fact, for the very first time, she knew with gut-wrenching certainty that she was walking a parallel destructive path with her son Mike.

Mike was hiding behind a wall of drugs while she hid behind a forced-facade of denial.

“I was as sick as my son. We both made ourselves numb,” she says, “I was so busy keeping up the appearance that everything was all right when in reality I was a horrible, judgmental parent.”

When Devlin and her family learned that Mike was in crisis with his illness, she was “incredibly angry, both with him and with myself.”

She vowed that she would do anything to aid her son’s recovery, including making sure the entire family learned how to individually and collectively manage the addiction in their home. Having a child in recovery changes everything, she says. She determined to “turn around everything I did wrong and become an educated parent.”

Within months she was talking with other parents about her experiences on the “wild spiritual rollercoaster ride of addiction.” Devlin was—and is—on a mission to reach parents who, like her, were afraid to talk about addiction or pull back the curtain to reveal how they were deeply enmeshed in their child’s alcohol and other drug use.

As the daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest, she was known by clergy. Gradually, Devlin began taking requests to speak in churches, schools and community centers. The more she talked and the more forthcoming she was about her feelings—the part she played in addiction—the more her honest revelations were in demand. Mothers (and fathers) related and began to get honest with themselves.

In return, Devlin says her own faith, including faith in her son and her family, came back to her ten-fold. Today, she says, “is a gift, one that I never take for granted.”

It’s been nearly six years since the Devlin family started their recovery journey. She and Mike published a book, called S.O.B.E.R.*, two years ago. S.O.B.E.R.* is a unique retelling of the family’s journey, as told from both mother and son’s perspectives. She also writes a blog and is an executive producer. All her work can be found on her website, anitadevlin.com.

She says she takes about 10 calls each day from parents who have a child in crisis or one who has died from addiction. Devlin believes that a lot of parents have put their teens in treatment as a result of publishing S.O.B.E.R.* and doing public readings from the book.

She says she’s only recently understood the meaning of the phrase, “we can’t keep what we don’t give away.” She knows it’s working because “the sorority of motherhood has never been stronger on social media.”

Support. Love. Healing. “Praying for each other’s kids, fighting for these children, that’s what recovery means to me,” Devlin says.

FA Board Member Guests on Addiction Podcast

OakCreekWellness

Facing Addiction Founding Board Member Terry M. Rubenstein was the guest on this week’s Addiction Support Podcast, hosted by Melissa Sue Tucker. Terry describes her family’s experience with addiction following her son’s diagnosis with substance use disorders.

Terry says, “When you’re dealing with a child who is addicted, people think, ‘oh, send him or her to treatment and they’ll get well.’ Treatment has to be a continuum and treatment has to be a long process.”

“Children don’t get addicted in five minutes and they don’t get un-addicted in 30 days . . . parents and siblings need to understand that the road to recovery takes time.”

Prior to her retirement in 2011, Terry was executive vice president of the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. In addition to her board involvement with Facing Addiction (she also serves as board secretary), Terry serves as the secretary of the Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust.

Most of Terry’s career prior to working for the foundation was in homebuilding where she was a developer. She has has experience as a newspaper and radio reporter.

She and her husband Jim live in Baltimore. They have three children and four grandchildren.

To listen to the entire podcast, click Addiction Support Podcast. The podcast is a part of  Oak Creek Wellness owned by Melissa Sue who is an author and speaker about inspirational messages centered in the recovery from addiction process. Oak Creek Wellness is based in Sedona, AZ.

New Membership Program

At Facing Addiction, Giving Tuesday is about much more than simply asking you for money. Let’s face it, every charity in the world wants your money.

Don’t get us wrong, we’d gladly accept a generous end-of-year gift to help us broadly with our outreach programs, but today we want to ask you for much more.

Today, Facing Addiction is launching its foundational membership drive and we need your help building it. For the first time ever in the national addiction space, this paid membership initiative invites individuals and families to be present with much more than your dollars–similar to major charities on other issues.

We need your voice, your guidance, and your commitment to help us build Facing Addiction into a powerful, sustainable national movement for prevention, treatment and recovery, research, and advocacy.

BECOME A FACING ADDICTION MEMBER FOR $100 TODAY!

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Together, in 2015, we’ve accomplished many truly incredible things:

  • More than 700 organizations across the country joined in support of the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally in Washington, DC hosted by Facing Addiction
  • Produced a history-making event on the National Mall on October 4, in front of tens of thousands of people from around the country (amidst hurricane threats), featuring appearances by Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, and several actors and leading politicians
  • Organized 670 citizen visits to Capitol Hill on October 5–an unprecedented advocacy day–to meet with representatives to talk about addressing the addiction crisis
  • Received coverage in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Rolling Stone, iHeart Radio, The Huffington Post; on the Dr. Oz Show (4 times); and on countless television and radio broadcasts
  • Built a national outreach campaign and social media effort with nearly 300 million impressions

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In return for your $100 founding membership contribution, you’ll receive:

  • A members-only T-shirt to show you are a proud supporter of Facing Addiction
  • First access to future live event and concert tickets (similar to the star-studded UNITE to Face Addiction Rally)
  • A members-only window cling showing your support for Facing Addiction
  • A quarterly, members-only digital newsletter from the Facing Addiction leadership team
  • An invitation to join a telephonic, members-only annual meeting with the leadership team
  • Free access to special video content (including events) as released

Remember, we need your donation and your involvement. Please become a member today. It’s time to start helping the 45 million Americans whose lives have been impacted by addiction. In particular, it’s time to start saving the roughly 350 lives that are lost to addiction each and every day.

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Let’s make 2016 even more successful than 2015!

Gratefully,

The Facing Addiction Team

P.S. Facing Addiction will receive a dollar-for-dollar match for the first 2,500 members who join before the end of 2015. So please act now!

11.04.15: Now What Happens?

We’re one month post- history-making at the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. The concert was amazing, the celebrity talks were inspiring and the fellowship was incredible.

What happens next?

The following is reprinted from a Huffington Post blog that appeared today (written by Greg Williams). You can see that version here.

It’s a Crisis! Can We Start Talking About How to Solve It?

History was made in Washington, D.C., one month ago today. Despite hurricane and flooding threats, tens of thousands of people from around the world joined to UNITE to Face Addiction in dramatic fashion for the first time in the “public eye.”

Oct. 4, 2015 was the first time that major musicians, politicians, actresses, athletes, models, journalists, authors, and advocates joined their voices together on the National Mall to push for addiction solutions for the health crisis impacting 85 million Americans.

The “AIDS Quilt” unveiling on this same National Mall took many years to determine the cultural, political, and philanthropic significance of breaking new ground around that shamed and marginalized public health crisis. One theme rose above all others for participants and attendees at the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally: that systemic and bold solutions be added to the ongoing problem-laden addiction epidemic dialogue about the lives being lost.

While national news stories about the problem continue on 60 Minutes and on the front page of The New York Times in recent weeks, the people who stood on the hallowed ground beneath the Washington Monument on Oct. 4 all knew something that America will soon learn.

There is a better way. While we don’t have the “cure” for addiction to alcohol or other drugs, there is so much that can be done — and is being done.

What We Know

Problem: Our country’s approach to addiction is not working, largely because it has not been viewed or treated like a health issue.

The Path Forward: We know we must educate all Americans that addiction is a public health issue, not a crime — even President Obama and Congress agree on this one! It’s time to open the hearts of the rest of the non-believers. If not their hearts, let’s aim for their wallets by educating them with data about how this path will save them money.

Problem: We know that 9 out of 10 — 90 percent — of the more than 22 million people currently suffering from addiction today began using alcohol or other drugs during adolescence.

The Path Forward: Young people are not educated about the nature and risks of addiction and parents don’t know how to talk to their kids about this issue. It’s time to start educating young people and families about this pediatric health crisis, just like we have with childhood obesity and smoking.

Problem: We know that only about 10 percent of those needing addiction treatment actually get it.

The Path Forward: Continue to fill the halls of congress just as 670 individuals and families from around the country did on Oct. 5 — the day after the UNITE to Face Addiction rally. If we do this we will create the ongoing political will to pass new legislation and fully implement existing bi-partisan supported federal legislation — The Mental Health & Addiction Equity Act — that can help end some of the discrimination for the largest current treatment gap for any major health problem. Action by our policymakers can save the health system, employers, and taxpayers scores of billions of dollars every year.

Problem: There are 23 million Americans living in recovery from addiction who often remain hidden and marginalized by their “status” as people in recovery.

The Path Forward: Continue to shift the current cultural perception that people with addiction do not get well by celebrating publicly the truth that people do recover from addiction. Not only did those on the big stage at UNITE to Face Addiction — Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Darryl Strawberry, Jason Isbell, John Rzeznik, and Jonathan Butler recover — but so did the tens of thousands of people who celebrated in front of them.

Together we must continue to face addiction because no one should ever have to overcome addiction alone. No longer can we sit on the sidelines and let others worry about changing the system. While system and cultural change is harder for the press to write about than focusing on the problem, it is the only path forward if we are going to save lives.

Facing Addiction is our movement. Now is our time.

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