Joe

“I was 27 years old and sporting a three-pack-a-day habit when I realized I had the hacking cough of an elderly man with emphysema. I got spooked, and for several months I used sheer willpower to gradually cut back to two packs a day, then one pack a day. At just that time a friend came to visit from Denmark, bringing with him a carton of Prince cigarettes. At first I was dismayed by his gift, but then I realized I could use it as a last hurrah. Sure enough, with the last cigarette in that carton came my last puff. This past spring marks my 25th year of being free of cigarettes.”

“I thought smoking was cool until I wanted to start a family. Walking around town and seeing those moms blowing smoke in their babies’ faces made me feel really sad about the effects of secondhand smoke. It’s one thing to desecrate your own body, but quite another to expose your baby to toxins. There and then I decided to quit smoking for good. I bought a wall calendar and put a giant red X on each day I didn’t smoke. Before long, my calendar was loaded with red X’s. I am a graphic designer, so the visual part of that strategy really worked for me. It’s been 13 years since my last cigarette. My 12-year-old son lives in a completely smoke-free environment, and it’s been anything but a drag.”

Laura

“Hi. My name is Bob and I’m an alcoholic.

As part of my journey of recovery I’ve been saying these words for over 20 years now (… but who’s counting, right?).

I grew up in a drinking culture. There wasn’t a lot of drunkenness, but there was always a lot of drinking. As an adult, I worked 25 years in a business that was steeped in a hard drinking tradition—the NFL. I was a high functioning drunk and fortunately had a relatively high bottom. After several failed attempts to control my drinking, my body finally had enough and blackouts began to occur ever more frequently, even after moderate amounts of alcohol. I entered rehab in January 1991.

Early in sobriety I was shocked to discover that most of my life was built around drinking. Sure, I knew that I used booze to celebrate wins and drown losses—and that would have to change. I also recognized that most business functions and all my social functions had plenty of alcohol available—and that would be a challenge. But what alarmed me the most was the realization that drinking was so pervasive in my life that I didn’t even know how to grill a hamburger without a beer in my hand. I must say that getting sober was the hardest thing I’ve ever done—but I have never regretted it for a moment.

After about a year, I lost my compulsion to drink. I continued to do well in my job and, being a curious fellow, became interested in the psychology of recovery—why do those silly sayings like “One day at a time” and “Take it easy” seem to work? This led to me pursuing a master’s in psychology in 1994. In 1996, however, my world was rocked. I was arbitrarily fired from my job of 20 years. Over the next several years my marriage of 30 years, which had become increasingly dysfunctional, ended in divorce. The 12-Steps and the “Rooms” sustained me as I entered my personal “dark night of the soul” for the next five years. But, because the 12 Steps taught me how to fearlessly self-examine, during this difficult time I was able to decide and define who I am today.

I can honestly say that the promise of the 12 Steps that in sobriety your life will exceed your wildest dreams has proven true for me—and I have always had very bold dreams! I now teach psychology at a small health sciences college in Virginia. I am both liked and respected by my colleagues and appreciated by my students. I am married (ten years) to a most wonderful woman who is not only my wife, but also my partner, my colleague, my lover, and my best friend. I live in constant gratitude for my life—especially my sobriety. While I cannot imagine life could be even better, I hold open the space knowing that it can!

Finally, I hope information and understanding obtained from this Registry can help more of the “sick and suffering” to recover so that they may, like me, thrive and flourish in sobriety.”

Bob

C.W.

“I got into drugs, tobacco, you name it, when I was 13. I started off sniffing gasoline out of a lawnmower, then moved on to beer, wine, and marijuana. At age 15 I dropped out of high school. I learned to be a mechanic and I got a GED but I was still getting high. I went to work in a factory, but it was minimum wage, so I joined the military. By then I had started snorting cocaine and doing speed.

Then the military came out with a drug-testing program, so I decided to get an honorable discharge rather than give up drugs. I worked in a textile factory for 14 years until they started doing drug testing. That’s when snorting cocaine turned to smoking cocaine. And that’s when my addiction became so powerful it destroyed everything. I didn’t want to work, I didn’t care about my wife or kids—I just wanted to smoke that drug. I destroyed my family and I wanted to commit suicide.

I went into a rehab program and it helped for a while. My wife and I relocated and we were doing great because I was practicing the things they had taught me about how to stay clean. But then friends from back home came to visit, and they were drug dealers. Just seeing those people made me want to do drugs again. I actually left my wife and went home just to do drugs. I’m very ashamed about that. My wife hated me because she had given me a chance and I’d failed her.

I was still a great mechanic so the drug dealers hired me. I got money and I got free drugs. But then the federal government broke up the drug ring and locked up all the dealers. So there I was again, no job, no money to get high, no wife, no nothing. The suicidal thoughts came again. Then Hurricane Katrina came, and I was basically homeless.

I went down to New Orleans to help clean up. Suddenly I was making good money as a mechanic. The city was under martial law, so I couldn’t get drugs or anything. I was back up again! But then the lights came back on, the people started returning, the drug dealers started coming back. Now I was making this great money and the drugs were back. It was very dangerous for me. The cocaine made me paranoid. The high wasn’t a high anymore—it was a nightmare. But I was addicted. I had to do it. I was getting so thin it was like suicide. I started owing drug dealers money, and they were threatening to kill me. I had to beg my family for a bus ticket home.

Back home, I got a job running heavy equipment, and I was back on my feet again. On my very first payday, though, I got to drinking and doing drugs. I borrowed a friend’s car, went off the road, slammed headfirst into a tree, and woke up in a hospital with a broken neck. And that was the beginning of my new life.

I was in a lot of pain, but I could walk again. I was feeling happy that disability money was coming in soon. Then it struck me: the money would be the end of me because I’d be able to do drugs again. I told my mother to take me to the VA hospital. I didn’t tell her why. I just admitted myself to the psych ward for two weeks, then went to a drug rehab center. I knew I was about to die, and that’s what finally got me off drugs—the thought of death.

On July 5, 2010, I left the rehab center, and I haven’t touched anything since, not drugs, not alcohol, not cigarettes. I’m very proud of my recovery. I was a hopeless case, but I made it. I’ve stayed clean, and I feel free.”