Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
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"Hi, my name is Kristin. I am 32 year old female who currently lives in Grand Rapids Michigan. I have been in long term recovery for 5.2 years. I am a gratefully recovering alcoholic. I am also a wife, daughter, sister, athlete, college graduate, recovery coach, Admissions Counselor, employee, advocate and “Recovery Carrier”.
Currently, I work as an Admissions Counselor for a women’s alcohol and drug treatment center located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am also the Vice President and board member of a local, grassroots nonprofit coalition called Recovery Allies of West Michigan. RAWM’s mission is to “Advocate, Celebrate and Educate” our community and anyone who wants to know about addiction and recovery. I am very proud to be in recovery and basically scream it from the roof tops any chance I get. I love telling my story because like many in recovery I feel I am a walking miracle. Like many “recovery carriers” I should be dead, however have been given the gift of recovery. I thrive on empowering others and helping others achieve a life in recovery.
I went to a residential program in Brighton, Michigan called Brighton Center for Recovery on October 11, 2009. I left after completing their residential and partial program. Ninety days following treatment I relapsed and almost died. I continued my downward spiral for months, drinking at least a box of wine daily, the rough equivalent of five bottles.
However, on July 1, 2010 something happened. I stopped drinking. I had a moment of hope and clarity. I was desperate and as a result I drove myself up to the Manitou Islands in Northern Michigan. In my drunken mess of a packing attempt I packed a tent, bathing suit, fishing rod and sleeping bag. (The reasoning at the time was I did not feel I could stay sober if I had any access to alcohol). From there I took a ferry and detoxed myself (not safe and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do this). I spent a week on a nearly deserted island determined to get sober.
July 1, 2010 was my last drink. Why I lived to tell about my “self-detox” on North Manitou Island 5.2 years ago… I will never know. However I know I am here for a reason. I believe by sharing my story I share a glimpse of hope and hopefully inspiration.
My recovery journey started the moment I had a glimpse of hope. Since then I graduated with a degree in Sociology and Social Work. I have had amazing opportunities to work in the addiction and recovery field. I have made amazing professional and personal relationships. I have healed the relationships that needed my attention and love. I met the love of my life and married him November 9, 2013. And have purchased two homes.
I have seen the depths of hell and live to talk about it. I love being a person in long term recovery and hope to continue to help others.
Thank you for taking the time to read a glimpse into my life!
Grateful * Thankful * Blessed"
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Too much, too fast, so sad, my bad.
By the time I was in high school I was a dedicated existentialist with nihilist leanings, an atheist, an initiate of the anti-war/civil rights movement, and a wanna-bee artist. Also, a druggie & an alkie in the making. Spirituality was not in the equation.
Short history of use: introduced to alternative mind and body sensations, pre-teen, via rye whiskey, old school cough syrups, glues/thinners. Later added on pot, all psychedelics, speed, coke, and a one-time foray into snorting heroin, which was laced with strychnine, so that was the end of that. Stuck with everything else and started upping the alcohol.
In my 20’s my environment and lifestyle was unadulterated NYC “street”. I lived immersed in NY ‘60’s culture & the art/music crowd, with a slight detour into the periphery of Bklyn’s mafia world. The less said about that, the better. If I was into name-dropping, wow-the stories I could tell...the Warhol crowd was especially “interesting”. My life was fun, it was dangerous, it was disgustingly decadent, and I have no regrets. I had a blast, but there was that painful deep dive into issues of social justice and the modes of oppression. Finally, I had to escape NY. By my 30’s I was divorced, raising a child, and sucked into a nightmare. I was trapped in poverty and in a severe, prolonged, battering relationship. Skipping the gory details, the fall-out includes (present tense) brain damage for me, and mental health impairment for my daughter. Hitting bottom was ugly and painful. The “wreckage of the past” included suicide ideation/attempts; bad-bad parenting; homelessness; alcoholism; drug use; etc., etc., and one saving grace—I got into art school, earning a BFA.
Then I was introduced to NA and AA (final SD 1983). My initiation was much like the rush of the first drink and drug—it felt miraculous, and I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I finally got out of the abuse, with the help of others. I jettisoned a career in graphic art and continued for a Master’s degree in the treatment of addiction (ADERP).
In the 80’s/‘90s I clung to my 12 step groups for sanity and survival. I gave back by serving in most capacities over time. I worked as a clinician in every substance abuse treatment modality, public and private. Efforts of pride included designing programs to infuse concepts of 12 step recovery in difficult settings, such as an old school TC (therapeutic community/Richmond) and a regional jail (Emporia). I trained staff on domestic violence-induced PTSD (barely beginning to be addressed with Viet vets), participated in the formation of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center, rooted an HIV/AIDS outreach program in a hostile climate, and secured much grant funding for public SA services. I could not have done any of this without “the fellowship” and those simple, free, meetings in all those church basements!
Having researched and absorbed just about every bit of info about the psychology and spiritual awakening of the 12 steps, I began to use the specialized therapy I was receiving for complex PTSI to heighten congruency with my program of recovery, to maintain a balanced “whole person” lifestyle. In addition, the writings and insights of E. Kurtz, T. Gorski, and H. Tiebout are central to my remaining a recovered person, with a daily reprieve due to a fit spiritual condition and an effective relapse prevention plan. This has enabled me to diffuse the estrangement from my daughter, three decades into it. We will Zoom later this evening!
I moved to the upper Northeast in 2002 and worked managing a federal block grant for the public behavioral health system, primarily targeting peer support services. Without my program of recovery, I would never have made it to retirement. I have returned to making art, via a home-based ceramics studio. These days I am a 12 step “loner”, in the sense that I don’t do meetings up here anymore, but I do work a daily program and maintain online 12 step involvement. My attitude of gratitude is solid.
“Entered AA on November 26th, 1989, and will celebrate 26 years this coming November. Presently am serving as District Treasurer, coming up on my third term. Spirit of rotation has been forgotten, I enjoy this role and it allows me to serve. 1986 was fired from the position of Vice President of Sales for a local company, after having secured the position through training and expertise. Also made a geographical cure with my family to secure the job, lasted 2 years. 1991-1992 had 6 major eye surgeries, lost my drivers license, my new Management Position, and became a member of Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Created my own company from what I had learned in Management Training, lasted 3 years. Had one major customer and when they shifted their focus I was done. Secured a position as Executive Director of our local Boys and Girls Club, after 1 1/2 years my Thyroid stopped working, ended up in Mental Health wing of our local hospital for 6 weeks, after recovery they Board of Management refused to take me back. Sued for wrongful dismissal and received $60,000 after 1 year. Stayed sober throughout, as a dry drunk, 1998 thyroid went again, 4 weeks in Mental Health, learned some humility, did 90 meetings in 90 days, accepted the program, and have been sponsoring and doing service work since then.
Upon reflection I always drank alcoholically, no control, blackouts every time, all it took was one. Had to learn humility, honesty, compassion for others, change my perspective to one of one day at a time! There is more but this will be a good start.”
“I am 58 years old and have 69 years of recovery. Yes, you read that right, I combine 3 recoveries from three addictions. Each recovery was through a different recovery model and in each instance I have not relapsed. I feel very fortunate and wish to briefly share my success.
I was a three pack a day smoker, and the sloppiest smoker you ever saw. My car had 10 packs of cigarettes along the windshield, each with one cigarette in the event I ran out. In 1979 I I decided it was time to stop smoking. I went through a five week behavior modification program. I learned to change my brand of cigarette, change the way I held the cigarette, wait an additional 15 minutes each week after getting up or eating before smoking a cigarette, take hot baths every night to drain the nicotine from my system , keep a butt jar and other behavioral tactics. My last cigarette was February 23, 1979.
I had a problem with marijuana and cocaine. I began smoking marijuana at a small party in the summer of 1969 with about 500,000 friends, called Woodstock and if I missed 20 days over the next 22 years that was a lot. I developed a serious cocaine problem while in law school and would use cocaine 3-4 times a week. In 1991 I was stopped for changing lanes without signaling and the pungent aroma of the marijuana alerted the officer that I had pot with me, he busted me. I decided it was time to get help so I entered an Intense -outpatient facility. I attended from 6 PM to 10- PM 4 nights a week for 6 months, 2 nights for 4 months and 1 night for two months. This was a combination of group counseling, individual counseling, education, art therapy and 12 step treatment. I have not had a rug or drink since February 23, 1997.
I held on to my gambling addiction the longest. I loved all forms of gambling but my favorites were the racetrack and sports betting. My gambling began in high school with weekend card games and daily excursions to the racetrack. My freshman year at college I majored in gambling: backgammon from 2-4, gin from 4-6, racetrack from 6:30 to 11:30 and poker game from midnight to 8 AM. Through law school and 18 years as an attorney I continued to gamble. In 1996 I lost my passion for the law and decided to change careers and decided to becomes an addiction counselor. While going though training I sat in on a six hour lecture on compulsive gambling and heard myself described to a tee. If I wanted to help others didn’t I first have to help myself? I wrote a letter to the gambling lecturer and he invited me to dinner. He then suggested we go to a meeting, I agreed and have not made a bet since that date, January 12, 1997.
I continually address my character defects and go to 2-3 GA meetings a week. I now work in the problem gambling field, helping others with the problem on both a local and national level.
My 3 recoveries have really turned my life around. They have given me direction. They have allowed me to fulfill previously untapped potential. I have made wonderful new friends. I am in a great marriage that would never have been possible. John Lennon once wrote ” How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I am facing”? Recovery has pointed me in thee right direction and made me a productive member of society.”
“Growing up in a dysfunctional family has caused many issues in my life, starting at an early age and continuing into my adulthood. In my story, there are things that should be told that I have only told a few people. I am writing this in hopes it will help other women realize that they do not have to live in an abusive relationship and addiction anymore. There is a way out. For me it took many years of abuse before I got away. I am grateful I am alive and free from the hell I lived in. I got away before it was too late. For me I was too scared to leave I knew if I did, he would hunt me down and kill me. I started looking at my life and did not want to live in the darkness, shame, and loneliness anymore. Domestic violence and addiction has takes lives of many women today. They do not know how to get away. For me it took many years before I realized that nothing in my life was going right. Life should not be this way.
The law did not really take domestic violence very seriously at the time, but today this has changed. Today women have places to go that is safe. There are new laws out now that helps protects women from being abused. No women should have to go through what I had to go through. Living like this was a normal thing for me. I did not know how to live any other way. Abuse never stops and get worse. If you are in an abusive relationship, please get help and get away. It never gets better. No matter how many times they say, it will. I have heard so many times “I promise I will change” repeatedly. I truly believed my life was going to end soon if I did not do something about it. I would have either going to die from the abuse or the drugs.
My father was a very abusive man mentally, verbally, and, physically. I’m not blaming him for my addiction it was my choice to pick up my first drink and drug. He would beat on my mother and us kids. My mother always tried to stop him, but she would end up being hit also. There was always someone being hit in our household daily. I was scared to go home every day. When we came home from school, he would be behind the front door with a belt and the first one to enter would be the one that was hit. To my understanding, my father was an alcoholic. He never drank at home, but would always come home angry at life in general and take it out on us. At times, my father would leave for days. He would come back like nothing happen. The abuse kept getting worse and more often.
My mother was a very loving and caring person to everyone. It really hurt me to watch him treat her the way he did. She just took what ever came at her. I was the one that had to make sure everything was OK at home before my dad would come home drunk. I guess I became an enabler at an early age. I also became very co-dependent. My father needed me to take care of him and that was OK he loved me. Therefore, I thought he did.
We had rules that other families did not have. We were not allowed to show feeling or show love. If we cried when being hit he would hit us harder. I can remember going over other kid’s house and watched them hug each other and say I love you. I was so confused about this. Why is my family different? All I really heard from my father was “you won’t amount to shit”. That statement really stayed with me until I was at least 39 years old.
I cannot remember any good memories of my early childhood. We lived from place to place always moving and going to different schools. I never really had a chance to make many friends. If I did, it was not long before we had to pack up and move again. Feeling as if I was different. Not understanding why we kept on moving, and why my mother did not do anything about all the things that were going on. My mother worked very hard to support us. She worked a full time job, but that was not enough to pay all the bills.
Around the age of 8 years old I could remember going on a train with my siblings and mother to my grandmother’s house in Illinois. Not knowing why. We stayed for about 2 weeks. At this time my mother filed for a divorce in 1969 and on the divorce papers under legal grounds for degree (Gross neglect of duty & extreme cruelty). The divorce did not stop him for coming around when he wanted too. He still showed up at times and tried to take control. Two years after the divorce my sister was born. To my understanding, she does not remember anything. The abuse still went on until I was around 14 years old. Not understanding the whole divorce thing. Believing that it was OK for a man to hit a woman. That was the way a man shows affection and love. By this time a was very confused, not knowing what was right or wrong. I really did not know what to think.
At the age of 14 not having, a father figure around me started hanging around the wrong crowd and started my self-destruction and my self-will. I started smoking pot, doing LSD and some drinking. I always hung around the older crowd because they had the good stuff and a place to party. I would skip school to party and stopped going to school all together. I would not go by the rules at home and was not going to school. I was taken to the youth center and was labeled a wayward child. The courts placed me in a group home. I did not like it there so I ran away. I was caught in California on a charge of prostitution, which was true. It was the only way I could get money to buy drugs. I was arrested and was put in the youth center there for about a week and got sent back to Topeka and was placed in a foster home. I did not like it there so I ran away again this time to Florida with older friends. I really cannot remember how the police picked me up. I ended up in the youth center in Florida for about 3 weeks until they could send me back home. This is the longest I have been clean and sober since I started drinking and using. I begged the court to let me go back home. Were caught a few times for shoplifting and both time ended up in the youth center. My mother always rescued me, but always ended up in trouble again. I put my mother through so much pain and worry. My family was tired of hearing me say I was sorry repeatedly. They really did not know about my drug use or drinking at this time. Nobody knew but my using friends and me.
I returned home at the age of 16. I started going to a school for troubled teenagers, still hanging with the wrong crowd still doing my will smoking pot, doing LSD and drinking. I was out of control. I met a young man I thought was the man of my dreams. He had a car, job and smoked dope. We started dating against my mother’s wishes and we moved in together. Our first apartment was a dump no heat, cracks in the floor and walls, but that was OK I was with the man of my dreams. A few weeks after we moved in together he became abusive, very controlling and needed to know where I was every minute so I was not allowed to have any friends, go anywhere, and see my family. I would end up with black eyes and bruises, broken ribs etc. All of this was fine with me because this man really loved me. I really did not want to be alone. I needed to be needed and he needed me.
I became pregnant and ended up back home with my mother because he left the state with another girl before my son was born. My first son was born July 10 1979. We got back together when my son was a year old. We moved in together again in another apartment that was also a dump, but it did not matter he loved me. He told me that he has changed and the abuse will stop. Well it did for 2 weeks and it begins again even worse and more often, but I was fine with that as long as he needed me.
He was working days and I was working evenings. One night I came home from work my son was gone. I asked him where he was. He said in the hospital he fell down the stairs. I ask him to take me to the hospital and he said no. Therefore, I took off walking. I got to the hospital and went up to the floor my son was on and there was a cop standing at his door and told me I could go in and say goodbye to me son. They were going to be taken my son away from me and put into a foster home. I was very angry and told them I was not at home when this happen. They took him away anyway because there were drugs found in the house. This is very hard for me to write about. I tried to explain to the courts and SRS that I was not home at the time and did not know what happen and that they were not my drugs. They still took him away and placed him in a foster home.
Around this time, I was pregnant again. We separated and I moved in with my mother and my other son was born on May 27 1981. I was working very hard to get my oldest son back. It took me two years of reporting to SRS my every move. At this time, I was working a normal job, but still using not as much. I did get him back, but he was not the same. He has a speech problem from the brain injury he had from the abuse. We are not very close. He resents me for what has happen to him. I really wish I could change what happen to him, but I cannot. All I can do is make a living amends to him. I can be here for him now if he needs me.
Being co-dependent and thinking that it was OK to be abused we got back together and moved into a nice apartment. I got pregnant again and he really did not want another child, so he made me miscarriage by jumping on me and sticking a cloths hanger up me. I started labor but he would not take me to the hospital and made me go upstairs and wait. I finally got to the phone, called my mother, and told her to send the police and an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital and gave birth to a stillborn baby boy. I was scared and did not know how I was going to prove to the police what happen. I did not try to explain. Still believing that he loved me and needed me. I stayed in this relationship. Sometimes he would hit me in front of my sons and they would start crying. I have lived with shame and guilt about this for many years.
This is when my drug addiction really took over. He would not work and I had to support my two boys and my addiction. Therefore, I started working in a massage parlor on the south side of town. This is when I got into the hard drugs. I really did not want to do what I was doing but I was an addict. I needed that next fix. I started putting money away for my drugs. This went on until they closed it down. I was addicted to making lots of money and doing many drugs, so I started working as a stripper and hiding more money for my drugs. At this time drinking wasn’t my drug for choice, meth was the drug that made me feel good and I felt like someone. I had many friends that hung around me and that is what I wanted when I was growing up. Others finally liked me.
I really do not know what woke me up, but one day when he was gone I called my brother and told him to come and get me and the boys, we wanted out of this hell. I moved in with my mother again for about a month, I was still working as a stripper and made enough money to get my own place. My brother had an apartment for rent next door from him so I moved in.
By this time, I was doing meth daily. My mother lived downstairs from me. She was taking care of my sons while I worked. At this time, they had no idea about my drug use. I do remember not looking my family in the eyes when I talked to them. I would work until 2 am and sometimes go to parties and not coming home until daylight. Get my sons ready for school take them and come back home. Call some friends over and get high before going back to work. Then do more drugs at work, and more after work. I really do not know why my family did not know what was going on. If they knew, they did not say anything to me. I had people coming in and out of my apartment at all hours. My apartment was in the back and my mother’s apartment was in the front.
In 1985, I finally filed for divorce because we have lived together for more than two years, had children and property together. During our divorce he kidnapped me twice, took me out of town, beating, and raping me for days. He said, “If I can’t have you no one else will”. I really thought he was going to kill me. I talked him into taking me back home and told him I would not press charges. I wanted him dead. I have had enough. I did end up pressing charges both times. The last time they took pictures of my injuries and he was arrested and eventually got out and put on 2 years probation. I had to file a restraining order against him. Of course, I was still stripping and was into drugs very bad. One night after work, my friend and I were headed home around the corner from my work and he was hiding in a ditch, started chasing the car, and tried to open my car door. For some reason I lock it before leaving the parking lot. I know if he would have gotten me out of the car I would not be alive today. My mother had a dream one night that they found me dead on the side of the highway. This last incident happens right on I-70. That really hit home. There are some time gaps in my story due to the fact I cannot remember them or I chose not to.
I met this man in 1987 and married him after two months of dating. He was in recovery and I was still stripping and doing drugs. He asked me to marry him and if I did, he would take care of me. Therefore, I quit stripping and doing drugs for about a year. We both relapsed 1988 together and ended up committing some crimes. I can remember finally crashing after being awake for more than a week at a friend’s house and got woke up by the narcotics unit and had a gun in my head. They were demanding my gun. I did not have it. The dealer did. I ended up in jail for 6 months and was court ordered into treatment at Osawatomie then 3 more months in jail. This was my first time at trying recovery. I was placed on 2 years of ISP. My husband took all the charges and was sent to prison for two years. While my husband was in prison, the father of my two boys got off probation and kept calling me to meet with him. I was scared and filed a temporary order of protection. Stayed clean for two years, but did not really want to stop using. Just going to meetings to get my card signed. I was just being abstinence and my life was not changing.
When my husband got out in 1990, we started using again. It gotten so bad that I had to give the boys to their dad that was one of the hardest things I had to do. That caused more shame and guilt and gave me another excuse to keep using. We committed some more crimes and I was put on 2 years ISP and went to St Francis in 1998 for drug treatment. We stayed clean for 8 years. Had a beautiful daughter, worked a program, had a sponsor and worked the steps then life just got to busy after 4 years in recovery and we quit going to meetings and was in relapse mode for 4 years before I picked up again. It happen just like that not planned at all. Committing more crimes to get our drugs was placed on 2 years ISP again.
Around 1999 had a slip and told my ISP officer and she sent me to the Woman’s recovery center for treatment. Released from probation in 2000. This was my last time being in treatment and my bottom. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of losing everything and running from everyone. I did not want to end up dead or in prison. I believed for many years that I did not deserve to live. I have done so many things and let so many things happen to the one’s I love that my addiction was going to kill me. Recovery was my last choice.
Recovery is great. I am so grateful I DO NOT HAVE TO USE TODAY NO MATTER WHAT. My mother passed away in 2006 and I am grateful that I got to make my amends to her before she died. I did not have to use over it. Spending time with her and making a living amends to her has really helped me deal with my grieving. Just saying I was sorry was not enough. I have said that to so many people repeatedly. My daughter knows about addiction and says she is proud of me. I have no more shame, guilt and I can trust people again. Most of all I can trust myself. I still have issues with my co-dependency, but at least I know it is there and try to stop it before it gets out of hand. I have feelings now and are not afraid of them. I can show love to someone and them show love back.
Today I am still married to the man of my dreams. When we meet, I really didn’t know what to expect. But I gave this relationship a chance, now we have become best friends we have been married for 24 years and I do not have to be scare to be me. My sons are grown and have children of their own. We have a 17-year-old daughter together. We have five wonderful grandchildren. Today I have no contact with my father or the father of my two sons. Have not seen my father in 20 years. He has not met my 17-year-old daughter or his great- grandchildren. I have gone through intensive therapy and counseling for years. I no longer live in fear for my life. I can walk out my front door and not be paranoid about being kidnapped or attacked.
As I write this story, I have been clean and sober for 12 years, gotten my high school diploma, and gone to college for 3 years to become a drug and alcohol counselor. I help take a N/A meeting to the woman’s prison every Sunday and I sponsor seven women. I am so grateful that I have my sponsee’s they remind me where I came from. I do not have to be a prisoner anymore. I AM SOMEBODY TODAY. I am a good wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, great aunt, niece, cousin, and a good friend. I can be the person I was met to be. All do to the 12 steps and N/A .They loved me until I could love myself. I STAY IN THE MIDDLE OF N/A SO I WILL NOT FALL OFF. I have choices today. Back then when I was being abused and using drugs, I did not have a choice. If I start forgetting where I came from I will lose my choices I have today.
Living a life of abuse and addiction is not what I want or deserve today. I really had to become honest with myself and look at my life and accept that I have issues with both and really work hard to get to where I am today. I had to change me. I am so grateful for all the people that stood by my side through everything and for still being in my life today. I am looking forward to helping other women that is going through the same thing. It has made me stronger women. I can say what is on my mind and be OK with that.
Recovery from abuse and addiction can be possible only if you really want it. I always thought there was not a way out either. Boy was I wrong. I truly believe I am still alive today because I was chosen to carry the message to other women that need help getting out of the darkness and into the light. For me my darkness was a place called hell, my light is a new beginning to a wonderful journey of freedom from abuse and addiction. I do not have to let other people hurt me and I do not have to hurt myself do to all the shame and guilt I carried around for so many years. I can say no and make healthy choices. I love whom I see in the mirror. Recovery is when we can live life on life’s terms. I can laugh, cry and get angry and still be OK with myself. Shame, guilt, secrets, and resentments will keep me sick and out there using. The 12 principles of recovery will help keep me on the right path of freedom from active addiction.
Recovery is a process and can be done. I am living proof. I had to get away from abuse and stay clean for myself. I am grateful that my HP does not give me more then I can handle in one day. What he does put in my path is lessons to be learned. I still make mistakes, but that is OK as long as I keep doing the right next thing. My HP’s will not mine. Just turning things over makes my life so much easier. Recovery has giving me so much and it is still getting better. Today I am the person I have always wanted to be ME.
I want to thank a very special woman my mother that was taken from my life to early, but I know she looks down on me with a big smile on her face. Love you, miss you every day, also I want to thank my wonderful husband for believing in me and never giving up on me, Love you honey, my HP, N/A, and all my love ones that stood by me through all the pain that I had to go through to get were I am today and for showing me the right path that I needed to take to be free and to be me again. Recovery Rocks.
I wrote a poem last year and this is how I felt for many years. I was all alone and did not know where I belonged. I was in total darkness. With no one to help me and understand me. Now I am not alone and I do not like in darkness anymore. I have a place to go and that place is here with my family that cares about me and loves me just the way I am.”
“I have 14 years of abstinence under my belt. Relapse was definitely part of my journey, and while it doesn’t have to be for some, it was for me. I use Narcotics Anonymous, spirituality, and my work with addicts who have yet to enter recovery as therapeutic tools for my continuing recovery.
Witnessing, on a daily basis, the consequences of addiction on the lives of those still addicted helps me focus on what’s important in my life: helping others (especially those in active addiction) and practicing gratitude for all I have–especially my new life free from drugs and alcohol.”
“My name is Steve and im a person in long-term recovery which means that I haven’t used drugs or any other mind or mood altering substance for more than 10 years. I was a cocaine and heroin addict for 27 yrs. I was the type of person that used to live, and lived to use. I’ve overdosed on drugs numerous of times and told myself that I wasn’t gonna do it again but, I guess u know the drill, I did the exact same thing all over again and again. Until one day a childhood friend and I were getting high and that particular day he overdosed and died. The following week at his funeral I was viewing the body before the ceremony started and I was standing in front of the casket and just like I’m talking to u guys, I heard a voice tell me that if I don’t stop doing what I’m doing I”ll be in that casket next. That is what it took for me to be scared-straight. At that point I asked my Higher Power to help me. See, where I come from if u don’t see a person on the street that you were getting high with anymore, they are either in one or two places: either dead or in the jail. Lo and behold, I didn’t know that a lot of people that I was getting high with weren’t dead, they were in NA recovering. Once I found that out, I tried NA and I’ve picked up one white chip and I vow not to pick up another one. I know I’m gonna die one day but I don’t have to in active addiction. I’m committed to recovery because it has allowed me to redesign myself, it has changed my life for the better, and I want to be a role model for others with similar experiences. Recovery has afforded me to have a wife, family, and a job doing HIV testing and prevention, and I’m also a Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist. Recovery has motivated me to let others know that they can pursue opportunities and transform their lives into one of better quality, and advocate for self-directed care.”
“My name is Wendy and I have been clean and sober from drugs and alcohol for almost 7 years. I have started my own sober living/and Recovery Club House in the community where I live. Yes, I struggle, but not with my addiction. I struggle with my business and I have not found it necessary to pick up today.”
“My name is Bob and I’m an Alcoholic! I had my last drink on October 1, 1976 at about 2 a.m. It was a beer. If I would have known it was my last drink, I might have had good Scotch. But as it was, it was a beer.
The night before, when my wife came home from work, I told her I needed help. She jumped all over that and said, “Let’s go!” I replied, “I didn’t mean right this minute.” Well, she said we had to go right then. When I said we’d go tomorrow, she took he kids and went to her sister’s house. She called me in the morning and said that either I go to treatment right then or she would go see a lawyer and file for divorce. So that day I went to St Catherine’s Hospital in Kenosha, Wisconsin and began my sober life.
I was born in Chicago in 1944. My dad was a supervisor at American Can Co. Mom was a housewife. She was also an alcoholic. She drank at home – always at night and straight booze. She was a very good mom. All my friends were jealous and said they wished they had a “cool” mom like I did. But none of them knew the secret about the night. My dad was a big guy and a great man. It was hard to live up to his expectations of me. Both of my parents loved me and I never was hungry or lacking anything. I went to Catholic schools and my grades were above average. But my teachers always said, “He has so much more potential.” I always felt I wasn’t quite good enough. But I always got by. I was a skinny kid and never learned how to fight until I got in high school.
Other than a sip of dad’s beer, my first drink was at a Christmas party my senior year of high school. I drank a little bit of everything that night and got sick on the way home. I was really sick the next day. My dad asked me if I got drunk and felt like I wanted to die. When I said yes, he said, “go ahead and die!” that was prophetic because by the end of my drinking I wanted to die every night.
There were lots of drinks and drunks between that night and my last night of drinking. Nothing spectacular happened. I was arrested one night while I was in the army for being drunk. I lost several good jobs. I never got into a bar fight because I didn’t usually drink in a bar. I had told myself that I’d never drink like my mom. But, I did. I became a daily drinker – always at night and almost always at home. So I inflicted my alcoholism on my family – the people I said I loved the most. Alcoholism makes us do things we never wanted to do, and feel things we never wanted to feel, and become something we never wanted to become!
At my wife’s urging I tried Alcoholics Anonymous about 4 years before I got sober. But it didn’t last long. For some strange reason, they thought I should quit drinking all together. So I took advanced drinking studies for 4 more years – and did it all in my home in front of my family.
By the time I finally did get sober, I had pretty much lost contact with God and Church. I didn’t like it when people talked about God in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Early sobriety was hard. Of course it was! I wouldn’t let God in and was doing it out of anger. But even then, it was better than being drunk. After a few months back in Alcoholics Anonymous, I began to get this “sense” or “feeling” that God wanted me back. Might have been all the spirituality talk at the meetings. I was going to at least one meeting every day. So I asked God to show me a sign.
My sponsor taught me that if I ever have a problem or feel stuck, I should jut open the Big Book and start reading and a answer would come to me. I had tried it and it had worked. I was resistant to trying it with this problem. But one day, I had a Bible next to me and wondered if it would work with the Bible. So I tried it. I opened the Bible and closed my eyes and put my finger down on the page. My fingers were under the words “Seek and you will find.” I felt that God had touched me at that moment and said, “You keep looking, kid. And I’ll show you where to go. That moment changed my life. I believe with all my heart, that God has always shown me where to go from that moment on. God has led me places I never would have dreamed of.
In my professional life, I became a counselor. I was the director of a small halfway house in Wisconsin. I founded a program for recovering women. I became a counselor in a program for priests. So I, who wanted nothing to do with God, became a therapist for His priests and helped them to be sober and to grow spiritually. Unbelievable – but true.
I wish I could say that October 1, 1976 was the last time I made a big mistake. But that wouldn’t be honest. I’ve made quite a few. A friend told me that we’d never be better than human. And it’s so true. When I work the 12 Steps in my life and keep Conscious Contact with my God, things work themselves out and get consistently better.
I have been blessed with many friends and sponsors in my recovery. I’m retired now. Because of some financial mistakes I made while drinking, I never thought I would be able to retire. But my wife and I are comfortable in Arizona where there is wonderful Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon. It’s beautiful there. I am so blessed.”
“I am a recovering Compulsive Gambler who placed my last bet April 10,1968.I started gambling at about age 7 or 8 as a kid in Brooklyn, NY. It started with flipping baseball cards, pitching pennies, shooting marbles and playing pinball machines. That kind of gambling continued until about age 14. At that point I started to bet on sporting events with a bookmaker and I got into the stock market.As a young kid, growing up, I always felt that everyone was better than me. The only time I felt okay about myself was after I had a win, whether it was marbles or baseball cards or pennies. Then at 14 I went to the racetrack for the first time (that was Memorial Day, 1951 Roosevelt Raceway). At that time in my life I was making $.50 an hour after school, working about 15-20 hours a week. That night at Roosevelt Raceway I had my first big win and walked out of the track with $54. Looking back today, I think it was that night that changed my life. Even though it was only $54, it was about 5 weeks salary to me at that time. That night gave me the belief that I could be a winner from gambling and eventually become a millionaire. I can still recall that high feeling walking out of the racetrack that night.By 17, I was already stealing to support my gambling. It started with stealing comic books to play cards with from the local candy store. Before long it was stealing money from my family to pay for gambling. By then I was taking the bus to the racetrack, a few nights a week on a regular basis. In those days they closed the track in the winter months, in New York so on weekends, I would take the bus or the train to Maryland to gamble. I was betting sporting events and horses with the bookmaker on a daily basis. In those days each sport had its own season. I remember calling the bookmaker one day and the only thing that was available to gamble on was hockey. I had never seen a hockey game, but bet on it anyway. It wasn’t until months later when I did see my first hockey game, that I realized that hockey was played on ice.Somewhere between age 17 and 20 I went to the racetrack one night and won $6000. Wow! Another big win. It was the equivalent of 2 years salary. This reinforced my belief that I could be a winner at gambling.
By my early 20’s I was betting big amounts on lots of games that I didn’t really know much about and probably couldn’t name more than a handful of players who played in these events. In some of the college games I bet on, I couldn’t name one player or even tell you where the college was located, but I needed to be in action. By then I was a regular at the old Madison Square Garden, every week. I was watching and betting on college and professional basketball on a regular basis. At this point in my life I was working full time in a shipping department in the garment center and every Tuesday when we got paid there was a regular crap game out in the hallway. Almost every week I would lose my pay in this game. I began stealing supplies and merchandise on a daily basis to pay for my gambling. By then, I had a bank loan and a loan with a finance company loan. I was also borrowing from coworkers.
At 21 I met my future wife. Our first date was to the movies and most of the rest of our dating was at the racetrack. We had a joint checking account saving for our wedding. She would put money in and I wouldn’t. I needed to use my money for gambling. I was still looking for another big win. I thought the perfect place for our honeymoon would be Las Vegas or Puerto Rico since I knew both places had casinos. My wife to be didn’t think that was a good idea. I guess she understood enough about my gambling already. At 23 we got married and I wanted to stop gambling at that point. I thought that I could. Within a short time I was already back to gambling. Even though I wanted to stop, I realize today that I couldn’t. I needed to gamble like any drug addict needed to stick that needle in their arm, or any alcoholic needed to have that drink.
Four weeks after we got married I went away to the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, NJ for 6 months. During those 6 months, I gambled every day, fast and furious, from placing bets by phone with the bookmaker to shooting crap and playing cards, every waking minute. When I came home in December of 1961, I owed $4000 and didn’t even have a job.
I got a job, eventually, working in the garment center In the showroom that I worked in there were a few compulsive gamblers who I quickly got friendly with. They became my buddies. We would play cards during the day, and go to the racetrack at night and on weekends, together. My wife thought I was at business meetings some of these nights and all of us would lie for each other.
In 1963 my first daughter was born. My wife was in labor 37 hours. During that period I went to the racetrack twice. When the Doctor finally came out and told me that we had a baby, the only question I really was concerned about was “how much did she weigh”. He told me 7lbs.1 oz. You would think that the concern should have been “how is my wife” or “how is the baby”. The first call I made was to the bookmaker. I bet 71 in the daily double. The next day when I picked up the newspaper, the daily double hit. I was convinced that day that God was sending me a message that I was now going to be a winner.
One year later my boss gave me an option to buy 500 shares of stock in the company for $7500. Within a year that stock was worth $38,000. In those days you could buy a car for $2000 and a house for about $10,000. Within 3 years this money would be gone due to my gambling. By now I was a plant supervisor for a Fortune 500 company. My gambling was already so out of control that I was stealing everything I could to stay in action. I set up a room in the factory that we used for playing cards (all day long). I was starting to do illegal acts (manipulating stocks) in the stock market.
Our home life was deteriorating. Gambling was more important than anything else that was going on at home. I was lying about almost everything and I would come home and pick a fight so I could go out to gamble. Nothing else at that point in my life was more important than gambling; not my family or my job. Gambling came first. At this point even though I was doing illegal acts, I was still borrowing money from only legal sources.
My gambling continued to get progressively worse. I was now a plant manager, supervising 300-400 people. My boss worked in New York, and I was in the factory in NJ. Most of the time he didn’t know what I was doing. Besides stealing and borrowing money from coworkers, I now had 3 bank loans and 3 loans to finance companies; I owed a loan shark an amount of money equal to one years salary. I was involved with 3 bookmakers, both working for them and betting with them. I directed a lot of people who gambled in my company, to my bookmaker and got a piece of the action. I even got involved in a numbers operation. Between this and stealing, I was supporting my gambling. There were times I would bet 40 or 50 games on a weekend, and believe I could win them all. One weekend, just before I hit my bottom, I called a bookmaker and took a shot by betting a round robin which amounted to about 2 years annual salary. At that moment if I lost that bet, there was no way I could pay it. Things were getting so bad, I remember calling a bookmaker one day and being told that if I didn’t bring him the money I owed him he would not take my bet for that night. I went home and sold our car to a neighbor.
By now, I wasn’t going home to pick a fight with my wife. I was doing it over the phone so I wouldn’t waste the trip home. Most of the time I was out gambling, but when I was home we were constantly fighting. We had sex very rarely. When I won I was so high I didn’t need it and if I lost I didn’t want it. But there were times we had sex and my wife would say to me “do you hear a radio”. Of course I would tell her she was crazy, but I had a radio on under the pillow so I could listen to a game. We were trying to have another child, but couldn’t. My wife came to me with the idea of adoption. I didn’t like that idea especially when I was told it would cost money. I needed that money for gambling. After 3 months of her bothering me, I finally went along with the idea of adoption, as I thought she would be so busy with the 2 kids that she would leave me alone. I borrowed the money we needed from my boss and relatives. On the day we were bringing our son home on a plane, it was the 7th game of the 1967 World Series. My wife was busy looking at this beautiful new baby. I had no interest in him. I had a large bet on the game. The pilot was announcing the score every 15 minutes, or so. I was so upset that we were on this plane. I wished and prayed that the plane would get to the ground so that I could see or hear every minute of this game.
In the next few months the bottom fell out of my world even though I still had my job and still looked okay. There were no track marks on my arm, I wasn’t smelling from my gambling. No one could really tell what was going on. I would come home from gambling and see my wife crying all the time, depressed, sick. Our daughter was 4 years old and I don’t remember her walking or talking. I either wasn’t home or when I was my head was consumed with the gambling. At that point in my life, I owed 32 people, 3 years annual salary. I had a life insurance policy and constantly thought about killing myself and leaving my wife and 2 kids that money. I would do anything to keep gambling. As long as I could get my hands on some more money to stay in action, I still thought that the big win was just around the corner. I was trying to find out where I could get drugs to sell and looking around at gas stations to rob. I was asking people about making counterfeit money. I was running out of options. My boss came to me one day and told me that a detective was following me and he had a report on my gambling. He knew I was betting more money than I earned and he was sure that I was stealing from the company and that if he found out he would have me arrested. Three hours later I was stealing from the company again. I needed to go to the racetrack that night. On February 2, 1968 my wife was having a miscarriage and I was taking her to the hospital. I was wishing and praying all the way that she would die. I thought that would solve all my problems (I wouldn’t have to tell her how bad things were). That morning I called my mother to watch my kids, I called my boss and told him I couldn’t come to work because my wife was in the hospital. That afternoon I went to the racetrack. After the track I went to see how my wife was. When I got to the hospital the doctor told me that my wife was in shock and had almost died. I was so deep into my addiction that I really didn’t care about her, the 2 kids or myself. The only important thing was making a bet.
I thought that I was the only one living the way I was living and doing the things that I was doing. I found out that I was not alone and that I could stop gambling with the help of the other people. I had hope for the first time. It’s been over 46 years since I last gambled. Today I have everything I dreamed about getting from gambling and then some. I have a wonderful family that is still intact and even have been blessed with 4 grandchildren who I love very much. In the last 20 years I have been able to devote my working life to helping others who have this problem and educating people on the disease of Compulsive Gambling. This has been a dream come true.
Arnie & Sheila Wexler Associates
If you need help with a gambling problem,