Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
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"I had my last drink on Thanksgiving Day, 1973. I went to my first meeting that night, and picked up my white plastic poker chip with some dimes taped to it to make call from my new list of friends. There was a death in the family that night. A drunk of 17 years stumbled into the 2720 Club in Lakeland, Florida, and was never seen again. The compulsion to drink had been removed. With two small children in tow, who had been living in a flop apartment in a condemned dope house, I began my journey back to a life that I would never have dreamed possible.
After leaving a 10 year career in the US Navy, I got sober after coming home from Viet Nam. What happened in the last 43 years is nothing short of miraculous. My garbage can turned into a treasure chest. From the very first day in recovery, I have found so many ways to be useful to others, and to make a difference in the lives of my family and community, the thought of having another drink of alcohol hasn’t entered my mind. I never throw anyone away, as I had been, and the result is that I get to live this amazing life surrounded by miracles every day."
"My name is Bobbi. I started using drugs in my thirties. I used constantly and I used any type of drug that I could find. I left my husband I left my three children and I became homeless and went out on the streets as a prostitute to feed my drug habit. I was in and out of jail. I was lost and miserable for four and a half years. Once when I came out of jail my husband was gone with my children. He had left the state and I have not seen my daughter who is now 8 for 6 years now. I finally decided that I needed help after I went to jail for a DUI. That was a blessing in disguise the jail sent me to probation and probation referred me to an intense outpatient alcohol treatment program which I have completed and I am now in an after-care program. I attend counseling sessions 1 time a week and I attend three to four Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week. I have met several new sober friends and I am happy to say that I have now been completely drug-free for three and a half years and I am alcohol-free for 90 days. With the help of sober friends and counseling and my faith in a higher power I have finally began to get my life back on track. I am now attempting to gain custody of my eight year old daughter I have wonderful relationships with my family again and I am living in the house that I own now. I believe if I can do it than anyone can do it!"
"Alcohol was a long term problem for me. I started drinking and smoking pot when I was about 14. By 15 or 16 drinking and smoking pot was a regular weekend activity. Binge drinking proliferated in my late teens and early twenties. I drank beer, mixed drinks, and shots. I began blacking out fairly regularly by my late teens and would do terribly embarrassing things: kicked out of bars, fights (sometimes with my best friends or strangers), and basically made a fool of myself many times in front of friends and family.
I was in and out of college for about 7 years-finally graduating at the age of 25. I had extreme anxiety and panic attacks during these college years which was the primary reason it took me so long to graduate. At times I would be too hungover and nervous to sit in class rooms.
I moved from RI to Florida in my twenties. Decided to quit booze at age 26 in Tampa. Stayed sober about 2 years primarily because I met a bunch of new friends in AA. I never cared much for the 12 step talk. Always thought it was a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo. But I did enjoy the camraderie and new friendships I acquired in the group. It was a fairly social time. Fast forward and I fell off the wagon after meeting an attractive female who I married. I started getting drunk again and she divorced me 2 years later after witnessing too many blackouts. For the next 18 years I continued to binge drink. I usually would get drunk 4 times a week with usually one blackout (or brown out) per week. I tried quitting intermittently by going to AA-but never recaptured the magic I found when I was 26.
At age 49 I finally quit for good after experiencing a heart attack-via tachycardia event. I didn’t go back to AA. I saw a therapist and psychiatrist to get treated for the underlying cause of my alcoholism-general anxiety disorder. I got online a lot with SMART and learned to think rationally. I also started to meditate and exercised frequently. But most of all it just seems I outgrew the desire to drink. I always liked the bars but I was growing tired of “going out”. Today I feel great and have full custody of my 15 year old son."
"My name is Amissa and I AM an addict. My sobriety date is June 30, 2014. I spent most of my life trying to fit in. Looking for love and falling short every time. Blaming and shaming. Moving from city to city they are the problem. I mean don’t you know who I am? Overdosing in a coma for 3 days still that wasn’t enough. Wanting to claim my independence, prostituting and still not paying my bills. The meth was far more important than anything. At my bottom I got a warning. A ticket for soliciting and working with out a business license. That still wasn’t enough and I still wasn’t the problem. Thank God my family no longer would enable me I was living from hotel to motel some days better than ever. And I just needed one more and I got that call with an opportunity to make enough money to hold me over for the next couple days. Saved my life! I went to jail for possession, and conducting prostitution. After I was released with no charges filed going into a program was the only way I knew I wouldn’t have to continue not doing drugs because still at that point drugs weren’t the problem. What I was doing to get the drugs was the problem. I checked myself into a year long residential program I thought I was special enough to only stay there 90 days. When in fact on my 90th day I couldn’t deal with life and got loaded in the program. Thank God they believed in me and were committed to loving me until I could love myself. Working the steps with my sponsor, getting to know me again, forgiving myself and working through the hurt and accepting who I am. Today I am 15 months sober reuniting with my kids in just about a week. I truly believe God has carried me through and taking direction knowing I need and it’s OK to ask for help. I can remain clean and sober. I love my life today and without going through what I went through I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m truly blessed and extremely grateful!"
"It all began with me being so out of control, that my wife kicked me out. I had no where that I wanted to go. I decided to check myself into the local Veterans Administration hospital. I was locked in the Psych Ward for five days. I agreed to go to program an hour away from home. Thank God I had a clear thought, the farther away from home, the greater possibility of me actually getting something out of this program.
I checked into this program and had no desire to be there. I went through he paces for the first week. One night my wife told me that she was moving on with her life without me. I finally broke down, I felt my world falling in on me. I didn’t want to wake up the next day, I just didn’t care about anything at all. I remember being on the floor inconsolable, I begged God to stop the pain that racked my body. I had a moment of clarity, a epiphany I believe. I gave into all that I held dearly and surrendered to God. I gave away all my pain, hate, hurt and lies and finally let God have that weight. At that very moment, I felt a weight lift off me and I slept peacefully.
I began to see where my life was at and why it was there. I accepted that my addiction was my own and no one else’s. I put myself in my hole. The only way out was to begin to listen, ask questions and begin to trust. To trust my mentors and take their advice. I accepted and understood what I brought to the table and took responsibility for my actions. After 60 days I left this program and began another one.
The Veterans Administration has a nationally recognized program in the San Francisco Bay Area, that I was blessed to be accepted to. This program gave me tools to live life in a normal way and to be able to think, act and communicate in a clear manner. I can face anything in life as long as I don’t use. I have seen what this program has given to me and countless other veterans. I now have healthy relationships with my friends and families. I’m now welcome where before I was not. I am a father to my children and am totally honest with them about my struggles. I have a healthy, honest and open relationship with their mom. She did the best thing for herself, our children and me, by kicking me out.
I fall asleep at night, not pass out. I work, not scam. I help, not take away from. Life has had struggles and dark times. But I remember all my scars as signs that I can get through any storm life brings. I can face any obstacle and hardship as long as I do not fall into the behaviors that will allow me to pick up a bag."
“Forty one years ago, this weekend, after three months of quart and a half a day, at just under 120 pounds, which followed the six-month stay in a Maryland State Mental hospital for the same, and no food for well over a week, in hallucinosis for most of that last week, in the same clothes for over three weeks, the same period of time with no bath, and looking like a refugee from Bergin-Belsen with leprosy, I finally got scared enough to jump in a taxi and ask the driver if there was any place in that town for drunks.
The driver spun around to see what the hell had happened to his cab, stared for several seconds, and told me ‘I know where to take you’, and I was dropped at the back door of a non-descript house in a middle-class neighborhood that I was much later to learn was one of Ralph Fox’s “Houses of Hope” in Lincoln, Nebraska. The driver told me to go in, that I’d be taken care of.
He didn’t even ask for fare – I found out the ‘why’ of that much later. I really have to wonder, now, while re-writing this, what would have happened had any other cab driver been there? I hadn’t thought of that until just now.
I really do not remember most of that next week, but a few things remain. I was horribly sick, shaking like a bass in a jazz band, terrified that I really was going to die at any minute, and didn’t know where I was.
There were a few others there, others I came to know later, Bud H., Truman, Jim, Hoyt, some others. They knew I was in deep trouble, but there was a problem – it was Labor Day weekend. Everyone with a car was doing holiday things with their families, so there was no one to take me to the State Hospital 100 miles away. I had no insurance so they couldn’t take me to the local civilian hospital, and when they tried to get me admitted to the Veteran’s Hospital the MOD who just glanced at me from about 30 feet way said ‘that son-of-a-bitch isn’t sick, he’s a God damn drunk, take him to jail where he belongs!”
They had no choice; they had to try to detox me at Hope. I remember them pushing fluids, including some God-awful mix of honey and bicarb, but mostly I remember shaking and walking, around in circles in the living room of Hope. I’d sit for a while, but then have to get up and walk around in circles. There was a TV in the room; those staying with me were ostensibly watching it while keeping an active eye on me.
After several hours I would occasionally try to pay attention to the show on TV, it was the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.
Over the hours of sitting, shaking, walking, shaking, talking, shaking, some of the stories on the Telethon began to percolate through. A thought started to take shape. Most of those on the Telethon were kids, most if not all were going to die, through no fault of their own, and nothing could be done for them to prevent that.
I was going to die too, and possibly kill others as well. These kids were going to die no matter what anyone did – I was going to die because I was killing myself.
Those kids couldn’t change anything about their lives.
Maybe I could.
I have made it a ritual every year since then to spend at least some time watching the MDA Telethon – in memory, and in gratitude.
A lot happened that first year, one part of which leaves me still with one small, trivial but annoying resentment. You guys & girls who can say ‘on this date at that time in this city at that location I had my last (drugs of choice here)’ – I sorta hate you.
I can’t do that.
After that Friday night I was still pretty messed up, it wasn’t until Sunday of that weekend that I remember any substantial part of any of the AA Meetings they were taking me to, and over a week before I regained any functional control at all. It was apparently very obvious to those around me that even though drying out I was still crazier than a bedbug. They went with it though, anyway, and continued to ferry me to meetings & such.
On Monday they thought I was stable enough to get cleaned up, so they made me go down to the basement of Hope to take a shower, shave & clean up while someone washed my clothes – they were sick of smelling me. When I came back upstairs the guys in the kitchen reacted almost in shock on seeing me. Bud asked with some amazement “How old ARE you?!” I answered “26, why?”, and he broke out laughing, the others just more or less shook their heads wryly. Bud said “We all thought you were at least 60!”
Anyhow, they encouraged me to go to meetings and read the books, which I did; I had nothing else to do. I did, however, start getting into it, some of the stuff from the meetings was sort of making sense, and some of the reading was too.
But I was still me. I asked questions that were a little more off the wall than others had, and said things, my opinions on various, that made them shake their heads even more.
After maybe a month or so, and this is the beginning of the resentment, my unemployment checks from DC came in, I got three at once. I was relatively ‘rich’, for the moment. I paid my rent due so far ($25.00/week), bought some clothes, and decided I needed to take a bus 50 miles up to Omaha to ‘look for a job’. I told the guys, somewhat truly, that I’d tried in Lincoln, without success. I did. I put in a few applications with some employment agencies, but then stopped by a place I knew of from earlier years that wasn’t very rigorous with I.D. requirements (didn’t have any, all lost on preceding adventures) and asked for a coke. Waitress said they didn’t have any and I said “bring me a Schlitz then.”
I had to test this ‘loss of control’ thing I’d been hearing about, and I, thank whatever higher powers there be, failed again. Fortunately I had bought a round-trip ticket.
I slunk back into Hope that weekend’s Sunday, broke and hung-over, and somehow got away with it. I should have been thrown out, but they all pretended not to know. To this day I don’t know why they let that slide.
Now the explanation of the resentment – nobody really expected me to last, including me, we all knew I was just too nuts, so no one really kept track of the dates.
About a year later it started coming up, I was still sober, I should have an anniversary due. We all knew it was about a year – but on what day? Hell, none of us, and especially me, knew within a three week period when my last drunk was.
That’s why I always wait until well into October before picking up a chip, and why I have the resentment for you who know.
Anyhow, this is the weekend it all started, Labor Day Weekend, forty years ago, I began the climb back to some facsimile of humanity – but not on my own.
Thank you who saved my life – and gave me a new one.
Others may have done it themselves, I couldn’t, and I didn’t, I didn’t know how to.”
“My name is Dan and my journey of recovery has been an amazing work of God who in Christ Jesus has restored me to Him and through Him I’m delivered from the addiction that was killing me.
My story is one of early onset of addiction that spiraled into a downward progression that left me without hope. I became the opposite person God had created me to be and through the intercession of those placed He in my life, I began to accept help. I didn’t become “zapped” into recovery, no “burning bush”, but it has been a journey of trial and error and learning to live one day at a time without a drink or a drug.
My quest in recovery has been a series of realizations that have matured into a way of life. I was born into an alcoholic abusive home that was riddled with patterns that have taken a lifetime (one day at a time) to undo and habilitate a new way. My story is not that unusual for someone who is pre-disposed for addiction. I come from a long line of alcoholics, generationally it is a long way back. The chain appears to be broken, as my son appears to be carrying the torch of recovery earlier and hopefully a new path is being forged.
The people that have been “God with skin on” for me are too numerous to number or make reference to. Suffice to say that God has Anointed my life with countless saints who have come into my life at just the right time and have taught me what I needed to know right at that moment. Much of this awareness is understood in reflection, or as I like to say “Monday morning quarterbacking”. My recovery is a gift from God, there is no other explanation that makes sense to me. I should be dead, and I’m not, simple. At age 21 I was diagnosed with partial beginning cirrhosis of the liver, have experienced numerous blackouts where I have zero recollection as to what I may have been experiencing, countless times in cars driving and as a passenger that I was so blown away mentally, that the fact we weren’t killed is a miracle. I could go on and on, but the point is that I didn’t get myself sober, I have been gifted with sobriety from God, and I continue to prosper and grow spiritually, which is the answer to this body-mind-spirit malady.
I’m grateful today for the program of AA that led me back to my Savior, Jesus Christ and His Grace that sustains me in all things. My hope is that through this affiliation I can be of assistance and help to others, as I realize that Christianity isn’t a prerequisite for getting sober, I’m sharing my story. I’m not preaching or attempting to evangelize folks to Christianity ( even though I believe that Christ is the Way, The Truth and The LIFE) I am a former drunk who has found new life in recovery and have returned to my Faith of a child.
I am open to be a part of your study in any way or no way, whatever is going to help people find that there is life after “putting the plug in the jug, and throwing away the drugs.”
IN PEACE, LOVE AND RECOVERY”