Reflecting on September being National Recovery Month, I’ve decided to be transparent and vulnerable and share “my” story, despite how uncomfortable it makes me and possibly those reading this. I would also like to say how appreciative I am to those of you who reached out to me in the last few months wondering where and how I was.
I have kept my disease of addiction a secret from most people for a very long time. Keeping this secret only intensified the shame and stigma I felt (and that others feel) surrounding addiction. While most other medical conditions and diseases inspire support and sympathy, society still, unfortunately, regards addiction as a personal shortcoming or lack of willpower — rather than what it truly is: a disease.
The last year and a half have been the most challenging years of my life both, personally and professionally. Although I won’t go into detail, I found myself dealing with anxiety from morning to night on the daily. Everyday things grew increasingly difficult and there were days I felt frozen in my own mind and body. I was stuck and I was scared.
In my darkest hours, I chose alcohol and substances to numb the pain I felt instead of reaching out for help. I am a living example of the insidiousness of this disease. After being in recovery for decades I caved to this cunning and baffling disease. I was lying to my family, friends, and even my therapist about what was going on with me and there began to be a profound change in my personality.
I was spiraling to a very lonely and scary place. My family kept asking me if I was okay, what was going on with me, and if I needed help. My constant response was, “I’m fine, really, I just need to work through a few things and I will be great.” The truth was that I couldn’t work through anything on my own. I felt broken.
The day finally came when my husband and therapist spoke to me about going away to get some help. They offered me 3 places out of state. I looked at all of them and I was petrified.
I ended up choosing the Refuge Wellness Center in Ocklawaha, Florida. Ever hear of Ocklawaha? Me neither. It sounded perfect!! The Refuge was an absolutely beautiful place on 80 acres in a national forest.
July 16th I hopped a plane to Florida and my journey began. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I needed help and I couldn’t go on living life the way I was. I left my family, my friends, my business, and my Frenchie Finley. I was scared to death, but at the same time relieved because I didn’t have to lie anymore.
At the Refuge, I learned that there was no shame in having the disease of addiction. They taught me how to like myself and even love myself. They helped me dig deep inside my soul and uncover my own truths. I spent 10 hours a day, 7 days a week in groups, classes, and therapy delving into the root causes of my addiction so I could recover in the healthiest way possible.
I was taught Breathwork (believe me, it’s more than breathing in and out), I learned about Reale Recovery, Recovery Dharma (which I love!!), ART Therapy, Art Journaling, among so many other tools. Being at the Refuge was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, yet the most rewarding.
I will be forever grateful to the Refuge and to Valerie, Melissa, Shen, Lisa, Lizzie, Paul, and Nik who were, and continue to be, paramount in my recovery. I know they will be in my life forever. They are my Tribe.
I am so grateful to my husband for sending me to the Refuge, for not judging me, and loving me unconditionally while holding down the fort for so long! I am grateful to my heart and soul, my kids: Emily & Vincent for their unconditional love and support and for responding with a “HELL NO” when I asked them if they would be embarrassed if I was transparent about my disease. I am extremely grateful for my brother who knows this disease all too well and explained the cold hard facts to me about what I was doing to myself. And a big thank you to Miss Daisy, my Mom, who broke her hip, had surgery and was in the hospital when I had to tell her where I was going. All she said was “I love you, do what you need to do for you and take care of yourself, I will be here waiting for you when you get back.” Never underestimate the love from a Mom!
I am back and stronger than ever because I was open to help navigating this crazy world we are living in. I am able to think and do things with a clear mind. I am honest, happy and free. My journey is far from over but I am on my way to living my best life ever at 53! If you learn anything from my story, I hope that you have a better understanding of where I was, where I am now and the direction I am heading, and that if you are struggling, please reach out to someone. Please feel free to reach out to me, I will be your support, your safe person.
Lastly, I am a Mom, a wife, a daughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend, a photographer, a furniture refinisher, a knitter, a lover of frenchies, an ocean lover, a day dreamer, but most Importantly I am ME, and this is my story.