My Recovery Story: Drugs and Alcohol Led Me to Help Other Women Heal
Alcohol and drugs became my best friends, and by the end of my addiction they were my only friends. They helped me forget my pain and the pain I caused others. They kept me from recognizing or addressing the trauma beneath the surface of my life. They were my primary comfort, until they stopped working.
I became a slave to the substances that had once brought me pleasure and relief. They took over my body, mind and spirit. I was trapped ― unable to stop using and ashamed at what my life had become.
I truly believed I was doomed to be a drug addict and alcoholic for the rest of my life. This is my lot in life. The thought filled me with anguish and pain. I felt so broken and lost. I was not living and was barely surviving.
The more I used the more it became pure misery, utter grief and pain. It reached the point where I did not want to live another day because every day was about finding drugs so that I wouldn’t get sick or go through withdrawal. I had become too scared to live and too scared to die.
I was in limbo. Sick. Desperate. Stuck. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do. I believed I should be strong enough to quit on my own and didn’t understand I had a disease.
Somehow, six and a half years ago, I took a leap of faith, and I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I heard a story that changed my life.
That’s why I am sharing my very personal story. I know how important it is for people in recovery to hear how others recovered and led meaningful, purposeful lives.
Addiction nearly stole my life, but I found my way to recovery. Now, I am a primary therapist at The Ranch, helping other women through the depths of pain and despair and offering them a connection to someone who has “been there” and not just survived, but thrived.
Six Leaps of Faith
People always ask me to identify the “aha moment” that transformed my life. I can’t quite explain exactly how it happened, but I know it was a series of leaps that led me onto the path of getting healthy.
- Acknowledging that the high stopped helping. People use alcohol and drugs to soothe their pain and make them forget, and research shows they use to cover up old wounds and associated emotions that they may not even know exist. We all come to a point where it no longer fixes things. It makes life worse. I was stealing and I was lying. I was hurting the people I loved the most. I tried to control my addiction, but I could not do it myself. I had to admit whatever good I thought I was getting out of the substances no longer existed and there was no place to go but deeper into the darkness unless I at least tried to come out. I finally reached step one, where I was able to admit that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol and my life was completely and utterly unmanageable.
- Becoming desperate enough. Studies have indicated that “hitting rock bottom” is one of the reasons people seek treatment. In 12-step meetings, you often hear about “the gift of desperation.” That was what drove me toward help. I was bargaining a lot with God to just get me to the point of doing something differently. For me, it ultimately worked, but it was a process, not a straight line. Inspiration revealed itself along the way.
- Reaching out for assistance. I thought the 12 steps were useless and that AA was a cult, of which I wanted no part. I didn’t believe it would work for me, and had to push myself to my first meeting. I went high. There was a woman speaking who’d just lost her brother to a combination of opiates and benzos — exactly what I was taking. Sometimes you just hear the right words at the right time. In that moment, something in me changed. I would later come to realize it was my higher power warning me, “This is the alternative.” I made a new deal with God that I would give it my all for six months but would go back to drugs if I didn’t feel better. I would eventually understand my recovery requires abstinence and that AA had my solution.
- Deciding I didn’t want to die. I didn’t know about The Ranch back then so I went to outpatient treatment. My kidneys were shutting down by the time I got there. Even then, it took me a while to get into recovery. I knew I was going to die soon if I didn’t get sober, but I couldn’t stay sober on my own. I prayed for God to remove the thoughts and desire to use. I finally began my journey of recovery in earnest. Over nearly seven years, my life has opened up, slowly, but surely, as I’ve continued my own personal exploration.
- Expressing gratitude. One of the ways I continued on the path is to be humble and grateful for all that led me to the life I now live. Had I not been addicted, I never would have worked so hard in recovery to get at the things that made me want to use in the first place. Now I advocate for people to look into the trauma and pain that drives their addictions before it is too late. Every day I appreciate how sobriety has allowed me to do personal, emotional work on my life. And I am grateful for every story I heard, and every person and experience I’ve come in touch with, that has helped me on this journey. I find many times throughout the day that I am in utter shock, that I get the opportunity to live a wonderful life, as I thought I was doomed to die a drug addict and alcoholic.
- Staying connected to my higher power. Throughout my recovery process, I’ve continued to develop a relationship with God. It doesn’t matter how you view or experience your higher power, or whether your connection is faith-based or based on faith in the universe. Studies show that a spiritual connection helps in long-term recovery. Without the help of my higher power, I would not be where I am today.
Helping Women Help Themselves
I knew I wanted to help women see that they could recover and show them it was possible.
Fortunately, I had the degree that allowed me to get to this place. I began as a teacher and kids would come to me with their problems. That inspired me to get a second master’s in school counseling, followed by a master’s in counseling and psychology. I worked in crisis intervention and found I had a knack for helping people.
Once I was sober, it was as if God led me down this path that allowed me to be a person in recovery who works at a treatment center. There’s a special connection when I can look at somebody and say, “I know where you’ve been because I’ve been there, too.”
Part of my recovery path is helping others through theirs. We go on this journey together. Research has shown that a caring practitioner is hugely important in helping women recover. And, through service, I continue to heal myself.
By Rebecca Wilson, MS, Primary Therapist, The Ranch
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.