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Battling Addiction: Struggle to Hope

Interview:

My sobriety date is February 2, 2008 and I only drank excessively for about 3 years, so I believe I actually started my ‘addictive behavior’ when I was young. I never felt like I fit in, I never felt like I was good enough. I was raised in a very fundamental christian family, my parents were divorced and back in the ’60s that was not a common thing like it was today so that made it different. My parents fought with each other continuously so it was always a struggle. I mean, it wasn’t a horrible childhood, but it was a stressful childhood. As I got older, my teen years, there were times when me and my friends would steal her mom’s back pills, or something. So you know, we never really took enough where we would get totally high but enough to where we felt a difference. When I was 13, my first actual drink, my cousin who was 16 took me out with her friends and we bought mad 20/20 at the gas station, and every time we pulled up to a red light she would say, “see how much you can drink”, so I  was obviously chugging it a lot, to the point I ended up so drunk that I actually threw up on a table at a pizza restaurant and fall into it. It was horrible. I mean it was like totally trashed out drunk. It was so bad and I was so sick that I swore I would not drink again. I didn’t drink anymore until I was in my 20’s. I was married and had kids and didn’t even drink. But when I started in my adult profession, I was in sales in insurance and I got active in the association and so there are conventions every year. My husband at the time had conventions at his work. So we would go on these conventions, it would be like a two-three day ‘alcohol fest’ and I never really felt I had reached that point that everyone else had gotten to after3, 4 drinks. I still felt sober, until I hit that point, then I was gone. There was no in-between; it was either super drunk, or super not. That went on for years. We would go to the beach, and every year we would have a drink like PJ one year, cinnamon snaps the next. It was always one thing and we would just abuse the heck out of it and just be trashed for the days we were there. So everyday, we would never really get sick, we just kept doing it. I never got really drunk because I would never get to that point where I was just out of it. Now once, I was going up and down the beach where I was threatening to punch people, which was very out of character for me. I had some stupid things I did with alcohol but it wasn’t anything super huge. I rarely drank. Just when I did, it was way too much. I re-married and I was in my early 30’s and I was out of the very fundamental church and I began to think that I could just drink socially, so I did for a while. It started out just a couple of glasses of wine when I was cooking dinner or when we would go out, I would have a couple shots before we went out to ‘loosen up’ and for a few years, it was fine like that. Then I got to where after I started drinking socially and I got used to it, whenever I would have a problem like a bad problem, then I used the alcohol to make me feel better. Around 2002, when I was around 40 years old, I started having some really serious issues that I just couldn’t deal with on my own and so I would do 8-10 shots of alcohol, alone, at home, by myself. It started out gradual; couple of glasses of wine, 3 glasses of wine when I was doing the dinner, then hiding the bottle from my family. It just progressed over about 2 years when it started truly affecting my entire family. I got to where I got so drunk during the day that I’d pass out, anywhere from 4pm to 8pm. I would just lie and say I was taking a nap, then be pretty much gone for the rest of the night. I was slurring my words, stumbling around. Like I said, in 2 years it got gradually worse, then for 6 years I was trying to battle it. I guess if the truth be told, I started about 40 heavily drinking and it was probably about until I was around 42 when it just got really bad. When it got to the absolute worst, my daughter had Girl Scout meetings and I would go drunk out of my mind. The other moms knew. They’d say ‘are you okay’ or ‘is everything okay’. When I was really really bad then I just wouldn’t go. I would just say I was sick or wasn’t feeling well. A lot of times when I was sleeping, I would just tell my daughter that I didn’t feel well. I would just be laying around. I always say my story is very vanilla, but it hurt my kids just as much as if I would’ve shot up heroine. I was not there for them. When my daughter was in first grade, I was drinking enough where I really shouldn’t have been drinking and I was. I was driving my kids around while I was drunk, often got so bad that I would be slurring my words, or lay down and go to sleep and nobody was really watching them. They were free to just run around and do whatever without someone taking care of them because I was asleep. More than anything, my kids missed a lot of hands-on things they should’ve had as little kids, but I just wasn’t capable of being there for them. At the very end, it got to the point that I was often missing things.

My sobriety started out in one-on-one counseling, which didn’t help a lot. Then I went to an outpatient program at the hospital and that worked for a little while but I crossed the line a few times and didn’t end up working either. In the very end, I was toying with other substances because I thought that might’ve been easier. I was frequently driving with the kids. My oldest daughter had a daughter of her own, and she didn’t trust me driving around with my own granddaughter due to my drinking habits that I had. I had three daughters and one son, and they would tell me that I was scaring them or I wasn’t acting right. It completely was unsafe as far as for them physically and also emotionally unsafe because they were all affecting by it; worrying about what I was going to be like when they got home from school, or if I went out in public. One time I went to a formal event at a local country club with my husband, and I was really uptight about going because it was a debutant thing. I drank so much that I fell at the country club, in-front of everybody. I had made quite the fool of myself many times, I had thrown up on the floor in her room and just laying there. One time my oldest daughter came home and I was in the shower with my underwear on and she was confused, asked me why I had my underwear in the shower and I said I’m taking a shower, she said mom you have your underwear on and I was like so what. Just stupid embarrassing things that don’t do a lot for your kids to respect you. One afternoon, I had picked picked up my children, driven them home, laid down on the bed and was sleeping. Two cops came to the door and my son answered it. They said that someone had called and had seen me on the interstate swerving and since I was in the house they weren’t going to do anything, but that I needed to stay home and promise I wasn’t going out anymore. My son freaked out and called my husband. It just got to the point that I could’ve gotten a DUI and I always could have hurt somebody. Enough was enough. I had bottle hidden all over the place and my husband would come home and have to go searching to find them to take them away from me. I decided then that I needed to do something. A counselor my daughter was going to had a daughter who was home for about two months and offered to take care of my youngest daughter for me while I went to get help through treatment. It took me getting to the point where all of my kids were disgusted with me, my husband was disgusted with me, the police were knocking on my door. I had finally found somebody that I could trust 100% to take care of my youngest daughter. At that point, we had found a six week treatment program that was super intense. They took away everything. It was the first time in my adulthood that I had had all of my privileges taken away. There were no locks on the door, no shoestrings in the shoes, no nail polish, no listerine. You had meals at the same time everyday with the same people. It was a very rigid schedule set my somebody else and you had no say. It was a step away from prison, because God knows prison would be worse, but it was really locked down. You could only be in certain places in certain times, you could only eat at certain times. The males and females were separated. If you passed each other in the hall, you couldn’t look at each other or speak to each other. You could only have visitors once a week at a specific time that they set. No phone, no radio, no television, no sugar, no caffeine, it was very stringent. But, there was a lot of self evaluating. So, I believe as much as I hated it, that I really got in touch with who I was and being able to see why I was doing the stuff I was doing. I was able to recognize that I had a problem and that I needed help. For me, it took treatment, I came back and did 90 meetings in 90 days and ten years later, I am still a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I choose to do daily devotions everyday. Part for me, was finding spirituality over religion, and I found spirituality in a higher power that wasn’t God looking down on me with a big stick ready to beat me every wrong move I made. Then, it became easier. There was a way that I could let go of some of the stuff I dealt with and let somebody else above me and better than me to take care of it. Exercise is big for me. About 6 years ago, I found FAVOR. FAVOR is faces and voices of recovery. A friend of mine from school invited me to be on the board. FAVOR had not even started. There was no building, no employees. I got on at the absolute ground level and shortly there after, we rented the space, brought in Rich Jones, who is now the Chief Executive Officer, and it has just exploded since then. Since I have been involved, six of the ten years, I have actually been focused on recovery and helping other people find recovery. I work with serenity place and I coach/cheerlead those girls and encourage them and stay in touch with them. I am still on the board, I’m active in AA and FAVOR, still active in my church. So far, ten years and some months, still sober.

(Ann

Positive Psychology:

          The field of positive psychology is a young one. It was born in the late 1990s under the guidance of University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Martin Seligman. Since then, it’s gained some traction among psychologists and the public, especially since proponents are looking for ways to apply accepted psychological techniques to investigating happiness. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Positive psychologists face some challenges, however. Psychology successfully brings “people up from negative eight to zero, but it’s not as good at understanding how people rise from zero to positive eight,” writes positive psychologists Shelly L. Gable and Jonathan Haidt. Some benefits of positive psychology are; it promotes well-being (the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy), improved working memory, buffers against the depressive symptoms, helps make better use of your strengths, raises happiness set-points, shrinks the stress region in your brain, and also makes you more resilient.

FAVOR:

          FAVOR of Greenville, South Carolina is a movement, center, and family. FAVOR, which stands for Faces and Voice of Recovery, is all about organizing the recovery community to put a face and voice on recovery and to provide intervention and recovery support services to those seeking recovery. Its work is part of a national recovery advocacy movement whose vision is to provide people affected by substance use disorders with access to the support they need to achieve and maintain long-term recovery. In Greenville, FAVOR is the community’s “Welcome Center to Recovery” that uses innovative approaches that are not available anywhere else in the area. This organization offers new hope to individuals and families suffering with substance use disorders. The healing that happens at FAVOR brings the participants close to one another through their shared bond of suffering caused by addiction. During the meetings at FAVOR, friendships are formed. The participants celebrate together the progress made in recovery and comfort those who are experiencing a new trauma or setback. FAVOR’s mission statement sums up their effort and time that they provide for this area; “FAVOR provides an innovative response to the suffering cause by addiction for over 5,000 new individuals in Upstate South Carolina each year: Rebuilding Lives, Healing Families, Changing the World.”

         Within the organization itself, Rich Jones, the CEO, runs many meetings and classes at FAVOR. Some of those meetings and classes include; All Recovery Meetings, SMART Recovery Meetings, AA, NA, Family Group, S.O.S Group, AR Women’s Meeting, Teen Group, and Refuge Recovery Meeting. One of the meetings that I am the most familiar with is Teen Group. Teen group is a ‘safe house’ where teens can share their stories of how they ended up at FAVOR, whether it’s mandatory for them, their parents made them go, or if they just wanted to try something different and open up their recovery options. The group usually does monthly field trips. Some of these trips include going to Frankie’s Fun Park, an arcade here in Greenville, laser tag, go-cart races, tubing in North Carolina, and much more. I ended up at teen group because my friend’s mom found her recovery at FAVOR and suggest for myself to attend some meetings and see how I like it and see if it was the right fit for me. After the initial meeting, I fell in love. The staff was friendly, the teens ranged from all ages and genders, and I just love the atmosphere of the organization and hearing other people’s stories. The leaders of the teen group were two adults, a man and a woman, that were in their early twenties. They assisted me with whatever I needed, checked up on me everyday to see how I was doing, and always called when I needed someone to talk to.

Positive Psychology Practices:

          One of the positive psychology concepts that helped me a lot was writing a gratitude letter. A gratitude letter requires fifteen minutes of your time to write it and however long the visit takes when it’s delivered. Call to mind someone who did something for you for which you are extremely grateful. When doing this step, try to think of a person that you feel as if you don’t express your gratitude for them enough. Sometimes, it is most helpful to select someone that you haven’t thought about for a while or seen in a while either. Let loose when writing the letter. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Describe specifically what this person did for you, why you are so grateful for this person you chose, and how this person has affected your life and where you are today. Also, include how you’re doing now and how often you remind yourself of how much they helped you. Once you have written the letter, plan a visit with the receiver. Let that person know you’d like to see him or her and have something special to share, but don’t reveal the exact purpose of the meeting. When you meet together, let the person know that you are grateful for them and would like to read a letter expressing how grateful you are to have them in your life. Take your time reading the letter and pay attention to their reaction as well as your own, such as what tone you’re using or gestures. After you have read the letter, discuss your feelings together and maybe ask what they thought and if they understand how much they mean to you. When your time together is over, make sure you leave the letter behind just to remind them everyday how grateful you are for their presence in your life.

 

Sources:

https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/positive-psychology.htm

https://favorgreenville.org

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_letter

 

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COMMENTS: 3
  1. April 27, 2018 by Miza A. Ridzuan

    I absolutely LOVE reading the interview. It made me more aware of some things, and even though my school has actually been talking about addiction a lot this year, your interview, written in first person, felt so much more personal, and therefore, makes it feel very meaningful.

  2. April 27, 2018 by Julianna Aikens

    I loved your interview! This presentation is very well put together!

  3. April 29, 2018 by Andrew Riordan

    I actually have just recently started hearing about the great work that FAVOR does. I live in Greenville and know enough people struggling with addiction for this to be very meaningful to me and my community.

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