Category Archives: National Recovery Month Stories

National Recovery Month Stories: Alli

Hello everyone and thank you for joining me for our final Recovery Month Story! This account comes to us from a brave young woman who is facing an interesting challenge: how to stay in recovery herself while taking on a challenging career in the medical field. Alli is a registered nurse who works to advocate for her patients and keep them healthy, while at the same time trying to stay in recovery from her own eating disorder issues. I identify with her greatly, since I too am recovered from an eating disorder and am currently in nursing school; it’s interesting to hear about how she feels towards the profession of nursing and her daily struggles with recovery. I hope you find it interesting too. Thank you for staying with me through this month’s Story Project, and I hope you’ll join me on the first when Writing for Recovery begins the Domestic Violence Awareness Story Project. Thank you again! Peace, Sarah

Let me introduce you to someone: She is a bright-eyed intelligent young woman full of enthusiasm for nursing sick people back to health.  This has been her passion for longer than she can remember, and it took her more years than most to reach just the bottom rung of the ladder–a license to practice as a Registered Nurse.  Setbacks forced her to put the dream on hold and learn to let others nurse her back to health before she herself could be the caretaker.  But she achieved these first necessary steps of living her dream and is on the verge of changing lives with her career finally in her hands staring her in the face.  She embraces the challenge despite the feeling of terror that comes with knowing she will be responsible to care for human lives.


She didn’t sign up for this.  They told us it would be hard, but didn’t prepare us at all for the magnitude of suckiness that is the life of a floor nurse.  No, what they told us was a joke compared to the war we face every day. This job, this career, has been one giant disappointment.  After all the time and effort I’ve put into it.  Seems like a waste.  I’m good at it.  But just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you’re happy doing it.  I have to wonder if I’ve even given it a fair shot though.  If I have even stepped into the ring.  Maybe I’m holding out for something better that doesn’t even exist.  Maybe this is it for me.  I’d always wondered if I was destined for greatness.  But I am swallowed up by a feeling of limbo; this is the most I’m ever going to be, to do.  Who ever said I deserved better anyway?

Who is this chick?

This chick is me.  Alli.  For over a dozen years I’ve been suffering from anorexia and bulimia, spending my days in and out of treatment centers, emergency rooms, therapists’ offices; wearing a mask that says to the rest of the world No matter what it looks like on the outside, I’m FINE.  But I’m not fine–on the inside I’m screaming.  On the bad days, everything in me is fighting to hold it all together but at the same time wanting to cry out Somebody please help me, I can’t do this anymore!  In between treatment stays I somehow managed to fight my way through nursing school and am currently working as a registered nurse on a cardiac floor.  Which is a sick irony–the years of abusing my body has created numerous medical complications; at any moment the tables could be turned and I could be (and have been) lying in that bed being nursed back to health.  Instead I am in the position to care for and to save lives.  When I can’t even save my own.  I give advice to my patients that seems hypocritical; who should be expected to listen to me educate them on living a healthier lifestyle when I’m not exactly the poster-child for health?  My career and the struggles I face every day in my job are reflective of the daily battle against my eating disorder.  They both involve waking up and facing my worst fears over and over and you have to be so strong to do that every single day. When I speak of the “fight” to get up and go to work, I’m also talking about the fight to walk around in a body I hate and try to ignore the self-loathing feelings all day long, to fight the desire to self-sabotage and fall back into a completely eating-disordered lifestyle.  There’s an eerily deep correlation–while growing as a young nurse, I have grown as a young woman and have learned that there really is no separation between my work life and my home life.  How I feel about myself as a plain old human being directly affects me in my career.  It is impossible for me to be strong at work and then go home and beat myself up.  If I can stand up for myself as a patient advocate, then I must stand up for myself as a me advocate. The strength it has taken to survive one of the toughest careers is the same strength that has helped me fight against my eating disorder for so long when too many times I desperately wanted to give up.  As hard as it is though, it is what I live for and now I am a nurse for life.  And if you have something to live for, then you have no excuse for giving up.

~~ Some people plant in the spring and leave in the summer.  If you’re signed up for a season, see it through.  You don’t have to stay forever, but at least stay until you see it through. ~~

Alli Eshleman, RN

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National Recovery Month Poem: “Affliction”

Hello Recovery Writers. So the Story Project is almost over and I think it’s been a success! However, as you know, in months before WfR has done dedicated poetry. And you know me, I couldn’t resist- I had to include one poem for National Recovery Month! This is a poem I began quite a few years ago and just recently picked up again to finish. I hope each of you can identify with it a little bit. Take care everyone and as always, thank you for reading! Peace, Sarah

 

1/4/08

 

Affliction

 

I’ve spent most of my life doing battle

With this cunning and baffling affliction

 

It’s so common yet each one’s unique

The disease that we call addiction

 

What a tragic waste of a girl

Who had potential to do so much

 

To spend her young life believing

She needed a chemical crutch

 

Hers came in the form of starvation

Then puking and cutting and pills

 

It seemed there was never an end

To her frightening array of ills

 

What no one knew was the cause

The reason she had to stay sick

 

To distract from her internal pain

Nothing else did the trick

 

Everyone has their own reasons

We all started because we were hurt

 

We needed to numb the feelings

Make those toxic emotions inert

 

Whatever the substance is

The disease is exactly the same

 

It’s rooted in pain and dysfunction

In guilt and trauma and shame

 

Addiction does not discriminate

Anyone can fall into its grip

 

Before you know it you’re loved ones are gone

And all that you own has been stripped

 

 

This is so disturbingly common

Yet people don’t like to talk

 

Even though it’s a routine affliction

When I ask them to speak, people balk

 

I have asked for people’s stories

But so much shame comes with this disease

 

I have not gotten many responses

Who are we trying to please?

 

The more that we’re open about this

The fewer people will die

 

Addiction’s a fatal disease

I was fortunate to survive

 

I was given a second chance

So I’m doing all that I’m able

 

To spread hope for recovery

For lives that are happy and stable

 

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011

 

 

 


National Recovery Month Stories: Jim

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the National Recovery Month Story project here on Writing for Recovery. Thank you for joining me once again as I introduce another account from someone who works on the front lines battling addiction. Jim is the executive director of a counseling center specializing in addiction, dual diagnosis, and trauma. Every day he works to bring people to a deeper understanding of themselves in order to help them find their way to a meaningful recovery. He has a wonderful perspective on what it takes to walk that path- and how patients and counselors can work together to accomplish lasting recovery. 

 

My name is Jim and I’m a recovery ally. People in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse don’t expect me to be able to understand them. I don’t blame them one bit. I’ve never been an alcoholic and my drug addictions are limited to caffeine and nicotine. These are not exactly conditions that make a person’s life unmanageable, at least not in any short order. Worse, I am seen as less likely to understand because I am a professional in the addictions field. My friends in recovery have too often received poor quality of services, judgment, and been generally shamed by people in my line of work. This must stop. Being a recovery ally means that I seek to be part of the solution to all of the problems associated with the disease of addiction.

In general, if a person hasn’t walked a mile in your shoes it’s hard to believe that they can really understand what it’s like to live with what you live with. I have found that most folks who haven’t been an addict or at least been very close to an addict can’t begin to wrap their mind around what it’s like to be one. I know that while I cannot relate to a person whose experiences I have not shared; I can understand to the best of my ability what it’s like for them and support them in overcoming their disease. All that this requires is that I get my ego out of the way. I listen and listen well. I ask dumb questions and I show a genuine interest in what it’s like for them. The addicts and alcoholics I know tell me that they find this unusual and refreshing.

I love working with people in recovery because I like people who are exceptionally genuine, motivated, and who seek to make great changes in their lives. Normal people bore me. Normal people do not generally make life altering changes. They do not often become something far greater than they are. People in recovery inspire me. I love their candor, their accountability, their integrity, their humor, and their willingness to go to any length to become happy, joyous, and free. I am blessed because people who are willing to make this kind of commitment seek me out.

The recovery communities of 12 step programs are vastly more effective than any professional intervention or organization will ever be. I see what I do as merely a compliment to the work of AA, NA, Al-Anon and others. I am one person working in one organization. Self help programs total tens of millions of people all over the world who genuinely care about their fellow members. Being a recovery ally means having the humility to know that what I do may be important, but it will never be a fraction as important as membership in a self help program.

Never have I been so welcomed by any group of people as when I have attended AA meetings. My colleagues do not receive me one tenth as well. Even after I explain that I am not an alcoholic, I am frequently thanked for attending, for showing an interest, for offering support, and for showing respect to a program that works exceptionally well. Amazingly these folks do not hesitate to share their experience, strength, and hope with me. They speak the most intimate and painful details of their lives in front of me, knowing that all attending have the opportunity to connect, learn, heal, identify, and grow based on these experiences.

I came to work with people in recovery through a backdoor of sorts. I started out as a mental health therapist and found that many of the people I was serving also had problems because of drugs and alcohol. I quickly came to understand that as long as they continued to abuse drugs and alcohol, anything in mental health would be of limited value to them. In most cases I find the importance of being clean and sober as being foundational and of far greater importance than issues of mental health. Today I understand that depression and anxiety are normative experiences for a person who is active in addiction or who is in the early years of recovery.

Being a recovery ally means that I am an educator. I share what I know and I defer to those who know more than I. I am far more likely to refer my clients to people in local recovery than I am to refer them to professionals. I am able to do this because I know people in the local recovery communities. Being an educator also means that I acknowledge that as a society we are not effectively educating children, adolescents, and adults of the dangers of addiction.

The best recovery allies are advocates. We know that current systems fail to meet the needs of people in recovery. Punitive approaches to alcohol and drug abuse have consistently failed to deter or reduce recidivism rates. We need to bring attention to what works (self help, rehabilitation, abstinence) and challenge prevailing stereotypes (addicts and alcoholics as bad people, criminals, or only belonging to poor and working class). We need to demystify recovery (it’s not about religion, it’s not people sitting around just talking about their problems) through achieving direct knowledge of recovery. It’s not enough to encourage people to join self help. Having direct knowledge of local recovery means that we can share our experiences to motivate others.

The hardest part of becoming a recovery ally is learning not to enable. Those who do not understand alcoholism or drug addiction are often unwittingly helping their loved ones to stay mired in addiction. Enabling almost always feels like the right thing to do. It’s something we feel compelled to do. Not protecting our loved ones from harm is counter-intuitive. We had to learn that protecting those who abuse substances from the natural consequences of their actions is to do them a disservice. We learned that in general people stop using because they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Suffering is a powerful motivator.

Finally, the most important part of being a recovery ally is the willingness to collaborate. The AA tradition of “principles over personalities” strikes at the heart of our lack of collaboration. We need all stakeholders to come together if we are to make a substantive impact on the disease of addiction. Too many of us as Adult Children of Alcoholics are afraid or disinclined to share what we know and what we’re doing. Agencies and groups often behave like alcoholic families. We compete with one another from the mistaken belief that there is not enough to go around. Sharing our knowledge of what works and combining our efforts will yield far greater results than we have ever seen.

Jim LaPierre, MSW, LCSW, CCS

Higher Ground Counseling Services


National Recovery Month Stories: Psych Nurse

Hello everyone, welcome back to to Story Project. This week we have a story from a treatment provider (who wishes to remain anonymous) and she has an interesting perspective on what it’s like to deal with addiction and recovery from the other side, to be the person who watches and guides patients through that process. I think her message shows that people who provide treatment really do care.

 

As a psychiatric nurse I deal every day with people who are trying to cope with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. Many of them have been trying to cope with the distress of their illnesses by self-medicating. Some abuse prescription medications such as anxiolytics or pain meds, still others use marijuana and tell themselves it’s “not really a drug,” some drink excessive alcohol, and others take anything they can from LSD to mushrooms to crack cocaine to meth.

The one characteristic all these people have is that they come to treatment in pain. And just being in treatment doesn’t mean they are hopeful about being there. A large part of the staff’s job is to help the patients find that hope. Without it, nothing else progresses because the work in overcoming illness and addiction is hard.

If someone arrives still under the influence of drugs/alcohol they have to go through detoxification. We use medications to try to ease them through that process, but it is still not an easy one. However, almost always after detoxing the patient is much better able to consider other things on which to focus and be able to stay focused on those things that form the steps of recovery.

During treatment, other means of coping with stress need to be found for each patient, and better habits of responding in a new and less destructive way. The lucky ones find the right person with whom to explore, process, and resolve their underlying issues, particularly trauma. Without that process, relapse is all too common.

I admire anyone who makes that first step and starts some kind of treatment. I use the analogy that everyone has a little red wagon and we pull it around, carrying our emotional baggage. In treatment we try to help the patient unpack some of that baggage, put it in the right storage, or maybe even discard some of it, making the wagon a little lighter to pull.

Treatment is available but you may have to look for it. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to afford wonderful private facilities. Others have to hope they are lucky enough to find good care in a public system. Keep looking. Ask for guidance, but seek help if you are dealing with addiction or any mental illness. I have seen life-changing results from getting the right care. Best wishes in your recovery.

Anonymous, RN-BC, MSN

 


National Recovery Month Stories: S.

Hello everyone, welcome back to the Recovery Month Story Project. This week’s story is brief, but extremely powerful. It was written by a woman I think of as part of my family, a woman who treats me like a daughter, a person I love dearly. What her family went through with her son’s long addiction to drugs was painful to watch, and I probably made it more painful at times by being another person they loved who was a sick addict, even though I wanted to be there as a comforting friend. For that, I can only apologize, and try to be better now. I can also tell a little bit of their story, in hopes that it might help another family.

 

We went to my aunt’s 90th birthday party last month, a jolly occasion with lots of laughter and excellent speeches. Then we noticed a cousin who has cocaine induced schizophrenia. He is now in his late 30’s and I hadn’t seen him since he was a bright, fun loving, enthusiastic and interesting teenager. The contrast between that full of promise for a rosy future lad and the zombie with necessarily over medicated shaking hands and spittle escaping from the corner of his mouth is truly terrifying, and for the very first time since our son died aged 22 from a heroin overdose I felt that yes, there are worse outcomes than death. I felt grateful that our son has been spared the twilight life that young man has to endure.

– S.

 

 

 


National Recovery Month Stories: Nikki

Welcome, everyone, to Writing for Recovery’s National Recovery Month Story Project! I’m honored to be able to bring you these narratives, written by the people who experienced them. I’m grateful for their vulnerability in sharing these pieces of their lives, in hopes that others may take away something that helpful.

This first story is by a dear friend of mine. It is beautifully, if painfully, written. She has been through more pain than anyone should ever have to endure; and yet, despite that, she has a firm conviction about her recovery. An amazing story, a great way to start. Thank you, Nikki.  -Sarah

 

Imagine a girl.

Imagine a girl who was broken. A girl who was abused, neglected, and abandoned throughout her life. A girl who couldn’t trust her father. A girl whose mother picked drugs over her. A girl who was bounced between family members for the first 10 years of her life, only to be permanently placed with the most abusive one of them all.
A girl who stopped eating. Started purging. Cutting. Eventually moved onto pills. A girl who hated herself and felt unsafe in her world. A girl whose mother died when she was 21. A girl who discovered her biological father, her last hope for a parent, had died when she was 14. She never knew him.
A girl who went in and out of so many treatment places that she has even lost count. A girl who lied and manipulated others. A girl who hurt and was hurt. A girl who almost died, should have died many times.
2 serious suicide attempts. 2 surgical feeding tubes. Crushing pills to dull the pain. Purging. Thousands of dollars spent. Dozens of therapists seen. Blame, hurt, sadness, anger, despair; often misplaced.
Imagine a girl who hated herself.
Then decided, one day, she was tired of hating herself. Tired of lying. Of pain. Of hurting. Of hating being alive.

Imagine a girl who clawed her way out of the mess she had created. She fell a few times, but managed to find her way out. She made amends with family, forged new friendships, and decided to begin living again.
One day, that girl met the man who became the love of her life. He understood her, loved her for who she is, not who she was, and knew everything about her. He didn’t care about the past, he fell in love with this girl.
Many months later, this girl got pregnant. After all of the abuse she had shown her body, she was told it would never happen. She had abandoned the hope of a family, of children of her own. She was overjoyed. Grateful. Blessed.
15 weeks later she was grieving, broken, devastated.
“I’m sorry, your son has no heartbeat anymore.”
Words that came to define her life.
She cried, screamed, got angry, sad, spent nights in despair.
But she did not fall. She did not relapse.
3 months later, she got the surprise of her life when she discovered she was pregnant again. Joy combined with terror and fear.
Please don’t let it happen again.
At 8 weeks:
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
And there she was again, sitting in a funeral home signing a fetal death certificate. For her second baby. Devastated.
But again, she is not falling. She has not relapsed. She knows her recovery is real. She knows that no behavior will bring her babies back. Starving, cutting, purging, running, pills; nothing is distraction enough to take away the pain of losing her children. Her hopes, dreams, visions of the future. Gone, in the blink of an eye.
14 days after the news, she is still angry, sad, broken, defeated, devastated, and in agony. She cries daily, nightly for her babies. She needs them. Wants them.
This girl’s recovery has been tested, and still stands strong.

We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, stronger than we ever thought we could be.
This girl is me. And I am proud to say, that despite losing my baby Aiden, and my second baby (who we take to be a boy) Connor, I am still solidly in recovery. I waiver in many things, but never that fact.
I know pain, the worst kinds of pain. And I know that behaviors, of any type, only multiply pain.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

Nikki Albrecht