On September 25th, 2014, I found myself drunk again. This time would prove to be very different from all of the other times. This day would be the day that everything changed for me. Somehow, in the midst of my drunkenness, I reached out to my sister and basically told her that there were just two choices left for me...death or treatment. She and her husband came to my home, picked me up, and took me back to their house for the night. I remember riding in the back of the car and saying over and over again, "All things can be made new." Little did I know that, in less than twenty four hours, this 51-year-old, lesbian alcoholic would find herself in a 90-day, residential, faith-based, women's treatment center. What???? As I write this I still can't even believe it myself. As it turns out, there was a Divine plan unfolding, and I was simply along for the ride.
Upon arriving at the treatment center, I was welcomed into a pleasant residential setting and given my own room that had four beds, one for me, and three others, all of which were currently empty. I remember feeling relief that I wouldn't immediately have a roommate. I felt the need to hide my sexuality due to the Christian atmosphere and not knowing how my sexual preference would be received. I felt alone and scared those first few days, even though everyone was very kind and welcoming. Within two weeks of my arrival, I already knew that 90 days would not be enough and that I would want to stay longer, if possible. With great support from my sisters, the life I left (more than 70 miles away) was systematically dismantled: my rental home was emptied into a storage unit, my pets were put into new loving homes, my car was returned to the bank, and my daughter, then 15, went to live full-time with my ex. I dove into my recovery with every ounce of my being. I remember feeling great loss, but I also remember a feeling of freedom that I hadn't experienced in quite some time, maybe ever.
A letting go took place there, and it profoundly changed my life. I let go of the world's expectation of me. I let go of my insane efforts to make everyone happy. I let go of my belief that I would never be good enough. I let go of self-loathing. I let go of worrying about what everyone else thought about me. I let go of everything that didn't contribute to my recovery and my wellness. In that letting go, I made space for more in my life. I made space for joy. I made space for peace. I made space for real connection with others. I made space for a relationship with my higher power (for me, God). I made space for myself to unlearn all that I had learned that had led me away from who I was created to be. I found myself there, although I continued to struggle with keeping my sexuality a secret while working so hard to share from a place of truth. That struggle was one that continued the entire two years that I was there. There were some people there who I felt safe to share my truth with without fear of being judged or ridiculed, but, generally speaking, it was clear that letting my sexuality be known could endanger my time there. I had a knowing that I needed to be in that place at that time in order to save my own life. I also knew that God had a plan for me to help others find what I had found.
I met many women who became my sisters, both in recovery and in faith. We bared our souls to one another as we stepped through ninety days of deep, healing work. We lived together, we learned together, we prayed together, we worked together, we cried together, and we occasionally struggled together when we lost one of our own through relapse or death. We held each other and encouraged each other to stay focused and determined and to keep moving forward. The atmosphere that was created in that place was optimum for the healing we so desperately needed.
Upon graduating the program, I continued on as a volunteer and eventually became an employee. I worked with the women in the program by teaching classes, leading groups, and serving as the transitional living supervisor. I later became responsible for managing one of the residential homes and the 10 women who lived there. This position gifted me with the ability to walk beside a large number of women as they made the decision to change their lives by entering into recovery. I have been forever changed by the experiences of my time with these women.
One of my most profound lessons from this time in my life was the realization that without my alcoholism I would never have experienced this letting go, this making of space, and this creating connection with God and others. My greatest weakness led me to find my greatest strength. Today, it is my life's calling, to stand beside other women as they seek new ways to meet life's challenges and create new, more fulfilling lives.
Today, I am grateful to be an alcoholic, to be in recovery, to be a woman of faith, and to be living my life's purpose through offering life and recovery coaching to other women who want what I have found. I am grateful to be living and recovering out loud and offering my authentic self to this world!