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Elsie recovery story

Elsie's Story

In Recovery since 1992

I never wanted to be me … I felt loved by my parents and sister but I felt alone. I remember as a small child spinning around in the chair for hour until I was so dizzy I would fall down. I puffed on my mom’s cigarette while she was not looking at 4. My mom drank, but I didn’t see her drunk more than a few times before I was a teenager. I started to notice alcohol and drugs in movies and music as something cool. I would see older kids drinking and smoking pot. My first drunk was at 12 years old on New Year’s Eve. Suddenly, I was cool and accepted by the other kids that night. Alcohol was my answer to the uncomfortable feeling I had. Even though I was very young, it was easy to get alcohol; and drugs soon became accessible at school. By 14, I was a daily user. I was smoking pot, drinking and doing harder drugs like acid, uppers and downers. At 15, I smoked cocaine (aka crack) and pretty much chased it to the gates of hell.

My family started to break down as my addiction grew. My mom drank more, my parents fought over my addiction, and my sister disappeared. I would lie and say hurtful things; a hurricane ripping though their lives. I realized the hurt, but had no way to stop. It was like my brain was broken, but I couldn’t figure out why. I went to therapy, sought out spiritual things, and believed in God but no matter how many mornings I told myself that I wasn’t going to get high, I did anyway. It was like I was insane; operating against my own will.

When I was about 23, I started seeing those commercials on television “This is Your Brain on Drugs” at 3 o’clock in the morning. I started to realize that there were other people like me who wanted to stop using, but couldn’t. I did not know there was help available. I tried to get sober on my own and just locked myself in the house. My parents did the best they could to try to keep me away from people, places and things, but it didn’t work; and I used again. I would pray to God and ask “Will I Ever Stop?”

In those days, there were a lot of guns on the street. I feared for my life, but I still couldn’t find a way to stop. My boyfriend got shot in the head and I still went back to that same spot a few days later. It burned me up when people said “You would stop if you wanted to.” I just could not stop on my own.

I walked into my first recovery meeting when I was 25 years-old. There were lots of young people playing Frisbee barefoot and listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A couple of things quickly became apparent. These people were just like me; they were not using, and they wanted to help me. I felt accepted immediately. I could say out loud that I smoke crack and no one flinched. I slipped in and out several times, but the people in my meetings always welcomed me back. I finally decided to stick around and went to therapy for the next 5 years and had the support of my “new” friends and many more. I can honestly say that it was the love of the people in Recovery that kept me coming back.

I grew up in recovery. I learned new skills like how to think of myself less and others more. Somehow, I was soon helping others; just as others had helped me. I have travelled all over and have always found others just like me holding out a welcoming hand. Today, I am never alone unless I choose to be.

That painful journey ended more than 23 years ago. All the things you might say that a person who once smoked crack every day, wouldn’t be able to do — like own a home as a single woman or manage a bank branch and live as a trusted member of the community are true for me.

Today, I do as so many others who have recovered do every day, I reach out to others. No matter how many times someone has tried to get sober, I continue to believe it can and does happen. I have seen people try for 20 years and then one day, they get it! What if we gave up on someone and as a result they never got to be the parent or grandparent or spouse or community leader they could have been. I’ve gotten to see thousands of people move out of the darkness and into the light; from the bondage of addiction to the freedom of Recovery.

I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that the next person gets the opportunity and the help they need. Recovery IS possible. I do not disrespect the traditions of the places that saved me and they do not ask me to be quiet about my recovery. I’m grateful that the process of getting well has taught me to remain open and not have contempt prior to investigation. To investigate the true meaning of things and not believe hearsay. I want to shout out to all the people in basements, clubhouses and halls all over this country and encourage them to get out and make a difference. We need to show others how well recovery works. I have a disease and I will not remain silent. I stay happy and healthy by remembering my way is not the only way and that to love, is to support all pathways to recovery. Love is a verb, an action. Recovery works! Let’s make accessible, available and sustainable to all who seek it. I will not be ashamed. I am a proud woman in long-term recovery!