My Ex-Sponsor

So my ex-sponsor just hung up on me.  I was explaining how I would like his help in working the twelve steps.  As I was letting him know that I had been clean for over 500 days he wanted me to start going to 90 meetings in 90 days.  When I explained the process I had been through while dealing with COVID he completely dismissed me.  It was as if he was an automated system with pre-programmed responses.  

Just because a specific route worked for him doesn’t mean I have to take the same exact route.  The are the statistics from AA’s 2014 membership survey.

  • 27 percent of AA members stay sober for less than a year.
  • 24 percent of AA members stay sober between one and 5 years.
  • 13 percent of AA members stay sober between 5 and 10 years.
  • 14 percent of AA members stay sober between 10 and 20 years.
  • 22 percent of AA members stay sober 20 or more years.
  • The average length of AA member sobriety is nearly 10 years.

When you think about the fact that there are millions of AA members that adds up to a lot of sobriety.  But like everything else in life nothing is perfect.  

I was explaining this new group I started and again he completely dismissed me.  

This ended up being a positive experience for me.  It let me know starting Addicts Anonymous was a great idea to help people such as myself.  The one thing I’ve learned from my battles with mental illness and addiction is that I am not alone.  Many others are suffering from and battling the same issues I face on a daily basis.  Some of these old timers don’t understand and certainly don’t appreciate the times have changed so maybe sometimes the methods need to be looked over and possibly updated.

This is why groups branch out and form other groups.  Everyone has a different mentality and not every method is right for everyone.  So we create groups where we share the same background, methods and goals we’re looking to achieve.

A quick background on the forming of Alcholics Anonymous.  When Bill Wilson’s friend Ebby stopped we was part of the Oxford Group.  This was a catholic movement with some of the same steps that would eventually make it’s way into the ‘Big Book.”  This included taking a moral inventory and the sharing of that inventory with someone trusted.

Bill took this program and envisioned it forming another group to deal with specifically alcoholics.  Eventually he met Dr. Bob and the rest is history.  

I was trying to discuss the possibility of Addicts Anonymous having in-person meetings and all of a sudden his demeanor changed completely.  As if I was insulting his wife or mother.  This suddenly became more of a sales call for Alcoholics Anonymous.  He didn’t hear a word I said.  I told him how in debt I was to twelve step programs and how I’ve poured through the literature and all he’s ever said when I mentioned literature is “well you have to live it.”  Guess what, he’s totally right.  But why not do meetings and read the book?  Don’t dismiss the literature because you’re too lazy to read it.  I feel this happens a lot with people like me probably.  

I found that crazy enough to write this little blog post.

That’s all I got for now!

My Recovery

I went into the rehab facility on March 10th 2020 and left only eight days later.  COVID was spreading and I was afraid of being quarantined in the facility for longer than my stay.  To be honest I had no idea what was going to happen and I didn’t want to find out by getting stuck there.  I was also worried that my ex-girlfriend might need me as she was pregnant with my daughter, so that was also running through my mind.

To be sure about my decision I was recently turned onto meditation by one of our technician babysitters in rehab named Mitch.  So I went to my room and sat on the bed with my back up against the wall and I meditated, thinking long and hard about what I thought would happen.  I decided I was going to leave.  To this day I still think I made the right choice.

So I went to the public laundry room there and grabbed my clothes I was washing and I went to my room and I packed up.  My roommate at the time Pooh, yes no bullshit that was his nickname and the only name he told me was Pooh was upset I was leaving.  We had just started to click.  I was actually upset as I was leaving a great bunch of guys I considered friends so quickly to go hang out alone with my worst enemy.  Myself.

Next I had to let my crew know I was leaving.  It was kind of like jail in the fact I was giving away all the snacks I snuck into my room and also gave my boy Walt a bunch of brand new socks I hadn’t worn yet.  Everyone was warning me like the technicians and counselors that in my first 90 days I was double as likely to relapse without completing my full rehab stay.

Also the way Danny put it and he was totally right was he said “dude, right now we’re in a bubble.  We’re sheltered from the outside world.  Once you go out there, there is no protection.”  All my boys were truly worried and suggested I stay.  I had to go, I decided and I was sticking to that.  Anyone that knows me that once my mind is made up it’s very hard to convince me otherwise.

All the counselors and technicians made a big deal against me leaving and asked me to wait until the next day until my counselor came in and I refused.  I just plainly told them I wanted to “leave against medical advice” and there was nothing they could do to stop me.  So I grabbed my stuff I had packed, said goodbye to my homies and I was on my way out.

I remember standing outside smoking a cigarette while waiting for my sister to come pick me up.  There was a man outside who was dropping off a person to intake.  We started chatting and he offered to be my sponsor.  My sister arrived and he told both of us I actually made the right choice as he had a friend in homeland security that said they were going to start quarantining that weekend.  And they did.

On the ride home I can tell my sister didn’t believe I was telling the truth about why I wanted to leave rehab.  She said “you’re a salesman for a living and an addict to boot, how can I trust you?”  That really hurt.  That’s just the truth, it really hurt.  Worst of all, I knew many in my family and my ex-girlfriend would feel the same way.  

We stopped at Wawa as that was considered an “essential business” because they sold gas.  So they were open.  I went in there with my sister and I bought a bottle of soda, a turkey and cheese sub and a bag of spicy hot cheese curls.  I had no food in the house so that’s why we even stopped there.

I remember walking into my apartment and the smell just hit me.  I was turned off to say the least and this was my apartment!  I had been living in such a haze for years this was the norm for me.  Also since the outbreak of the virus they had been bleaching the rehab facility daily so when I came home it really magnified how gross I had been living.  It was really depressing to say the least.

Even my bed sheets smelled but I didn’t have a choice but to sleep on them as I had no others.  The sheets were caked in cat hair.  Overall, everything in my apartment was disgusting.  I had a lot of cleaning to do.  

I still remember that first night home.  I still had a bottle full of klonopins.  I didn’t touch them.  At the moment I wasn’t sure if I was going back to those.  I actually never really abused them.  I abused so many other drugs but I was so heavily reliant on these I wanted to be sure I never ran out so I stuck to the two or three I was prescribed a day.

The next morning I woke up and I remember just looking directly to my left at the mirror next to my bed and I started crying.  I started crying because nothing had changed in my life and I was still miserable except now I was sober.  I didn’t realize at that time what a gift I was given.

I thought I was feeling so great after leaving rehab.  A new man so to speak.  So to break down crying so quickly was shocking.  I’ve always been emotional but this time I thought I was in a good spot mentally.  Boy was I wrong.  One of my biggest triggers was my apartment.  Aside from being disgusting it held a lot of bad memories of me and my ex.

I truly don’t remember a lot as I compare it to a blackout but I went about redoing my entire apartment.  I must have been a bit manic.  I ripped up my couches into pieces to move to the garbage as they were disgusting as shit.  

I started throwing out so much of my shit that was just old and disgusting.  Which was most of my apartment.  I hadn’t purchased new furnishings in over 15 years.  Everything was old and falling apart or it was just filthy and disgusting.  My carpet had stains all over it and wasn’t vacuumed in who knows how long.  Probably a year or longer.

I had to scrub my kitchen over and over.  It was more disgusting than I care to describe.  My microwave, couldn’t even begin to clean, had to throw it out.  

Unfortunately I was right and COVID just spread like a wildfire.  I remember going to the local grocery store and there was literally almost nothing.  I was lucky and was able to get frozen vegetables at the Dollar Tree.  Everyone was preparing for the end of the world.  At least so it seemed.

Because of the pandemic I was able to stay home and really focus on my recovery.  Otherwise I would’ve been back to work much sooner and having to deal with the anxieties that go along with my job.  With any job for that matter.  I’ve been so lucky in this department and I know it and I appreciate it everyday.  

Then came the craving for a klonopin and I still had a bottle with a three month supply in there.  About 90 pills.  I actually recorded myself dumping them into the toilet.  That was a hard thing to do.  I depended on those for so long.  Before that I couldn’t imagine a life without them.  Anyone sobering up for the first time will know the feeling of dread I was feeling about no more klonopin the rest of my life.  What would I do?  How would I handle my racing thoughts or my temper?  Would I be the same person?  Would my performance at work suffer?

So I’m sitting all alone in my apartment with no klonopin, no booze and no drugs of any type that I would have been usually taking on a daily basis.  One of which I thought I absolutely needed was Adderall.  Adderall to focus and klonopin to keep me calm and steady.  What was I going to do now?  That was my go-to daily combination for so long.

So I went about changing my environment, which is suggested for someone out of rehab.  They usually suggest moving which just wasn’t an option for me.  And staying with someone wasn’t an option either because of the virus everyone was under quarantine.  So I slowly saved enough money to redo my entire apartment.  It took me about a year to get everything I wanted and it’s like I moved.  Which is exactly what I felt I needed.  

I truly believe that if I was sitting around the same old surroundings from what I now consider my previous life I probably would’ve ended up slipping.  But I took the time, effort and money to do what I thought was going to keep me sober.  After all, I’m all by myself day and night. I should at least be comfortable in my surroundings.

As to how I’ve been staying sober, I credit it due to structure.  One of the girls in rehab gave me a great piece of advice that was so tiny but changed my life I’ll never forget it.  Ready to have your mind blown?  She said “make your bed every morning.”  That was it.  But it seriously has some kind of mental effect when you start the day off accomplishing something.  

Matter of fact a few months ago I was in Barnes & Nobles and saw a book standing out on the shelf.  It’s title was “Make Your Bed” by General McRaven.  Great little book, very inspirational.

For me another major trigger was and still is boredom.  I hear this from many addicts.  And you hear this from addicts with all types of  addiction.  That is why I try to structure 

my day and always have something to do.  I’m not saying run away and hide from your feelings besides things to keep you busy.  Being that I’m not currently working it truly is a real challenge staying busy.

When I was drinking and using a typical day I would wake up, pour a glass of wine and then go have a cigarette.  Then I would go get dressed and if it was open I would make my way to the liquor store for more cigarettes and my good old friend Jim Beam.  Then I would go home and drink until I passed out.  I’d wake up early in the afternoon and restart the process until the day was done.  So now I’ve got a lot of time to fill.

Another thing I credit my recovery to is books.  They say knowledge is power.  I think this rings especially true to addicts.  How are you supposed to battle a disease without knowing how it actually affects you.  For me learning is crucial.  

Another thing that I credit with helping my recovery and saving my life is meditation.  Just a few minutes a day could mean the difference between using or not using.  I think this is something not spoken about enough.  

In the “Big Book” Bill Wilson mentions the word “meditation” ten times.  He repeatedly spoke of not only prayer but also mediation.  This was something he did with his wife every morning.  And this is something that is a must for me to settle my brain before I face the day’s challenges.

I’m not going to sit here and preach all the benefits of meditation and a more mindful way of living.  I will give the same advice I always give.  “Always be willing to try something new and take away the good things you can from it and discard the things that don’t help.”

That’s all I got for now.  Till next time!!!

My Step One

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.

This step is single handedly the most important step in my mind.  It is the building block in which all the other steps build upon.  Anything growing needs a foundation and Step One provides that for us.  The way it was written and meant to be used was to “deflate” the ego.  Really, truly bring you to the understanding you can’t handle this on your own.  You need help.  A lot of the steps might be able to be done in a slightly different order but step one is step one.

One of the questions asked in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions by Bill Wilson 

was why must every A.A. hit bottom?  I think the answer to this question is when you hit bottom you run out of options.  When you haven’t hit bottom yet if you’re an addict still trying to get high and you still can go to people for help you’re going to continue that until that source runs dry and then you move onto the next.  When I was a drunk I had no reason to quit.  I didn’t care that I lost my girlfriend.  I had a place to live and a car.  Mom helped every now and then but I was mostly self sufficient.  I was one of the top performers at my job.  This wasn’t affecting me I thought, so why should I quit?

Then came the news I was going to be a father.  One night my ex-girlfriend and I got into a huge argument.  I had a few drinks because I was going to rehab within the next few days and the guy on the phone at the rehab facility said in the meantime don’t go 

cold turkey because it was dangerous.  He said he wasn’t saying go get hammered, but just don’t cold turkey it on my own.  My girlfriend and I got into a huge fight in which I smashed her phone and at one point had her cornered before she ran off and I didn’t go after her.  Thank God.  This was my low point.  I was out of control and I needed help.  

I hit my bottom.  As far as choices I couldn’t quit on my own.  I also tried the same things that so many before me have tried.  Switching to beer, then switching to wine and then only to go back to liquor more than before.  I was falling down fast and had no other options on the table.  I couldn’t do this alone.

That’s when I found my higher power and that’s when I found the twelve step program.  I haven’t looked back since.

My Food Addiction

I remember it all started around eight years old.  Mom had left and Dad was taking care of me and my two sisters.  Everyday my Dad would make me bologna for lunch.  I hated bologna but there was my sandwich waiting day after day.  So at school I wouldn’t eat lunch.  I would keep my sandwiches in my book bag and then I didn’t know about mold and it grew and grew and eventually it stank.  My teacher discovered it and told my dad and when I got home he whooped my ass.  After that, he still only made me bologna sandwiches. 

When I got home there were no parents around.  I still remember till this day eating an entire sleeve of Chips Ahoy.  It was technically my first time getting high.  From that point on I gained a lot of weight and was a very overweight child.  Kids were terrible to me, kids could be real mean.  But my friends sugar and carbohydrates were always waiting for me when I got home and they never judged me.

Throughout my childhood and into my early teens I had a major weight problem.  I remember wanting to play football and my dad signed me up and paid for it.  Then eventually after we got our equipment and were all set to go it was time for weigh-ins.  I forgot actually how much I weighed but I was too heavy to play with my friends.  I had to play a weight class up, which was with all the older boys.  I was really scared and ended up quitting because I couldn’t play with my friends.

My father flipped out on me yelling that I was a “fucking quitter” and that he wasted his money on me.  He really made me feel awful, just awful.  When it came time that I wanted to play hockey in which this time I was the proper weight to play with my friends he wouldn’t pay for it or any of my equipment.  There I was a kid having to now pay for all of this if I wanted to play.  It was really hard but I was actually able to gather the money for everything and went to a camp over the summer and then started playing in the leagues.  In the end I was a really good defenseman and always started every game.

I was getting really heavy and I was one of the heaviest kids in my class.  It was so embarrassing going to school.  You never knew who would make a comment or just give you a weird look.  Sometimes it just fucking sucked, it truly did.  

Then came high school.  Freshman year I was fat.  Over that summer right before going into my sophomore year I decided to lose weight and this would be the first sign of my anorexic behavior to come.  I didn’t eat almost anything and on top of that I was playing hockey with my friends nearly everyday plus league games on the weekends.  

I somewhat went back to a normal diet over the next few years.  It also ended up that I loved football when I was playing with my friends so I was playing high school football plus hockey so that kept my weight down.  I remember I was in a terrible relationship senior year and I ended up not playing football because I moved in with my mom and she told me I needed to get a job.  It was also the start of my lifelong battle with depression.  It’s when all the symptoms I now recognize started showing.  I started overeating again and this time I was eating my feelings big time.  

As long as I could remember I have never eaten a normal three square meals a day diet ever.  In one way or another I was eating shitty throughout my entire life.  I wish I could be that person who does take better care of themselves and does have three nutritious meals every day.  That’s how I know that I need help. I wish I could be that person and I wasn’t and it was because I had no control over my eating.  It controlled me.  

Just yesterday I was binging.  I haven’t been eating too much lately partially because I’ve been trying to lose weight and also I’ve been taking Kratom to focus and have some energy and for me a side effect is suppressing my appetite.  So yesterday I started eating apples and couldn’t stop.  That’s all I ate yesterday, about 7 or 8 apples.  Thank god that’s all that happened.  It wasn’t bad but it was better than me getting a box of cookies and eating the entire thing.  My eating is like the way I used to drink alcohol.  I just keep  going until every last bit is gone and until I basically pass out from overeating.  It’s literally the same thing.  So I don’t keep bad stuff in the house except soda.

So this is still a daily battle that I consider myself to be losing.  I left rehab last year and was down to around 170 pounds.  Then I blew up over the holidays to around 190 pounds.  And then one last binge landed me at 210 pounds.  I’ve been eating well and I’m back down to 200 pounds. 

I can not base what I call successful eating habits on just my weight alone.  I recently found out I have terrible cholesterol.  And at the same time I considered myself to be doing well because I recently switched to a plant based diet.  But I still have high cholesterol.  

Every now and then I binge out on desserts and sometimes frozen pizzas, stuff like that.  I’ll eat the entire thing in one sitting.  A few months back I ate two of them back to back.  Then I go back to eating more healthy, well healthy at least for me.  I also recently slipped and binged on food from the pizza place and ended up throwing it up.  Like I said earlier this disease is a disease of addiction and we all show a lot of the same signs and this is a slip similar to any other.

This is a battle that started thirty years ago.  And god willing I will be living another thirty years with this.  Addiction comes in many shapes and forms.  I happen to suffer from a few and can understand more than some.

That’s all I got for now.  

Angry, Aggravated and Annoyed – But That’s Okay

I would like to share my experience and be open and honest about it. I would like to share in order to maybe help someone who is going through the same things. I hope to share some strength and some hope. 

I am going to start out with how I am feeling currently, which is a little angry aggravated and annoyed at my loved one. He is an alcoholic and is struggling badly right now. He is supposed to be going to rehab on August 2nd which is scary for both of us. He sat this up himself because he now knows after years of trying to quit and he cannot do it on his own. 

Why I feel aggravated is because I worked a 12-hour shift last night then came home to work my 2nd job as a Behavioral Health Coach. I am tired and I just want to sleep today. 

In coming home today I discovered it must have been a rough night and I am thankful I was not home honestly. There are beer cans scattered all over the house, it looks like what may be vomit all over the floor. There is a disaster in the kitchen from what looks like late-night cooking, the couch was turned all around with the cushions all over the place. This is not the first time this has happened. 

I felt triggered right away and so many emotions flooded over me, and I wanted to yell and scream at him. With open honesty that is what I use to do all the time. When I found this mess especially after working 12-hour shifts, I put so much shame, guilt, and blame on him. I wanted him to suffer…It really was terrible, but I wanted him to feel my anger and I felt he deserved my wrath for causing such mess at home. I felt he deserved to be yelled at because these behaviors appeared to be so selfish. 

In coming home today I wanted to go straight to him and yell at him. I wanted my voice to be heard because I felt like I was not being listened to. I instead took a step back and applied the skills and strategies I have learned during my recovery process. I stepped back used the skills I teach clients. I took a deep breath and focused on my breath and breathing. I put myself in the moment and let myself feel what I was feeling because I know it is okay to have these emotions. I sat with my emotions, and I processed them. I then reached out and went to a meeting during my break. 

 I also know that if I acted out my anger today it would only be hurting me further. It would only be hurting me further because these are actions and behaviors I am trying to move away from in my own recovery. I know I deserve to own my own emotions and to acknowledge them, but that does not mean I have to make another person suffer because of how I feel. I am in control of how I respond, and I choose to love and care for myself in a way that shows respect for myself. 

I honestly don’t want to hurt the person I love and yell at him either. While his behaviors last night did trigger me, it is not my responsibility to make the situation worse.  I know by communicating with him his struggles. I know he already feels shame and guilt for his actions, and I don’t want to be the person who perpetuates this shame in him. He has enough of that himself with his addiction. This for a long time was hard for me to understand, because of all the pain, I felt in living with him. I then learned what addiction was, and learning that really allowed me to start having open and honest conversations with my loved ones. 

In saying that I have also learned that does not mean I have to put up with unacceptable behaviors. I don’t have to approve of my loved ones drinking I don’t have to approve of the behaviors that are associated with the drinking either. I accept though that it is  reality I accept that he is an Alcoholic and I accept that I love an Alcoholic. 

In accepting that I can now communicate how I am feeling in a way that is positive and productive. 

I will discuss the mess with him, but I will do it in a way that is more supportive. I will state it looks like you had a rough night last night. How are you doing? I will listen and then I will express my concern about the mess and ask him to clean it up. 

I feel angry I feel upset, but I can communicate that in a way that is helpful for both of us and still show that I care. I can own my own emotions without hurting or harming another person. I can express my emotions in a healthy way that allows me to feel like I am being heard. 

It has been a really long road living with a loved one who has an addiction, and I felt so alone so many times. I feel though we are both starting to see the surface. I feel like I am starting to see it because I started my own recovery journey and I have reached out for support. I also feel I am seeing the surface because of everything I now know about addiction, and it has really allowed me to grow closer to my loved one and be really open and honest with him. 

This is nowhere near perfect, but practice makes progress. That is all I am really trying to do every day is make a little bit of progress in my own life so that I can love and care for myself in ways that I never knew were possible. Doing that has also given me a way to love in ways that I never knew were possible. 

I know that I can’t ask my loved one to just stop drinking, it does not work that way with an alcoholic. I really use to try, but he can ask me for support, and I can ask him for support as well. I have had to learn to drop all expectations and just enjoy the journey and live in this moment now. All I can ask him is to make progress with me and that is what he is doing. That is what we are both doing. It is hard loving someone with an addiction. I now know I am not alone. I hope you can know the same as well. Please reach out for support because it is not easy loving someone with an addiction 

 I am going to go do some hardcore self-care today. I am thinking maybe a nap.

By Brittany Jackson

Holding Space For Love

Shifting from shame, blame, ignoring as it’s so common with the addicted person – to loving-kindness. Holding space for our loved one will make all the difference. It’s the little things that build up over time. It really does make a difference. It may seem difficult in the storm, but if you hold on you will make a difference in your life and your loved ones’ life. Setting boundaries and learning the skills and strategies to protect yourself will allow you to open your heart more so that you can move away from shame and guilt into love and kindness.  Saying the words “I understand and I hear you.” and “I believe in you.” Can sometimes make a world of difference in our loved ones lives. 

This is progress and it’s not perfection. I myself slipped up last night and reverted back to some of my controlling and manipulative behaviors. My loved one was drinking last night and I have a boundary put into place that he sleeps on the couch when he drinks at night, so I can sleep in peace because deer god if I don’t it’s a horrendous night. 

So any aways last night he decided he would not leave the bedroom, so I yelled, screamed, argued ( yes argued with a drunk person, I know right)… I finally got him to leave the room and I locked it, but he preceded to try and unlock the door for 30 minutes…AHHHH…. Finally got him settled in and to sleep… so moral of the story, we are not going to be perfect, our loved ones are not going to be perfect, but we do have control over how we act and react. 

I chose the next day to get up, take a shower, buy myself a coffee, talk to my sponsor, reach out to those in my support group, and read some literature oh and saw my therapist…I self-cared the hell out of myself. It’s hard living with a loved one with an addiction, but there is support there is help and you are not alone. We all may be in different boats, but we are in the same storm. 

I then also apologized for the part I play, and I attempt to get back on track of support and caring for myself. It is hard for me to admit that I slipped up because I don’t try to practice kindness and support towards my loved one. I also know I am human and I am not going to be perfect because living with someone with an addiction is difficult. I love and care for my loved one but it is not always easy. I see and hear all of your struggles you are not alone. 

Reach out for support, because you cant do this alone.

If you need any additional support I am a behavioral health coach and I coach families on how to support their loved ones. As you can see it is not always going to be perfect or easy, but there is the possibility of peace among the storm

By Brittany Jackson

My Side Of The Story; Recovery From The Effects Of Addiction

I support my loved one through his battle with addiction. The process of support has not been an easy road and I nagged, yelled, begged, and controlled. My behaviors really perpetuated a lot of the drinking. I did not cause his drinking, but I did contribute to it with my behaviors. I turned to the behaviors that I thought were supported because when I nagged and yelled, I could get sobriety for 3 days. I continued these behaviors for years. These behaviors were just winning a battle though. 

We now are in this fight together to win the war. In saying that I learned different skills and strategies to help support my loved one, and there are skills and strategies to help get your loved one sober. Ultimately yes, sobriety is on them, but there are tools and resources where you can move your loved one from the denial stage by using motivational interviewing and by applying principles based on Harm Reduction and CRAFT ( The Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training) which trains concerned significant other on how to help guide their loved ones into recovery. 

There is a support group around these principles called SMART recovery family and friends and one for our loved ones called SMART recovery. It is all science and behavioral-based and has been shown to be extremely effective in helping a loved one get into treatment. With the SMART recovery-based programs the relapse is significantly lowered, and if relapse does happen loved ones are more likely to seek help and in turn, the relapse turns into a lapse, and our loved ones spend less time using and get back on to the path of recovery. 

This concept is not something that is easy, and it takes a lot of time and dedication to helping a loved one with an addiction. I love my spouse to the moon and back and I have seen him transform with this. I had to first change my behaviors, put in a lot of boundaries first. I had to focus on myself at the start and really take care of myself. Once I had some balance in my life and support system established, I was able to apply the CRAFT principles I learned, which honestly transformed both of our lives. Recovery is possible. 

This also helped with my sister as well who is in recovery. I would also caution against this if you are experiencing abuse, you need to first take care of yourself and make yourself a priority and your own personal safety is paramount. That is one of the leading principles behind SMART and CRAFT to first protect yourself. I will also say that SMART is also good for if you are experiencing abuse and don’t know how to get out or are still in that questioning stage of if I should leave or not leave. 

SMART Recovery Family and Friends empowers families and gives them the tools and resources on how to protect themselves if need be. It helps build families’ confidence up and really helps them to take care of their needs, and then if a family member chose or is willing it also gives the family tools on how to help support their loved one and get them to make the changes needed to get into recovery. It is paramount to really focus on yourself and focus on your needs first you are important you are valuable. Loving someone with an addiction is not easy, but with the right support tools and resources in place, it does become easier. 

I also used this model with my sister as well who is now in recovery from meth and heroin use. I was there I was broken too before I discovered CRAFT, SMART recovery, harm reduction, and above all else self-care. I was ready to leave my spouse, I got close. I am glad I gave it one more chance though because we now have a great love for each other and he is in an amazing recovery program using SMART recovery tools.

By Brittany Jackson

Helping to Get a Loved one Sober by using CRAFT principles

I am going to start with a little bit of a background here with my sister.

Her drug of choice was heroin and meth. She really used drugs to cope with our childhood and the chaotic household we grew up in due to untreated mental illness in our mom and addiction in our dad. The combination of both made for a wild childhood. I held a lot of guilt and still do honestly about her drug use because I left home as soon as I was able to, and I left her there.

My sister got pregnant at 15 years old and at the time it was too much for me to process honestly. I left her with our mom who at this time had an active addition herself to pain medication. This is where my sister’s addiction really took hold because my mom supplied her with pain medication. I knew what was going on, but like I said I was only 19 at this time and I could not process it nor did I know how to help at the time. I held so much guilt and anger at myself and I kept thinking If I was only a better sister, if I was only stronger then maybe I could have prevented what was to come, and what was to come was horrific. The years went by, and my sister stayed in the household with our mom raising her son, my sister had two more children and ended up in several abusive relationships, got married, and got divorced. The addiction to pills slowly progressed to alcohol, then it progressed to meth, and then meth to heroin.

My sister gave up her children at one point, I later did end up taking all 3 kids and helped raise them for a couple of years until she reaches sobriety. So, in this, there were a lot of emotions on my side, fear, anger, resentment, shame, guilt, but also there was compassion and love. At the height of her addiction, we did almost lose her and there were times I did not know where she was at, she would disappear for weeks on end with no communication. I had so much fear when she disappeared. There was the chaos that was associated with her addiction when she was around, so I did have to put in a lot of boundaries, she took my car and wrecked it twice, she called me one time because she was scared, and her drug dealer would not leave the house until she paid the money, she owed him.

It was stressful, but in that, I had started learning about harm reduction. I had at this point graduated college and had my degree in behavioral health science and psychology and was working with those who had substance use disorder. I started applying my skills and knowledge to help her get into recovery. This process was not easy but continued with love support and compassion and I did my best to not shame or guilt her in any way. I started going to her every time she would call me because, at this point, she was homeless, and I did not know where I would find her next. I have found her in old run-down abandoned buildings or houses passed with needle marks. When I found her that way, I first would call for help and support, but I would just set beside her and tell her that I love her.

I was really going for the harm reduction model here at this point because I knew she was not ready for recovery yet. There were times I would meet up with her and give her food and I would also give her recovery resources. I provide all the resources we had in our town for support groups and recovery facilities. I let her know each time I love her and when she is ready recovery is possible. I planted as many seeds as I could, but she had that shame and that guilt that perpetuates addiction. I started going to Celebrate Recovery for myself and my own recovery process for those who have been affected by a loved one’s addiction.

I went for about a year by myself and with the kids and every time I saw my sister, I gave her an open invitation to come. She eventually started going and I then felt comfortable enough that she was in a place I could invite her to live with me and the kids. She had not stopped alcohol, but she had stopped heroin and meth at this point, the harm reduction model there, not expecting her to stop all substances at once. She got sober about a year later and she got to take her kids back and got her own life back on track. She has been meth-free and heroin-free ever since. She did have a lapse in alcohol last week, but we lost our grandma who was our rock in childhood. She was able to message me to say she was struggling, and I was able to be supportive, she then later came to me and stated, I was offered Meth and I said no. I was so proud of her because she could have easily fallen back into it. She said she was able to say no because of the support of her family.

Planting those seeds is hard, compassion and love are hard especially when there is so much anger and guilt inside of us. I could have easily let my emotions take over and I have before I really have, but I reach out for support and do my SMART recovery meetings. CRAFT works, Harm reduction work just takes time. That time is hard and there is pain and that is where we need to take care of ourselves and support ourselves. I have also followed this model with my spouse as well and he is currently in a rehab facility. With my spouse my anger showed more honestly, but when I changed my behaviors and applied the principles of CRAFT and harm reduction, and was able to find recovery on my own.

Written by Brittany Jackson

My Step One

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.

This step is single handedly the most important step in my mind.  It is the building block in which all the other steps build upon.  Anything growing needs a foundation and step 1 provides that for us.  The way it was written and meant to be used was to “deflate” the ego.  Really, truly bring you to the understanding you can’t handle this on your own.  You need help.  A lot of the steps might be able to be done in a slightly different order but step one is step one.

One of the questions asked in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions by Bill Wilson was why must every A.A. hit bottom?  I think the answer to this question is when you hit bottom you run out of options.  When you haven’t hit bottom yet, if you’re an addict still trying to get high and you still can go to people for help you’re going to continue that until that source runs dry and then you move onto the next.  When I was a drunk I had no reason to quit.  I didn’t care that I lost my girlfriend.  I had a place to live and a car.  Mom helped every now and then but I was mostly self sufficient.  I was one of the top performers at my job.  This wasn’t affecting me I thought, so why should I quit?

Then came the news I was going to be a father.  One night my ex-girlfriend and I got into a huge argument.  I had a few drinks because I was going to rehab within the next few days and the guy on the phone at the rehab facility said in the meantime don’t go cold turkey because it was dangerous.  He said he wasn’t saying go get hammered, but just don’t cold turkey it on my own.  My ex-girlfriend and I got into a huge fight in which I smashed her phone and at one point had her cornered before she ran off and I didn’t go after her.  Thank God.  This was my low point.  I was out of control and I needed help.  

I hit my bottom.  As far as choices I couldn’t quit on my own.  I also tried the same things that so many before me have tried.  Switching to beer, then switching to wine and then only to go back to liquor more than before.  I was falling down fast and had no other options on the table.  I couldn’t do this alone.

First Rehab Stay

It was March 10th, 2020.  I remember the tears in my mother’s eyes as she dropped me off.  I’ll never forget as I got out of the passenger seat of the car my mother asked me to grab the tissues in the backseat and place them in the front.  That destroyed me inside right there knowing when she left she was going to cry her way home.  It was my fault and I had to make this work.  

We made our way to the entrance of the rehab facility and when we got inside they notified us that due to the COVID pandemic they were not allowing any family in.  There would also be no visitation.  I could see this also upset my mother.  I assured her I would be ok.  And the intake man was very nice to her.  

I don’t remember much of my “intake”.  I do remember I blew a .00 even though I drank a bit that day.  I also tested negative for THC which was impossible because I smoked that day!  Oh well, didn’t matter anyhow I was there and not going anywhere.

Next thing I knew it was around 3:00 am as I looked across my room to the empty bed, I wondered, how did I get here?  I was in a detox unit of a rehab facility.  As I asked myself these questions, it finally just hit me square in the face that I was in there for a reason.  I obviously could not handle my shit on my own.  I needed help, I needed a lot of help.  

I woke up the next morning, or more came out of a fog I should say.  My hands trembled as I went outside to smoke my much needed first cigarette.  I  didn’t realize why my hands were trembling for a few minutes and then I realized it was because I hadn’t drank since the day before.  I also think it was that combined with my anxiety.  

That’s where I met the guys that would become “my crew” for my stay there.  One was Walter, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD, you could not approach him from behind as that was a trigger for him.  Then my other buddy Rob who owned a car mechanics shop had no teeth.  I remember I didn’t know this until we had waffles one morning that were too hard and he couldn’t chew them.  Then there was a younger kid Danny who just wouldn’t shut the fuck up.  But he was a good kid.  That was the crew.  

As we smoked our cigarettes together I felt so out of place in the beginning, I don’t know if it was a feeling that I thought I was better than everyone or maybe I was just scared and my mind was just all over the place.  

After our cigarettes and medication we headed to the cafeteria for breakfast.  One funny thing I would like to mention is we called our meds skittles.  We all took so many and they came in all colors.  We laughed about that, and we needed a laugh.  

Our first day they served omelettes from an omelette station.  No bullshit.  I remember thinking how fancy that was.  We were walked in by a “technician” which is really just a fancy term for our babysitter.  When you were done with breakfast you couldn’t just go back to your room.  Your babysitter walked everyone from the detox unit to and from all meals.

I remember in the detox unit we had a lot of down time.  I smoked a lot, I mean a lot.  Also we drank tons of coffee.  It was very stereotypical to say the least.  I also remember the boys making frozen banana slices and eating them while they played cards.

I’ll never forget when I was first introduced to the twelve steps my first response was “here we go with the God bullshit.”  I was no fan of religion or their God.  But I knew I couldn’t leave, I had to stay as I knew I needed the help but I guess I didn’t know what kind.

Then I was handed a pocket size copy of Alcoholics Anonymous.  It changed my life.  As I read through the pages I saw myself in these words.  I wondered how this book and the author knew so much of my life and the struggles I was facing.  I went through those pages over and over again.  I carried it everywhere with the pictures of my family and my cats that I had in my pockets.  I made little notes in the margins and highlighted stuff all over the book relating the stories like mine.

I remember also how impressed I was by the TV area and how it was like a fancy living room with big plush leather couches and also leather recliners.  There was also a flat screen TV, PS4 and a bunch of video games and movies.  I don’t really remember the content of our first “meeting.”  I just remember the head of the detox unti Jay was extremely calm and quiet.  All he used to say is “I’m just one of you guys.”  

He told his story of who he had been, what he had done wrong, the way he righted those wrongs, made amends and how he was living day to day now sober for over 24 years.  As I listened I still remember zoning out from time to time as I think I was still in a bit of shock over where I was.  

One thing that happened with Jay that made me realize I needed to stay was someone was saying something, I forget exactly what, but Jay turned to him and said “The door is right there, you don’t have to stay here.”  At that moment I thought I could just leave, then it hit me again – you need to stay here because you belong here!  From that moment forward I was in.  No doubt about it, I was in.

Everything seemed to be going well and then COVID started getting worse.  I remember watching daily as the numbers of infected and dying just kept rising.  Everyone started to get real anxious as we had no contact with the outside world and didn’t really know what was going on with our families.  We had no access to phones, emails or any type of communication except for certain times on Sunday.  I also got anxious, to say the least.

So it got a little bit stressful there.  Also a lot of the meetings we were supposed to have got cancelled.  I was told a lot of the meetings later in the afternoon and evening were outside AA and NA guys coming in to run the meetings.  So that sucked.  

It ends up without me knowing it actually set a course for me that would change my life.

One day when we needed to fill up some time we were given a choice: do we want to go downstairs to the gym or did we want to go meditate?  I chose meditation because the truth is I’m lazy and don’t work out anymore.  

We just all sat in a room while Mitch lead us and put on some meditation music.  Everyone else was sitting in chairs bit for some reason I decide to sit on the floor with my back against the wall.(I was so out of shape I couldn’t sit up on my own in the meditation position yet.)

Those fifteen minutes saved my life.  After that I decided I needed to make a decision.  Reason was my mind was running wild about this virus going around.  What if it got real bad?  What if there is a quarantine?  How long would I be stuck there?  Was my family going to be okay?

So I meditated on this.  Something that was brand new for me.  I came to the conclusion I needed to leave.  That thought scared me a bit and I really didn’t want to go.  I had friends that we cried together, laughed together and went through some sht together.  I would be all alone again with my worst enemy.  Myself…

Stay tuned for our next post!!!