Editor’s note: The author of this item wish­es to remain anony­mous. It is not the nor­mal pol­i­cy of WCN&V to pub­lish anony­mous sub­mis­sions. This one is an excep­tion. It is the tra­di­tion of the recov­ery fel­low­ship  — in which the author found belong­ing and recov­ery — to not use names in pub­li­ca­tions. The author is known to me – actu­al­ly, she is a friend. I was deeply moved by her sto­ry, and I believe you will be as well. Perhaps it will be an encour­age­ment to some­one who is strug­gling with sub­stance abuse. 

March 8, 1982 — The day I made a deci­sion to stop drinking. 

Bad things had hap­pened to me as a result of my drink­ing, and I had hurt peo­ple.  Somehow though, wreck­ing my vehi­cle by hit­ting a parked car, get­ting arrest­ed for DUI, and spend­ing a night in the local jail final­ly got my attention. 

I did not like the per­son I was and felt shame con­stant­ly.  I was so tired of expend­ing the effort to look okay on the out­side while being mis­er­able on the inside.  I had stopped drink­ing and using any oth­er sub­stance before, to prove to myself that I could. But I always drank again. 

When I got home from jail that morn­ing, I began look­ing for a meet­ing of that elu­sive fel­low­ship, so anony­mous at that time it was hard to find.  I called a phone num­ber I locat­ed in the phone book and received a return call.   I was offered a ride, which I need­ed because my car was totaled.  I went to a meet­ing that night. I was 23 years old, the youngest per­son in the group and the only female. 

I kept going to those meet­ings, found one in the small town where I lived.  I did the things that were sug­gest­ed to me.  Please note that I say “sug­gest­ed,” because every­one acquaint­ed with folks like me knows you can­not “tell” an alcoholic/addict what to do. Every morn­ing I made a deci­sion to not drink that day, or hour, or what­ev­er it took. It was not an easy road.  My boyfriend of near­ly three years did not like me sober.  I need­ed to move from the small town where I remained after attend­ing col­lege there, and I need­ed to find a new job.

I had always felt dif­fer­ent and like an out­sider. But I felt a sense of accep­tance and belong­ing in those rooms.  I found meet­ings in a larg­er city where there were more females and more young peo­ple.  There was so much stig­ma then, espe­cial­ly for women.  I dread­ed the ques­tion on the job appli­ca­tions, “have you ever been arrest­ed?” When I explained that I was a recov­er­ing alco­holic, to be hon­est about the arrest, I heard things like, “Oh, hon­ey, what­ev­er gave you that idea” or “you don’t look like one.”

Life went on with ups and downs com­mon to us all.  I final­ly got into ther­a­py to address the men­tal health issues that became clear­er in sobri­ety.  I expe­ri­enced job changes, bad romances, and moves.  I looked like an adult on the out­side, but I lacked emo­tion­al matu­ri­ty.  Gaining that has been a long process.  I mar­ried anoth­er recov­er­ing per­son, and we had a child.  He even­tu­al­ly relapsed. He could not get clean and sober again, and we divorced after eigh­teen years.  He lat­er died. Despite the times of pain, I am so grate­ful for that rela­tion­ship and the now-adult child that came from it. I am grate­ful for a beau­ti­ful grandchild.

After mov­ing to Winchester, it took some time to find my “tribe,” but I final­ly did. I have not felt dif­fer­ent from oth­ers for a very long time, nor do I feel like an out­sider any­more.  I have won­der­ful car­ing friends, peo­ple whom I love, and peo­ple who love me.  I am con­tent and expe­ri­ence times of great peace. 

My life is bet­ter than I could have imag­ined. It has not always been an easy path, but I like the per­son I am now.  And it start­ed 40 years ago today.