Old Newsletters

Newsletter: Share by Amy D.

Hello my name is Amy D and I’m an alcoholic. My sobriety date is 5/15/11, I have a sponsor, I am a sponsor, I have a home group, I have commitments, and I go to 4-5 meetings a week. These words, with pertinent information changing by person, are reiterated time and again at each aftercare meeting on Tuesday night. As a former resident, I attend these meetings on a regular basis. They keep me grounded. They keep me connected. They help to keep me sane.

One does not grow up hoping or dreaming of becoming an alcoholic. I, for one, condemned and thought “those” people pathetic. People who couldn’t just stop. Who couldn’t or wouldn’t realize that this drug/ drink wasn’t worth their family, their job, their sanity. Who would choose a drink over life? The answer was me, but not for a while.

I grew up in a relatively affluent and supportive family. My parents loved me, I did well in school, and I did theater and sang all the time (still do. Ask anybody). But I never felt right. I didn’t fit, somehow; in my body, my mind, this world. I never touched drugs and alcohol until college. I primarily used it as a method of quieting my mind, which would always be spinning, spinning. Then I used them for coming up and coming down and evening out. For me, my addiction was a “slow burn,” it didn’t overtake my life until later.

I had amazing experiences, studying abroad, traveling the world. I had incredible friends. I did things, went on adventures, performed in theater. But nothing was ever enough. It would have been better “if.” If only this person had or had not been there, if he had or had not said that thing, if only I had gotten that part/ job, if only my mother listened/acted as a “mother” should. If only he were someone else; if only I were someone else, then, THEN I would be happy.

I pulled unwitting geographics. One town must be the problem, so I’ll move to another. It must be the fact that I’m in a dead end job, so I’ll go to grad school! I can’t possibly still drink like that there? It slowed, but didn’t go away. It was like a dark mist, always at my feet and in the corners, waiting to envelop me. After graduate school, I got my dream job in SF. In two years I lost it and I couldn’t understand why. Certainly, I thought, it had nothing to do with my drinking as I never drank on the job. But I would come in so hung over that I would have to excuse myself daily to vomit in the alleyway, making sure that nothing splashed on my suit. I had a few good hours of productivity, and would then be shaking for my next drink.

Things got bad when I lost my job and professional identity. I barely left my apartment, except to get more booze and pills. I still lived under the delusion that because my meds were prescribed to me, even if I wasn’t exactly taking them as prescribed, I was obviously not an alcoholic. I am a gregarious person, with a garish flair. But lights were too bright and sounds were too loud and I couldn’t make myself fake the social interactions anymore.

It culminated in a wedding (thankfully not my own). My best friend from childhood had asked me to be her maid of honor. With the exception of almost falling down a hill and dancing more flamboyantly than was probably appropriate, I held it together. On the outside. On the inside, I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. I wished my life were drawn on a chalk board. I could be a line, easily erased, without truly impacting anybody else. If anything, it would be a relief to those I cared about. I knew, though I did not completely understand why, that people still loved me. And that my death would hurt them. That was my sliver of awareness and I asked for help.

Soon after, I was at the Knolls. I understood that I might not (maybe) be able to drink anymore (but surely in a year, right?). But the God thing? AA was for suckers, a cult, focused on God and people who couldn’t think for themselves. Surely I was better than that. The truth was – I was on the verge of killing myself, could not look at myself in the mirror without wanting to vomit, and found life pointless.

My first month at the Knolls I was ready to do this thing, in my own way and on my own time. I had gone to graduate school and held a big job, after all, how difficult could the assignments be? A few all-nighters and essays later, I should be done, right? Mike Neustadt, the owner of the Knolls, says that recovery is like watching the grass grow. I was begging for it to be quickly replaced with astro turf. I stayed a second month. Things, slowly, began to sink in. I got a sponsor. I agreed to go into sober living.

I followed directions. And I became willing to be willing. My spiritual experience was not a miraculous burning bush, but a slow awakening. The steps and the fellowship of AA have become an indelible part of life.

Since getting sober, true gifts have come my way. A job in my field, the opportunity to edit a bestseller, the apartment, the car (learning to drive!), doing theater again, puppy socializing. But the miracle is being able to look at myself square in the eyes in the mirror and respect the person that I see there. I can only do that when I actively live the steps and participate in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The actual miracles lie in watching other people come back to life. Witnessing the spark return to people’s eyes, a vivaciousness and smile creep back. Working with newcomers. And being present in my life without the “if only’s. . . ”

Life still happens, and it can be brutal. On January 7 of this year my father called me to say they had just found cancer. I hysterically asked, “What can I do?” I would move mountains, fly home, chop off a limb. He was crying as he said, “Just don’t drink.” As an alcoholic, my knee jerk reaction to horror is to get loaded. Instead, I used the toolkit I was taught to carry. I called a good friend who went through the Knolls with me and she took me to aftercare. I sobbed in the back of the room. The people of the Knolls, counselors, alumni, residents, knew and loved me.

I went to meetings and more meetings. I flew to LA and went to the same 7am meeting I go to when home for holidays. The people remembered me, they remembered my relationship with my family, how much my dad meant to me, how he helped to maintain my sanity in a whirlwind of familial craziness. Before I learned to drive 2 years ago, my dad would take me to that 7 am meeting every day that I was visiting and we would then go to the beach to play music and look for snowy plovers.

And then he passed away in the hospital on February 9. I have never been through anything like this. Past experiences had a buffer of booze and pills. But, I was able to show up. Sober. My mom, sister, and I were at his hospital bed and we played his favorite cds, sang songs, and told him stories. Even when he couldn’t hear me, I’d tell him I was going outside to call my sponsor or another woman in the program. That I would be ok. And, somehow, I even believed it. I was able to be there and be present in organizing the service and dealing with end of life details. People from that 7am Los Angeles meeting came to my father’s service. They are still calling to check up on me.

My father was an anchor in my life. We thought the same way, shared passions, made music. It’s been ripped away from and out of me. And it hurts more than I thought possible. It is this program, a connection (if sometimes tenuous) with a higher power, and fellowship that is carrying me through. The women of this program are holding me up. I thought people moronic who claimed that they were grateful alcoholics. But, today, I count myself among them.

2014 New Year Newsletter: Share by Dana C.

Hi my name is Dana and I am an addict. My sobriety date is July 16, 2006. I have a sponsor and have sponsored other women. I follow the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and have worked the twelve steps of recovery. I am honored and grateful to be able to share my experience, strength and hope with you today as I often feel as though I was given a second chance at life. I came to the Knolls trapped in the severity of my addiction and had lost control over my life. Addiction had taken away my sanity. I was in so much pain and despair, feeling so broken and very close to death. I left there 9 months later with a sense of serenity and hope for a new fulfilling and sober life.

If you had known me growing up, I was the last person you’d expect to end up in rehab. Always an overachiever, I did everything to the best of my abilities. I excelled in school, loved singing and theater, and shied away from partying. At that time, if you’d asked me what I thought an alcoholic or drug addict looked like, I would have described a vagrant living on the streets with no money, who without fail would be seen drinking from bottles covered in paper bags no matter the time of day. My uncle was an alcoholic. He didn’t live on the streets, but that was only because he often slept in our garage when I was young. I was frightened by him. I had no idea that an alcoholic or addict could be someone like you or me.

My experience with drugs is not like many others as it was short. I experimented with some alcohol and marijuana in college like many teens do, but for the most part I wasn’t into partying or clubbing. I was focused on my studies. While away at school I ended up in an abusive relationship, moved home and finished my bachelor’s degree at Dominican University while living at home. After school, I worked as a singing teacher and nanny while doing a lot of dance and musical theater, but always knew I wanted to go back to grad school to pursue a degree in Counseling Psychology.

Life was going well for me. I had moved out and got my own place and had landed a lead role in a musical. Since college I’d had a hard time opening up and trusting men because of past experiences, but the guy playing the male lead in the musical I was cast in seemed different. We worked closely during the show and subsequently took our relationship beyond the theater. At that point, there was no looking back. My addiction had set in, to this man and our relationship, and the drugs were just the next thing coming. When you think you love someone, you will do anything just to impress them and keep them by your side. I didn’t know that my boyfriend was a drug addict, and when he showed up at two in the morning with crack cocaine, I followed my heart and not my head, big mistake. Three months of heavy drug abuse took me to my knees. I had given up on life. I left my job, alienated myself from friends and family, lost twenty pounds, and was out of money. Because crack cocaine is highly addictive, people can become hooked quickly. The intense high of crack gets people craving the drug and as the disease progresses, the addict will lose interest in everything life has to offer, other than doing the drug. I needed help and rehab was my saving grace.

I entered rehab with the idea that I would be there for 30 days. I stayed nine months. Rehab was my safe place; no one could hurt me there and I had the support and guidance of counselors and other residents. I learned about my addiction and developed the willingness and courage to change. I realized by using drugs I was always trying to get the same high I had first experienced, and without treatment, serious health issues and death was awaiting me. I was chasing the “ultimate high” and death was chasing me. I was using drugs to numb the abuse and trauma I was experiencing while I was using and when I got sober I had to face my fears and pain which was scary and uncomfortable. The other major challenge I experienced at the Knolls was detoxing off benzodiazepines that had been prescribed to me for 6 years at a very high dosage for anxiety. The detox from them was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I shook uncontrollably and would cry all the time. Most people probably thought I was a histrionic or craved attention, but I could not control my own body. The Knolls is special in that it creates individualized care and treatment plans for each client. The counselors and staff were extremely patient and nurturing to me and for that I am forever grateful.

My family played an active role in my recovery by participating in the family program offered at the Knolls. My rehab experience provided the opportunity for me to reconnect with my friends and family as well as myself. There was time for self-renewal and daily reflection. During my time at the Knolls, I learned the value of compassion, love, support and forgiveness. I learned that addiction is a disease and it must be treated on a regular basis. When people are sick with any illness they have to take their medication in order to get better. An addict must do the same. Medication for an addict may be AA/NA meetings, working with a sponsor, doing the twelve steps, helping others, and having commitments to the community.

After rehab, it was suggested that I go to transitional living. This helped me to stay in contact with other sober women. It was a structured environment which helped me stay accountable for meetings, chores and working with my sponsor. After a few months, I was selected to be the house mother of the women’s sober house where I was offered more opportunities to help others. There I helped the women with problem solving, finding work, and staying sober. I was then offered the position of a sober companion to a fifteen year old girl who had just completed rehab. This was the most challenging, yet most fulfilling job I have ever had. When I met this girl she hated life, including her parents. I helped her with her homework, took her to activities, NA meetings, and tried not only to be her mentor, but a friend as well. The year started off rough and I felt as though I was their family therapist. I was very uncomfortable at times but I pushed through my discomfort because I just knew that I could get through to this girl one way or another. I am proud to say that today she is happy and sober. We are still in contact and I am so proud of her.

It has been a long, arduous, and self-revealing journey through my 7 years of addiction to recovery. I did fulfill my dream of going to graduate school and now have my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. I am currently working as a school counseling intern and obtaining the hours I need before I can get my MFT license. My future is completely open with possibilities. I am thrilled and inspired living life as a sober individual. And, for the first the first time in over 7 years I have a sense of self-confidence and respect for myself. This confidence reminds me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. It’s amazing for me to think back to where I was just 7 years ago and how far I have come. My addiction has made me a stronger, wiser, and a more understanding person. I am proud of my accomplishments and success. Early adulthood is about exploration, and sometimes mistakes are made. I have learned from my mistakes. Today I have knowledge of addiction and how it plays into violence and how it is a family disease. I have personally experienced the physical and emotional pain of addiction and have been exposed to and worked with many different kinds of people and family dynamics.

I am most passionate about working with people, especially children. I want to incorporate something so dear to me, music and movement, into an expressive arts therapy practice someday. I am excited for life today. I feel prepared, and am looking forward to what tomorrow has in store for me. I am committed to bringing passion and dedication to another adventure in my life.

Serenity Knolls helped not only my husband – but our whole entire family. We go back every year during the holidays to visit and not a day goes by where we are not grateful for where we all are now.

– Henriette C.