Editor’s Note: The Empire is publishing a weekly column from members of Juneau’s recovery community, in coordination with Great Bear Recovery Collective, to highlight September as National Recovery Month.
I prefer to keep the addiction and recovery aspects of my life private, however, in respect to September being Recovery Month I would like to speak a little bit about how I saved my own life.
I am a born and raised Alaskan, originally hailing from Southeast lands. I was taken from an unfit mother after being exposed to many horrors a child should never have to withstand. I met my mom and dad (the amazing parents who raised me) when I was 3 ½ and they fought to keep me as their daughter for five years. There are no other people who have fought so hard for me, and without them I would have been lost.
Relapse is not a part of everyone’s story, but it is a part of mine. One thing I was told a long time ago was that we can lose our clean date, but we never lose our recovery. A combination of depression, ADHD and other factors fueled my using at a young age, which landed me in treatment out of state at age 15. It was there that I began my journey into recovery. At 16, I came home and my mom started homeschooling me — without her I wouldn’t have received a diploma. Then when I was 17, I was prescribed a rather generous regimen of pain medications for chronic pain and in a short amount of time I was living a lifestyle of active addiction, which led me to jail.
Jails, institutions and death, oh my! That’s the prognosis for every addict I have ever met. At this point I’ve experienced two out of the three, including a large helping of sketchy situations, close calls and a few hospitalizations. My point of surrender was a moment in my life six years ago where I found myself closing my eyes in vigorous prayer as I truly wasn’t sure if I was going to live or die, truthfully knowing I was powerless over my own life. I remember that feeling in my heart, and I continue to hold onto it because “But for the Grace of God, there go I.” I put myself in treatment shortly after that moment of clarity, once again resuming my journey into recovery. While in treatment I found my higher power and my understanding of her will continue to change and grow for the rest of my life – I choose to live a spiritual, not religious, life. I began to learn how to find my own new way to live. In admitting my own powerlessness, I discovered just how powerful I am. I chose to be an active part in saving my own life.
I was 30 days clean when I became pregnant with my firstborn. It had always been my heart’s desire to be a mother, and though I didn’t at first feel I was deserving of such a beautiful, amazing blessing, I quickly showed myself I was. The first time I held my son, I knew I had never felt any truer love. My child has never known the horrors of a lifestyle in active addiction, and he has an energetic and engaged mom who he knows loves him more than anything. My son is now 4, and hundreds of times a day I get to hear, “I love you, and I need you — we are best friends!”
The importance of family and respect is paramount in my teachings to my son, so giving him the opportunity to be raised near his grandparents, great-grandparents, aunties and uncles in such a cultural hotspot as Juneau I knew in my heart would be good for us. I fought in court to be allowed to do so, and he and I have flourished in this community.
My new way to live may not be the same as anyone else’s, and that’s OK. My way includes showing up for myself, being a mom, loving my family, honoring my elders, being of service, respecting myself and others, providing for my family, outdoor meditation, taking care of my body, mind, heart and spirit, learning and growing. We all have our own way, and I hope every addict suffering finds their way.