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 National Recovery Month.
Recently, a lot has changed in regards to the way we talk about addiction within our society. For instance, using the word addiction is now considered taboo. If you are in the know, you call it substance use disorder. Furthermore, we now use the word recovery to describe one’s journey from the desperate pits of drug and alcohol use and down the difficult road to the relief found through sobriety. Perhaps one of the biggest shifts in the scene can be represented by the fact that I am even writing about substance use here, and more to the fact, writing about my own substance use. Exposing my own dirty little addiction laundry right out here in black and white for all of you to read. For decades, getting sober has been somewhat synonymous with remaining anonymous, and understandably so; no one wants judgment from employers, neighbors and the like.
So, what’s my story? My use started at the very young age of 10 years old. Initially, it started with your good old gateway drugs pot, alcohol and cigarettes. Not long after that, two years to be exact, I began experimenting with the harder stuff: speed in the form of crank. During most of the years of my budding youth, my substance use would include mostly anything that I could get my hands on, mainly methamphetamines, but also hallucinogens, and always alcohol and marijuana. Sometimes, my friends and I were so broke and so desperate for a high that we would raid our family’s medicine cabinets, choking down disgusting mouthfuls of cough syrup and popping random pills just to obtain a head change. When I turned 16 I began to feel the strain of my lifestyle. It seemed to me that my life was going nowhere, and I started to wonder if it was even worth living at that point.
Fortunately, I reached out for help and got sober. Taking a reprieve from using for the next few years, I was able to finish high school and come to know some sort of stability, though short lived. At the age of 19 I moved to New Orleans and once again fell into a party lifestyle, consuming copious amounts of alcohol and drugs like MDMA, cocaine, more hallucinogens, opium and the like.
For the next decade my life would continue like this. I moved back home and continued to party, while somehow holding down a full-time job and college class load. Yet again my lifestyle began to catch up with me in the form of criminal charges and broken relationships.
In the years 2011 and 2012, I decided to obtain my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and move to Alaska. My drug use had calmed down somewhat at that point, but I was still a raging alcoholic. Finally, I caught a felony charge just one year from graduation from University of Alaska Southeast. In a flash, I believed that I had destroyed everything. And I saw that once again I needed help. Over the next four years I would participate in the rigorous Juneau Therapeutic Court program, get sober, finish college, and begin a job at the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
I now run a Recovery Community Organization called Great Bear Recovery Collective at JAMHI Health and Wellness. I help people get sober, stay sober and feel happy again while doing it. Most people that know me now aren’t aware of the past I have led, this is one of the reasons why I speak out. Many of us that are in long-term recovery blend right in. You would never know us unless we told you.
Times are changing and these days recovery is in. Many of us are beginning to break the silence and find the courage to tell our story. We hold signs, wear shirts and literally shout it out that yes, WE ARE IN RECOVERY! We have fought the good fight, and won. Wouldn’t you, if you had been to hell and made it back against all odds, want the world to know? But more importantly wouldn’t you want those you had left behind in those hellfire pits of addiction to know that there was hope.
• Carrie Amott is peer support coordinator at JAMHI Health and Wellness and chair of Great Bear Recovery Collective.