Words of wellness: adventures in sobriety

Shannon is a sophomore at JSC and is a founder and active member of Northern Vermont Recovery Program (NVRP).

Hi, my name is Shannon and I am an alcoholic. By the grace of my higher power, I have not had a mind-altering substance since March 20th, 2013.

At a young age I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. I used these mental illnesses as a crutch to isolate myself from my family and my surrounding community. Which in turn left me feeling alone, ashamed, and incompetent. The best way that I knew how to deal with my debilitating pain was to drink and abuse drugs. That moment in time, when I allowed drugs and alcohol to be my savior, was when I lost all sense of self and gained all sense of selfishness.

By the age of fourteen I admitted to myself, and only myself, that I was an addict. I knew I had found a love for drugs and had no ambition to “break up” with the love of my life. I abused drugs as much as it abused me. I become dependent on them and allowed them to rule my way of life. My personal schedule, work schedule, family schedule, was all managed around my drug and alcohol use. I needed drugs and alcohol to function in my everyday life, and well before I could think of being of service to any one in my life.

The grip that I had on drugs, had a tighter hold on me that threw me into a deeper, darker place in my life. I became suicidal, and quickly did not feel a part of, or that I was wanted in life.  Due to that fact that I did not feel a part of life, I began to “wear” a different mask to fit into different cliques in school. I had my own personal “wardrobe” that I carried around with me. If I wanted to hangout with the “popular” group I’d pull out the proper “mask”. If I wanted to hangout with the “jocks” I’d grab the “mask” that suited me best and so on. This was a coping mechanism that I taught myself so I would be able to be a part of something, as well as to get outside of myself. Because I never really liked who I was.

This insidious game of “dress-up” finally came to an abrupt end when I was twenty-one years old. I had a family intervention the day after my family found out that I got in trouble with the law.  My “audition” gig was up, my war against myself was done, the curtain closed. My father, my step-mother, and my sister sat me around the kitchen table for my intervention. My family was finally able to tell me how much I had hurt them, how much pain I had caused, and how selfish I was. My sister told me that “if you don’t get your act together you will not be able to see your nephew”. This was my sister’s way of telling me that she and her family were walking out of my life and I wouldn’t be able to see my nephew any more. With those simple words telling me that I was going to lose the most amazing person in my life, was when I decided the gig was up.  I threw my hands up and I surrendered.

That was March 20th, 2013. And since that day I have surrendered to the fight against addiction. I have gained a new sense of self, self worth, and community. I have finally reached a point in my life that I feel that I am “enough” and that I am worth the life that I was given. This life that I have been given is second to none and I would not change it for the world. The life that I chose to have it based on a few simple principles that I have found to come true by; giving up my negative behaviors, giving back to the community, and being of service to other people suffering from the same disease that I have, alcoholism/addiction.

Being of service allows me to stay connected, help others, and especially to “feel a part of”. When I first got sober I was given a few basic suggestions as to how I can be of maximum service and a few of those were; give back to the community, help another suffering alcoholic, set up a 12 step meeting, and even make coffee. I took every suggestion that was given to me because I knew if I didn’t change my actions and do something different I would end up back in my old ways, abusing drugs.

Now, that a few years have passed I have been able to broaden my horizon by expanding my services. I volunteer my time to a recovery program that I, and a few others, helped to bring to Northern Vermont University-Johnson, called N.U.R.P. We work to spread the message of substance abuse and encourage support for people to gather who have been affected by substance abuse. I am also the Administrator/Manager for Vermont Foundation of Recovery, which provides sober living and transitioning back into society for people who want to live a life abstinent of drugs and alcohol. I, too, still work a twelve-step program and organize events for Young People in A.A.

This journey to a new way of live has not been easy, but it has been rewarding. My life is rich with love, and today I write this letter to share that there is hope on the other side.  If you are struggling with substance abuse or know of someone who does, just know that there is help for you. You are not alone.