When he went to college, Chris started to struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction. He decided to take a few years off to ‘find himself,’ but during that time his IV heroin addiction got worse. After many treatment centers and therapists, he was finally kicked out of a halfway house and ended up sleeping in parks around Boston.
Chris’ family refused to pick him up, but they found another treatment center for him on the West Coast. His bed was not immediately open, so his parents took him with them to a retreat with the renowned meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
The retreat was transformational. His heart felt like it burst open. He felt more engaged with life, more creative, and felt that life was worth living again in a different way.
Chris went to treatment, spent time in nature, and connected with others. He practiced mindfulness and meditation. As he got clarity, opportunities opened to him. He got sober and then built skills on his sobriety. Chris doesn’t think life gets any easier but that we get more tools to use. Meditation, 12 steps, and therapy became the tools he put his faith in because they worked for him.
Chris’ advice is to keep showing up. He learned more recently about self-compassion and tries not to listen to his inner critic. And he suggests trying to tune into more helpful thoughts, which can be a more powerful voice until we discover our inner compassionate voice that will help us through hard times.
Gregory Pardlo, poet and author of Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America, describes his family history of alcoholism and believing that he was above it, which wasn’t true. It wasn’t until his early 40s that he hit bottom and started going to 12-step program meetings. When he could finally say his truth out loud in front of others: “I am an alcoholic,” it was both liberating and empowering. After hearing many stories in meeting rooms over the years, he knows that his story is not unique and believes there are always grounds for forgiveness. He encourages anyone with an alcohol problem to ask for help, as people are eager to give help. In fact, their own sobriety depends on their ability to invest in others.
Stephanie Malia Krauss, mom, educator, social worker has been sober for more than two decades. She describes growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent and drinking at the age of 14 to escape the reality of her home life, the community’s judgment, and to be taken care of. She had a choice forced on her at 15 by her school counselor and non-alcoholic parent (home for runaway/homeless youth in NJ or rehab in FL) that led to a stint in rehab in Florida. That decision radically changed the trajectory of her life. She grabbed everything recovery offered — tools, strategies, community — and a new plotline emerged in her life that required all that she had experienced up to that point. She learned the importance of community, self-care, and self-advocacy, and believes that sobriety is a wonderful way of life.
Grow Through It: Adoption, Child Abuse, Substance Abuse, Opiod
Kevin Barhydt, author of Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother, describes the primal wound he experienced being adopted when he was born. He recounts being molested as a child, raped as a teen, and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol as a young person. It was not until years later that he came to terms with feeling abandoned, not wanted, and understood the effect the adoption had on his self-worth. “An adoptee alone is in bad company,” he says, and attributes turning his life around to therapy, 12-step programs, and a community of adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive families. His advice: “Do not do this alone.”
Grow Through It: Substance Abuse and Opioid Crisis
Jim Brown describes his journey from narcotics addiction to alcoholism to recovery. Over the years, he experimented with therapy, medication, hypnosis, and even a 12-step program to stop drinking. After he took his last drink, he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated back to life and put on a ventilator for several days. After bottoming out, he committed to a 12-step fellowship program. He says sobriety is hard work and he credits his daily work with his recovery program, his “Team Jim” that supports him every step of the way, and his relationship with a higher power.