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Our Stories Have Power

My Story Has Power

June 28, 2014 as read to Ginghamsburg Next Step Service:

Hello, my name is Lori and I am a person living in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that I have not used any alcohol or drugs for over eight years. And because of that, my life is a whole lot better. I can’t wait to tell you how it is better, but first let me go back to the beginning.

I figure I had my first drunk when I was around 15 or 16. And I got drunk. A bunch of us girls had concocted a plan to get a ride to the zoo, bring in the little travel bottles filled with all kinds of alcohol, and have a day at the zoo, drinking and having fun. Somehow the ride didn’t pan out, so there was no zoo, no event. I found myself at home with a bunch of alcohol and nowhere to go with it. I remember opening my bedroom window, putting on some music, and drinking all those little bottles. And I got drunk.

Years later, here in Dayton, when I getting help through the Turning Point program, the one thing I remember them saying was that a good indicator of whether you are a good candidate for alcoholism, was that you got drunk the first time you drank. I figure I met those criteria.

My childhood was marked by two major events that I think would have had some kind of big impact on a kid. First, we moved in fourth grade and that meant a new school. A little Lutheran school, two grades to a classroom. As if that wasn’t enough, I became the only girl in my grade, which became a daily struggle of fending off rude comments and giving the boys cooties. That ended in 6th grade when 3 other girls started school there as well, but by then I was used to it and didn’t want anyone in my territory, worried that I would lose the attention I was getting.

The second event was my dad’s death due to a heart attack the summer before I was to start high school.  I was only 13. Not something that an adolescent, let alone my mother, now a widow, left with four kids, could understand.

The winter of my freshman year, I smoked pot for the first time on a skiing vacation away from home. When school started up again, I eventually replaced all my straight-laced friends with the cool ones.  By the end of high school I was smoking pot, cigarettes, drinking all kinds of hard liquor like mad dog 20/20, snorting angel dust, doing Quaaludes, speed and anything else my older brother told me to try. I even tried shooting up one time; they missed my vein, and I was relieved as much as I was terrified.

I hid it well, and did ok in high school. I went to SIU for college and stopped using angel dust abruptly, but got busy with school and college partying. I graduated with a near perfect GPA in 1982 as a graphic artist. So far so good, I thought.

Somewhere around 1990 I knew I had some kind of control problem with drugs and alcohol. I had quit the coke habit, but that left me drinking the same amount of alcohol, as when I was when I was snorting coke.  Without the coke to pick me up, when I drank, I almost always got drunk.

This is the point where I called Alcoholics Anonymous and decided I should see what this was about. I went to my first meeting, and when they found out it my first time, I felt like the vultures of a cult had descended upon me. They told me of how I needed to go to meetings, meetings and meetings and change my WHOLE life. I didn’t have time to do all that, not to mention I thought they were all nuts and part of cult with all their God stuff. I ran fast and far.

I did stop drinking by 1992 when my son was born, and for the next several years I experienced motherhood and the family life. It wasn’t until I got divorced from my second husband, a recovering alcoholic himself, and moved to Ohio from Chicago, that I thought, “I can drink now.”  By acting on that thought, I triggered an escalating drinking pattern that caused me to take a look at what I was doing.

The continued drinking, combined with regular cocaine use, had started to create the problems that we all know so well. Missed days at work, a DUI, suspect and judgment from the neighbors, cleaning up my social messes and disorderly conduct to name a few.   

It was Good Friday, Easter weekend 2006. The drinking started right after work on Friday and after a weekend of excessive drinking and drugging, my boyfriend and I were wondering what to do, how to stop… we needed to do something.  We had been up all weekend, but I suggested we go to church. We got more coke instead and, of coarse, I called off on Monday, and together we decided to get help.

For me, my bottom was about FEAR. The fear of not being able to be there for my kids if they got hurt; being too drunk to go to the hospital. Fear that I would get charged with negligence. Fear that I would hurt or kill someone driving drunk. The fear that I could arrested going and copping coke on the west side. I was thinking, “What mother does things like that?”.  Fear and more fear. 

I was full of fear, I knew I had a problem and needed help, but I wasn’t sure if I was in the alcoholic category. I had tried all kinds of ways to stop on my own. Some had worked for a while, but it was a struggle and never stuck. 

I went to Turning Point outpatient. They wanted me to go to AA meetings and gave me a book.  I told my counselor that I didn’t really like AA because they always went over the same stuff, read the same stuff, over and over. It was boring.  I “graduated” and continued to go to meetings.

I went to this one meeting a few times and I really liked what this one woman was saying. After about 3 or 4 times of going there, I decided to ask her to be my sponsor. I really didn’t even want one, but everyone tells you to get one, so I figured I would ask her. I had to practically run after her in the parking lot, and I said to her. “I was gonna ask you to be my sponsor, but I am afraid of what you are gonna make me do.” She said, “Read to page 58 and give me a call.”

And from there, the real growth started.  I did as she said. I learned that I did in fact have a problem. That it was a two-part problem.  A mental obsession and a physical allergy; I underlined, I wrote in the margins, wow, this was explaining everything and I could relate! They called it powerlessness. A lack of power. I kept reading and discovered that there was a solution. That solution was power, also two parts. The Fellowship and the Vital Spiritual Experience.

I learned that the fellowship is the testimony that the program works, but the Vital Spiritual Experience only comes from working all the steps in order. Twelve simple, but not easy steps. I did steps one to nine, one after another, not wasting any time. Now it was time to practice what I had learned.

I was taught how to rely on a Power greater than myself , to give up running my own show. I practiced tapping into this new-found power. When I was fearful, like making a hard phone call to my mom, I would ask this power to take away my fear, to make the words come from my mouth, that You know what I need to say, and to do it for me. And when one second of peace would come over me, I would press “dial”. And He would take over. He would speak for me. I found that this worked! And once it worked, I kept trying it. Then when some bigger situations came my way, I tried it on that too. And it worked. And so I came to rely on this Power greater than myself. And once I used it solve bigger problems, instead of drinking, I knew that I never had to drink again, because I had gotten through tough times tapping into that Power.

I went to that meeting for three years straight. I learned so much. I sponsored other women, and this completed the whole process, coming full circle.

Fast forward to about summer 2012. I found out my daughter was shooting heroin. Even with all my knowledge about alcoholism and recovery, this was the devil’s roller coaster ride that I hard time navigating. I got to thinking that if this horror has taken me for such a ride, imagine what it is doing to those who do not know about us. I made a decision to start a support group for families of addicts. The name, FOA, the logo, the tag lines, all of it, just came to me, really easy. God at work. I started a Facebook page and designed a website, neither of which I had ever done. I started putting our story out publically. I did this, because I read over and over about parents that had lost their child to heroin addiction, and that their message was, “Tell them you love them, and parents, say something,” So I started to say something. 

I had seen a quote that said, If you Want to Change, You Have to Willing to Be Uncomfortable. I believe this to be true. But I know that when I rely on God and tap into His power, I can be ok with uncomfortable. Trusting and relying on what His will is for me. And with this trust, I have been able to create FOA and become an advocate for change publically on how the people of Dayton perceive the addict and addiction. I think the biggest reason I can do this, is that I know my past is my greatest asset. Stigma and shame are not a part of who I am today, because of the AA way of life.

God is using my past as my greatest asset, and where I need help, I call on Him and He is there. I do the same thing now as I did in early sobriety. Asking Him to remove my fear, and to do it for me. And this works still, every time.

This trust and reliance has enabled me speak about heroin addiction in the same way Marty Mann spoke about alcohol years ago. To be a public voice to promote change. 

I am doing things that without my sobriety, I could never do. FOA is hosting the Anonymous People movie on July 15th at the Neon. The goal of the movie is change the public conversation from addiction to the solution. 23 million Americans have the solution, but the stories that the public hears are not of success, but those of failure and tragedy. The movie is a huge motivator for people like me and you, people in long-term recovery, to step up publically where we can, to form a recovery community. A community that helps the suffering cope and get help, so that they stand half a chance while waiting for treatment, or just coming out of treatment. A community that offers all kinds of paths of recovery, so that one can find the person that has what they want, and gravitate toward it, without it seeming like looking for a needle in a haystack. Recovery is a way of life so why would we not want to create a successful environment for recovery.  The Anonymous People is an awesome documentary that shows how this works and what the benefits are.

And to prove how great God is, after a chance meeting with a couple of guys marketing their rehab in Florida to people in Ohio, they gave my daughter a full scholarship to their facility including help with sober living after. They are going to help sponsor the First Annual FOA Rally 4 Recovery on September21st. Everything happens for a reason.

Trust in God and in the plan He has for you. Everything happens for a reason. 

Kyle's Testimony

           To begin, my name is Kyle Short. I am a grateful believer who was freed from bondage six years ago (July 1, 2008). I still struggle with anger and feelings of inadequacy. The Lord has been merciful to me and sometimes I also struggle with the reason I am still here. Mainly, what is it? How can I help others, what can I do to reach people who are in the shoes I used to wear? Where do I fit in to God’s plan? I can ask questions for hours, but sometimes we are not supposed to know answers until a given time. Even so, there are things we may not find out until all is said and done. This is my story of redemption….

            My old life, as many of you can relate, was a complete waste of time. I believe God will use my past as a stone or a shelter for others and He knew the steps that I would take away from what He wanted me to be, yet around eight years I struggled with substance abuse. My life was a constant lie, a complete farce. Everyone who knew me back then knew that I could not be trusted. I would steal from my best friends. I would take from my family members. The one’s who loved me unconditionally were also the one’s I would take advantage of. It was a never-ending feeling of living one dose to the next. Even after obtaining a large quantity of my drug of choice, I would be planning out what and where I was going to steal from next. The drugs always ran out quicker than expected.

            My past triggers no longer control me. Along my recovery, God has taken them from me. Nevertheless, these same triggers are shared in a room full of people seeking help. My father was never there for me. Not one time did he ever try to reach out and find me. I thank God for my mother, grandmother and every other family member I was fortunate enough to be born to. Even though I had all the love in the world from them, I still had a lacking in my heart. Self-esteem seemed to elude me. I developed loathing for what appeared as a reflection in the mirror. I kept these thoughts to myself yet I knew, or I thought I knew, that even though unspoken, others around me shared my view of myself. Unwanted. Abandoned. Neglected. All words that never truly applied, yet I gave them a place in my mind. The enemy knows our weaknesses and will do everything he can to make us feel less than what we are in the eyes of God and the people who care for us. Sometimes I believe I chose to suffer instead of believing the truth about myself. I think I got used to feeling pain because it was the emotion I felt most powerful, and the emotion I felt most often. This pain ultimately aided in making my choices of intake. I was shy, I didn’t know how to speak logically, let alone stand up for myself or my beliefs. I got walked upon, chosen over and left aside. I thought I had every reason in the world to numb this pain. And it all began at a young age.

            In 1997 I moved to a new school. I began my freshmen year at Carlisle High School and believed I was able to “reinvent” myself. I could be whatever it was I wanted to be. I could finally make a stand for my Christian beliefs and let people know who I was…. Everyone knew I believed in God, but I was ashamed to wear t-shirts that advertised my faith. I remember being afraid of who would see me at See You at the Pole and hiding my face when the students began arriving at school. The next year I got drunk for the first time, and that same night was the first time I smoked pot. The drinking was fun, but there was something about pot that really got to me. I loved it- everything about it. That is what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. A stoner I guess you could say. It was a way to escape my mind and feelings of inadequacy. It was short lived, but also only a few hits away to returning to that “peaceful place.” The small group of guys that I would hang out with a drink became a solo party because they wanted to be loud and social and I just wanted to smoke dope and play my guitar. This went on until graduation, increasing from weekend use to daily in a matter of a few weeks. I always worked enough in high school to have gas and weed. Everything else seemed trivial. I didn’t want to hang out or go to the movies with everyone. I didn’t want to go to the basketball games and even quit the team my senior year. Substance became number one. Before God and before me. It was shortly after graduating high school that I also graduated substances. I had tried the pills and hallucinogens, the uppers and the downers and most things you can put into a pipe, but there was one thing I really wanted to try and actually sought it out by myself. It was my final step. The most extreme thing I could do to get away from the pain and the voice that got louder throughout the year. The voice that screamed at me that I have no point of existence got more believable as time sped by. Life was more than a drag. It was a complete and total disappointment. I had an absolute lack of life. The more I smoked, the worse I felt when I would come down. The harder I partied the worse the hangover and feelings of regret. This final step would push me away farther than I ever thought I would go. It would cause me to do things that still hurt my mind. The peace I was seeking so eagerly was right in front of me all along, but I had to hit rock bottom before I would take a step in a new direction, and I was not there yet.

            The first few times you shoot dope, an overwhelming feeling of nausea hits you hard. You may spend countless hours huddled over or curled up next to a toilet or trash can. As with all feelings, they fade over time and the intensity is the only feeling left. I had accepted my role as a failure. I had deemed myself undeserving of anything meaningful. I knew I would never progress in life. Any dream or aspiration had long since passed away and hope was lost forever. My ship was not only sinking, it had been cast upon the rocks. No lighthouse could be seen, no search party would be sent. I had never been more alone in my life. The track marks became more frequent, and quickly, I got the sickness. I do not know how many days of continual use it takes to become a full blown addict, but the necessary amount of days had passed for me and a new title had been given: “junkie.” Unwanted. Abandoned. Neglected. Junkie. Useless. Worthless. The list went on and on. A few weeks turned into a few months which turned into eight years. I had brief stints of improvement, but I would relapse because I had not yet replaced my void with what is necessary and HAS to be done for absolute fulfillment and complete recovery. I had not yet submitted my life to the Lord and asked Him to break my chains of bondage. It can be hard asking God for forgiveness when you know you have constantly done wrong.

            I met my father when I was 22. I was in a band and we were playing at a bar in the middle of nowhere. The only things I knew about him were that I’m the spitting image and his name. I overheard a guy talking to another guy and he mentioned working for a roofing company owned by my father. It was the first time I ever heard someone say his name. I panicked. I pulled our singer over and told him what was going through my mind and I ended up talking with this guy, telling him how the guy he mentioned was my dad and asking him to give him our CD after I wrote my phone number on the sleeve of our album. A few days later I got a phone call and blah blah blah…. We met at a restaurant and instantly became great friends. The time had passed for any type of father son actual bonding time and we just hung out. And when I say hung out, I mean we smoked large amount of dope. It was the only bonding time I ever had and probably ever will have with him. I moved in with him. The first year was great. He was attempting to make up for lost time. Whatever I needed or asked for he gave me more than willingly. Although I never asked for anything particular, I only wanted to be around my dad. I began working with him and he came to almost every single concert we ever had. We got along amazingly. This was also one of my brief periods or sobriety from heroin. The first year we knew each other was my definition of perfect at the time. The first Christmas was amazing. He spent insane amounts of money on me, but personally, it truly is the thought that counts with me. I can’t take anything with me when I die, so what is the point of having a bunch of things that are not necessary? It was after Christmas that the secrets came out. He was also an addict. He struggled with uppers. I struggled with downers. The next Christmas he didn’t come home. It was a quick downhill from one year to the next. I moved out after a little over a year and a half living there and have only spoken to him a handful of times since then. He knows my phone number, but he doesn’t call. That feeling of inadequacy does nothing in comparison to what it used to do. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I am dust. I am a person just like anyone else. Titles, possessions, things… they come and go and will not matter in the end. Yet, at the time, it was every reason in the world to begin using again. And I did- harder than ever. I will not go into detail on the amount used on a daily basis. But it was substantial. I felt death nearer than it had ever been and he was closing in on me. I actually welcomed the thought of meeting death. The sickness was too much to bear. Even If I could last one day, I was much too weak to attempt a full blown suffering. I waited for my last breath. Yet, still I breathe.

            I remember getting the phone call that my Aunt Louise died. I was at my friend’s house shooting up in the bathroom. She was one of the few that helped raise me. My family is practically one handful of people and this was the hardest time I ever faced. She meant the world to me. She would send me cards for no occasion asking when I was going to come back to church but also telling me how much she loved me. I still have many of them. Regrets. No sense in having them now, they will only bring you down. I cannot do one thing about where I was at the time or that she was in the hospital for one week and I did not see her one time. Out of the top three people in the world that I loved, one of them was no more, and I did nothing to see her before she left this world.

            At her funeral I remember the stares I got. My cheeks were sunken, my frame had become of incredible frailty and I could barely even stand. It was mentioned that my funeral would be next. My mom used to call me and tell me she had dreams about planning my funeral and seeing me in a casket, cold and lifeless. Everyone seemed to be simply waiting for the inevitable. But God is mighty and willing to forgive if we simply call on Him and actually try. It is not enough that we ask for help, but we must actively seek out change. Friendships and habits must be broken before chains can be.

            On June 30th of 2008, I once again came clean to my family (which was my mother and grandmother). I had gotten the number of a facility in Richmond, IN that was an outpatient clinic and called them and they said they could take me tomorrow and all I had to do was show up. I was tired of fighting to breathe; I was weary of struggling to avoid the sickness and decided that my life was not over. If the only two options are to suffer or to die, the choice is easy. I completed my two year program in nine months and thanks to my grandmother driving me to Richmond every literal day, I am still here. It has been a long and windy uphill continual climb. But the battles are long since dead. I have my good days and my bad days, but I do not think about drugs anymore. I honestly haven’t thought about them in many years. I have too much to be thankful for. All my hurts have been replaced with love. All my pain has been exchanged for joy. All my scars have been healed. Because I chose to believe. I chose to believe in God and his power, and I chose to believe in myself and my abilities. “We are weak and He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me.”

            Throughout the whole “being clean process,” about a million things have been altered in my life and mind. Eight years of emotions came flooding in and I cried all the time. I had so much regret that it was weighing me down. When faced with a lifetime of disappointment, we must realize that nothing can be done to change the past. We must accept our current situation, understand that life could be worse, be grateful for what we are given and keep our head up. Persistence is what gives the underdog the courage and strength to succeed. Faith is what made David stand up to Goliath. Repentance is what gave Samson his strength back. Prayer and acceptance is what got Jonah out of the whale and back on track to where he was meant to be. Moving forward has to be done by ourselves; no one else can move us. This mentality is still being worked on in my mind, but it gets better every day. I went from not caring what a person does or doesn’t do, to being deeply impact by what a person does or doesn’t do. I care now more than I ever have before and that also grows daily. I do not believe in death. I do not believe in pain. They are a part of life, but I have no part of inflicting ill on any living creature, to the point of not touching animal meat or their products. I have been reborn and I will only give life, I will never take away life.

            My relationship with God… dramatic improvement. I still feel I can make more time for Him. I know He moves me, but I want Him to throw me into the ocean. I mean, I want to just be completely submerged and never return to the surface. C. S. Lewis said all good things come from God- and I wholeheartedly agree. I have come to accept that I, Kyle Short, in human form am a total failure. I know that my flesh wants me to be rude and uncaring, unsympathetic, conniving and careless, giving in to the world and what is has to offer. But God has altered my thoughts. My concerns for this world are astronomical. The abused, the helpless, the hopeless, the innocent… My heart breaks for the addicts, those afflicted currently, the ones who have been hurt by us and the ones who will someday become us. 113 people overdose fatally every day. There has to be a stop to this. God is the only way out. The consumption of my choices created a void inside me that would only be filled with another greater than or equal to substance, until I asked God to take its place. God not only filled the void in my life, He filled the cracks in my heart and adjusted my mentality. He restored my soul. One of the most important steps to me is realizing that I am not God. When we stop trying to figure everything out for ourselves, a way is made. Hebrews 12:12-13 says “Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” God knows our weaknesses and He may be asking for obedience before giving strength. I had to be diligent in order to regain my life back. I had to prove my sincerity. It was all or nothing. I wouldn’t have bet on me, but God did.

            Working with this program I am now able to give hope to others. I want nothing out of life but to help others. I want to be able to pay my bills, have a car that won’t break down, grow our own food and help others. That’s it. Those are my only goals in life. Nothing fancy or elegant or lavish. Just simplicity. I have nothing more than words that I can give to someone, but I am able to at every single meeting. I am able to meet people who either are still using or have been clean for a few days, weeks or months. I enjoy the honesty I seem to receive from people. After all, I’m just some dude. There is nothing special about me outside of God. God gave me the perfect family and the perfect wife. Someday I hope and pray to have more to give, but as of right now, it is only a story. The moral of my story is that God’s love never fails and there will always be hope. The sun will always rise in the morning regardless of how cold and alone the night may be. Storms will always be in our path regardless of sobriety, but without the rain a flower cannot bloom.

            My parting words are to have hope. If I am standing in front of you, or you are reading this from paper or another other means of these words entering your ears or minds, know that my battle has been won as long as I keep my head up and continue  looking forward. The same will always be true for you. I had to suffer for a period of time for the sickness to go away and my mind to return to me. But in comparison, it was a much shorter time than the time I spent using. Life will continue to improve as long as we continue to try. I have every possible ounce of faith in every single person in this world that will stand up for themselves and make a change! It might be a seemingly impossible choice, but this time next week it will all be over and life can start returning to what is should be. Read the Word. Pray. Even if you don’t know what to say. Never feel you are in no position to pray or worthless to ask God for anything. We sent His son to die for us even when He knew what we would do with our lives. He already knew about the choices you and I would make, yet Jesus died for us anyway.  He died for our sins, not our perfections.

            He believes in us, and I believe in us. Hope will continue to live on, why not choose to live with hope?