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[ Personal Narratives ]

24 Years Of Sobriety

                                                                With Vigilance

I am 1 week away from my 24th sobriety anniversary and I truly  marvel at the miracle, the changes, and all that the divine has given me. I feel some sort of full circle moments these days as I go to this beach that you see here and have a talk with God. I find such peace, contentment and calm when I sit on the bench and take it all in. Right across from this view is ‘The Shed’, a popular watering hole and one of my last public drinks. That was far from my last drink as I turned into a hermit-isolating, suicidal mess. I finished my Masters degree last spring by the grace of God. I am a straight A student and I put my all into whatever the task or requirement is-that and the good overachiever that I can be!!!

I reflect back to the 92 pound near death mess that I was upon my final surrender. I did the VietCong crawl into my last (please God) treatment center. My sponsor and her sponsor spoke sharply to me about needing long term treatment and I somehow found one of the only treatment centers in the country at that time where you take the children so affected by your using. My heart was breaking watching my then 4 year old stay by my side, trust me to step into the fear and the unknown, still supporting me and saying ‘Mom, don’t you know I love you no matter what?’ No wiser or more beautiful words have been spoken to me. The shame and the guilt were so overwhelming-something I can spot in any room or situation I walk into.

I had a series of ‘mini-strokes,’ not too mini when they happen to you. I could not recall my age and cried through the intake process. But the student was ready and the teacher appeared. I wanted to run everyday, and am eternally grateful to the women staff who loved and guided the craziest bunch of women you can imagine along with a grueling schedule of chores, lecture, meetings and the hardest part for this isolater-living with 48 people! I did threaten to leave often at first-but wanted to get sober more than I wanted to run.

It was a downtown LA buddy position I had with a woman who had 6 kids, had a relapse in 3/4 house-and the judge brought down the gavel-hard-and terminated her parental rights -permanently. I froze-had no voice-yet…and I will never forget the look on her face as long as I live. It took years, a college degree, much experience in the rooms  and especially my sweet sponsor telling me often to do this thing-everyday-with vigilance. How we tire of being looked at with contempt. Hate the disease not the person with the disease. She already hates herself believe me. I will not stay silent. Some of my greatest struggles are my greatest motivators. I actually was accepted to Hazeldens Grad school in 2006. I did withdraw after 1 semester (800 staff in different stages of recovery -need I say anymore). They speak to outcomes and money often. One of my Professors said the number of those who get sober and stay sober with no family support are zero. No-I am one-Ive had about enough of them anyway!! I am long done blaming Mommy and Daddy-she died from a lifetime of pain ills-so much self hatred its was pathetic, and ‘Dad’ (?) had not spoke to my insane little brother and I for 40 years. Yes, I contacted him when I was bout 12 years sober-telling him he was missing out on 2 of the best people I know-me and my beautiful daughter. He had never met her. She is the only grandchild, niece , anything. We aren’t big on commitment and reproducing-and she was God’s idea, not mine!! He met us along with the third wife-and he went right back out of our lives. But that child is the best gift ever!! She had a childhood, friends over, PJ parties and me 110%. You can break the cycle-it can be done differently.

I transferred to University in Minneapolis after Hazelden and got a job out in the field to work with severe and persistent mentally ill/chemically dependent populations. It was grueling, rewarding, heartbreaking and God did I qualify!! I have been so blessed with ole timers-they sort of circled the wagons somehow knowing ‘this one needs some parenting!! I have written several essay on ‘spiritual family/not biological and give thanks to all the Bob’s, Everett’s Rays, Emma’s Nan’s Susan, Barb,,,it goes on and on. I worked an enormous amount of hours, while finishing the Masters, always kept my meeting attendance up, always did service work, sponsored many others, practiced self care to the max, and was brought to my knees with utter exhaustion and a mysterious illness. After numerous tests and lots of fear and faith, I picked up Epstein Barr somehow (chronic fatigue syndrome). So my age was of benefit-I was just turning 60 and wanted to come home -the only home I have ever known. I waited patiently for all the paperwork to go through and came across an ad-house for rent-year round- ‘Frankfort’ Mich. Unbelievable-never happens in this tourist town. Right across from my old watering hole, right on my favorite beach and familiar spots.. and I write…..

Christine Campbell