sobriety

The Anonymous Letter

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I am a mother, a wife, a sister, daughter, friend, a business owner, an author, a media expert, an All-American athlete and a recovering drug addict with 25 years clean and sober.

I have spent half my life being of service to others. Through my work as an interventionist, I have fought on the front lines of the disease, waging the war against addiction. I have been transparent about my story and my recovery, in my writing and in the media with the hope and mission of inspire others.

I have felt so much support from people across the world. I do not know most of them but none are strangers. Through, emails and social media, I have felt carried and encouraged in my career as well as my personal life. I have also have received a lot of hate. People can be very unkind and send incredibly ugly messages. I have been tormented, stalked and targeted by strangers. I have learned to have a thick skin but it took some time. In the beginning, it was very painful and shocking to feel, read and hear such hateful words and messages. One of the most painful was a comment saying “I don’t blame your husband for killing himself. If was married to you I would want to die too.” I am a professional but also human and that comment stayed with me for years. I will never forget the feeling in my stomach as I read those words. They actually took my breath away. For a few days, I considered retreating from the public eye but with support from my friends and family, I refused to back down or to turn back. I have a message to share and inspiration to offer, not only though my profession, but in how I live each day. I do my best to do good in the world and to be kind, and loving. I do not do it perfectly, but I do the best I can. However, I will not have my personal story of addiction and recovery mistaken as a sign of weakness.

I will not be silenced or bullied.

The second most unforgettable verbal assault was a few years ago when I received an anonymous letter saying I am 'a filthy derelict drug addict who deserves death.' Anonymous went on to say that 'every addict is the dirt and down fall of our society.' Anonymous wished me 'failure and relapse.'

Without any return address or identifying information I responded with an open letter on FB.

Dear Anonymous:

There is nothing you can say to me I have not heard a thousand times before. Your words roll off me, easily, smoothly without question or pain.  

I am a woman who knows the desperation of needing a drug so badly you are willing to die for it. I have been a lair, a thief, a derelict living off the scraps I found in dumpsters and the change dropped in my Styrofoam cup, on the street corner. I am a woman who broke the hearts of the people who loved me most, promising over and over I would be different, only to sneak out the back window, in the middle of night, not be heard from for days, weeks or months.  

I am also a woman who is a mother, a friend, a trustworthy family member, a business owner, making it my life's work to help addicts and their families, an author, an All-American athlete and an all-American drug addict, with 25 years sobriety.  

We derelicts and scourge of society are your law makers, school bus drivers, teachers, CEOs, government workers, fireman, union workers, nannies, doctors, nurses, lawyers and neighbors, to name a few. We are everywhere, living sober, bright lives full of love and laughter.  

I know this, that those who spit hate, have hate in their lives. My guess is you are addicted or have been hurt or abandoned by an addict.  

To this I say, if you are addicted, there is hope. You can find recovery. Change is possible. You do not have die the cold, painful, lonely death addiction guarantees. There is an expansive and beautiful life for you outside the small dark hole, from where you wrote your letter.  

If you were hurt or abandoned by an addict I am truly sorry. Addiction is an awful ugly disease and we cause incredible hurt to the ones we love most. My addiction changed and altered the lives of my family and this heavy and painful truth I still carry with me today, over two decades later. Whatever happened, it was not personal to you and I am certain you did not deserve it.  

I hope you find your way to heal the hate in your heart, find peace and live a better life. And next time you send a letter, sign your name. Be proud and own your shit.  

You have caused me no pain. You have only refueled my energy to wage the war against addiction and fight for addicts everywhere. We are an exceptional group of individuals of which I am very proud to be a member. Your letter inspires me to shine brighter, love deeper, live bigger and continue to thrive in recovery. For this, I thank you.

I will save a seat for you, keep the fire burning and when you are ready for recovery, I will be here. Until then,  

Fuck off.  

Sober and Shameless, Kw

Everyone is so Beautiful on Instagram

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"Everyone is so beautiful on Instagram. Their lives look so perfect. What is wrong with me?" my 17 year old female client said.

We as a culture are assaulted everyday with pictures of perfection. Photos that are edited with filters and lighting posted with quotes of the great spiritual giants, of past and present, raising the bar of everyday life so high, that no one can achieve it. Our teen girls are comparing themselves, their value and purpose to the Instagram feeds that display perfect bodies, perfect relationships, and perfect lives.

We need to teach our girls not to believe everything you see on social media. No life is perfect. Everyone will experience pain and loss in their lives. Every body is flawed and it is the flaws that make us unique. Eating gluten free bagels and drinking green juice, posing for photos, in some of the most beautiful places on earth does not mean a person has life figured out, or is on higher spiritual plane. Trust me, gluten free bagels taste like cardboard and green juice will give you diarrhea, if you drink too much.

What Instagram doesn’t show:

High school can suck.It can be painful and girls can be mean.

You will have days that you miss your lunch because you are hiding in the locker-room with your beautiful face buried in your hands, because your best friend snap chatted a party you were not invited to.

You will be left out at times.

You may have your heart broken by the boy you have had a crush on since 7th grade.

You may fail a test, or a class, or mess up on that stupid useless dance routine you have to learn for PE.

Your tampon may drop from your bag in front of the football team, turning your face bright red and your legs and arms will feel numb with searing embarrassment.

You might not be invited to prom, and the dress you bought in hopes that the cute boy from math class just might ask you, will hang in your closet. Unworn. Or maybe that cute boy from math class, will ask your friend to the dance. And she might say yes. It will hurt but it will pass and you will survive.

You might have sex for the first time, drunk at a party, with the totally hot senior, that all the girls like, only to be ignored the next day.

And you will fight with your parents, screaming that they don’t understand you, slamming your door and dive into your bed, safe under the covers, watching Netflix and hiding from the world.

Most of the time you will walk around feeling lost, confused and awkward, doubting yourself, trying to hold it all together, smiling widely, so no one actually knows how lost, confused and awkward you feel.

And at the end of all this, on your bed at night, you will look at Instagram and Snapchat, and all the stunning pictures of perfect bodies and lives, only to end up feeling less than everyone else. Do not go to battle with IG, by comparing your insides to the outsides of your followers, you will lose. Every time.

The pictures you see on social media platforms are only pictures. It is not real life but an image captured, in perfect time, to show a perfect story in a seemingly perfect life.

The most unforgettable moments will be captured in your mind and on your heart, not on a camera. The feeling of a first kiss, when your knees go weak and your head spins with exhilaration, the feeling of passing your Chemistry final after weeks of anxiety and hours of studying, and the feeling of your mom or dad, sitting at your bedside, touching your back gently and reminding you how much they love you, cannot be captured in a video or a photo.

Do not believe what you see. Behind every perfect photo is a great camera. I promise, in only a few years from right now, no one will remember how drunk you got at the senior prom, kissed a boy that was not yours, and threw up in the back seat of your best friend’s car.

Life is not an Instagram feed.

Sober and shameless, Kw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failure and Success

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In our relapse prevention group the question of success and failure often arise. Many clients
struggle with the feeling of failure as a consequence of relapse, feeling crippled with shame.

I do not believe in success or failure. I believe in experiences. Some more enjoyable than others, but all of them opportunities to learn and expand as a person. The terms success and failure are a creation of ego and a social barometer of a value of a person and their choices. I moved away from the labels many years ago.

Relapse is not failure. It is a deeply shaming to attach the judgmental term to a disease and the
process of recovery. This belief keeps people from seeking help once relapse has occurred and is a breeding ground for the internal torture that cripples’ addicts from ‘coming back’. Shame is the universal haunting of the addicted mind and the most powerful kindling for the raging fire of self-hatred and regret that follows a relapse episode.

We need to move away from viewing relapse as a failure.

When guided by a trusted professional, relapse can be a turning point in a person recovery.
What is viewed as a failure or a setback can be the greatest lesson in a person’s life which in
turn, can lead to lifelong sobriety. There is no shame in relapse, only an opportunity to learn.
Full Circle is a safe and inviting place, for clients to return for help, guidance and inspiration. If we can can make it as simple and gentle to return to treatment or self-help programs, by dispelling the belief of success and failure, reducing shame, addicted men and women will return and will begin again.

In my 24 years sober I have learned that I can never sit in judgement of another’s path. I believe that my spiritual and professional purpose is to keep the back doors to recovery as wide open as the front. My many years working in the treatment industry, have shown me, that although I may not be able to understand the journey of another, I am in no position to question it but rather help guide through the emotional mine field and help find the life lesson.

Some of the most considered successful people I know, are the least I admire and equally, some
who are considered failures, those who struggle and continue to fight for themselves, are my
greatest teachers. Once I let go of defining my experiences, both professionally and personally,
as successful or failures, life became a playground. A wide-open space to try new things, take risks, to say yes to opportunities that are terrifying and to fall down and get up again. I have said yes to every opportunity that has presented itself along my way, no longer afraid of failure but open to the challenge to face my fears, be brave and learn humility. I take no pride or shame in the outcome of any of my adventures, in life or career.

No longer defined by the terms and labels, I am truly free, to live large and be brave. Since letting go of any attachment to the outcome of my choices, or how others view me, life has become an arena of endless opportunities. I hope to inspire others to say Yes. To be unafraid. Take risks. Be uncomfortable. Be brave. Play, Struggle, stand still and hurt, take chances and through all of life’s experiences, evolve into people who simply, inspire others to live. Relapse is not an end but the beginning of someone new. I will stand my post, without shame or pride, hold the doors of recovery open and keep the fire of hope burning. Come home. We are waiting.

If success and failure, are illusions, what would you do with your one life?

Sober and shameless, Kw