I am 68 years old. I have been an addict all my life. I often think – if only I was introduced to NA at age 9 when I was kicked out of girl guides for stealing the cookie money my life might have looked different. Because for me the drugs were a solution to the behaviors I was manifesting even at that young and tender age. I didn’t understand it then – I am only beginning to understand it now – but there was always a gap inside me – an emptiness – a feeling of loss and being less than… So, when I discovered that I could fill that space with something that would numb me to the confusion – I was there with bells on.
There was no party phase attached to my addiction. It wasn’t all fun and games until I tried to quit. I went in at seventeen with my eyes wide open, looking for a release. I knew before I picked up my first needle that it would be both my salvation and my damnation. I had experienced my first pregnancy by then and the ultimate loss of that child. Years of prison, bad choices, abandonment, and trauma continued to dog my heels in the years to follow… the snake eating its tail… I used because of the grief and the grief was caused by using.
I had clean time… I managed 12 years while I was birthing and nursing my children… but no amount of treatment, no amount of self will, no amount of magical thinking could keep me from returning to active addiction. And why? Because I had never really looked at the root cause of my addiction. It seemed to me – over and over and over again – that if I could just stop using – if I could just get past the physicality of kicking my habit – I would be okay. I’d be on the straight and narrow… Insanity or what… doing the same thing time and time again ending in the same desperate spiral…
Three years ago, my mum committed suicide and my world came crumbling down. All my well-constructed lies and deceits – all the control I had over my drug use went to hell in a handbasket. And although I felt I was on top of things my family felt otherwise. They staged an intervention last June – thank God – and I found myself in the care of Westminster House. The stars in heaven were aligned for me that day. I do not say that glibly… They truly were.
This was not my first treatment facility. But from the beginning, it was definitely different. First of all, it was not co-ed. The best move my family could have made for me. The distraction of male/female interaction played a big role in my previous treatment failures. Then there was the social model of Westminster House… the women who surrounded and supported me from my first days to my last… the women to whom I could turn for honest and relevant feedback about my behavior. I needed the strength that was afforded to me in a setting where I would often be called to task… an environment where other women in addiction could uplift and help me while loving me and believing in me. It was also my first truly serious introduction to NA and the twelve steps that are the cornerstone of my recovery. I hoofed it to meetings twice a day – sometimes joyfully sometimes not – but I learned about community and commitment in those rooms. I learned about being accountable and kind and how to truly care about my fellow addicts. I learned that my recovery is a shared experience and that it belongs to everyone. I learned that I am not alone.
I was safe at Westminster House. Finding my true self amongst the debris of a very messy and painful life was often difficult and uncomfortable work. But my counselor (for whom I have endless love and admiration) and the staff (some of whom I now consider close friends) were always available to me with insight and compassion. I was introduced to things like acupuncture, meditation, and yoga – endeavors I would previously have scoffed at. But I knew that my previous attempts at sobriety had been failures and that in order to succeed I needed to put my faith in a new way of living. I needed to listen. I needed to be humbled. I needed to give up my hold on the past and move confidently into the present.
My life is now filled to the brim – first with a solid foundation in Narcotics Anonymous and then with my husband, my children, and my children’s children. I thank Westminster House for this. Truly. And without reservation.