- Leading by example
Many years ago, I worked in the beauty industry as an esthetician and make-up artist while getting my psychology degree. It was during this time that I met my dear friend Kristie. I recently saw Kristie post on her Facebook wall that she was 2000 days clean and sober. Knowing that 2000 days was no small feat and an accomplishment many strive towards, I reached out and asked if she wouldn’t mind being interviewed about her road to recovery. She agreed and it is a conversation I will never forget. After exchanging the niceties, we got into the real talk:
Lisa: How long had you been an addict?
Kristie: I want to acknowledge that I will always be an addict. I am just happy to say that now I can add the word recovering to it. The first time I smoked marijuana I was 14 and that was the first time I drank too. The first time I did heroin I was 19. That was my drug of choice for 29 years.
Lisa: How many times did you try to get clean?
Kristie: More than I can count. I think we all try to do it on our own a few times but, then it’s apparent that that isn’t working. It took 8 times in rehab for things to click.
Lisa: What was it about the 8th time?
Kristie: I wanted it! I really wanted to stop doing drugs and stop ruining my life. I used to put a break in my schedule for lunch each day to go downstairs to the parking garage to shoot up before coming back in to finish my day. Every penny I made I used for drugs. I lived with my sister and so when I wasn’t working, I was in my room getting high. My patients used to tell me about amazing trips they were taking and I remember thinking I would never be able to go to those place because I would never have the money. I was in constant contact with so many people each and every day and I constantly felt alone and isolated in my world of drugs and solitude. I couldn’t take it anymore and I told myself one night that I needed to get clean or take my life because I couldn’t keep living that way. That wasn’t living. Do you remember when I quit?
Lisa: I do. You told me you had talked to our owner and requested time off to go to treatment. You weren’t going to be able to start until after we got our next check and you couldn’t go through withdrawals unless you were at a detox treatment center.
Kristie: I knew I wanted to get clean. I knew that you believed that I was going to get clean and, I went to treatment a day later when we got our checks.
Lisa: So, the other 7 times, did you not want to get clean and stay clean?
Kristie: I did but, I didn’t want it for myself. I wanted it for my family, mostly. I’m not saying they aren’t something that helps keep me going but, I needed to want it for myself. I think that is the most important thing and the only way anyone can stay clean and sober. You have to do it and want it for yourself.
Lisa: How often do you think about heroin?
Kristie: Every single day.
Lisa: How have you stayed sober for 2000 days when you think about it every day?
Kristie: I work my program. I put myself first. I stay focused. I go to meetings. I talk with my sponsor. I am a sponsor. I have a great support system around me.
Lisa: Tell me more about your support system? How did that come together?
Kristie: That was not easy. I had some family members and friends that were supportive but, I also had friends and family that were addicts too. I had to distance myself from anything and anyone that was going to jeopardize my recovery. That was scary. I had to make new friends that I knew would keep me accountable. I made a lot of friends going to meetings. It’s been my saving grace at times when I have felt triggered or around holidays when I didn’t want to be around family members that were using.
Lisa: What advice would you give to someone who is fresh out of recovery?
Kristie: Work your own program. There is no cookie cutter road to recovery.
Lisa: How has your life changed over these last 2000 days?
Kristie: Well technically it’s 2003!
Lisa: My bad! How has it changed over the past 2003 days?
Kristie: I’m a new person! I feel alive and grateful and full of hope. I’ve worked hard and have taken two amazing trips that I could finally afford to go on. I’ve met the love of my life and have been married for just under a year. I wouldn’t have anything that I have now if I was still using. I’m finally the person I have always wanted to be!
Lisa: Do you have a quote or saying that you could share with others that keeps you going?
Kristie: In the words of Bob Marley, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”