My name is Carolyn, I am an alcoholic.

These are words I thought I would never say, something they saved only for the movies. But this is a frequent phrase for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let me back up a little and tell you what it was like for me and what I went through to get to this place of content, gratitude and acceptance.

I spent my child hood in a town called Glen Ellyn, is a suburb of Chicago. Two generations attended the local high school, Glenbard West. It was a white picket fence kind of town and our family blended in just fine. I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I went to wonderful schools with caring teachers and developed healthy loving relationships with friends and family. I feel like my story is even more testament to the fact that addiction is a disease and some are pre-disposed to having it no matter how ‘normal’ your life is. Addiction does not discriminate against race, color, gender, religion, education, creed, stature. It really does not care who you are, where you came from or where you are going, it just wants you dead.

My parents did end up divorcing and my mother moved us north of Chicago, the North Shore to be exact. What a change for me that was. If I thought Glen Ellyn was hoity toity then moving to the North Shore was like being rocketed into Pleasantville USA. The women were house wives and the men were high executive businessmen.  My dad was very laid back and my mother worked full time to make sure we had everything we needed to make it in this new town.

I missed my friends and I hated my new school. I spun into a whirl wind of depression and was in and out of institutions throughout my time at New Trier. What started out as drinking and smoking pot quickly escalated by learning of new drugs from institutions and treatment centers. I found myself shooting heroin and had no idea how I got to that. My drug and alcohol abuse continued on for years to the point where my family was backing away from me, I was continually getting into legal trouble and I was so sad and miserable all of the time.

I was asked to leave DePaul University in Chicago, had moved around from apartment to apartment in Lakeview, Ukrainian Village, Rodgers Park and Uptown, convinced that the new home, job or school would make everything okay.

A series of events led to an intervention with 20 of my closest family members who basically told me to go to treatment or get out of their lives. They had enough. Their daughter/sister/cousin/friend was killing herself and they would not ‘wait around’ for it to finally end. I agreed to treatment and that got me to The Florida House. The first time I went to Florida House was in October 2012 I spent 30 days there and checked out. Florida house gave me everything I needed to succeed but I did not have the gift of desperation just yet. I held onto my old ideas and thought that I could still do it my way (the same way I had been doing it for 24 years) but this time it would be different. I had self-awareness. I knew my stopping point now, that when I was getting close to the edge I would just back off. So after spending 4 months in Florida (1 in treatment 3 in half way) I hopped on a plane to rejoin my son and his father. I got drunk before the airplane even took off and was driving downtown when I landed to score heroin before I even knew what hit me. I ran for less than a month shooting dope before I was kicked out of my house, out of money and crying to my therapist on the phone wondering how I got to this place again. Florida House saved my life. They got me on a plane, accepted me into treatment and this time I stayed for 2 months and continued onto their Phase 3 program for women. The Phase 3 is run by Peter Marinelli and Marion Weston and lasts for 3 months. There I developed my relationship with God and worked through the 12 steps of the AA program. Florida House gave me the ability to work through my feelings of unhappiness and discomfort which I have felt my whole life then Peters Program gave me the relationship with God to accept those feelings and push through them. Today I have a job I am proud of, a place to call home and a healthy functioning relationship with my family and son and most importantly a relationship with myself and with God. I miss Chicago like crazy and I might return there or I might not, I know that God has a plan and His plan is perfect for me. Plus, Florida really has its upside when you talk to your family in the dead of winter and it is 20 degrees in Illinois while it is 75 and sunny in Florida.

Today I do not have any feelings of regret, thoughts of what if or why me. Sure I have my ups and my downs but I’m only human. The blessing that is recovery is that my highs are not drug induced and my lows are not life threatening. I have gratitude for the places I have been, hope for the places I am going and faith that the road in between is purposeful.

Chicago, Illinois