The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 21, 2019 1:00 am

Recovery - and revelation

'Rock bottom' also offers opportunity to start new life for those who choose to follow the signs

Mary Collins

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

– Brene' Brown


The question is always the same. At my lowest point, I was overcome with guilt and shame. I asked my counselor to please help me understand, “Who does this?”

The answer: “Mary, you asked, and God has forgiven you. Isn't it time you accept, and see the miracles in store?”

I now know that falls are inevitable and rising is a choice.

We all have a cross to bear. Whatever yours – more money, better figure, prejudice, power – it's real!

For me, the once-casual glass of wine became the solution for soothing stress, numbing pain, calming anxiety and getting to sleep.

Until it didn't.

When the line between want and need blurred, the results became catastrophic.

In the blink of an eye, I went from reporting the headlines to making them.

I was overcome with self-loathing and pity. What I had done and who I'd let down only fueled my destructive behaviors, preventing me from breaking the cycle.

There's no doubt that facing the embarrassment of this demon in the spotlight complicated my healing, but today I hope my story provides a healing path for helping others.

Overindulging is not flattering or feminine, yet alcohol abuse in women increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013, according to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

I did not get here alone, and I don't intend to enjoy this new life without paying it forward.

Addiction is never glamorous. More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States, but fewer than 8% of those receive treatment.

If you've ever asked yourself whether your drinking is problematic, then, at the very least, drinking is probably not serving you.

And if you fear a life without alcohol, here's what my less-than-expert, but raw and humble, experience wants you to know:

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Don't give up. Nothing great works overnight. Remember you are not alone.

Pray! God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

If you are not a person of faith, make a gratitude list. You'll be amazed at your blessings. Get out of yourself by doing something, anything, for someone else. Get physical, walk, jump, run or breathe.

Finally, find a friend to take you to a meeting and/or reach out to a mental health professional.

In writing this, I wanted you to know the first step is hard – and it is. But as my son reviewed my words, he felt I needed to add, “and sticking to it can be even harder.”

He's right. It's this honesty that keeps me grounded and wants you to know whatever humility you fear pales in comparison to what you're living now.

Just like anything new, the climb may not be easy. Stumbles are inevitable, but rewards, miracles and your best life await.

If we don't transform our pain, we risk projecting it – usually to those we love most: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.

I'm the lucky one. Life as I know it didn't begin until I hit rock bottom.

I believe that every time a person in recovery shares their story – experience, strength, and hope – they help create an environment that makes it easier for more people to get help.

So whether it's speaking publicly, helping another one on one or staying active in our local recovery organizations, I do everything I can to give back what's freely been given to me.

My challenges aren't fewer because I stopped drinking, but my ability to deal with them constantly improves.

I see this new chapter as one always revealing itself to me.

I no longer see not drinking as a limitation. Instead, it's an invitation for a new way of living.

Freedom, happiness and joy can all be mine, but only if I allow.

Mary Collins is a broadcast journalist and recovery advocate.

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