He told me he liked me A LOT. I believed him and when I was five he started sexually molesting me.  He was my babysitter’s son. I learned very quickly how to disassociate and escape my body. My dad gave me my first drink of Schlitz Malt liquor beer when I was six. I enjoyed the way it felt going down my throat. From then on, I drank any chance I got. I was also able to escape my body and the dark pain I was experiencing as my parents divorced. By age nine, I was introduced to marijuana. I liked that too. Then on to LSD, speed (diet pills), THC, hashish or anything else people told me I could get high on. I was willing to try anything.

Even though my life was very dark, with my mom getting beaten by my youngest son’s father to me getting hit by a boyfriend at 14, to me getting pregnant by a different boy at 15, having a horrific abortion only to get pregnant six weeks later, I was able to continue disassociating and escape my body. Despite the pain, my grades escalated and I excelled in school. While pregnant with my oldest son, I skipped the 11th grade, became a teenage mom at 16 and graduated from high school at 17.

I think the only time I didn’t drink and drug was when I was pregnant. Once he was born I was right back to getting high.

I continued to live with a dark cloud over me and horrible stuff kept happening. The only way I knew to cope was with alcohol or drugs. I started physically escaping, moving from Indiana to Los Angeles. It was there I started using IV drugs. First with diet pills and moving on to heroin and other opiates. I was 19. But I still went to college.

I continued on my downward spiral, having twins when I was 27. I eventually ended up in Minneapolis after having a fourth child at 30. All sons. And just me. ALONE. Running from my youngest son’s father who beat me.

It was there in Minneapolis that my life changed.

I got connected with a battered women’s support group. The facilitator sent me to a counselor there who told me, “You haven’t dealt with your addiction.” I thought he was CRAZY. He didn’t KNOW me! But he did. I left there and those words lived rent free in my head for several months.

I went back to him in January of 1994 and reminded him what he said to me. He gave me a sheet of AA and NA meetings and told me to go to seven meetings in seven days.  I tried. That did NOT work. I had a whole bunch of excuses: I am a single parent. I have little children. I am in college. I live too far to attend meetings.  At this time, my youngest brother came to live with me. I had no more excuses. I decided to try a few meetings. Then I stopped. It took until April before I was willing to go to any length to get sober. I had gotten laid off a job. I had gotten an abscess in my arm from sticking a dirty needle in it. (I was no longer using via IV- just intramuscular sometimes).

I realized I could no longer live this way.

I started going to AA and NA meetings daily. I was NOT sober. The 3rd traditions states, “The only requirement for AA/NA membership is a desire to stop drinking/using.” It took 30 days of daily meetings before I stopped.

I got sober at an AA Roundup. It was quite profound. I know I had a spiritual experience. Up until that time, nothing worked. Not treatment; not methadone detox or maintenance. Not cold turkey. But over 5000 alcoholics and addicts did.

I have been sober since that day; May 28, 1994! I was 34. Now I am 57. I will have 23 years of continuous recovery soon.

Recovery assisted me in becoming the first African American licensed electrician in the state of Minnesota.

In the middle of the night August 2003, I woke up with an inner knowing I should become a minister. I thought, “How could a person like me with the life I have lived do that?” I finally said yes.

Later, I came to Syracuse to pastor a church. The first evening after I started, I went to a place call SAGE Upstate to their women’s night out and through someone there, met the love of my life. She is now my wife!

This is what recovery looks like à happiness, laughter, no need to escape, being in and ok with my body, assisting others on their journeys, going to meetings, sponsoring, being a sponsee, meditation, prayer, vacations, loving my grown sons and their children. Basically living life on life’s terms with endless possibilities.

When I was a child I hated sleeping in the dark. I believed it paralleled my life too much. There were a lot of dark times, like a midnight sky without a moon or stars. Now, my life is full of light; I am no longer afraid of the dark. Recovery looks like being happy, joyous and free.