Denise_Connelly.jpgSeptember is Recovery Month. For me, it is a time of reflection, because without recovery, I would not be writing this.  I am amazed by the changes that have taken place within me and in my life as a result of staying clean and working a program of recovery to the best of my ability, one day at a time, for over 28 years now. 

I was a very anxious, self-conscious kid, who for some reason believed I had to be good…or else. I had severe separation anxiety and was afraid of everything. I had no self-esteem. Then in middle school, I discovered “gateway drugs,” and realized that getting stoned took away that anxiety and self-consciousness. I clearly remember the moment in time when I “found the answer” to my shyness. Fast forward ten years, and I can also remember the moment in time when I realized that I was an addict.

I had been going to a 12 step program for about a year before the first step — admitting that I was an addict — worked me. I didn’t go to meetings because I thought I had a problem. On the contrary, I thought I was “fine” because I went to work every day, paid my bills, took care of my daughter, and was, you know, “functional.” Truth be told, I went to meetings because my friend was on the “pink cloud” of happiness that many experience in early recovery, and I wanted to see what all the excitement was about.

I didn’t think I had a problem, but I listened. I was moved by the level of honesty with which people shared their life histories out loud and in public. I related to the feelings that drove people to use or keep using, and eventually came to accept what I did not want to be true–that I was an addict. I have been clean ever since.

I struggled with the realization that I was an addict. I was ashamed and horrified, because at that time, I believed in the negative stigma that surrounds addiction. But today, I am proud to be a recovering addict. In fact, I am grateful for my addiction because without it, I would not have found 12-step recovery. Recovery has given me a life that I could never have imagined for myself and has afforded me the opportunity to help others who struggle with addiction. I am passionate when it comes to my recovery, helping people who suffer with addiction to find their recovery, and reducing the stigma that still surrounds addiction. 

I find it difficult to describe my passion for recovery in a single paragraph, as the changes in my life have been monumental. As a result of working the steps and practicing them to the best of my ability, I have become authentically ME. I no longer feel like a “fake” waiting for the proverbial “they” to figure me out. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am able to tolerate painful feelings, even unbearable grief. I am able to walk through fearful situations and know that I will be okay. I am able to trust and am trustworthy. And, most importantly, I am able to have meaningful, healthy relationships where honest and open communication is the norm. 

September may be Recovery Month, but recovery takes more than a month; it is an everyday, on-going process. It is more than remaining abstinent and going to meetings. Twelve step recovery programs are just that – 12 step programs. The steps may be intimidating or off-putting at first, but given the chance, they provide a conduit for self-exploration and meaningful change. 

There’s more to the steps than meets the eye. Don’t let the fear of opening up about your past, or skepticism about a new belief system keep you from exploring an opportunity that just might save your life. What have you got to lose?


Denise Connelly is a licensed clinical social worker and certified addictions counselor at The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Maryland. 

Comments

Posted by Thomas Franklin on

What a special piece from s special person. Thanks for sharing and helping so many others get on the road to recovery.

Posted by Jessica on

I am so inspired by you! The Retreat residents are lucky to have someone like you on their side.

Posted by Missy Garrett on

Awesome share Denise. I too, am proud to be in recovery today and to share this road with you as my sponsor. You are an amazing example of what a 12 step program can do for those who want to make a change. I am grateful to have you in my life. Love you!

Posted by Stacey Erich on

I am so proud of you. I love you. Thank you for being one of the best human beings I have ever met. You are gift to us all!!!

Posted by GlenW on

Good to read from you. Ha! Glad to see you too. Thanks for the share.

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