Three steps onto the stage. Four more to the podium. Each step before I speak carries such a profound meaning. Since I was diagnosed with PTSD and alcoholism, I have been sharing my recovery story with the world. Most of the time behind a computer screen, but also from a mic on a stage – earlier this week was the latter. Allow me to take you on a journey through these steps.
As I wait in the audience to be introduced, I see the stage steps…they really mean something to me today…and I know why. I am speaking to employees from my rehab, Homewood Health, and the steps it took to get me to this day were with them and their belief in me and my ability to embark on a beautiful journey of recovery. They saved my life and having the opportunity to speak this make me so filled with full-circle gratitude, that I can’t help but to reflect on what each step to the podium means to me today.
First Step – Like a lost soul in denial I was too sick to see how sick I was. I was an alcoholic and an addict and I didn’t want to admit it. My body shook every morning from withdrawal. I hid bottles of wine all over my house. I blacked out many times – once in my hot tub and almost drown – but still I didn’t want to come to terms with my reality. I didn’t want to accept that I was slowly killing myself and hurting everyone around me.
Second Step – While at Homewood my daughter gets sick at home and I am so sick myself that I can’t leave to see her in the hospital. Broken and ashamed I FaceTime her and bawl so uncontrollably that I am convinced I may stop breathing. My eyes burn with salt water and sadness. How am I supposed to call myself a mom when I can’t even be with my sick daughter? It’s time for me to open my eyes.
Third Step – I fall to my knees – literally. Like a wall being demolished, I crumble to the ground. I need to see how sick I am. I need to be a mom. I am ready to surrender. I am no longer willing to die. I need help and I am ready to accept it.
Fourth Step – I accept the help they are offering me. Clearly what I have been doing to heal isn’t working – it was time for me to listen to the lessons. Cry the tears of locked up emotions in my heart. Talk to others about my pain. And be a student willing to learn.
Fifth Step – I start to breathe. I walk the labyrinth outside and sit alone – something I hadn’t done without alcohol in as long as I can remember. I shed tears of heartbreak from love lost and ask God for help. The trees sway in the wind and the sun sets in front of me and I know that I will be ok. I still have some work to do – but I will be ok.
Sixth Step – I practice what I am taught. How to feel emotions and let them pass without covering them up with vices. How to not be codependent. How to accept love and how to laugh. How to forgive myself and others. I make amends to those I have hurt. I value my new found health – free from the wrath of alcohol.
The steps are steep some days, making them challenging. But that’s ok. I’d rather walk up difficult steps than lay alone in a dark pit of hopelessness and pain not knowing how to escape. I didn’t know that there were steps at all before I went to Homewood, and I am so grateful that they showed me that they exist.
Final step to the podium – deep breath in, take in the room, deep breath out – thank you.