Getting Out and Giving Back

An extraordinary story of experience, strength and hope

Q:  What is your sobriety date?

Sharon:  August 5, 2005.

Donna:  December 15, 2010.

Q: How did the two of you meet? 

Donna: When I entered the Betty Ford Center, I knew a prison term was on the other side of my treatment. Carla, from the Alumni Relations team, put me in touch with Sharon, knowing she had been in that situation and was doing well.

Sharon: I was Donna's alumni contact, which led to my driving her to prison—the same one where I had been—and picking her up when she was released, a little over six months later. Our friendship has become stronger as fellow members of the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter.

Q: What brought you into treatment?

Sharon:  I was leading a life of complete insanity, and in the end, I was a slave to alcohol. Alcohol became the focal point of my life–more important than my husband, my daughters, my health, my career, and my values. It was complete hell.

Donna: I had been in another treatment center, stayed sober for a year and then went into relapse when I received my sentencing in February 2010. My brother found the Betty Ford Center, where I spent 90 days.

Q: How has treatment impacted your life?

Sharon: Treatment helped me discover who I really am, not who I thought I "should" or "needed" to be. The friends I have met in recovery are some of the most creative, intelligent, and fun people I know. For the first time in my life, I like who I am. I feel like I'm "enough."

Donna: Treatment was the beginning; continuing to go to meetings and do service work has made a lasting impact on my life. As part of an alumni chapter, I have many service opportunities. I also have friends that I know will be in my life forever.

Q: What is your life like now?

Sharon: I have a life that is purposeful, meaningful, and a ton of fun. I get to pass this amazing gift of recovery along to others, in both my personal and professional life. I co-founded "The Haven at College," a company that brings recovery support and treatment services to college campuses. What could be better?

Donna: I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to resume my nursing career; however, miracles are happening even while I pursue that goal. I have extraordinary mentors, including Dr. Harry Haroutunian. We met at the Betty Ford Center, and he is a true friend, even testifying for me. Ironically, I'm a former ICU nurse who now works with homeless ex-cons in recovery. I'm also in a PhD program at UCLA and planning my wedding in May.

Q:  Was there one thing that happened in treatment that stuck with you – perhaps a turning point?

Sharon: In her patient lecture, Mrs. Betty Ford talked about her "allergy to alcohol." Today, it seems like a no-brainer, but in that lecture hall that day, I really understood for the first time what I was up against. The fact that I was hearing this from a former First Lady was incredibly profound. If she could find a solution to her allergy, I could as well!

Donna: My turning point was the kindness of staff who allowed me to spend extra time with the therapy dog, Irish. While I was in prison, Carla, the same woman who put me in touch with Sharon, sent a postcard of Irish with a note saying "Irish Anonymous." The day I received that photograph was one of the best I had in prison—knowing that someone cared and was thinking about me.

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