“I Thought I Had This Disease Under Control.”

Strength + Courage

As a family member, Ioana felt helpless.

"Everything I learned went out the window; this was my son, my heart and my soul."

Q: At which facility did you receive treatment?

A: I went through the Family Program at the Betty Ford Center twice.

Q: What is your "freedom from codependency" date?

A: My first meeting of Al-Anon was in September of 1998. I went through the Betty Ford Center Family Program in November 2000 for my husband and returned in April 2008 for my oldest son.

Both of my sons went through the Children's Program in 2001.

Q: Please tell us what it was like, what happened and what it's like now.

A: My life was totally unmanageable. I was trying to control, enable and fix my alcoholic husband of 16 years. There was constant arguing and yelling, no trust, and a fixation on bottles; looking for those that were hidden, pouring out the contents of those I found, smelling his breath and also covering up for him. I was exhausted and also physically, emotionally and spiritually sick. I didn't allow him to be accountable for his own disease.

As I finally began my journey of recovery, he continued to go downhill. My career suffered and I pushed people away, finally coming to the decision we had to separate for my own wellness and the sake of our children.

I thought I had this disease under control as I continued on my own healing journey and—for the next eight years—I was enjoying my life as a single mother. Then I found myself in a new relationship and gave birth to our beautiful daughter; life was wonderful. However, when my son turned 18, he went into treatment at Betty Ford Center for addiction to opiates. I thought it was horrific living with my ex-husband's disease; having a child with an addiction took me to an unimaginable level of pain. Everything I learned went out the window; this was my son, my heart and soul. Once again, the enabling and controlling and fixing began. I spent large amounts of money for lawyers, posted bail continuously, and met his dealers in dark alleys to pay off his debts. My jewelry and possessions would go missing; one day I came home and my coffee table was gone. The list went on and on.

My current relationship was in turmoil, and I was put in the position of having to make a choice. Codependent that I was, I of course chose my son. In 2014 I asked my son to leave my house, and he shifted back and forth among 13 shelters - even they didn't want him. Then he turned himself around, got clean, got a job and came back home—until he relapsed and the cycle started again. Shady people continuously called and hung around the house. I didn't feel safe, and my two other children were in distress and fear. One recent evening we heard a large crash in his bedroom and discovered he was lowering my flat-screen TV out of his window to sell. I called the police and had him arrested for theft and trespassing. At this point, I realized that I moved the stars and the moon for this kid, and now it was time for me to turn him over to God's care I surrendered to allow God to be the driver. It was time to give my love and attention to myself and my other two children so we could begin to live and feel safe.

Today I have learned how important it is to take care of myself. I cannot force a husband or a son to either seek or have the willingness to get help. This has been my greatest lesson, and they have been my greatest blessings. I have learned to stay connected to my Higher Power, and with the God of my understanding, I have acquired an inner peacefulness and trust God completely. I have my 'tool box' always within reach when times get tough, I stay close to my sponsor, and I pray and meditate regularly. I self-care by eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep and staying true and authentic to myself. I have choices today and don't need to be in a situation that doesn't feel or fit right. Service work takes me out of my head and allows me to give back to society by going into Toronto East Detention Jail once a month to provide Al-Anon meetings to the cell mates. I also stay connected to the Betty Ford Center as a liaison if anyone coming out of the Family Program needs to talk; I also encourage them to join our Chapter meeting when they get back home.

I am in control of my own life today. I have grown into the woman I was meant to be, and I try to stay in the moment for me and my children, who are my greatest gifts.

I am better able to focus on my career of 30 years, and I will be able to take early retirement in 2017. I plan to travel and spend time with family and friends while growing my home skin laser business. I truly feel blessed with my accomplishments; the challenges and hard times have brought me to where I am today - to a fuller, more enriched life than I could have ever imagined.

Q: When did you realize you needed help? Was there something specific that led you to treatment?

A: I realized I needed help when nothing else was working. I was sick of being sick, I was isolating myself, emotionally distraught, preoccupied, losing my identity, people-pleasing, controlling situations and very angry, this is when I went to my first Al-Anon meeting for relief and help. An old-timer from an open AA meeting suggested I try Al-Anon, and I thank God for the willingness to follow that suggestion.

Q: What was the toughest aspect of quitting?

A: I am an emotional and obsessive thinker, and it was hard to turn that off and to learn how to think differently. I try to replace every negative and fearful thought with a positive thought and recite the Serenity Prayer over and over.

Q: What is the best thing about your life today?

A: Empowerment, freedom, joy and peace.

Q: Do you have a favorite program "catch phrase" that you value?

A: "You are not alone" is my favorite slogan. I always felt alone and defeated as my family got sicker and sicker, and today I know I am loved unconditionally by my Higher Power—it is always within me to guide me in my journey I just need to stop and listen to His direction. Also, I have met many loving, supportive people in recovery who are always there for me. I embrace them in my life as my dearest, truest friends; they are my new family. I am not alone today.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice that has served you well to someone still suffering, what would it be?

A: For me, it was going to Al-Anon meetings and open AA meetings. Being with like-minded people that want help, hearing the stories and sharing my stories, feeling accepted and loved—all of this was powerful for me. As I learned about the disease, slowly my own healing took place one day at a time.

Q: What else would you like to share?

A: With the inspiration of [then-alumni director] Leonard B. and fellow alumna Laura J.'s visit in the fall of 2003, I started the BFC Alumni Toronto Chapter in October Of that year. We had a great turnout for a dinner hosted by Leonard and Laura, and after everyone shared their, hope, strength and experience, I felt a great spiritual connection and a need to stay connected. Leonard asked if anyone could create a contact list, I volunteered, and from that moment on—without knowing—I was of service. I secured a church room for our group to meet every month, sent out monthly meeting reminders and served as a Regional Alumni Volunteer. Today, after 13 years, we still meet every month in love and service to each other and the newcomer. This Toronto group of alumni includes the most dear, kind people. We have a close bond and are always there for each other; for example, one of the members had escorted my son to BFC treatment center in 2008.

I also keep in contact with an alumnus in the desert, David M., who always provides words of wisdom and clarity as I go through challenging times. One of those times is happening now—as I write this, my son is in jail, where he has been for at least two months. I won't bail him out this time.

Finally, another blessing was Leonard's loving encouragement to participate and be certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist. This gave me the privilege not only to deal with my own grief and move forward but also to guide others through a process of Grief Recovery and move beyond their pain.

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