I Was Alive But I Was Dying

Strength + Courage

Finding the courage to change her life's legacy. An inspiring story by alum Maria C.

Q: At which facility did you receive treatment?

A: The Betty Ford Center.

Q: What is your sobriety date?

A: October 31, 1993. I celebrate my anniversary each year on Halloween.

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

A: I was alive, but I was dying. It felt like I was in a black hole, trapped in a tunnel. I had managed to maintain the life for many years, but toward the end it became awful. No matter what substance I tried, I could no longer get high. I learned what desperation was. I thought I had managed my life for 20 years; why couldn't it still be that way? The last two years were sad, lonely and terrible.

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

A: My mother took her own life with a gun, and I saw her lying there. She had tried to shoot me a few months earlier, but the gun jammed, so I was spared. Alcohol and drugs had put her into a haze that lasted for at least a decade. I have a strong memory of her walking around day and night, always in this white, see-through nightgown, and it didn't matter to her where she was.

I had a powerful awakening one day. I looked in the mirror, and there was my mother staring back. I blinked, and she was gone; she had been dead for several years by then, but in that moment, I knew that if I didn't change, I would end up either homeless or dead.

In recovery, I found the power to change my legacy. I was blessed to experience a moment of divine self, for which I have so much gratitude. Today, I live authentically, as opposed to "who I wound up being." I am happy and able to live life a moment at a time. Today, I am a certified, professional life coach, with an immensely fulfilling business; in helping other people transform their lives, I often call upon my street experience to make a difference in others. Today, I wake up and see myself in the mirror.

Q: What was the toughest aspect of quitting?

A: All I knew was drugs and the underworld. I lived in a world surrounded by drugs. My family used Valium and diet pills for many years, and I myself was in the drug business for 20 years. I had no role model to demonstrate how to live in civil and civilized society—I had no education, no training, and no one to guide me. Ironically, as bad as it was, leaving that life behind was very difficult. Learning how to live differently has been even harder, but I become more successful at it every day.

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

A: It is crucial to surround yourself with people that are up to what you are up to in your new way of living. There is joy in sobriety; you can bring that out in each other as you spend time with friends in recovery. Stay engaged, stay outside of your head, and appreciate the new things you can learn from new friends. I also heartily recommend yoga, mediation and any other activity that stimulates the body and mind.

Q: What is the best thing about being sober?

A: I'm aging gracefully and elegantly—and if I say so myself, I look great! I am living life with grateful consciousness.

Q: Do you have a favorite sobriety 'catch phrase' that you value?

A: Stop thinking and follow your commitment. Too much thinking gets in the way of success.

Q: What else would you like to share with your fellow alumni?

A: Embrace the lack within, and fill it with what you choose freely. If you're feeling "restless, irritable or discontent," call a friend and go to a movie, take an exercise class, go outside and just breathe. Our lives in sobriety are a gift to cherish and share.

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