Q: At which facility did you receive treatment? A: I was at Hazelden in Newberg, OR twice; during the summer of 2014 and again in the fall of 2015. Q: What is your sobriety date? A: June 4, 2015 Q: Please tell us what it was like, what happened and what it's like now. A: Quite simply, my life was a living hell. My days consisted of waking up either hung over or drug sick. The list of consequences was endless; I remember sitting in jail, waiting for discharge approval from my parole officer. I was in several minor auto accidents, eventually wrecking my car. I ran my ATM dry, in need of drug money, and when the drugs were gone, so were my "friends." I abused my family, my friends and myself; I had no spiritual connection, and I was both depressed and anxious. There was nothing left in me to love. We hear in meetings that we face one of three fates; jail, mental institutions or death. Faced with the choice of death or going to treatment, I chose the latter. Q: When did you realize you needed help? Was there something specific that led you to treatment? A: It took a long time. I was raised in a protected environment, totally unaware of the existence of addicts and/or alcoholics. For nearly 35 years, I frequently drank to black-out and even had two DUIs, but it never occurred to me that I had a problem. Once I took the first street drug, my life changed dramatically. During the following four years, I gave up my morals and values, my soul—all in pursuit of alcohol and drugs. October 26, 2015 was the beginning of the end; I was transported to Hazelden's front doors via wheelchair. Q: What was the toughest aspect of quitting? A: I used to drown my feelings and emotions. I just didn't want to face them; when I used, there was little positive in my life, so I had a lot to drown. Life continues in recovery; now the challenges I encounter require in-depth attention. I need to accept that the emotions that result are ok and will pass with time. I struggled with wanting to do the natural "go to" solution in early recovery. It took a tremendous amount of effort to make the right choice—to not use but instead face life's challenges head on. Q: What is the best thing about being sober? A: It's tough to select a "best" thing because recovery has given me a life worth living. Here are some of the things that top my list: Spiritual growth that comes from the program direction and God, my higher power. Appreciation for the smells, beauty, and sounds of the changing seasons. Spring is my favorite. The ability to be available for my family and friends. The privilege of being a part of the best (my opinion) self-improvement process in this world. I can face each day with a positive attitude, focusing on what is right with my life today. I have many opportunities to serve others, and I've learned that by giving, I receive back. Life is full of "natural highs"—I enjoy art work, gardening and other fulfilling hobbies. Q: Do you have a favorite sobriety "catch phrase" that you value? A: "By the grace of God" comes immediately to mind. I love cats, and one day when I was experiencing intense cravings, I felt there was no way out and I certainly would use. I decided I needed a pet, so I went to the Humane Society and noticed a beautiful cat staring me down. I was taken aback by the affection and connection we had from that very first minute of visiting. By the time I had taken the cat home and gotten her settled, the cravings were gone. I named her Gracie because her presence—along with the grace and support from my God—kept me clean another day. Gracie inspires me every day. She never leaves my side and seems to provide extra comfort during the challenging times. By the grace of God, I was taken to Hazelden, where loving staff were committed to making my disease manageable. And by the grace of God I'm given the power to stay clean. I NEVER have to pick up again. 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: Get a sponsor! I've had several, and I now have someone who has taken me beyond what I thought any one person was capable of doing. He is a mentor, committed to make my life better. He spends hours working with me to identify the aspects of recovery that enhance my program. He also spends time assessing what I share, looking at the solutions needed inside me to address the symptoms and behavior displayed outwardly. His advice and friendship are invaluable.