Stories

Voices: ‘There’s something about being out there, getting stronger in front of the world’

By Jodi Mailander Farrell

Public Access Journalism

Angela Lee’s sobriety date – Dec. 20, 2000 – is embedded in her memory, like a birthday or a wedding anniversary. It’s the day her body shut down from chronic alcohol poisoning, the diagnosis on her charts at the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment Program, where she spent the next 65 days. It was the kind of rock-bottom moment many alcoholics describe as their wake-up call: convulsions, teeth crashing, a near-death experience in which she says she felt God hold her in his palm and judge her. For Angela, 54, – a well-educated woman from an upper-middle class Miami family whose ambition at one time was to become a state senator – it was the beginning of a difficult, dangerous journey she will be on until the day she dies. It’s called recovery.

Now addicted to good health and exercise, Angela walks, skips and high kicks every day through Coconut Grove, Fla., a leafy neighborhood south of downtown Miami where the most visible sign of her recovery is her morning ritual of swinging on the hanging roots and vines of banyan trees, pulling her petite frame up for leg lifts and pull-ups. Schoolchildren and commuters call her the “tree lady.” A commercial real estate broker, she openly shares her story of alcoholism and recovery with everyone she meets. But for this story, Angela prefers using her first and middle name because she does not want to violate Alcoholics Anonymous’ tradition of maintaining anonymity in the media. This is how she’s made it this far:

Read more: Voices: ‘There’s something about being out there, getting stronger in front of the world’

   

Realistic recovery: How to survive that first year

By Jodi Mailander Farrell

Public Access Journalism

Once you’ve emerged from any alcohol or drug treatment program, the real works begins: staying clean and sober. People in recovery and those who support them all agree that the first year is the most difficult, a bewildering time when relapse is most likely to occur. Here are some tips for beginners or those trying again:

Read more: Realistic recovery: How to survive that first year

   

Voices: ‘There’s something about being out there, getting stronger in front of the world’

By Jodi Mailander Farrell

Public Access Journalism

Angela Lee’s sobriety date – Dec. 20, 2000 – is embedded in her memory, like a birthday or a wedding anniversary. It’s the day her body shut down from chronic alcohol poisoning, the diagnosis on her charts at the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment Program, where she spent the next 65 days. It was the kind of rock-bottom moment many alcoholics describe as their wake-up call: convulsions, teeth crashing, a near-death experience in which she says she felt God hold her in his palm and judge her. For Angela, 54, – a well-educated woman from an upper-middle class Miami family whose ambition at one time was to become a state senator – it was the beginning of a difficult, dangerous journey she will be on until the day she dies. It’s called recovery.

Read more: Voices: ‘There’s something about being out there, getting stronger in front of the world’

   

The new activism: Addiction recovery prepares to move ‘out of the basement’ into public health arena

By Jodi Mailander Farrell

Public Access Journalism

“In the end, when we don’t stand up and speak out, we hide behind our recoveries, we sustain the most harmful myth about the disease – that it is hopeless.”

–William Cope Moyers, author of “Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption.”

Dorian Grey Parker – doctor of pinity, licensed clinician – lived on the streets of Hartford, Conn., most of his 42 years, addicted to alcohol and cocaine. He’s not proud of that. Yet last September, he was among more than 2,500 recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, surrounded by supporters, who marched in his hometown Recovery Walk, a radical, in-your-face display by people struggling with one of the most invisible ailments in America.

Determined to sink the message of successful recovery into the heart of the American consciousness, a new advocacy movement is urging people to go public with their recovery stories. This small but growing group of activists are hoping to end discrimination and drum up moral and financial support by modeling their efforts after the public awareness campaigns that pushed breast cancer and AIDS onto the country’s radar screen.

For a community of people — believed to number in the millions — who have learned to live with their addictions, overcoming an age-old silence is the next big challenge.

Read more: The new activism: Addiction recovery prepares to move ‘out of the basement’ into public health arena

   

Voices: ‘I couldn’t count on myself; I couldn’t count on my emotions’

By Sara Solovitch

Public Access Journalism

At 28, Holly is a cute blond who most people would never guess was once a serious drug addict. But until last year, when it came to drugs and alcohol, Holly was an omnivore. She did everything that came her way; as a result of her drug use, she has Hepatitis C.

For the first time in her life, Holly is on track. Last September, she graduated from Fayette County Drug Court in Lexington, Ky., as well as from a women’s aftercare program. Holly was willing to tell her story in her own words, but requested that her full name not be used, citing the stigma of substance abuse.

“I was raised in an alcoholic home. My dad was very abusive to my mother growing up. I remember him one time pulling her hair out and me, being waist-high to him, hitting him as hard as I could. I was full of anxiety as a child. I didn’t like to have friends come over because I couldn’t count on myself. I couldn’t count on my own emotions.

Read more: Voices: ‘I couldn’t count on myself; I couldn’t count on my emotions’

   

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