It’s weird. The things you will say to a complete stranger to sort of recap your life for them so you can build a connection. Last night I wrote this letter to a new friend who is currently in jail. We met by a divine appointment and I already love her. Her mom saw one of my Facebook posts about recovery and she contacted me. From there, we decided to start forming a relationship while she is still in jail, so I can help support and encourage her once she gets out.
Here is my second letter to my new friend. When I re-read it this morning, I was filled with a renewed sense of purpose to live out my calling….which is to live in community and help people in transition (early recovery right after treatment or directly out of jail) get grounded.
Getting grounded isn’t easy and early recovery is the time you need the most support. No one should ever be alone after treatment or right out of jail…ever.
How do I plan on fulfilling my calling to support, undergird, and encourage these amazing people during the most vulnerable blip of time in their journey?
Glad you asked….I am believing God for a recovery residence (a house that has at least 4 bedrooms) so I can start this part of my calling…to be a spiritual mom to those who desperately need the support and encouragement I received when I was in need.
Here’s the letter. Hope this helps someone out there:
Thanks so much for writing back to me. I think about you a lot and the things that I know will help you. I know you’ve been in and out of treatment. I have not, but that’s only because it wasn’t an option for me. I relapsed and relapsed over and over…and could not break free.
So, how did I do it? What was the glue that finally stuck and moved me from active addiction to recovery? Im sure its different for everyone but for me it was 100% spiritual. I don’t know where or why I got lost, but I did. I got saved at 22 and was really on fire for God. I was hungry to read the Word, loved to worship, and felt clean and free for the first time in my life. I couldn’t get enough of God. But, of course, I still had all of my weird problems, hurts and complicated layers of trash that I didn’t know what to do with. They didn’t just poof and disappear when I invited God into my life. The thing was…I needed to learn how to do life, but there wasn’t really anyone to help me. Or maybe there was and I was just stubborn. I feel like I tried. I put down alcohol and stopped smoking. Not because I felt like I needed to obey some kind of rules, but just because it felt good to be free and to be clean.
I started going to this tiny little hokey church in LaBelle (that’s where I lived at the time. I was sleeping on my friend’s couch) and although it was pretty countrified and kind of crazy, it was a bunch of people who actually were hungry for God and were looking for more of Him in their lives. So…not too long after starting to attend, this older woman who was a leader in the church asked me to come live with her. Weird, right? It was totally crazy to me, but I said yes and that was probably the best 6 or 7 months of my life. I went everywhere with Martha. She took me to all kinds of spiritual retreats. She taught me how to read the Bible, to journal, to pray… She taught me to be bold spiritually…it was really amazing. I started growing in God and my life started to gain new meaning. But of course, I didn’t have that much time walking out my new life, so as soon as I met a guy…everything sort of went to shit. I fell in love (he was an addict, but had just come home from a Christian treatment center) and he was really hungry for God too.
I figured it would work.
We tried our best, but he relapsed again and again, sold all our belongings numerous times and I prayed for him and told myself I would stay faithful to him no matter what. Three children later I told him I couldn’t do it anymore. I left him. I took our kids and started over. Except I had gotten really confused and disillusioned with God. I don’t know. I just never imagined my life having so many problems. It got really hard for a long time, but while my kids were really little we stayed connected to God. I eventually got a divorce from my first husband, met some random guy and married him (for like 3 months) divorced him, got back with my ex…tried to make it work….it didn’t….met and married my third husband, who ended up being abusive.
By the time I met him, I was drinking again. I don’t know when I started, but I never really thought I had a problem until things started to get really bad in this marriage. It wasn’t all his fault. None of my relationships were. I was toxic and I got involved with equally toxic people.
Somewhere during this relationship my dad died and my best friend died during childbirth all in a 5 month span. I sunk into this weird, lost place. While I was cleaning out my dad’s house alone (no help from my husband)…I found the largest bottle of vicodin I had ever seen. I guess my dad was getting his pain pills refilled and refilled but wasn’t taking them. They were all in this huge bottle he got from somewhere. About 400 pills. Maybe more. I thought back and remembered how much I liked taking pain pills when I got them from the dentist….and when I found this bottle I thought I had finally found my life relief. After they were gone, I always magically found a way to get more…and then I was prescribed Xanax….and I was drinking.
Obviously everything in my home life fell apart. Ten years. Ten years of active addiction. I was functioning. Always held a job or had my own business. Always had a car, house, etc. The thing is….I discovered that living in active addiction, I couldn’t hear from God. I didn’t really want anything to do with Him…and it didn’t bother me.
I stuffed all the pain of my dad dying and the loss of my best friend and I tried to move on. I went to counseling…but I was sinking further.
My husband and I broke up and got back together so many times, I can’t even count. He abused me physically, verbally and I became this weird shell of who I used to be.
Amazingly, my kids stuck with me though all of this. Ten years.
Fast forward to me hitting the end. Robin Williams had just committed suicide and I remember locking myself in my bedroom and binge drinking for days and days. It was the worst kind of isolation and torment. I would just hold up in my room…not shower….not even get out of bed. I worked online from home so I could do that. No one knew anything. No one but my children.
I had already racked up two DUI’s by this point and had already been to jail (mandatory sentence for two DUI’s in a five year period). I had to have an interlock on my vehicle….everything seemed so uphill and impossibly stressful….and I was still drinking to cope. I’d go for long periods of time not drinking, and I actually went back to church, became a community chaplain and was even hosting a small Bible study in my home..I was trying, but I was dying inside. I was a fraud. I was an addict and no one knew.
What a mess, right?
I finally surrendered one day after I had been sleeping with a gun under my pillow and thought to myself, “Maybe I’ll get enough nerve to just end it.”
The day I was closest to suicide, I started scrolling through my phone and called my friend Rhonda. I had never reached out to her before and she knew nothing of my addiction. When she came over, she put me in the shower. She held me, told me it was going to be okay, called my ex-sister in law (one of my best friends) and my pastor. Everyone was there. I was completely undone. This was the worst, most disgusting version of me and everyone was sitting in my living room supporting me. I didn’t even know who I was anymore, but I decided to take my pastor’s suggestions and go to treatment at a facility he had a relationship with on the other coast of Florida.
I can’t believe I actually went. I was in the middle of withdrawals and every decision, every tiny detail about packing or thinking clearly was such a chore. It was so impossible. Everything…even showering and brushing my hair was incredibly hard.
But I did it.
I had to go to the hospital and get medical clearance because alcohol was involved. My sister spent the night with me and slept in my bed holding onto me. It was the worst detox. It was so demonic. I saw faces even with my eyes closed. I saw horrifying, scary shadow people and felt like I was going to die. It was the emptiest, most horrible place I’ve ever been, and I did not sleep. I know you remember what withdrawal was like, so I don’t have to explain…but the good news, is that you never have to go through it again.
I feel like God sort of tricked me into going to treatment because He kept telling me to just live from yes to yes. Just do the next yes. So I did. I said yes to treatment (although I didn’t think I would really go) then I said yes to packing….yes to telling my clients I was leaving to get help….and yes to getting in my sister’s truck. Before I knew it I had said yes all the way to being dropped off in a city where I didn’t even know where I was….in a little dingy php house with a bunch of girls half my age.
These girls. They became my family. And when I say that, I mean it literally. I fell in love with each person.
I stayed for 78 days and something happened to me there. Sure, there were a lot of people who weren’t about it. They relapsed. They left. But there was a group of us who desperately wanted recovery, and we supported each other. We loved each other. We encouraged and even screamed at each other when someone was about to leave.
During my stay, I was introduced to Revive church…and these Regenerate meetings on Thursday nights. I could relate to these meetings. They talked about God being my answer and about me being a new creation in Christ…not about an unknown higher power. And at Regenerate, I didn’t have to say “Hi my name is Robin and I’m an addict.” I hated saying that. I get it. I get surrendering the first time, but after being clean for a while….even two weeks, I wasn’t about claiming that over myself day after day. I had been a Christian for a long time and I knew that words are powerful. Whatever follows the words, “I am….” will come looking for you. I wasn’t going to keep saying, “I’m an addict. I’m an addict. I’m an addict.”
I am a new creation. My Bible says old things have passed away and behold, all things are new. I believed that.
I loved therapy. I loved being in treatment and I thoroughly loved going to Regenerate meetings. God slowly and thoroughly changed me. He worked on every part….from the hurt from my past and my childhood of sexual abuse, to my marriages and present day.
He used my therapist. He used Pastor Nick. He used my sponsor Maggie (a girl from Regenerate). He used every situation for my good, and I got clean.
I have never looked back. After 78 days in treatment I came home, planned my daughter’s wedding with her…lived here in Fort Myers for a while and then moved back to my recovery community to work in the treatment center where I had gotten clean.
I worked there and lived there for a year until my youngest daughter got pregnant and I moved back to Fort Myers to be with her and to help with my grandson.
And here I am. Two years and two months clean and sober and living out my recovery…
Is it hard? No. I don’t have a desire to drink or use drugs anymore, but God is working on me with cross addictions (food) and healing me of anxiety and fear.
It’s a journey. It’s a beautiful one. The gifts of recovery are incredible. I have never been more free or happier.
I still make sure I have a protected plan…. I think this is going to be vital for you. That period of time when you leave jail and are staying with your dad. It’s a tricky time. Please pray about contacting St. Matthews House now and getting yourself set up to go into treatment the minute you get out. You need to have all that worked out with your probation officer etc. I want you to know I will be there for you as well. This is going to be a new start for you, and you’re going to make it. You’re going to help others.
Tell me what size clothes you wear and I’ll help make sure you have some stuff for when you go into treatment. You won’t be without…that’s for sure.
I know I spent a lot of time telling you about my own journey. I thought it was important that you know me. I’m looking forward to knowing you. You are a new creation now!
Can I send you books? If I can order them from Amazon and have them sent to you, let me know. Also, I’ll need the address exactly how it has to appear on the package to you.
I will talk to you soon. Let’s work on your protected plan for when you get out.
I’m going to try to send you a pic of me and my family so you can have an image of who the heck is talking to you.
Sleep well and I’ll talk to you soon!
If you feel led to financially support the Restoration Recovery Center (the name of the new house we are believing for), please contact me. I’d love to talk to you about the vision and how you can be a part. xo