Cumberland Heights Employees Share Their Recovery Stories
By: Liz Stanislawski
When I started my job as the Public Relations & Marketing Manager for Cumberland Heights back in September, I knew I’d meet some wonderful people who, like me, had a heart for helping those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. What I didn’t know is how many of their stories would fuel inspiration in my work every day. There are people here who have dedicated a huge part of their lives to saving others, helping those controlled by substances break free. These are the many of the same people who at a point in their own life just wanted to die because they saw no other way out. For anyone who doesn’t believe recovery is possible, I encourage you to read about their experiences below.
Can you think of a moment in early recovery when you felt happy for the first time in a long time?
“When I came home after my second day at Cumberland Heights IOP in 1989, having had a sudden spiritual awakening, and told my spouse that she saved my life.”
“I was driving from the first job I had held in a long time to an AA meeting where I knew friends would be. I felt happy, joyous, free and had a sense of relief.”
“The first time I remember feeling happy was sitting in the cabin with my friends in treatment and honestly laughing. I remember thinking that I hadn’t actually laughed in years and had forgotten what it felt like.”
“At about 90 days sober I was sitting in a restaurant after a meeting, laughing at a joke one of my friends had told. Suddenly, I realized I had actual friends and I was truly laughing for the first time in a long, long time.”
“When I realized I liked to pray and I liked seeking my higher power.”
“When the police pulled in behind me and I knew I had not been drinking, I did not have any weed in the car or roaches in the ashtray. I felt a strange kind of joy that I was driving legal and no worries of getting arrested for the first time in probably a few years.”
“My parents were visiting me in treatment and for the first time in years I was able to look them in the eye. It was such an amazing feeling to know that I had nothing to hide.”
What is one piece of advice you would give yourself if you could go back and talk to the old you (in early recovery)?
“I would tell my early recovery self to give yourself a break, you are doing great and keep the faith.”
“Listen more. Talk less.”
“One thing I would have told myself in early recovery – forgiveness is key. I would have forgiven those who hurt me earlier. I would have prayed for them too. Even if I wasn’t ready. It is a huge part of why I stayed sober.”
“Hang in there. It’s going to get so much better. Better than you can imagine.”
“Learn to cease fighting and to keep my mouth shut.”
“Rule 62-don’t take yourself too seriously. I was hard on myself my entire first year of sobriety and that was just a pointless use of my time. Early sobriety is one of the most exciting times of an addict’s life. It’s meant to be enjoyed as much as possible and not meant to keep beating yourself with the bat over and over again.”
When times were tough what made you keep coming back?
“True friendships I had gained and the relationship I built with my sponsor.”
“This quote: ‘I cannot think my way into right actions; I must act my way into right thinking.’”
“When times got tough I kept going back because I truly enjoyed my home group. I felt so out of place in active addiction and to feel at ease was something I craved.”
“What kept me coming back was watching other women who were just like me in the program living wonderful, useful lives.”
“I wanted what they had-that peace of mind and serenity I saw in their faces.”
“I would play the tape forward and realize a drink or a drug would not help. Also great sponsorship.
“My first year in recovery, I watched my sponsor die over the course of a week in ICU & my daughter was in foster care. I kept going to meetings, working the Steps & sticking close to other women because it was all I could think to do. I had tried other forms of relief, all of which had failed, yet the Fellowship offered serenity amongst the chaos; I knew if I didn’t continue with the program I’d lose everything or die.”
“The serenity prayer, sponsor and the fellowship were always there for me when times were tough!”
What did you gain in sobriety that you lost in early addiction?
“Self-love and self-respect mainly. In the last month I had finally started feeling empathy for others. That was one of the most important things I had lost and was my biggest regret, especially because I was unsure if that would ever come back. Now that I’m starting to see it again, I am grateful. Being emotionally available for other people is very important to me.”
“Self-respect. Willingness to use and believe in a Higher Power. I gained my soul back.”
“I gained a sound mind. Peace. Being comfortable in my own skin.”
“In sobriety, I continuously gain freedom of living fully in the present moment – a new perception of reality, embracing it exactly as it is. With this naturally comes an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love. The effects produced by cherishing the now are far greater than drugs or alcohol.”
“I’ve gained life in all its glory – love of self, others and my HP; innumerable friends; serenity amidst any obstacles I stumble across; holistic health. It hasn’t been as much about the material things I’ve acquired through sobriety (from homelessness to a house! Regaining custody of my child! Owning a car! Having a LEGAL job!) I’m even more grateful for what can’t be counted – the spiritual, the emotional, the mental gains. Those are the biggest blessings of recovery for me.”
“I get to participate in life. I get to ‘show up’ for friends in family.”
“I gained the love and acceptance of my two daughters that I left when they were 8-10 years old. In getting back with them I later gained the joy of four grandchildren and seeing them grow into wonderful people. Because of sobriety I was able to raise two wonderful sons and now three stepchildren and four more grandchildren. If AA had not been there none of this would have happened.”
It would be impossible to share all the struggles and successes of every employee who is in recovery, but this at least gives you an idea of all the strength and courage emanating within the 177-acre campus. The beauty of “the farm” as so many like to call it can be felt just as much as it can be seen.