Tag Archives: Sobriety

Tag Archives: Sobriety


In the days and weeks after leaving Cumberland Heights for a new adventure in early recovery, I discovered I was painfully shy when it came to meeting new people in the rooms.

Initially this made it difficult for me to make the meaningful connections so necessary for someone in early recovery to achieve and maintain sobriety.

I was afraid of them. I was afraid of me. I was afraid to be vulnerable enough to let anyone see how much I was hurting over what I’d done and how I’d hurt others and myself through my actions.

So, I went to the meetings, kept to myself and left immediately after for many weeks isolating myself in the crowds of recovering people. I warmed up slowly to the people in the AA groups I attended. I paid attention in particular to the women who demonstrated the kind of recovery I wanted to emulate.

One day, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and walked up to a woman I had grown to admire very much for the way she worked the program. I asked her to be my sponsor. Although she was not able to accommodate me, she connected me with a lady who became my sponsor and devoted friend for more than six years. Although she is not my sponsor now, she remains one of my most trusted friends in recovery.

Katrina Cornwell with members of her recovery community.
Katrina Cornwell with members of her recovery community.

Finding a sponsor who I could trust with my deepest darkest secrets, someone whom I could count upon to be my spiritual guide through the 12 Steps was another way I grew in recovery.

Working the steps with my sponsor solidified our commitment to each other, helping each other stay sober one day at a time, spending time together and staying in the literature.

I remember so clearly sitting down with her for my fifth step, not knowing how long it would take or what her reaction to all of my heinous sins would be. Never did she wince or cast a judging glance, she just loved me. She helped me grow until I became strong enough to reach out my hand to help someone else.

My sponsor took me to AA meetings, went to dinner with me and to the movies. She wrote a letter to the judge in my case. She even testified on my behalf at court twice. It was a connection like no other in the program, and it is vital to the successful recovery of the newly recovering alcoholic or addict.

Establishing this relationship in recovery helped make me the woman I am today.


K HeadshotKatrina Cornwell is a case manager at Cumberland Heights, a motivational speaker, blogger and three-time, first-place award winner in the annual Tennessee Press Association contest.

In her presentations, she speaks about her addiction to drugs and alcohol and how those habits led to a drunk driving accident which killed a man in October 2009.

Triumph Over Tragedy

One woman’s journey from drunk driving to addictions professional

Drunk driving offender Katrina Cornwell with Fiance
Katrina Cornwell and her fiance, Mike Long, attending Recovery Fest in Nashville, TN.

Louder than the sound of a 44 Magnum reverberating in the memories of my cousin’s failed suicide attempt. More deafening than the thunder in my scariest childhood storms. It was the sound of metal crunching against a concrete wall in the blackest of nights. It jolted me awake while drunk driving in a Xanax and wine induced blackout. I hit something with my car.

I remember thinking, ‘What was that?” but I didn’t see anything. Disoriented and barely conscious, I drove away in the dark.

Click. Click.

The clasping of silver handcuffs on my wrists was a cold awakening the moment the police jimmied open my car door. I’d never seen so many blue lights. I had no idea what was going on, or how my life was about to change.

A failed field sobriety test, a police interview and an inadvertent spotlight on the TV news later; I found myself in the back of a patrol car on my way to Metro General Hospital for a blood-alcohol test to determine the level of my intoxication.

Still clueless, I asked a question of my own, “Am I being arrested for DUI?”

“No,” the officer said. “You’re being arrested for vehicular homicide.”

And from that moment forward, my life has never been the same.

K 2
Katrina Cornwell with her children (L to R) Kavanaugh Creekmore, Kristen Creekmore, and Ian Creekmore.

In one night, I lost my children. I lost my home. I lost my award-winning career as a journalist, and I was labeled a killer who had just run over a father loading his daughter’s truck on top of his wrecker.

I never saw him. I was not able to avoid him. That has been a hard pill to swallow. Imagine how you would feel if you accidentally fell asleep at the wheel and killed someone? That’s exactly what happened to me.

I was drunk driving. I have no excuse. I take full responsibility for ingesting the substances that caused this accident. I’m horrified everyday with the knowledge of a wrong I can never fully make right for the family of the man I ran over that night.

However, this night was also a defining moment in the life of this alcoholic who was able to completely surrender to her Higher Power and allow him to rebuild her piece by piece.

In 2009, I sought addiction treatment at Cumberland Heights. This small step in faith toward a life of sobriety saved my life. In my first primary group, my counselor asked me to tell my story. With each sentence of truth, tears streamed down my face. I allowed myself to be vulnerable in public, and the healing began.

Women in my group said, “That could have been me.”  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I was able to identify. It was an important part of my journey, as was two years of individual and group therapy, regular AA attendance and working the steps after my discharge.

Eighteen months later, I accepted a plea deal for my crimes and was sentenced to 10 years of probation, including two weeks of incarceration at Christmas and at Father’s Day each year. As part of my sentence I was ordered to speak publicly twice a year, but I have done this as often as possible. I never turn down an invitation. I have spoken to more than 1,000 students in Metro Schools, master’s level counseling classes, youth outpatient programs, church groups and even basketball teams. I consider it my life’s mission to use my story to help others.

I have remained sober for the past seven years. The God of my understanding took something so tragic and used it for good. He did this by increasing my faith, teaching me humility by being willing to accept a job at Goodwill when no one else would hire me and by being willing to be of service to other sick and suffering alcoholics.

I have sponsored women, taken meetings to detox units and even taken over leadership for a 12-step book study that has been meeting every Thursday night for four years.

In 2015, I took the next step and made helping other alcoholics and addicts a vocation at Samaritan Recovery Community. During that time, I applied and was accepted into the master of arts of addiction studies: integrated recovery for co-occurring disorders at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.

Last year, I was hired to work at Still Waters for Women, a 12-step immersion program under the umbrella of Cumberland Heights, and was recently hired as a case manager.

Today, my life’s goal is to help the next alcoholic and addict at the treatment center that gave me life again.

 


K HeadshotKatrina Cornwell is a case manager at Cumberland Heights, a motivational speaker, blogger and three-time, first-place award winner in the annual Tennessee Press Association contest.

In her presentations, she speaks about her addiction to drugs and alcohol and how those habits led to a drunk driving accident which killed a man in October 2009.

3 Common Fears of Mothers Seeking Treatment

3 Common Fears of Mothers Seeking Treatment

Seven years ago, when I entered treatment, I was a mess. My focus was on getting through my withdrawals, and I wasn’t able to focus on anything else. After detox I began to feel human again until I realized I was going to be away from my children. My instinct was to run to them, beg their forgiveness and promise to never leave them again. However, I’d spent most my children’s lives begging forgiveness because of my addiction to methamphetamine and morphine. I was physically present for most of their milestones, but I wasn’t there emotionally. I was constantly thinking about how I was going to get high. My children were not my priority. So why was it so difficult to seek treatment as a mom? Here are 3 common fears of mothers seeking treatment:

“I can’t be away from my children for this long.

In reality we’ve been absent from our children’s lives for the majority of our addiction. Some of us may have been physically present, but we weren’t there emotionally or spiritually. I wanted to explain to my children how my disease hindered my ability to show them love. Guilt consumed me. However, within the first week of treatment my counselors helped me realize it took time to get here, and it would take time to heal. From this point, I began to believe in a power greater than myself. I believed I could be restored to sanity and returned to the lives of my children.

“I’m afraid someone will take custody of my children.”

Custody is complicated, but when a mother is actively seeking treatment it strengthens her ability to parent. Historically judges rule favorably to parents who have completed treatment.

“I don’t want my children to be scared because I’m in a treatment facility.”

Cumberland Heights has a beautiful campus on the banks of the Cumberland River. There are relaxed areas to visit with children including a playground and gymnasium to allow for play. Although it was wonderful to see my children while I was in treatment it was also emotionally and physically exhausting. I hadn’t been fully present with them in such a long time it took a lot of effort to become an attentive parent again. At this point the treatment center began to represent a place of healing opposed to a place secluding me from my children.

After going through treatment and especially the family program, I was able to realize one day clean with my children was worth more than a year high. Today, I would say the time spent away from my children in treatment was actually the most present I’ve ever been with them. I’m grateful for the ability to be present with my children, which I’ve learned to do through a 12-Step program. Now I have an amazing relationship with both my son and daughter, and we’re all learning how to be in each others lives.


Yolanda Lancaster graduated from Lipscomb University with a Bachelors of Social Work in 2015 and received her LADAC II in December 2016. She is a primary counselor in the Women’s Program at Cumberland Heights and sits on the board of Mending Hearts, a nonprofit treatment center for women. She is actively working her own 12-Step program, as well as nurturing, repairing and re-building relationships with her children.

Start off your 2017 new year with hope! Join the ARCH program for a reservations & resolutions bonfire on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 7PM. We will be saying goodbye to our reservations and embracing our resolutions. Bundle up and come recover hope for 2017!!

DETAILS BELOW:

cumberland-heights-2017-reservations-resolutions-bonfire-alumni-event

For six years, Jason Isbell was drunk at every show he played.

During his tenure with beloved Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers, Isbell planned his drinking to keep him on his feet for the duration of the band’s marathon live shows – barely.

Something More Than Free: Jason Isbell's Journey to His Most Popular Album | Grammy Awards 2016, Individual Class“I had it timed where, by the very end of the show, I’d done just about all I could do standing up,” he told NPR in 2013. “I knew I needed two or three before I went on, and then during the show, we’d just pass a bottle around between the band.” The routine totaled about a fifth of Jack Daniels per show.

And Jack and Jason didn’t get along well: “Some people get drunk and become kind of sweet,” Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers founder and singer-songwriter, told The New York Times Magazine in 2013. “Jason wasn’t one of those people.” It didn’t help that the younger Isbell, a virtuoso guitarist with a proclivity for fast and fiery licks, was also a stellar songwriter, whose finely wrought and frequently heartbreaking character sketches were obviously on par with those of the older and principal Truckers, Hood and guitarist/singer-songwriter Mike Cooley. Isbell, who also managed to marry and divorce then-Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker during his time with the band, left in 2007. At the time, it was portrayed as amicable; in 2013, Isbell revealed he’d been forced out, mostly because of his drinking.

After his dismissal from DBT, Isbell went off the rails a little bit. He was arrested for public drunkenness and at one point accused Dierks Bentley of plagiarizing one of his songs on Twitter. He knew he needed help, and told his then-girlfriend, fellow musician Amanda Shires, he had to go to rehab. Unfortunately, both times he said it, he was drunk. “I only got to do that twice, I think,” he told NPR. The second time, Shires told him, “You’re telling the wrong person.”

Isbell got the message, and in February 2012, spent two weeks in Cumberland Heights, a rehab center in Nashville. Coming out, he started playing live again, dropped 40 lbs. and started writing the songs that would make up 2013’sSoutheastern. That September, Isbell’s song “Alabama Pines” won song of the year at the Americana Music Awards, kick-starting a wave of critical appreciation that Southeastern built upon when it was released in July 2013. The album contains Isbell’s most-streamed song on Spotify, “Cover Me Up,” and the devastating “Elephant” – coined by one music writer as “the saddest song of the millennium” – a quiet ballad about a cancer patient that concludes, “no one dies with dignity.”

Isbell toured steadily behind Southeastern, backed by a crack band named the 400 Unit – after the psychiatric ward of a hospital near Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Isbell grew up – that included his now-wife Shires. (“She has a big conscience, a big heart,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “Essentially, she’s just a good person.”)

Southeastern was rewarded with a near-sweep at the 2014 Americana Music Awards that saw Isbell take the honors for album, song (“Cover Me Up”) and artist of the year. But none of that weighed on his mind when he returned to the studio for his follow-up, 2015’s Something More Than Free. “I have so many people ask me… ‘Did you feel pressure to follow up Southeastern?” Isbell told Stereogum in 2015. “That same question every damn time! No, that’s not an actual problem to have. I know people who can’t pay their f—ing bills. Following up a successful piece of work with another piece of work is the most ridiculous first-world problem I can think of.”

Sure enough, Something More Than Free was a mature, confident continuation of the work Isbell started with Southeastern. Anchored by the stellar lead single, “24 Frames,” it debuted at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Rock, Top Country Albums and Top Folk Albums charts, and No. 5 on the Billboard200. By way of comparison, Southeastern peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard200.

Giving Thanks

By Stan B M. Div., Counselor

Cumberland Heights fog -28Earlier this month we celebrated Veteran’s Day, the one day a year we recognize the sacrifice and courage of America’s military and their families.  This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, the one day a year we overeat with family and friends to commemorate the first full year Europeans survived in the New World. Next month we will celebrate Christmas, the one day a year we recognize the birth of Christ born to create hope in a better world.

What’s with these one-day celebrations? We begin the year with New Year’s Day, followed by Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, the list goes on. I suppose marking one day a year on the calendar to recognize our partners and parents is better than forgetting them, but all the special days seem artificial to me.

Today our lives are busy and incredibly distracted, but what would it be like if we sincerely endorsed creating hope in a better world every day? Or committed ourselves to making our loved ones and parents feel special all the time? What would our lives be like if we started each day by giving thanks for the amazing world in which we live?

In recovery, I’ve learned how self-centered I can be. It’s disturbing to me. When things don’t go exactly as I think they should and people don’t act the way I want, I become frustrated. If I’m not working my program, this leads me to a mental state referred to as the “Mean Reds” by Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

For me, the Mean Reds is a depressive state of fear and lethargy which is difficult to shake. The world including everyone and everything in it is flawed. I become inexplicably afraid of everything. However, when I am open to the experience, this is when the miracle can happen.

I’ve noticed when the Mean Reds overtake me they are talking about gratitude in every 12-Step meeting I attend. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I want to run from the rooms screaming, “Enough with the gratitude already!”

But practicing gratitude is the one sure antidote I’ve found to the Mean Reds. If left to my own devices, I can forget to be grateful about anything. I need practice every day.

When practicing gratitude I begin to recognize all the gifts in my life. It is difficult to sustain self-pity and fear when considering my friends, loved ones, co-workers, my church community, my children and my home. It doesn’t take long for me to begin appreciating how good my life really is.

Thanksgiving is a noun. It defines the family holiday of sibling dysfunction, overeating and watching football games with uncles who loosen their belts and recline in Lazy Boys. We should probably be thankful it only happens once a year.

Giving thanks, that’s a verb. It takes action. It’s not enough to merely say we are grateful, we have to show it. We may give thanks every day by praying and meditating in the morning, being kind and loving to those closest to us as well as perfect strangers and surrendering to the idea we are brought into this world to make it a more hopeful place. Then we must shoulder the work which will make it happen.  Not just once a year in November, but one day at a time all year long.


Stan graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2006 and worked for the Tennessee Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services teaching ministers across the state. This led him to become an alcohol and drug counselor, a position he currently holds as primary counselor for the Cumberland Heights Extended Care program for men. Stan is a regular speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clarksville, the father of thirteen-year-old twins and active in his own 12-Step recovery.

Masking Addiction

By Stan Bumgarner M. Div., Counselor

Art MaskIn a matter of days I will open my front door to find small groups of witches, zombies, Captain Americas, and princesses on my porch. Faces, hidden by masks or make-up, will shout “trick or treat,” greeting me with plastic pumpkins or expectant pillow cases. I will dutifully share equal amounts of treats with each child. It’s fun. I love seeing all the different costumes, and I eat more than my share of the candy.

The kids’ costumes do seem more elaborate these days. When I was a kid we were pirates or hobos. I recall my fifth grade year my best friend and I decided to go as mummies. We wrapped ourselves from head-to-toe in toilet paper then, one foot dragging, an arm raised, moaning, went door-to-door doing our best impression of Boris Karloff. It was a damp night in Birmingham. Our costumes didn’t last long. What didn’t melt right onto our clothes unraveled two blocks into the night.

I’ve worn masks as an adult that are made of much stronger material, but worked about as well as my fifth grade mummy costume. I found it helpful to hide behind them—the sports hero, the happy frat boy, the successful business guy, Don Juan the famous lover, the guy whose feelings are never hurt, the guy who has all the answers, the guy who never makes mistakes, the funny guy, the serious guy—my masks go on ad nauseam. I wore them to mask the real me: the self-doubter, the one who is never good enough or who is afraid to be exposed as a fraud. This seemed like a successful strategy until I discovered the most powerful masks of all, alcohol and marijuana. Overtime, these became the most destructive masks.

They weren’t as easy to shed as a toilet paper mummy costume. Alcohol and marijuana became a second skin. They were so integral to my life they became part of who I was at a cellular level. It was a painful way to live. Thank goodness there were people who had the skills to see beyond the masks and pull me out of the morass I had created. Through outpatient treatment, individual therapy and immersion in the 12-Step recovery community my true self began to slowly emerge and continues to grow.

Those old masks still live in my closet though. On occasion I will pull one out, put it on and wear it for days without realizing it. Then, one of my recovery friends will hold up a mirror helping me see what I’m doing. What a gift! Today, I am blessed to have a network of sober people in my life. They love me, imperfect as I am. I plan to remind myself of that as I hand out candy on Halloween this year—my friends in recovery are the greatest treat I’ve ever received. All I had to do was quit trying to trick them.

 

Stan graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2006 and worked for the Tennessee Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services teaching ministers across the state. This led him to become an alcohol and drug counselor, a position he currently holds as primary counselor for the Cumberland Heights Extended Care program for men. Stan is a regular speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clarksville, the father of thirteen-year-old twins and active in his own 12-Step recovery.

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