This is the first attempt I have made to write a blog. I’m usually a private person, choosing not to share my story with “the world”. But – I have been around for a long time (both chronologically and in recovery!) and I hope someone can identify with my story and ask for help. I am the Vice President of Clinical Operations at Vertava Health in Brentwood, Tennessee. My focus is to continue to build upon our successful clinical program for our various treatment centers around the country. I am an LCSW, having earned my BSW and MSSW. I have been a Clinical Director and interim CEO at high-end dual diagnosis treatment centers. And I’m proud to say that all of those acronyms mean I am one of the best to be doing what I do in this field. But you know what? I never went to treatment. I quit drinking and doing cocaine after the traumatic death of a friend. Her slow death of cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatic cancer affected me greatly. I remember sitting next to her bed, crying, hungover, sick, nauseous – and something happened. I had a “moment of clarity.” I KNEW that if I didn’t stop alcohol and using drugs, I would be exactly in the same spot. My children would be sitting at my bedside, crying at my death. That was it. Angels? I don’t know. I now think it was the intuitive thought, or a message – a God Shot – that we all get but I had covered up with substances. A God Shot is when one has a present and existing spiritual connection with a higher power that guides them to a specific outcome. In my years of recovery, I have learned to listen clearly for my God Shots – and this was the first one I allowed myself to hear. The previous year my son moved back in with me. He was on the basketball team and I went to his games. I wanted to be the good mother, to make it up for all those drunken years, all the neglect. Mind you, I was still using, hung over, reeking of alcohol, getting high on cocaine in the bathroom. Not pretty. I sat with the wife of his coach, and we’d talk. She was a school counselor, and we’d talk about kids, relationships, life. Not my drinking. Not drugs. I was pretty sure she had no idea that I had a problem. But I liked her and liked talking to her. After my friend’s death, I called her (a God shot) and said that I thought I was in trouble with alcohol and drugs. She said “I’ve been waiting for this call for over a year – you don’t know how happy I am to hear from you. Do you think you can go 24 hours without a drink and call me in the morning?” Sure. I can do that. Maybe. I think so. OK – if nothing better comes along. She then said, “If you can’t, we’ll get you into a treatment program.” Oh no!!! Then everyone will know! “They already know – you haven’t fooled anyone”. I didn’t tell anyone that I’d stopped drinking. I started exercising (I was 30 pounds overweight) and joined some of my colleagues on the golf course. I practiced putting and chipping. I played golf 2 to 3 times a week. I got busy. Did I go to meetings? NO. I wasn’t one of “them”. Mind you, I’d never been to ANY type of 12-step meeting. Nothing. This was years ago, so there wasn’t much press out there. I’d never seen a meeting depicted on a TV show or movie. I thought this was where all the street people ended up, homeless and hopeless – and I still had a job! I owned my home! We won’t mention that I didn’t shower on my days off, my hands shook so badly that I was unable to sign my name. I couldn’t sustain a relationship. I lived on Tab and cigarettes. My blood pressure was through the roof. My children had been living with their father in another state. No, I wasn’t THAT bad! No, I wasn’t like THOSE people. After about three months, I was looking better, active, but I was BORED!! When you consider that a great deal of my time had been drinking or recovering from the hangovers; looking for drugs, doing drugs, getting over drugs with alcohol, the starting all over again. That’s a full day! My friend suggested that I go to a meeting. “There are other people just like you,” she said. I thought, I doubt it…no one is just like me! But I was losing it. I knew that if I didn’t do something, I would go back to my old life. Here’s my third “God Shot”. I really, really didn’t want my old life. I surrendered. I went to a meeting. I walked in and there were a bunch of women laughing. I thought, “OK, they’re not so bad”. They were clean. Looked bright enough. Some humor. I can deal with this group. I sat down and no one spoke to me. And I sure wasn’t going to put my hand out, introduce myself to them! I had to be taught to do that. A new, frightened member sometimes goes unnoticed. But no one was mean. They just ignored me. I did not feel “at home” at my first meeting. I don’t know when the shift happened, but eventually, I began to feel a little better. People were talking to me. I was able to focus and listen for short periods. I couldn’t read and retain much, so they told me to read the stories at the end of the book. I was willing. I stuck around. I got a sponsor who was just like me, but had some time in recovery. I didn’t drink between meetings (although I sure wanted to.) The more they talked about not drinking, the more I wanted to drink. Do you know why I didn’t drink? No? I don’t either. Maybe it was that I was really done. Maybe it was that I was looking for “the answer” in the rooms, and knew I wouldn’t find it if I didn’t keep coming back. Maybe it was another God Shot. I don’t know. But 6 months turned into a year. Then it was two. Then it was five. Then it was – don’t blow the time you have by relapsing! Now it’s been 27 years, and I wake up today expecting to remain sober. The thought of drinking and using does occasionally pass through my mind, but I don’t. It’s not an option. I play the tape out. I think – then what? And then what would happen? And then what? I use all the tools I’ve learned in thousands of meetings. I call someone. I go to meetings. And I ask my Higher Power for help. Every day. All day. And I’m OK today. And the God Shots keep on coming!! Allow me to point something out to you. Are you reading this? Did you get all the way to the end? What did think? Because if you did… Welcome to your God Shot. Yours, Toril Newman
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