I think my heart stopped for a moment on that November day in 2003. I was sitting before an evaluation committee for the Diversion Program for the Board of Registered Nurses. I had just been informed that the committee was sending me to residential treatment for one year. One year! That seemed very extreme to me, until I was honest with myself. I realized that one year was the minimal time I needed to get a solid foundation for a chance at long-term sobriety. Humility was going to be key for my success with this.
I had been introduced to recovery from substance abuse back in 1986 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. I had been sent to a drug and alcohol treatment center after being caught stealing the narcotic Demerol from the base hospital down in Del Rio, Texas. I thought it was very nice of the Air Force to send me to treatment before I was court-martialled and sent to Leavenworth. It is too bad that the whole time in treatment I was not ready or willing to discuss my long history with alcohol. The fact that serving time at Ft. Leavenworth was not enough to insure long term continuous sobriety is a testament to the denial I was in about the severity of my illness.
Seventeen years later after having some periods of sobriety with longer and longer periods of relapse I sat before this committee. I had somehow managed to hold on to my nursing license. The committee reviewed the 26-page intake form I had filled out for them. Thankfully, I had finally become completely honest about myself. I felt that my life was in jeopardy and that my honesty was the only thing that could possibly save me from myself. I had not only struggled with sobriety, but had battled an eating disorder since I was fourteen years old.
My only experience with any form of residential treatment was with the Charter Hospital patients I saw when I would go to meetings there. I pictured myself with an armband and doing the Thorazine shuffle in no time. But I was WILLING TO GO TO ANY LENGTHS now to stay clean and sober.
What a surprise it was for me to enter Crossroads and stand in this beautiful structure that looked like a house on the inside — not a hospital! I felt immediate warmth, and as I walked in to apply to stay there I noticed a picture of a dog with a special tribute to this dog on the fireplace mantel. Wow! My love for dogs knew no bounds, and here I had entered a place that had so loved their dog that they shared this with all of those who entered. I felt deep down inside that my life was going to change in a very positive way from this brief experience.
Life at Crossroads was transforming for me. I was living with eighteen other newly recovering women and learning to deal with life on life’s terms on a daily basis. On my third day I was given “House Mom” duties, which meant I was responsible for cooking a whole meal for everyone. I felt overwhelmed at the prospect, as I was the type of cook that needed a cookbook to boil an egg. Thankfully I would discover one of the great facts about Crossroads: There were women there who were willing to help me through the experience and let me learn. They talked me through rice/bean/coleslaw/cornbread night, and there was a lot of laughter along the way! I also had a daily chore for the house and began to learn about deep cleaning an area with our weekly “Full House Participation” on Saturdays. I shared in the elations and the sorrows of the house. Women we cared for relapsed and were asked to leave. Other women won medals at the Recovery Olympics! We raised money as a house with yard sales, fashion shows, bake sales, Recovery Idol, and other activities along the way.
I obtained a job as a waitress downtown and became a big fan of my bus pass! I began to experience joy in ways unimaginable. There exists a love and belonging at Crossroads that no words can begin to describe. I developed coping skills for dealing with my eating disorder, despite all of the triggers, by confronting the problem head on and learning to exercise in a healthy way. I was able to participate in Crossroads groups and functions, work the 12-step programs, and follow the Nursing Diversion program mandates in a sound and happy way because I had finally turned my life over to a higher power. Crossroads reinforced the idea that life can be lived in a fun and sober manner, but that it would not always be easy.
One year went by too fast. I ended up staying on longer than a year. I have resumed my nursing practice full-time, continue to exercise regularly, participate in recreational activities, work the 12-step program, follow the Nursing Diversion program, pass on what I have learned to others, and get over to Crossroads at least weekly to check in with the house. My life has gone from a pitiful tragedy to a beautiful love story. Love of life, God, sobriety, Crossroads, and the people in my life who make every minute of it fulfilling and special.