Leann D. shares how a relapse catalyzed a years-long successful and happy recovery from addiction.
Q: What excites you the most when you get up in the morning?
A: My dog. He is the first living thing I see and talk to in the morning. He is so happy for me to be up and to start the day with me. I always start my day by going on a walk with him, even if it is a short one.
Q: What is your motto? And what about this motto appeals to you?
A: I love the Nike motto, “Just Do It.” I can come up with so many excuses for why I shouldn’t do things like exercise, or call someone from AA. When my depression and anxiety gets in the way, this is the motto I try and tell myself … get out of bed and just do it.
Q: What has been the best part of recovery for you? Why?
A; My relapse was the best thing to happen in my recovery. My grand-sponsor and sponsor sat me down and said, “You can choose your path right now. You can keep drinking and most likely die or live your life happy, free, and sober by letting us help you along the way.” It was the wake up call I needed to realize I needed the help of AA to get sober.
Q: What would you say is the biggest success – professional or personal – you’ve had since leaving Mountainside?
A: My biggest success since leaving Mountainside is reaching one year of sobriety. I was in a dark place before Mountainside, and I had a relapse after I left Mountainside. Reaching this one-year milestone in November means a lot to me.
Q: What has been you biggest hurdle in recovery and how did you learn to overcome it?
A: My biggest hurdle in recovery is my social anxiety. AA is about opening up to people, reaching out, talking about your feelings and more. I had panic attacks just looking people in the eye, let alone talking to them. I still have social anxiety, but it is much better now; I’m overcoming it with practice and surrounding myself with supportive people to practice talking to.
Q: What was the turning point that led you to get help?
A: My turning point was spending weeks isolated in my apartment − shades down, not talking to anyone, not showering − which led to a suicide attempt. Thinking that ending my life was better for the people in my life than having me there, that was my turning point.
Q: If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
A: Like the 12 & 12 says, “Don’t take yourself too damn seriously.” I was such an anxious child and teenager, and still am. I wish I could have told myself to calm down and enjoy each day as it comes.
Q: What would you like people who are afraid to receive treatment know?
A: Do it. As an alcoholic and an addict, putting the drink or drug down doesn’t solve all your problems. But during treatment you will learn so much about yourself. You become more accepting of yourself, who you are, where you are in life and so much more.
Q: What suggestions do you have for a newcomer?
A: Get a sponsor that you connect with, get a home group that makes you feel like you are home, find an AA family that accepts you, and stick with the winners … they will help you and you will help them.
Q: What is the best advice you have been given?
A: My best advice I got at Mountainside was to go to a meeting right when you get out. I went door to door, from Mountainside to my home group, and they all surrounded me with so much love and support.
Q: What is one item you can’t do without?
A: My bright orange soundproof headphones and music. When life gets too overwhelming, I can’t focus and I get in anxiety mode. I put them on with music and drown out all the outside noise. They are great on an airplane too.
Q: Would you rather be an inventor or a leader? Why?
A: Inventor. Being able to use my imagination and creativity to create something is one of my favorite things to do.
Q: Who – dead or living – is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
A: J.K. Rowling, Beyoncé, Oprah, Kristen Wiig, Macklemore, Robin Williams … If only this could happen!
Q: What’s the one thing people would be pleasantly surprised to know about you?
A: I teach autistic kindergarteners, and I really enjoy my job.
Q: What are you currently reading or what song have you enjoyed recently?
A: Glorious by Macklemore. “I feel glorious, glorious. Got a chance to start again.” We get a chance to start again after leaving Mountainside and restart our lives, don’t let that chance pass you by.