Renee first came to Mountainside so that her nephew would grow up knowing her in person – not just through pictures and the fond memories of others. Now, she’s happy and healthy in recovery, being brave, without needing “liquid courage.” In this month’s Spotlight, learn more about the motto she lives by and the best advice she’s ever been given.
Q: What excites you the most now when you get up in the morning?
A: I love waking up in the morning feeling refreshed. It’s so much easier to start my day without a hangover, having to put the pieces together of what happened the night before. I know exactly what I did and where my car is parked. I don’t have to cringe when I look at my phone or dread checking my bank account. Waking up sober sure beats waking up sick, confused, and remorseful. I wake up knowing I am in control of my decisions and ready and willing to do the next right thing.
Q: What is your motto? And what about this motto appeals to you?
“Live in the moment” has become the motto that I live by. This simple quote has made a significant difference in my life. Living in the present helps me to not project and therefore leaves me with much less anxiety and fears. Freeing my mind, I am able to enjoy life and take the time to appreciate all things rather than being consumed with projecting things that are unlikely to even occur.
Q: What has been the best part of recovery for you? Why?
A: My recovery has been filled with so many positive changes. During my many years as an active alcoholic, I had lost my smile and joy for living. Sobriety has given that back to me. I have a deeper appreciation for life and take the time to enjoy it. The emotional freedom is priceless and has given me the gift to become my authentic self. As an active alcoholic, I was drowning in insanity and now I live drenched in gratitude.
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 has been to continue on my recovery journey. Through the foundation I received at Mountainside and embracing the 12 step program, I am grateful to have celebrated my 3-year sobriety anniversary on December 8, 2016. I am forever grateful for my experience at Mountainside. I felt safe and was able to venture outside my comfort zone. I have learned to become honest and trustworthy. It’s truly a gift to be able to do service and give back. I’ve grown up in this program and have learned to live as a responsible adult. I no longer live a torturous and exhausting double life. My days are no longer totally consumed with the obsession of drinking. It’s so wonderful to have the courage to do the things I fear without needing that liquid courage. I would go to any length to stay sober and to continue trudging on this journey.
Q: What has been your biggest hurdle in recovery and how did you learn to overcome it?
A: My biggest hurdle in sobriety was learning to forgive myself. Embracing the AA program and practicing the steps has helped me deal with the guilt and remorse in a healthy way. Meetings have been such an important part of my recovery. Listening to those that I can relate to is truly a healing process, and it’s a place where I feel safe and at home. Every night before falling asleep, I remind myself that I am safe, loved, and free.
Q: What was the turning point that led you to get help?
I knew the fight was over when who I had become was scarier to me than asking for help. Alcohol just didn’t work for me anymore. I could not get drunk enough. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had been hospitalized numerous times for pancreatitis and was at the point where I couldn’t eat anymore and every sip of alcohol was physically painful. My life had become truly unmanageable, and I was on the verge of losing a lot of important things in my life. I could not even look in the mirror anymore because I just could not believe what I had become. By the grace of God, I was blessed with my moment of desperation. I was laying on my bedroom floor unable to move when I looked up at a picture of my adorable baby nephew in his Yankee hat. As I looked at his picture, I was struck with the overwhelming emotion that I wanted to do anything to not be an Aunt that he would grow up to know only through pictures and stories.
Q: If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
A: If I could go back and tell me younger self something, I would tell myself not to don’t lose faith, just be brave and keep going.
Q: What would you like people who are afraid to receive treatment know?
A: Just keep showing up and being active in the program.
Q: What suggestions do you have for the newcomer?
A: Go to as many different meetings as possible to experience them all and find the ones you like the best. Get a sponsor, get a commitment, and form a network. Most importantly, laugh. Laugh a lot. It helps with the healing, and it just makes life more fun.
Q: What is the best advice you have been given?
A: The best advice I’ve been given is that the secret to living is giving.
Q: What is the one item you can’t do without?
A: One item I can’t live without is my Big Book. I am undisciplined without it. In the beginning, I was careful not to write in it and treated it like a library book. Today, it is filled with highlights, notes, and dates.
Q: Who – dead or alive – is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
A: If I could invite anyone to dinner, it would be my mother. My mother passed away Christmas 2009, and I wish she would have lived long enough to see me sober.
Q: What’s the one thing people would be pleasantly surprised to know about you?
A: One thing people would be pleasantly surprised to know about me is my love for Little House on the Prairie. Not only am I a huge fan of the show but I have read all the Little House books as well as all the books Laura Ingalls Wilder has written. There are many Laura homesites around the country in the different locations where Laura and her family have lived. I have been to a few, and my goal is to travel to them all. I have always been intrigued with that era and have even been known to show up places sporting a good old-fashioned bonnet. I have been teased for my love of Little House, and frankly, I don’t care. I am a huge fan, and my love for it makes me happy.
Q: What are you currently reading or what song have you enjoyed recently? What do you love about it?
A: Part of my morning routine is listening to Steve Tyler’s Amazing in the car on my way to work. I listen to the unplugged version recorded at a rehab. I can just feel the words, and it motivates me. Recovery truly is amazing, and I am so grateful that I was blessed with this gift.