Recovery. Recovery? Recovery! Recovery…

by Terri Whitney

According to www.dictionary.com, one use of the word refers to the actual time that it takes for the process of recovering.  My understanding of time has always been that it is God’s way of not allowing everything to happen all at once. For, if it did, we humans could not handle it.

Recovery is hard my friends; it is a journey whose road is marred by potholes and frost heaves; rife with barriers hiding behind ordinary-looking situations waiting to rob you of your recovery, leaving you wounded and helpless.  It is a dangerous road, not one for the faint of heart, nor one for the timid. You must surround yourself with people who want to help you, even if you don’t trust them in the beginning. You must learn to rely on others and trust them or you will not live. Remember, your best thinking got you where you are, needing recovery.

My story is quite long, so I won’t bore you with all of it. Suffice to say that I was an alcoholic by the time I was 10, sexually abused starting at the age of 12, emotionally and mentally abused by my family at an even younger age. I was shy; I was quiet; I was afraid of my own shadow. I was afraid to do the wrong thing so I never, never stepped out of line. It just never seemed to be an option for me. I always did what was expected of me, because I knew that my family would not love me anymore if I didn’t. I could not handle that so I always played by the rules.

I’d only like to look at the last six years with you. A week before Christmas in December, 2010, my then-19-year-old daughter called me to say that her biological father found her on Facebook and wanted to meet her. This after having had no contact over 10 years. She asked me what she should do and I told her that she was an adult and it was entirely up to her. He physically beat me, sexually molested me, verbally accosted me, he used me in every way, shape and form that someone can do to a partner. It was a living nightmare! But this concerned her not me; was her decision to make, not mine.  I gave her the respect that she deserved and allowed her to make her own decision. Although I did not want her to see him, I knew she had to be the one to choose. She decided she would, just to see what he had to say for himself.

She told me that he had not changed at all. Except he had gotten fat, had lost several teeth and wore thicker glasses. He hadn’t gotten any smarter or worldlier or wiser. He still worked in a dumpy restaurant as a cook. He held no interest for her. I silently rejoiced!

What I did not anticipate, however, was the fact of just hearing his name, would throw me into a bout with my post traumatic stress disorder then discover that my current marriage was an extremely abusive one and I had to get out. Now.

Even though I had been clean and sober for 19 years, I had still put myself into the same kind of situation, unknowingly. And so began yet another recovery.

In the interim years, I have had to battle PTSD, major clinical depression, ghosts of my past, myself and my own coping mechanisms, memories, self-recrimination, other people who don’t understand depression, isolation, suicidality all the while not drinking and not interrupting.

The one thing that has saved me is my higher power, whom I choose to call God. Even at my lowest point, God was there. I didn’t always feel Her, but I knew She was there.

I have been through medications, hospitalizations, day treatment programs, therapy sessions, ECT treatments, I don’t even know what all else. I don’t know how many times I was hospitalized, I stopped counting after five. I don’t know how many ECT treatments, again, I stopped counting after five.

Between the summers of 2012 and 2016 I had several injuries including a right rotator cuff surgery and two left ankle surgeries and I’m now facing a third.

During one hospitalization, I decided to end my life. I went into the bathroom, broke the mirror, for a shard of glass with which I could slit my veins. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the mirror was made from safety glass! I was livid at God!! How dare He ruin my plan!

So, I gathered up several of the bigger pieces, closed my door, sat down on the bed. I tried to use the shards to open the veins on my arms. I was, obviously, unsuccessful, and oh, how I raged at God! I could see nothing worth living for. I could see nothing of value in myself. I just wanted my life over, but that was not to be; She had a plan for me.

After one hospitalization, I was referred to Alternatives. They helped me. They helped me get into a safe place, helped me get into another hospital when I needed it, they listened to me as I worked through my issues, they helped me to learn about DBT and how to apply it in my life. They told me that I have been an artist! I would never have put that word as an adjective with my name in the same sentence. They gave me confidence that my art was valuable, indeed that I, Terri, was valuable. They loved me back to health. In short they saved my life. I did a lot of the footwork, but they were there holding my hands as I took those first steps full of fear, doubt and insecurity.

Now I’m on the way to turning my hobby into a business. A nonprofit business which is the most important part of me; to help other people. That is God’s plan for me. All He has ever wanted me to do was to help other people. To mirror the love He has given me out to the world. Doing that one thing gives me deep, deep gratitude and joy and fills my heart with love and peace.

I am truly grateful for everything Alternatives has done for me. It’s been a long, hard road, but I made it through, and I’m still alive!