On July 17th I celebrated four years sober. Completely blows my mind. I never dreamed this would be my life. I never wanted a life without alcohol. I took my first drink at 15 and after high school started partying. I used whatever anybody had. I had a great job that I loved beginning at 19. I got arrested that year and shortly after found out I was pregnant. That is when I stopped using drugs. After I had my daughter, I continued to drink, and I drank for 11 years. I worked with abused women and children and made a name for myself in that world in KY. My life was very strange because I was so gifted in working with the hurting yet, I’m an alcoholic and telling my kids to open their gifts without me because I’m too hung over to get up. Those years were filled with chaos and opposite extremes. I am being flown to Florida to be a keynote speaker and I am getting truancy warning letters because I’m not capable of getting my children to school. I went through a lot of domestic violence and was always in a relationship with someone completely unstable and often had issues with drugs or alcohol themselves. I spent most of those days fantasizing about death or disappearing. I wanted escape.
God had other plans. Starting around 2012 several key things began to happen. Some of the people closest to me started speaking to me about their concerns about my drinking. My boss sent me to counseling as a last chance to keep my job. One night, realizing I had drank everything in the house, I found myself standing in the bathroom thinking about drinking the mouthwash. I opened and shut the vanity door probably five times. The only reason I didn’t drink it was because I knew that it would kill my stomach which I had destroyed from drinking. This was a moment for me. It was like I was looking down on myself in that bathroom and I thought, “I don’t think these are normal thoughts. Am I an alcoholic?” I started to accept that I needed to make changes around alcohol.
It took me about six months to decide that I was truly an alcoholic and because of this I could never drink again. I got pregnant again and was given a bible at a local pregnancy center. About a month later, I “accidentally” ended up at an ARC convocation. I rededicated my life to God and within a few weeks after began working at Karen’s Place. It’s been one miracle after another since. I am now married to a person I want to be like. This is very strange for me. I am 20 supervision hours away from taking my test to be a counselor and…..I am up on Christmas! Actually, I have had family Christmas dinner at my house since I have been sober. This is completely mind boggling to everyone involved. I have been the one showing up hours late and hungover while everyone waits and the food is getting cold, if I showed up at all. I use the gifts that God gave me to help hurting women find freedom every day. I am so passionate about the life I get to live and the work I get to do that I come off a little crazy. That’s ok though, I get to watch the dead come back to life.
What was your aha moment?
After working my job for 13 years, my boss was tired. She gave me the option of counseling or resignation. I thought I could just use the counseling to help me cope with my terrible boss. The problem was clearly her, right? During one session the counselor asked me how I would feel if she told me that I could never drink again. Before I knew what happened, big, hot tears were streaming down my face. Instantly I thought, “I have failed the “are you an alcoholic” test.
What feelings and emotions did you have in active addiction?
I was deeply depressed. I woke up every single day with the image of a gun in my mouth. I would go five or six days at a time being too depressed to shower. I often fantasized about being homeless so I could do all the drugs and drinking that I wanted. I felt like life was too hard for me and I didn’t want to do it. I felt like there was no escape because I couldn’t kill myself. I was a mother and I couldn’t do that to them.
What is the driving force that keeps you going when times get tough?
God. Period. Prayer.
I find my strength in joy. This life is so good. When you have been brought back from the dead you get a little radical. You want to get up, and get dressed, show up, and do it another day. I want to help people find their way. Working with people in addiction fuels me. I also have people in my life that hold me up when I feel like I can no longer stand.
Do you have any advice for the addict still struggling?
It is hard but the intensity of the pain, heartache, shame, depression, anxiety, and all the rest lessens. You start to come back to life. You start to remember things you didn’t even know that you forgot that you like. You start to laugh, feel love, and have hope. Many of us can’t see it at the beginning. Surround yourself with people who have been there and can see it and can help drag you to the other side when you can walk.
What obstacles or roadblocks have you faced in your recovery?
My relationship with my 15 year old is hard. She was with me through it all and now I am a new person. It is complicated and I don’t always know what the right move is.
My marriage has been hard too. God sent me an incredible man who loves me like God loved the church. Accepting this, and allowing him to do so, has been very hard. God sent him to me fully equipped to help me heal. He has helped me fight the devil’s lies that I am too broken and should just be alone so I don’t hurt anyone else. He has loved me, been kind to me, and patient. This has been the key to my healing. Each day, I am a little less afraid to be the wife he deserves. If I keep trying and letting God heal my heart, one day he will be thankful that he didn’t give up.
What is something you want people who never struggled with addiction to know?
People in addiction make it very hard on others. It’s hard, but it can help to remember that it is not the person, it is the addiction. The addiction is the devil. The person is in his bondage. The addict needs help making their way to the light. It’s also helpful to remember that hurt people hurt people and as much as they are hard to be around it is also hard to be them. Karen’s father, Raymond was talking about a night that he waited for her to come home. He said that when she finally showed up, she looked so sad and he said to her, “Karen, it must be so hard.” He said that she said to him, “Dad, it is.” He gazed off and said out loud to us, “Karen. Suffered.” That two word sentence summed it all up.
What advice do you have for family members of a person in addiction?
If there is hope for me there is hope for anyone. I went from being an obnoxious, cynical, agnostic to a woman after God’s heart. I went from being the source of drama, embarrassment, shame, and worry for my grandparents to laying my hands on my grandfather’s tiny, frail body in his hospital bed as my family gathered around me. Now if that ain’t God, you tell me what is. There is a song that says, “I am surrounded by songs of deliverance.” My life is absolutely filled with people the world considered too far gone. These are songs of deliverance. They are clean and sober and living beautiful, full lives. Many of them are bringing others into the light. It is never too late.
I could never ever explain how thankful I am that God made me new. And that God picked me to walk alongside others in their journey to recovery.
There is hope. There is help.
Tiffany worked with victims of domestic violence for thirteen years and her work was well known within that realm. However, after finding recovery from alcoholism and rededicating her life to God she came to work for Addiction Recovery Care in 2013. She has served many roles within outpatient and residential centers including: Clinical Counselor, Targeted Case Manager, Peer Support Specialist/Mentor/Certification Instructor, & Stewardship School Instructor. She currently holds her temporary CADC and will be taking the KY exam this winter. Tiffany has a passion for the hurting and plans to spend her life helping others find the one and only answer, God.