Face of Recovery – please meet Sarah-Pink Welch!
There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction, addiction treatment and addiction recovery. Yet those who have the disease of addiction (whether to illegal or prescription drugs or alcohol) and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Recovery.
Addiction Recovery – It’s real, it happens to real people, and it happens all the time.
It is my great pleasure to introduce Sarah-Pink Welch, Ph.D., Certified Addictions Specialist, Certified Life Coach, Certified Grief Specialist, and today’s Face of Recovery.
How did your addiction start?
My twin sister and I were born on April 1st, 1955. We were about two months premature and drunk when we came into the world. No one knew there were two of us and no one told my very alcoholic mother to stop drinking. When she gave birth to us my sister only lived a few minutes, we were very yellow and plastered. My mother had even taken alcohol to the hospital with her. Any time she was able to feed me she put alcohol in my bottle. I was a very quiet baby. When she and my dad took me home she continued her practice of putting something in my bottle. At first I am told she used an over the counter drug called paregoric. About three months later the paregoric no longer worked and she began using brandy, gin, vodka, whatever she had. I remember when I was two years old getting my own alcohol from the liquor closet. Yes, it was an entire closet and it was filled from bottom to top. I drank everyday and night. When I would go visit my aunt, I packed gin to take with me. There was no need to do that because my aunt was also an alcoholic and prominent bartender. She had plenty of everything I liked to drink, which was everything but beer. I would stand in her kitchen window of her very posh apartment and watch what I called “the happy, dancing people,” across the street on the sidewalk. I could hear music and laughter and see them dancing and I wanted to be with them. One night when I was ten years old I snuck out of our home and walked up the street to the corner, caught the number 78 bus, and ended up at my aunt’s apartment. I did not go in. I walked across the street to the “happy, dancing people.” A man I guess in his 30’s asked me. “honey, would you like to feel better?” I didn’t think I felt bad, but I said sure and he shot me up with heroin. I fell in love. It was so awesome to me. I was aware but I was numb. I could feel invisible but I functioned just fine. Not one person in the years I went to school ever noticed that I was drunk or high or both. My body was so messed up that it caused some very rare syndromes’, but it also caused me to be super smart. I graduated high school right as 6th grade ended and I entered med school, high and drunk.
What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober?
I think what ended everything for me was being a doctor at such a young age. Between work, shooting up and drinking, my body was giving up. I had come home on the bus from a 48 hour shift in the Trauma Unit and collapsed. I was yellow and exhausted. I could hear my dad whisper to me, “I am getting you help baby girl.” I could also hear my mother someone nearby screaming, “just let her die.” Daddy did not give up and for once, he stood up to my mother.
What was your initial treatment?
My dad rushed me to the hospital and soon after arriving, they told my dad that they could not help me because I was “dirty.” I have to laugh when I think back at how my dad’s face looked when they said that. He replied that I had just finished a 48 hour shift and maybe that was why. He didn’t get what they meant. I was a heroin addict, an alcoholic and I needed to be detoxed. We had drunk tanks here but little else. They told my dad to take me to a Methadone Clinic about 20 minutes away in Kentucky. Everyday, for 6 days I was given methadone. They started me off on a very high dose…about as much methadone as the heroin I was using everyday. Each day they dropped the dose substantially. I didn’t feel so wonderful but I still had my gin and vodka. No one asked if I drank. On the 7th day, April 1st, 1972, the hospital admitted me into their Psychiatric Unit. I never drank or used again. I spent 3 months there and was released. I got involved in AA and have not stopped going back.
Do you do anything differently, today?
Today I live. I live out loud. I do yoga, eat in a healthy fashion and smile a lot.
What is your life like, now?
My life now equals freedom. I am not tied to a bottle or a rig. I hang out with homeless kids, women in prison, give motivational speeches. I had to retire from medicine but I still do consulting. I became a Alcohol/Drug Specialist, an Interventionist, a Sober Coach, Grief and Loss Coach and Life Coach, and I absolutely love my life.
Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction? How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?
To anyone using, I know you don’t want to use. You can lie to yourself but you will never convince me that staying as you are is what you really want. I want to say it’s okay to take a leap of faith and get help. There is a solution. And if I can do it, I know you can.
What is the best part about your recovery?
Everything. I am loving life and using every minute of to help others.
Thank you, Sarah-Pink, so very much for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 41 years RECOVERY