Addiction Treatment and Recovery – It’s real, it happens to real people, and it happens all the time.
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 Treatment and Recovery.
It is my great pleasure to introduce Diane Cameron Pascone – today’s Face of Addiction Treatment and Recovery.
How did your addiction start?
I believe that my addictions began quite young. I grew up in a home with parental addictions and a lot of fear. As a child I began with behaviors to soothe myself–super organized, hyper-vigilant etc. Then sugar was addiction number one. Well into recovery I realized that all my behaviors around candy mirrored behavior around alcohol: craving it, hiding it, stealing for it, stashing it, lying about it etc.
I think sugar and other foods kept feelings at bay a long time, but when I was 19 I met alcohol–of course it was sugary drinks first. Liquid candy. The kinds of drinks that make people scoff today: Pink Ladies, White Russians, pastel, sugar on the rim of the glass etc. That also sustained my illusion that I was lady-like.
But soon enough I was lying, hiding, denying. Most of my drinking was as “dessert” so another form of denial. I also “drank” with a spoon in my hand–alcohol on ice cream and on cake etc. That spoon kept me in denial a long time. I also began to have another secret addiction: exercise, which was the perfect compliment to all that cake and kept several addictions well hidden. A conspiracy of sugar, booze, behavior and eventually some drugs.
What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober – seek addiction treatment and recovery?
Interestingly it was in relationships where the damage showed first. Many bad relationships, men who drank–and who of course looked much worse than me as their behavior showed while my using didn’t, but I was getting sicker and sicker so I chose sicker partners each time. It was brutal emotionally and people saw that. The turning point was when SIX yes, 6, people all gave me the book, Women Who Love Too Much, by Robin Norwood. That book saved my life.
I couldn’t deny the bad relationships; they showed. So slowly I read her book, which is about ACOA [Adult Children of Alcoholics] women, and in a late chapter she says, “If you identify with the stories in this book you may have a problem with food or alcohol or drugs.” I could almost hear the BING! it was so loud inside of me and so denial busting. In a moment of grace, I called all the 1-800 numbers that Norwood listed. And I went to meetings: OA, Alanon etc.
I was still in denial about alcohol but a smart sponsor told me to go to open AA meetings to learn about the twelve steps. Women in AA gathered me up and talked about how women may drink differently. And I was home!
What was your initial addiction treatment?
All meetings and retreats and lots of therapy. I’m a big believer in the combination of twelve-step meetings and therapy. I have used that combination successfully all these years.
Do you do anything differently, today?
I have added lots of extra helps and supports: yoga, pilates (which is very spiritual for me), lots of retreats and workshops. I started working with a spiritual director at about year 12 and that has continued. I’ve changed therapists and changed spiritual directors as my life and needs have changed but I love being surrounded by all that support. I never want to go it alone. I have also gone through periods of fewer meetings, but today I keep a minimum of two meetings per week, and I’m at my best with three a week.
What is your life like, now?
One of my biggest dreams has come true in recovery: I am a published writer. Two books in two years, Looking for Signs, a collection of essays, and Out of the Woods about long-term recovery. I also have a long career in human services, working with people in poverty and with family caregivers.
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?
I think what I’d share and what I do share with others is to try many different kinds of support–try different twelve-step meetings–each has a personality, try therapists until you find the one that clicks with you–it is a bit like Goldilocks. Also I know there is a lot of shame about your addictions, but there are millions of us who were there and we are happy to welcome you into our community–and someday you really will laugh about these things that are so devastating today. For families: also get help. Families are often even more resistant, but family and friends do need Alanon or ACOA or a family group, or a family intervention for themselves. It seems crazy when you are looking at your addicted loved one but really, your own recovery is the best first step for them.
What is the best part about your recovery?
The best part of my recovery is the community–friends, women with whom I am honest every day, achieving dreams that felt like bad secrets years ago–wanting to write or be an artist. Watching other people reach their dreams too. It sounds so corny but absolutely true: Laughter, ease and good friends.
Thank you, Diane, so very much for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 33 years RECOVERY!
You may also wish to “meet” others sharing their recovery stories with BreakingTheCycles.com by clicking on this link, Faces of Recovery.