By Barbara Nicholson-Brown

Like many of us who are now clean and sober, my experiences with alcohol and drugs started out as a way for me to be part of the “cool crowd.” Back then I was so far from cool, (I don’t know if I am now either), but what a way for me be accepted, so my young mind thought.

Would it hurt? Someone said no, “you’ll feel good, that’s all!” That sounded quite appealing to me. It was during those awkward years when you’re still a kid, but a teen and you want to be all grown up. “This might be my chance at happiness,”—so I joined in.

Did it hurt? Yes! My first time drinking found me passed out and blacked out under some kid’s parent’s pool table in a dank dark basement. I was nauseous and scared to go home and face my parents. Would they know? Was I going to get grounded for life or shipped away? I did get in trouble and made my first promise never to do it again. Maybe that was my first alcoholic lie. I was delusional enough to think I was in some kind of love affair, as all sorts of alcohol and drugs found their way into my system.

I tried to fight the battle on my own periodically — but the war had started years ago in my body, brain and spirit. When I ingested anything, bad things happened. Every time I thought I would abstain for a while, the power of my addiction won. I was constantly fighting good and evil. I loved being numb, hated the aftermath, loved the way I felt when I was high, hated what I was becoming. I couldn’t keep the lies straight. I couldn’t stop.

Little did I know the madness would not stop until I hit bottom on June 17, 1990.

The power of the disease of my addiction told me I didn’t have it, nothing was wrong. It seduced me and I was oftentimes momentarily ‘enchanted, prettier and desirable’. What I didn’t see was the wreckage it was creating. All the cover-up in the world couldn’t erase the shadows under my eyes, and the sadness that emanated from every pore of me. This isn’t a picture of what love looks like.

I have learned over the past 22 years this is an incurable but treatable disease. I have learned to fight my war with sober friends, and for the most part …listening to their wisdom. I learned it really is OK to ask for help, ok to share my experiences, war stories and joys with others.

What I have learned most of all is through a power greater than myself I get a daily reprieve if I follow direction, do the best I can each day and live in gratitude — for the good and the bad that comes with life.

Everything that happens is meant to, learning can be painful, but I’ve been told that’s where the growth is.

On this journey of recovery, we must help each other along when the trenches are deep and extend a hand to get our footing.

I know for myself I could not have gotten to this point in my sobriety alone. We are in this together, and I see this as gift of love.