I am writing this column on the cusp of my 69th birthday and in my 16th year of sobriety. As I didn’t really prepare for this sort of longevity, my age is a bit of an issue for me. The issue is simply that there is no way I could possibly, really be 69 years old, though I can’t argue with my birth certificate! Fortunately, I have never felt better or younger in my life. For this, I give total credit to my life in recovery.
Speaking of which, my program of recovery began 21 years ago with the guidance of several Twelve Step programs, which ultimately helped. After working the Steps twice, my chemical dependencies were miraculously lifted, and my obsession to drink disappeared.
Those addictions were replaced by other issues, perhaps less severe, yet still capable of making me feel miserable. My situation was clear to me. I no longer had substances, distractions and chaos between me and my feelings. The intense emotions I was experiencing were awful, though they were familiar. With the assistance of others, I dug into these sensations, fighting and kicking all the way. I emerged realizing there were two things I had been running from all my life – shame and vulnerability. I had no connection whatsoever with my personal power or my divinity.
I grew up experiencing fear, insecurity and shame. As a preteen, I had tremendous self-loathing about being a liar, cheat and thief; but it was the only way I knew to survive. I felt considerable guilt about the mistakes I thought I was making.
What was worse was the shame that told me simply that I was the mistake; and because I was fundamentally unworthy, my behavior really didn’t matter. This separated me from knowing and revealing my true self. It was the makings of a teenage alcoholic.
There was nothing “young at heart” about this picture. My situation became worse as I vacillated between abusing drugs and alcohol. I was shut down, defensive and dishonest. I continued to drink and steal well into my teens and twenties; somehow I stayed out of jail.
It was the 1960s. These were the dark ages of recovery treatment, and no one seemed to understand the source of my problems. I was a burden to everyone and always in some kind of trouble. My alcoholic parents had neither the access to, nor the desire for their own self awareness; so no real help came from them. I lived through 40 more years of “childhood”, coupled with the disease of active alcoholism. Those years included failed marriages, single motherhood, two abortions and plenty of therapy.
Since then, sobriety and miracles are at the core of my life. I am living the happy ending of the story. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been had I recovered in my teens or twenties.
During the past six years, I have had the joy of being friends with a group of young people between the ages of 20 and 30. They met when they came to Prescott, Arizona, for recovery. They were as desperate and lost as I had been at that age.
As time went by, these young men and women became my good friends in recovery. They support each other, and grow and work in service together. They gather often for fun, sober times. Here is a story told to me by one of these friends:
I was well liked in school, had good grades, played softball, rode horses and was on the dance team. Everyone knew my parents. My double life started when no one was around – I was sneaking out, hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting high before and after school.
I became a junkie. No one could believe how far down I had gone. I was unrecognizable. In 2007, I was arrested a couple times, and then arrived in Prescott, Arizona, to get sober. I relapsed and slipped further down the scale of moral values I thought I lived by, but didn’t really. I got sober again on August 11, 2009.
When the God of my understanding smashes my ideas of “self-will run riot”, I am mostly happy, sometimes joyous and as free as possible. The Step
Nine promises have come true in my life, though not the promises of material BS that some people talk about. I have a healthy relationship with my husband, reunited with my family, a job in the treatment field for the last four years that has truly blessed me, true friends. This summer I completed my last class for certification in medical billing and coding. My God is good if I take the action. I turned 30 years old on July 30th of this year. – Katy J.
“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” – Bob Dylan
One of my birthday gifts this year has been my continuing friendships with Katy and other sober young friends. I have attended their weddings, baby showers, college graduations and watched them receive sober medallions every year. They have been a great example to me of what “young at heart” truly means.
The promise of being “happy, joyous and free” applies to us all. At this milestone, I am almost a grown up. I am self-supporting, have a great job in the recovery field; and I am able to have sober fun. I have the privilege of being there for other women as they grow up and regain their lives. I dance to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” everyday, walk in the pines and have a heart filled with gratitude for my life today. Now that’s a happy ending.
Let’s keep celebrating our happy endings, birthdays and being young at heart by eating something healthy and de-lish. Here is my recipe for Braised Chard.
Braised Chard with Cilantro (Adapted from the Purloined Recipes/Whipstone Farms)
Don’t be put off by the long cooking time. In the end the flavor goes far beyond what’s possible with a cursory blanching.
2 large bunches chard, about 2 lbs, leaves sliced into 1 inch wide ribbons
1½ cups of chard stems, trimmed and diced
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp paprika
4 garlic cloves, smashed
Salt and freshly milled pepper
Place all ingredients in a wide, heavy pot with a few pinches of salt. Add 1/4 cup water, cover tightly and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Check once or twice to ensure there’s enough moisture. If anything is sticking, add a few tablespoons of water. When done, taste for salt and season with pepper. The chard should be silky and very fragrant.
Kay Luckett has been in recovery since 1997. She formerly owned Memorable Occasions, a catering company in Los Angeles, where she produced and catered events for over 20 years. Her biggest thrill was catering for Julia Child. She is currently working in the recovery field and is a student at Yavapai College majoring in counseling. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the contact form below.