The secret to sobriety wasn’t running away. It was finding a place to call home.
Where it began. My story is one of promise unfulfilled and a rapid slide into addiction and despair. Then Granada came into my life, and since then it’s been a story of hard work, of hope, joy, gratitude and dreams realized.
I was 25 years old and had a Masters Degree under my belt. I was working on my PhD in Physiological Psychology when things started to unravel. My mother died of a heart attack—at least that was the official version. I knew the real cause was alcoholism. My dad died 11 months later—a real heart attack this time. As an only child, I felt alone and I drank. Not daintily, and definitely not in moderation, but as my mother drank—alcoholically.
Running away. I quit grad school, got married, moved to England; an escape, I believe, from the reality of uncontrolled drinking and loneliness. A fresh start—that’s what I needed. But alcoholism followed me all the way across the Atlantic. The marriage went up in flames, the drinking remained.
Alcoholism was partially responsible for my disability. I woke up in the hospital one day, totally paralyzed. My first thought? “I want a drink.” The doctors told my family that I would “never walk or work again.” It looked hopeless. I felt hopeless. I couldn’t shake the unbelievable need for alcohol. Hemiparesis (or right-sided paralysis) is what I’m left with today.
Recovery homes, rehabs, detoxes, psychiatric hospitals (“she must be suicidal if she drinks after being permanently disabled?”) all followed, without doing much to slow my headlong slide toward death. Then I was given the chance to come to Granada House. The people there made it different; the staff seemed to truly care about me—and they knew what they were doing. Whether I stayed sober mattered to them. There were ex-residents at the House all the time, running meetings, being counselors, or just around to give you a ride or listen. The residents were different, too. Most were doing the right thing with the program—but they were also having fun. Granada House was special and I wanted to be a part of it, maybe more than I wanted to drink. Maybe this place could make up for the family I’d lost.
Moving forward. So, I’d found a reason to live. By this time, I was walking with a cane and had a brace on my leg. The disability made my face droop on the right side, and I had a severe speech impediment. I had to learn to read all over again, and relearn the multiplication tables. And still I had the yearning.
I stayed at the House. Got a job, went to meetings, followed the program in every way. And I stayed close, even after graduation; I was one of those ex-residents giving rides to new residents, and counseling. Pretty soon I’d reached one year of continuous sobriety.
There’s work to do. Within all this I started getting actively involved in the Disability Rights Movement—specifically, the rights of people with disabilities to get addiction treatment. I helped found NAADD (National Association of Alcohol, Drugs and Disabilities). I served on its board for seven years, helping to change the policies and practices in the United States that allow for discrimination against disabled substance abusers.
Today, after over 30 years of continuous sobriety, I’m very happily married. I cross-country ski, kayak, sail, hike and give speeches all around the country on various topics. As Executive Director of Granada House for over 20 years, I’m proud to say the house still has those special characteristics I felt so comfortable in those years ago. A caring staff. Engaged and supportive ex-residents. And hopeful, hard-working residents. These people make up the Granada House Community. I consider them part of my family—the living force that make Granada House such an amazing, transforming place.