From: Chicago, IL
Sara Yosseif's Humans in recovery story
I started having addict behaviors really young. My parents split up when I was 2 years old, so I learned to manipulate at a young age. Whenever I didn’t get what I wanted from my mom, I’d convince my dad and cause problems in the family when I’d manipulate both of them. My mom’s side of my family is very smart, overachievers, very athletic and my dad’s side of my family is middle-eastern and they all speak Arabic and are all very close. I never fit in to either side of my family, so I never really felt a part of it. So I kind of felt like I found a place to fit in, and that was with people who were using drugs.
Active addiction felt comforting in the beginning. I pretty much started using because I felt that I had no purpose in life and I was lost, and that made me very uncomfortable. So in order for me to feel comfortable with not doing anything with my life, I started using. I started off smoking weed and that made me feel okay with just sitting around and doing nothing, failing out of school and dropping out of all the activities I was in. I was in a youth circus for years and I got to travel the world doing that and performing. As soon as I started using, I just left. That made me feel really guilty, so to comfort my guilt I used. It was like a bad cycle. The more I used the more I felt alone and unmotivated to do anything about it. It was just an ongoing cycle of guilt and using. Towards the end, I just completely lost myself. I used to be so outgoing, motivated and active in school and activities. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I stopped hanging out with my friends, I isolated all the time, and I didn’t do anything with my life. I just became this empty person that I didn’t know anymore, my family didn’t know anymore. It was really depressing.
My mom knew I was an addict before I realized I was an addict. My dad is an alcoholic and she saw so many similarities between us. So even before I was ready to admit anything to myself, my mom started going to Al Anon meetings. She built this network for herself of people who could support her and help her. By the time I was ready, and I was like, “Ok, I need to do something about this,” I called my mom. The second I called her and admitted it, she already had a game plan ready. She had Jam Alker, who is an outreach coordinator at Recovery Unplugged and one of her best friends, call me right after I hung up the phone with her. He comforted me and let me know that there was a solution. At that point I was ready to make a change and he got me to Recovery Unplugged two days later. I was in a relationship in active addiction and my breaking point was when he told me that I can either get better, or he’s going to leave me. So at first, getting clean was for him. But the more paid attention in groups and got to know that I am worth something, I did it for myself completely. I’m grateful for that, because without him saying that, I don’t think I would’ve even tried.
Being in recovery, I’ve realized that I do have a purpose, many purposes. I’m still in the process of finding what my passions are and what I love to do again, but one thing I know for sure is that my purpose is to help another addict and be support for somebody. I get to be that person today that all the techs, alumni coordinators, and outreach coordinators at Recovery Unplugged were to me.
The thing that I am most grateful for in recovery is the fact that my mom can sleep again at night and not have to worry about me, because my mom is such an amazing person. She is very straight-edge and she is very innocent in a way, so I know that I put her through so much pain with what I was doing with my life. The reward of knowing that my mom doesn’t have to lose sleep over me or worry about if I’m dead or alive, or what I’m doing, is a gift all in itself. Another gift from recovery is having my niece back in my life. For a long time I was babysitting her while I was actively using. I put her life in jeopardy so many times and the guilt ate me alive. Today I get to be the best aunt I can be for my niece, and stay healthy and happy to be there for her and to get to see her grow up.
There are so many things I am grateful for. I can find what I’m passionate about again, I can give myself a chance to go back to school, and I have an amazing job. My goal when I first got to treatment and started to realize that I actually wanted to take this seriously, was that I wanted to be able to work at Recovery Unplugged. I told my sponsor that from the beginning. The day I got 10 months clean, I had an interview. That was the most amazing feeling for me. I am now an alumni coordinator and I get to be support for everyone that comes through our program. I get to be someone that they can talk to. Even now when something big happens, it doesn’t have to be bad even good things, I get excited to tell someone. It made me feel like I was making someone proud. So when clients come to me and tell me they got a promotion at work or that they just got 60 days clean, that makes me so happy and excited. I know that it makes them excited that they get to share their accomplishments with me. I get to help set up and work events and show people that you can still have fun and not have to use. Things can still be enjoyable in life without drugs or alcohol.
My suggestion to anyone that is struggling would be to just give yourself a chance. Even if it doesn’t feel like it in this very moment, that it’s going to work for you or that you don’t have a way out, just give yourself a chance because you never know what you’re going to hear that will change your mind and you never know who your going to meet. They might have gone through the exact same thing as you and can say something to you that will make you realize that you’re worth the chance and worth being clean and happy. My advice for families whose loved ones are struggling is to try to go to an Alanon or Naranon meeting and build your own support and make connections with people. My mom once told me, “You can be the reason for my pain but not my suffering”. People that are using are going to put you through pain, but the more you build support and have more people to talk to, the more you can understand and not let yourself suffer because of what other people are doing. Eventually they will come around.