I’ve been in recovery for just over 10.5 years, and I can still remember with vivid accuracy the times in my life when I couldn’t even manage to stay sober for 10 days.
I try not to think about those times too often. Mostly because the memories are so unpleasant. That’s kind of an understatement. The memories are too much to bear sometimes. It’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole and think about all the mistakes I made, the people I hurt, the horrible things that happened to me, and the time I spent praying for my own death because it seemed like the only possible way to stop the pain I was feeling. I even thought my death would end the suffering I was causing my parents and kids. That’s what addiction can do, essentially strip a person of their humanity and leave them a hopeless shell of a person. At least that’s what it did to me.
I’m frequently asked how someone like me ended up being addicted to alcohol and drugs. They see me as the person I am now and have a hard time imagining what went wrong. I usually just give a short answer, doing my best to change the subject and avoid personal disclosures. Something along the lines of, “The same way everyone else does—it’s never really just one thing, is it?” In my early recovery it was important, critical even, that I discovered the answer to that question. How exactly did I end up being addicted to drugs and alcohol? It wasn’t like that was ever an aspiration of mine. No one really has a life goal of becoming a homeless addict, cut off entirely from their family and friends. Yet that was exactly what I had become. I used to talk about it pretty openly. I would share my experiences and the things that I believe led me to using alcohol and drugs to cope with my feelings and life situation. But all of that feels less important to share as time goes on.
It’s not that I’m worried about being judged or anything like that. Addicts, whether in recovery or not, deal with stigma and judgment all the time. I’m not a stranger to it and I don’t shy away from it or try to avoid it. But I’d much rather focus my time and efforts on figuring out ways to help people. It seems way more useful than explaining how I became an addict. It’s certainly way more useful than sitting back and judging people who are still in active addiction or who are having a hard time in their recovery. Early on in my recovery I knew I needed to be a helper. I wanted to make sure I was making a difference in the lives of others, so I began volunteering in the community and working in the drug and alcohol treatment field. Working in various roles ranging from a volunteer peer to managing multiple Delaware treatment programs for a large agency provided me with opportunities to help on many levels.
I’ve been to too many funerals to count, and I’ve seen the devastation that addiction causes in families and in our communities. But I’ve also had the privilege of seeing individuals rebuild their lives, reunify with their families, and truly thrive in their recovery.
And that’s why I continue to work in this field. It’s why I continually seek opportunities to educate others about addiction, to provide a path for individuals in recovery to rebuild their lives, and to help provide high quality and ethical resources for those in need. I know not everyone will be supportive of the person I am and the work I do, and I know that stigma will continue to rear its ugly head. For me, that just means my work isn’t done and that I need to continue to provide help and hope to those who need it most.
Kim Jones has recently been appointed to Deputy Director of Community Collaboration of Delaware (CCD), a nonprofit organization committed to making a positive community impact while helping others succeed. Kim’s shared passion for community service led her to develop CCD’s CARE Program (Community Advocacy & Recovery Empowerment) which provides structured and supportive recovery housing for men and women with substance use disorders. In her new role, Kim will also oversee CCD’s youth programming and prevention services as well as assist with the organization’s community service and outreach initiatives.