Kristen just celebrated 1 year of sobriety! She is an
My name is Kristen.
In my lifetime, I’ve been a sister, a daughter, a partner, a BFF, and a nemesis. I’ve been an All-State athlete, a valedictorian, a cruise ship stewardess, a physician assistant, and an actress on a prime-time TV series. I’ve earned advanced degrees, and have lived in 8 states and two foreign countries. I was a primary care provider for over 20 years. I’ve survived stage 4 cancer, heartbreak, and the suicide of a parent. All of these experiences have made me… Me. But, most importantly: My name is Kristen, and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.
When I arrived at Lake Shore Retreat in October of 2017, I was a broken shard of the Kristen who once strived for adventure and success. If you’d asked me on that autumn day why I was an addict, I would have told you that I came from a long dynasty of semi-functional drunks, and it was pretty much my destiny. I’d have gone on to tell you that if you were handed a ‘less-than-a-year-to-live’ death sentence of metastatic melanoma, that you’d probably decide to “go out in flames”, too. And if you had access to unlimited free samples of opiates and a galaxy of other mind-numbing sedatives at work, why, of course, you’d take them too. Wouldn’t you?
So, that’s why poor Kristen became the Kristen who was eventually found passed out next to her car, in rush hour traffic, in the breakdown lane of I-95 North in Greenwich, CT with a BAC of .5%: a lethal level of alcohol poisoning, over 1000 miles away from home in Nashville, TN. The Kristen who had put countless lives in danger since she’d blacked out behind the wheel somewhere in Pennsylvania. This was the version of Kristen that I had become.
When I woke up from my overdose at Greenwich Hospital, I horrified my doctor by disconnecting myself from my restraints, my ventilator and several IV’s because I desperately needed a drink. I was rude, messy, combative, insulting. Didn’t they know I was a medical professional? I’ve since learned that trying to stop a person in active addiction from getting their next fix is like trying to prevent a woman in active labor from having her baby. Their mental and physical desperation destroys any common sense and becomes a primal scream for More.
wish I could tell you that this was my rock bottom and the last time I drank, but a few days later I had dug my abyss even deeper and was back in a similar state in the ICU at Rhode Island Hospital. It was here that I found myself beaten into a state of submission- I was physically, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. My sister appeared at my bedside and clutched the white flag that I shakily waved in the air.
After a three week-long detox, my battered shell arrived at Lake Shore Retreat. It was there that the experienced, compassionate staff taught me about my disease- the things they never taught me in medical school. I’ve come to realize that the reason I’m an alcoholic and an addict is that, by definition, when I pick up a drink or a drug, I can’t stop. Drugs and alcohol were my solutions, but my problem was Kristen. I suffer from the same affliction that killed my dad at exactly my age now. It wasn’t so much the circumstances in my life, but how I chose to react to them.
Lake Shore showed me how to climb out of that chasm of despair by the following the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Writing a manifesto of a Fourth Step, I identified and repaired that hole in my soul, that existential angst that I’ve had all my life- the one I’ve tried to fill with music, compulsions, relationships, possessions, college degrees, travel, substances, you name it!- but can only be fulfilled by the love of a Higher Power. Surrendering my will to the care of God has turned my darkest days into my strongest hour, and Lake Shore helped to put my trembling hand into the Hand of God.
There’s Present Kristen, who is now one year sober and a proud member of the Brady’s Ladies’ Sober Home, in Quincy. The 12 Steps have taught me to live one day at a time, and meditation has taught me to live one breath at a time. The only place that God is truly present is in the Right Now. In my meditation classes, I teach to other addicts; I show that in the Present Moment, there are no worries, no grief, no cravings- only God.
Another version of Me is Past Kristen, who I’ve come to understand, to love, to learn from and to forgive. The amends process started at Lake Shore, has helped me greatly with this. I went back to Greenwich Hospital 6 months into sobriety and made that ER doctor cry, in amazement and relief, that not only was I still alive, I was also humbled, and grateful. That’s where my “Spiritual Dropkick” happened: I saw God in her eyes. He hasn’t left me ever since.
The final part of my trinity is Future Kristen, who I consider to be an integral part of me, like a best friend. I look forward towards the vision of her, and I have her back. I imagine that she’ll turn around and give me a high five, thanking me for my efforts I put into my sobriety and my spiritual growth today. Living in harmony today with God’s plan for me, I have the guidance and strength to help others, especially other addicts who desperately need my help. I’ve learned that true happiness and purpose comes with helping others, and I do this now by helping one addict at a time- by sponsoring other women and by volunteering at New Way Recovery Center in Quincy.
Future Kristen is applying to the Doctorate in Public Health Program at Harvard University. I hope to work someday to help other addicts one community at a time, and maybe globally, on a much bigger scale at a time. God will show me the way. I will always be grateful to Lake Shore Retreat for saving my life, and for helping me to create a better version of myself through my relationship with God. The spark that was ignited there is becoming a bright light into the future for our sisters, daughters, partners, BFF’s and loved ones who struggle with this disease of addiction.