Olga celebrated 25 years of sobriety with a trip to Colorado from her home in Florida. The 64-year old completed treatment at Arapahoe House’s adult intensive residential program in 1989. She recently shared her recovery story with clients currently residing in the same program.
It’s an honor to sit with you today and tell you my story in the very place that taught me I deserved to tell a story of success.
At age 39, I had used drugs and alcohol for most of my life as an escape from whatever the world was offering. A check I stole from my mother provided $500 for plane fare and a bit extra for the journey from my home in the Virgin Islands to Colorado. When I arrived at Arapahoe House, all I had was the feeling in my heart that I desperately needed help.
I experienced unconditional love for the first time, in a room just like this, filled with people just like you. I learned that I needed to hear their stories just as much as they needed to hear mine. They didn’t judge me, they listened and empathized. I learned how to be valued and how to love myself. At the end of my 45 days in treatment, the person I used to be was no longer there. She had been replaced by a woman who wasn’t controlled by tension and anger. Little did I know the real work on my sobriety was just beginning.
After I left Arapahoe House, I struggled. The safety I felt was slowly disappearing and my old habits didn’t seem to care that I was a new person. I knew I had to find support and that’s when I started to go to meetings. I would go to any meeting I could find from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to Narcotics Anonymous (NA). The more meetings I went to, the more I realized that all of the things I learned here at Arapahoe House were reaffirmed for me in groups like AA and NA.
I started to meet more people in AA and NA who struggled like I did. These people started to feel like family, a family I wanted to be part of. One year, there was a fire in my home and I lost everything, even all of my beloved pairs of shoes. It wasn’t my family who showed up to help me, but 17 people from NA. They brought food, and coffee and we had a meeting right there in my yard.
If you relapse, don’t be afraid to come back to these rooms. You will not be judged, but will be welcomed back with open arms. Return to these rooms, whether it’s treatment at Arapahoe House or groups like AA or NA, because it means you haven’t given up on a life that deep down you know you deserve.
My 25 years of sobriety is as much about the fellowship of the people I have met in these rooms as it is about me. They taught me that staying sober is not something to do alone. I feel as though there is nothing in life that I can’t endure.