My name is Carolyn and I'm from Seattle, Washington. I, uh, struggled with drugs and alcohol for about 35 years, as many years as I've been struggling with drugs. And alcohol is as many times as I've been to jail.

Trauma Led to System Involvement

I started getting incarcerated when I was a juvenile and I did my last of two penitentiary stays when I was 45. I thought that the best years of my life were behind me. I had no idea that they were in front of me. I have a significant history with trauma in the form of domestic violence, which was something that we watched in the household. My mother's alcoholism led us into state care. It meant that we had to create ways in which to care for ourselves in the world. 

That was probably the very first appeal about drugs and alcohol to me is that life seemed so intolerable. And, all of a sudden it was just okay. I spent a lot of my life perceiving the world as a threat. As a result of that, I was constantly at war with everything I came in contact with.

A Different Perspective 

Life looks different when you look at the world as though it is being given to you as a gift. It makes the opportunities things to grow by instead of hide from. I was going to jail a lot for assault, putting hands on people and blackouts, drug charges, prostitution, you name it. And that cycle happened all the way up until I walked into the penitentiary for the last time at 45. 

I came from a place where I spent decades in despair. I'll cry thinking about it. It was this process of looking at maybe there's something else going internally on that I can't see. Maybe there is something that is shaping my actions and responses. It was the first time that I'd ever taken ownership. 

Healing Through Acceptance and Inner Work

I spent a pretty significant period of time doing writing and inventories and those kinds of things to help me process through what led to these cycles. I work with accountability groups and I'm strongly like supported in my recovery life with mentors and, and women's groups.

One of the most things was in the beginning was picking a person to trust when they said that they cared. I chose to believe them. I mean, the first time I started hearing people share their stories about who they were like at first I was aghast, because I didn't know that people said that stuff out loud. But these people that I was in recovery with, these strangers, made me feel loved and accepted. People in my life earlier would tell me that I was loved, but something significant happened in this setting. They would say, “We love you, you have value.” And, I could hear them. I could hear them, in a way I couldn’t before. 

I remember someone asking me early in recovery what my favorite color was. I burst into tears because I had no idea what it was. I began to have opportunities to discover what I cared about, what brought me joy, what I’m passionate about. I love snowboarding in the winter and swimming in the summer. Recovery is about community, about doing life together. 

The Ongoing Journey and Weld Seattle

I've experienced many challenges in my sobriety. I've got dozens of clean dates, dozens of clean dates. This last one, this one seems to have taken. One of the significant gifts that I've been given was an opportunity to come and work at Weld Seattle, as their community navigator for their women's housing program. It’s an incredible program that provides support around recovery, housing, and workforce development, and it’s changing lives every day. Our team, led by our director Patrick Arney, is incredible.

There is restoration still happening. I get to build new relationship with my children. I get to be a daughter to my father and a granddaughter to my grandmother. You know, I've got a lot of forgiveness for my mom. I know absolutely today having been a parent in active addiction what it looks like to try to parent children amidst active addiction. What I didn't have the understanding for as a child have gained as an adult. 

I got a felony conviction when I was 18 years old. And this year, at 50 years old, was the first time in my adult life that I've been granted the access to vote and the country in which I live. There is meaning and purpose in not giving up five minutes before the miracle


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