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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 2008)
health and wellness
Addiction - And the Road to Recovery: Part III - Staying Sober
By Scott Laird
The road to recovery from addiction problems can often be long and arduous. Families suffer, lives come unraveled and help can be hard to find.
Gambling is now recognized as an addiction problem that is more widespread than was realized. Drug and alcohol abuse continues to affect the
youth of our communities. In this three part series, Vernonia’s Voice looks at how to find help, get into treatment and stay in recovery.
“Everybody should have an opportunity to
live a life... I have been given a life I could
never have found for myself.”
-- Shelly Kimball
This series of articles initially started as a single
story that was prompted by a conversation with a
friend about addiction. My friend said, “What I want
to know is, what works? How does someone stay
clean?” I decided this might make a good story for
our paper never thinking it would turn into a three part
series. But about halfway through my first interview
with Dr. Scott Christie, the Addictions Program Man-
ager at Columbia Community Mental Health, I real-
ized just how involved the problem really is. There is
so much important information given to the commu-
nity by telling just some of the stories of the people
working in the field of recovery. And there is so much
hope given by showing examples of people who have
found hope themselves and regained their life through
the process of recovery.
Shelly Kimball has an amazing story to tell. I first
met Shelly at the Pathways Rehabilitation Clinic in St.
Helens where she works as the Admissions Coordina-
tor. Shelly deals with addicts everyday. Shelly told
me that she was actually a former client of the clinic
who had been sober for six and half years. I briefly
told part of Shelly’s story in Part II of this series. I
asked Shelly if she would be willing to share her story
in depth and especially how she has been able to stay
sober. Shelly gladly agreed.
“It took me three tries,” Shelly started out. “The
first time I left rehab after three days. The second
time I relapsed after being out for three days. I
finally hit rock bottom when I was arrested in front
of my children and had to watch from the back of
the police car as my eight year old son was crying
and trying to get to me to say goodbye. And they
wouldn’t let him come to me.”
I asked Shelly if she thought people were more
likely to be successful when they choose for them-
selves to try to get sober rather than have it mandated
by the law or an employer. “People are usually more
successful when they find it from within. But those
external demands can also be important. Often people
find their reason in treatment.” Shelly noted that it
often takes as many as five to seven attempts before
people are able to quit for good. “If someone contin-
ues to try, then something will click.”
Shelly shared more about how she had reached
such a low point in her life. “I was a user for twenty-
three years. My drug of choice was meth at the end,
but I also tell people my drug of choice was ‘more’. I
did everything. I used with my husband from the first
day I met him. I was a victim of domestic violence
both physical and mental. I was involved in criminal
behavior. Other family members were users. I even
used with my oldest son who was seventeen at the time.
We lived in a house with broken windows and had a
car that needed bungee cords to hold the doors shut.
At Christmas we gave the kids presents, then returned
them two days later so we could go buy dope.”
“I believe that when the police intervened, they
rescued me; they didn’t arrest me,” Shelly continued.
“I had to learn a lot of skills in order to stay sober.
And it’s a lot of work. My personal program is about
experience, strength and hope.”
I asked Shelly what recovering addicts need to
look out for. What are some of the causes of relapse?
“Stress. Anger. Seeing and being around friends who
are users,” said Shelly. “For me it was going home
and being with my children. It was so hard, I just
couldn’t cope. And trying to get too much done, be-
cause I was a meth user, and meth is a speed. It keeps
you going. That was how I had been able to function.
And when I was clean, I didn’t have meth to get me
“I finally used every tool available to stay sober,”
Shelly continued. “I went to counseling and did coun-
seling with my family. I joined self help groups. I went
to ninety support meetings in ninety days. I developed
a support system. One thing is to volunteer and do
service work. It helps keep you out of yourself. I try
to stay involved. I help other women who are in re-
“I also surrendered to a higher power. And for me
that means something stronger than myself. It could
be your support group, it could be God. It just has to
be something bigger and stronger than you. It’s spiri-
tual, not religious. I believed that my higher power
could get me through anything”.
“Everybody should have an opportunity to live
a life,” said Shelly as she talked about what it’s like
to be in recovery. “I have been given a life I could
never have found for myself.” Shelly was married
this past July to a man she met while in recovery.
“I am with someone who respects me. We are in
the process of buying a home. I drive a 2001 red
Mustang convertible. I know it sounds silly, but I
own my own washer and dryer! I have real jewelry.
I would have hocked these rings to buy drugs before.
My kids have cable TV, and I have taken them on va-
cations. They had never been on a vacation before.
I counsel my daughter’s friends who have parents
that are users. “I don’t regret my life in any way-it
made me who I am. And I love me.”
“I try to be a good example,” Shelly concluded.
“People who know me say, ‘If she can do it, I can do
it.’ “I was once a woman who couldn’t leave her bed-
room. Now I tell people ‘There’s hope after dope.’”
One of my favorite stories is about when I was failing
in recovery, and I went to my dealer to buy drugs.
He said, ‘Come on, you don’t want to do this,’ and
agreed to start going to meetings with me. He ended
up following me into the
program, and he’s clean and
sober now, too.”
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Another opportunity for
recovering addicts to find
support is at the Alano So-
cial Clubs - non alcohol
clubs that have chapters
in most cities and offer a
place for recovering ad-
dicts to congregate. I vis-
ited the local Alano Club in
St. Helens and talked with
club president Dick Jaco-
bis. “The club gives people
a place to hang out, a place
to get away,” said Jacobis,
himself a recovering ad-
dict with over twenty-eight
years of sobriety. “It’s a
place to stop by after work
and get a cup of coffee in-
stead of a beer.”
Jacobis showed me around the club, which is
run entirely by volunteers, and talked about their ac-
tivities. “This is a safe place to have meetings. We
will have 80-100 people use it on any given day. We
have a coffee shop and a library and book shop so
people can get supportive information or just hang
out. We hold dances and have potlucks and speakers.
We have our own PA system, so we have live music.
We can rent the space for wedding receptions, memo-
rial services, and birthday parties. We always have an
event on major holidays because that’s a time when
people are likely to slip up. This club saves lives,”
I had another opportunity to talk with someone in
recovery. Because of his affiliation with Alcoholics
Anonymous (AA), a popular self help group, he asked
that I not use his name so we will call him “John”.
John has been sober for almost thirty years. I asked
John if a person in recovery ever reaches the point
where they know they will never use again. “Never,”
was his response. “It is always one day at a time. I
will never stop going to meetings. The meetings are
our medicine for our disease.”
John told me his story. He started drinking alco-
hol when he was fifteen years old and progressed to
drugs soon after. Though successful in his career for
many years, he recognized he was headed for trouble.
“I ended up in and out of rehab and kept trying to
quit. And instead I just got worse. I saw people die.
I almost got fired from my job. I was finally told by
someone close to me that I had three choices: get so-
ber, be institutionalized or die. I chose life.”
I asked John what tools he has found that worked
for staying in recovery and avoiding relapse. “I do
the twelve step AA program. It can work for anybody.
I believe it saved my life. I go to meetings- I did the
ninety meeting in ninety days that is recommended
for those starting in recovery and continue to attend
a couple meetings every week. I got a sponsor and
found a home group. I do service work. I said, ‘If I
can help, use me.’ I started living in the now. Addicts
live in the past or in the future. We need to be in the
present. I created balance in my life. I exercised and
started eating healthy. I have a motto I use that’s sort
of Buddhist- “Think right, Do, Be.”
John concluded his story with these words; “I
knew I was going to die. I chose life. And what a
life! The more I say thank you, the more I have to
say thank you for.”
My journey and exploration into the world of addiction,
treatment and recovery was eye opening and revealing.
I, like most people, have heard that addiction is a dis-
ease. What I found out is that there is a real lack of
support for dealing with the problem. I was first struck
by the limited funding for recovery programs, by the
lack of state support for treatment opportunities and
by the breadth of the overall problem. The shortage of
treatment space and the long waits for people who have
decided they are ready to face their problem is almost
criminal. But I was also struck by the caring shown by
those who are involved in recovery, by their knowledge,
their compassion, their understanding, and their empa-
thy. The commitment and dedication of those working
in the field is inspiring and amazing. And the strength
and joy shown by those who have regained their lives
through the process of self-examination and recovery
should give hope and be an example to anyone strug-
gling with the demons of addiction.
Columbia Community Mental Health can be reached at
503-397-5211 Their office in Vernonia has relocated
due to flood damage; it is currently located at the Ver-
nonia Community Learning Center 939 Bridge Street
and can be reached at 800-294-5211.
Pathways Residential Rehabilitation is located at in St.
Helens and can be reached at 503-366-4540.
The Alano Social Club is located at 215 N. 6th St. in