“I used to go to church and sit on the back seat of the church with a bag of cocaine in my pocketbook, high as a kite, asking God to help me. I didn’t know anywhere else to go. Eventually, He did.”
My name is Joyce Jordan. I’m a person in long-term recovery, and what that has afforded me is the opportunity to be clean for the last twenty-five years. I am not from the culture of the twelve steps. I’m pretty much not from the culture of any of the recovery cultures that I’m aware of. I come from the culture of God will be to you whatever you take Him to be. I asked God to heal me, and I believe that I am healed.
I think my addiction started, probably, pretty early on, and I didn’t recognize it as addiction. I just assumed that I was being a social get-high person, or have fun, go dancing. I’m sure that it has to do with some of the brutality I had, as a child. Some of the sexual brutality I had, young, coming up. Being told, so many times, that you’re nothing, and living through all that, so I medicated to feel better. To look better. To fit in. To not deal with any of the emotions that I had. I started getting high, probably, when I was about fourteen. I stopped getting high after I found out I was four months pregnant with my daughter.
My whole contention was, I couldn’t be a good parent and be high. Once I had my daughter, I went right back to snorting cocaine, primarily. I just didn’t feel good about myself. I came from a family where you raised your children in a clean, decent, go to work, go to school, go to church. I just wasn’t happy with myself with that. I did a lot of things in getting high. I didn’t have to spend money, because I knew so many people, drug dealers that had money. I knew doctors. I knew lawyers. I had free high.
I have a gift for gab for helping people, so people would talk, and we would just get high all night. I would get high at my job. I would get high in places that would put me at risk. I did many things at risk with my children. That was the key that said, “You got to change. You can’t put your children in jeopardy.”
I used to go to church and sit on the back seat of the church with a bag of cocaine in my pocketbook, high as a kite, asking God to help me. I didn’t know anywhere else to go. Eventually, He did. I kept going. I kept sitting, trying to hear a good word, something that would take me back to my roots. To help me find myself. Eventually, I got clean. That’s how I got clean, just sitting there listening for a word from God. That’s my background. Listening for a word to God.
In the end, I got clean. I never went to meetings. I didn’t have friends. I didn’t have a recovery community. I hid everything. All my emotions, I hid. My family didn’t even know I was addicted, because, on the surface, on the outside, all you saw was this clean cut, professional woman, that went to work, and came home. No one saw that. I hid everything. I hid everything forever. When I retired from the Department of Corrections, which I worked for for thirty-five years, I came to Georgia. My husband is in recovery, and he met my current executive director, and I was driving everyone crazy, and he asked, “Could you give her a part time job? Get her out the house?”
I came here, and this is the place where all pathways to recovery are available to everyone. It fit into my niche. I didn’t know that this even existed. This was my first experience with a recovery community where we meet you where you’re at. You can get clean, and get recovery wherever you get it. It’s not prescribed. It’s not in a box. Just like God is not in a box. He created us all. He created us equally. I found my niche here, in the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, where we meet you where you are. However you got here, that’s all that matters. Whatever keeps you clean, that’s all that matters. If you relapse, our arms are open wide. To welcome you in, and not beat you down, and let you know that you’re still worthy of recovery.
My kids are all here. All my children came with me to Georgia. My grandkids will never experience some of the things that happened at my house while I was using. I’m present. I’m present in their life. I’m present as the grandmother. I still try to take over everything, but I’m present as a responsible adult in their lives. I can offer them, help them get a sound foundation, like my grandfather did for me. There’s no arguing. There’s no police banging on the door. There’s no disruptiveness. There’s peace. It’s not perfect, but there’s peace. When you come to my house, you’re going to find peace.
We do recover. I believe that everyone can recover. We have to tap into our resources that are within ourselves. We have to dig deep. We have to really want it. We have to get there. A lot of times, you got to reach out to others. I believe God puts people in your pathway to help bring you through. To help you share what they have. You’re worthy. We’re all worthy of having a good life. No matter what we’ve done, or what’s happened to us, the things that we had no control over, that recovery is real, and it’s available. You have to want it. You have to really, really need it. It’s available to you. It’s available through people. It’s available through programs. It’s available through literature. It’s there, if you have a strong desire to have it. I do believe that we can recover, and that we do, and that it is lifelong.
Photographs taken in Joyce’s office at the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse in Atlanta, Georgia.