“I understand that I’ve got to live ‘just for today’ because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know what the rest of the day holds, but right now at 1:55 p.m. it’s good.”
Hello there my name is Renita J. and I am a recovering person in a twelve-step program. I was born in Austin, Texas. I moved to Toledo when I was nine years old with my family.
I want to get this out of the way that I just lost my mom three weeks ago yesterday. We buried her a week ago today. So right now I am going through a storm, but I have trust and belief in the program that I attend and the meetings that I attend.
I don’t want to talk about what brought me to the program, but it was the use of some type of substance, and I’ve been in recovery almost ten years. I do a lot of service work, I sponsor a few women, and the thing that I am grateful for about the program of recovery is that it got me closer to a higher power, and I am allowing him to work in my life and I have faith in the program and the people that are a part of the program.
I was in the program in 1985. I struggled for a couple years [and] I came back. I stayed in the program for seven years, but I thought that I could still attend and be in the limelight. I still was excited about the men, the cars, the dressing and I left the program. I didn’t use quickly, but one thing about it if you don’t attend meetings, I believe that the disease gets more stronger. I thought that I could drink non-alcoholic beverages and I did that for quite a while. So one day I decided to have a real drink. It was like I was drinking near beer, but I’ve never heard of near-this or near-that.
I didn’t use my drug of choice for a long time, and one day the disease tapped me on my shoulder and said you haven’t did this in a long time—you can get one. So I understand the full effect now when they say that one is too many and a thousand is never enough. In three months my life changed like I had never stopped using. I made a decision to go into detox. I did that for three days and I came back to the program and I haven’t looked back since.
I’ve had a whole lot of ‘no matter whats’ since I’ve been in recovery, and I understand today that we must not use no matter what. The death of my mom is the most ‘no matter what’ that I’ve had to deal with since I’ve been back in the program, and I know I must not use no matter what because that would not bring her back. She saw me in the program for almost ten years and that would be like a slap in her face for me to use her death as an excuse to use. Also I believe it would be a slap in God’s face for me to do that. I’m grateful that he allowed me a second chance to come back into the program.
I take my recovery very seriously—very seriously. I believe in the traditions, I believe in the steps, I believe in spiritual principles. I also believe that if it isn’t practical, it isn’t spiritual. I’m like one of those hard core recovery people as they say, quote unquote. I believe we shouldn’t play with the program. I don’t play with the disease because it doesn’t play with me, and I don’t play with God because he doesn’t play with me. If you give the program a chance it does work. You got to come in here and do something besides just go to meetings and sit down and have a cup of coffee.
So I try to remain active doing some type of service work. I’ve been the secretary of my home group. We meet every Sunday from 3:30 to 5:00. I make sure that that meeting is open—even if I have to go out of town I make sure that meeting is open. I love to see newcomers come in. I try to make them feel a part of [it] because I never forget when I first came into the program how scared I was, confused, wasn’t sure if I wanted to be there, and I surely was not sure if I wanted to stay there.
I surround myself with positive people. I work steps. My sponsees work steps. I have a sponsor and the amazing thing about my sponsor is my sponsor has been clean almost twenty-six years next month, and twenty-six years ago I was her sponsor. They say, “Be careful because the person you sponsor may end up sponsoring you.” I love my sponsor. She’s been here for me these ten years–almost ten years.
I have a lot of friends in recovery and I try to be there for people—especially to help another woman because I understand the struggles that we go through. A lot of us have been raped, abused, misused–even in recovery. So my strength is coming from God. They say ‘higher power’—ok that’s my higher power—but I choose to call him God because I understand the program that I’m in is a God-given program. So that’s why I say that.
I have three kids. Well they’re grown—they’re grown-ups. I have ten grandchildren and I have a great grandson. So I am so grateful that my higher power cleaned me up because the times that I lacked in being a good mom, I’ve been able to make up for that. Plus I’m a good grandmother and I’m a good great-grandmother and it’s not to pat myself on the back but I’m able to say those things because I see the difference in me and so does my higher power.
Right now my biggest struggle is getting through the death of my mom. I miss her so much, but God has given me strength to make it through this. Me and my mom lived together for three years and she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December. She came home December 19th, and I was her primary caregiver. My brother, he came, and basically hospice was involved but we didn’t need them to take care of her. They made sure she had her medication, but God gave me enough strength to do some things with my mother that I thought I wasn’t capable of doing.
February 24th, you talk about his grace and mercy, my mom had a wonderful day that day. She ate, she talked on the phone, she read the newspaper, she talked, she did everything, and God was so merciful that day that he allowed my mother enough strength to get up and go to the bathroom—and she passed. I have no regrets because I took real good care of my mom. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I was not in the program.
I just have so much gratitude for the meetings. I believe meeting-makers make it. During the course of her illness I wasn’t able to attend many meetings, but I still made sure I was a part of the program that I’m in. Every time I needed to go to a meeting I had to get somebody to come and sit with her and I was able to attend at least one or two meetings a week. I am a meeting-maker and so I know that my mom is looking down on me and my brother and we are going to continue this journey. I love the book where it says, “The journey continues,” because it does. This is not a marathon—we struggle. I tell a lot of people I don’t want—especially newcomers—to think that because we acquire some time in the program that things don’t happen.
The thing I’ve gotten with being in recovery is that I’m doing things that my higher power always wanted me to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do them if I was not in recovery. Also, I believe that he allows all of us in the program a recovery because there were people that didn’t accept us and so he created a program for people like us so that we could get the help that we needed. So why not pay it forward? When he blesses us or blesses me I feel like I need to pay it forward and bless someone else.
I can’t measure anyone’s desire to stop doing what they’re doing. All I can do is continue to pray that they come around because there’s no other life like this. I’ve met so many people along this journey and I know that there’s a lot more for me to meet.
I have about six or seven sponsee women. As a matter of fact as I’m speaking right now I have a sponsee today that’s celebrating seven years, so I will be there tonight to recognize her time in the program and to let her know how much I love and care about her. Also through this journey of the death of my mom, I really see what they say that we’re here to help each other. I’ve had so many people be in my corner and my brother’s corner, my family’s corner to help us to get through this.
I also believe that there will come a time in our life when there will be no human power that can help us and that’s where I am right now, even though the people are “I love you, are you ok?” But I have to go to a power that’s greater than myself to make it through this storm right here. Because I understand and I believe that I will see the rainbow at the end.
I make sure when I wake up in the morning, I ask him for help. I make sure at night I thank him for the help that he gave me through the day. I also ask that he guide me through my recovery and help me and show me how to live. So I am one of those people that I don’t want to ever think that I’ve gotten too big or that I’ve arrived or that I can’t help another person, because the way that my higher power helps me every day how dare [I] not extend my help and my love to another person. I’m glad that I am in a twelve-step program because it taught me how to love people the right way, without looking for them to do something for me.
I’m going to keep doing this program one day at a time. I understand that this is a one day at a time program. I understand that I’ve got to live ‘just for today’ because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know what the rest of the day holds, but right now at 1:55 p.m. it’s good.
I am just grateful that I have had this chance to be able to share some experience, strength and hope that this program does work, you got to give yourself a break. I hear people say, “Get in where you fit in,” and I believe you better get in, fit in and stay in.
Photographs taken at Renita’s home in Toledo, Ohio.