“My kids, they never knew who they were going to come home to. When mom was clean and sober, they came home to mom. Dinner on the table, everything great. Then the days that I would fall off, they might not even be able to get in the house.”
I‘m Robin and I’m an alcoholic and an addict—a pharmaceutical junkie, actually. My story starts in 1988 in Southern California when I was twenty-six years old. Pretty young by my standards today, but I got involved and went to my first meeting because I was a victim of an assault. I was just your regular chick in a bar and met that guy and there was no flashing sign above his head that told me what he was and how he was.
Consequently, I believe he had cocaine at the time. I believe; of course he did. He said those magic last words as I was dropping him off at his door, “Oh, there’s a little bit left. You want to finish it up?” “Well, hell yes.” I went in there and what happened after that is kind of a blur, but I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh, God, if you get me out of this. If you get me out of this, I will never do this again.” I know we’ve all had that aha moment.
I got out of it. I think fear, just raw fear alone got me in the rooms. The first thing I was amazed about though was I went to a pretty rough meeting and I was looking at all these people and I’m thinking, “I don’t belong here.” When the meeting started and everybody started telling their stories and sharing, I had never felt more a part of something in my life. I was the girl that came in the rooms, got clean and sober right away, worked the steps, had a sponsor and stayed clean and sober for fifteen years. I met and married my husband in the rooms. We had a really great recovery community. A lot of us met and married at the same time, had babies, had families. All my friends were pretty much in recovery and it was a really awesome life.
Fast forward fifteen years later in 2003, my father died and he passed away of this disease, of alcoholism. I had to take him off life support and that was devastating to me. I was extremely close to my dad. Being in the rooms and being in the recovery, I know it was always attraction rather than promotion, so I kept thinking, “Well, if my dad sees how great my life is, maybe he’ll want what I have.”
He came from that generation that alcoholics drink out of paper bags, scuzzy people under bridges or whatever. Quite frankly, he loved to drink and that was his deal. [He would] go to the VFW every day, hang out with his pals and drink, but consequently, his disease progressed to the point of absolute devastation.
I took him off life support and doing all that put me… I had my two babies. One was one year old and one was four years old. The doctor, my GP at the time was afraid that I was going to lose it, so he prescribed for me an anti-anxiety drug called Ativan. I had no idea. I’d never took pills. That was not part of my story at all.
Here I am, I’m in terrible grief and I’m trying to keep it together for my kids and trying to run our household and all this was going on. I took that Ativan which he had told me take one if it’s bad and you can take two if it’s really bad. Of course, I guess that old addict in me just was still there. I just took two right away, because to me, everything was really bad.
I got that ah feeling and I thought, “Man, I can handle anything.” I had a month’s prescription. I finished it up in a week and I went on this thing like, “Well, if that pill does that, what do other pills do?” I went to research on the Internet and I had the FedEx guy at my house at least once a week, if not twice.
I just really, really got hard into addiction. I have not picked up a drink yet. Instead, I did a geographic. We moved from California to Indiana, and why Indiana? I came here on a fluke with my husband. We went to Ball State. We went to a fraternity reunion and I got off the plane and for some reason, this overwhelming feeling came over me of, “I love this place. I want to raise my children here.”
It’s so beautiful and the people are so nice and friendly. Everybody waves to you on the street. The checker at the store talks to you about your kids, and I was like, “Where am I?” Compared to Southern California, I just felt like there would be a lot of pressure taken off of me.
We moved here and within six months, I picked up my first drink again. I did that because I was taking so many different pills with the thought in my head that, “Well, I’m not addicted to any one of them. If I only take a little bit of this today and a little bit of that tomorrow or one of these and one of these and one of these, I won’t get addicted to any of them.” The biggest denial I had ever had in my life.
When I did finally pick up that drink again, I found out that alcohol made my pills work better and pills made my alcohol work better. From that point on, in the next nine years that it took me to actually get clean and sober again, I went through many, many “yets.”
One of them, I ended up with two DUIs, did the jail time. I had an almost catastrophic injury. I fell down some stairs and three weeks later I had a massive blood clot from my pelvis to my ankle. Spent five days in ICU. You would think that after a lot of that stuff, I wouldn’t drink or use again, but there always came that moment where I just was so overwhelmed by everything and I just couldn’t stop myself.
The good news was I knew where to get clean and sober. During the entire time, I continued to come to meetings. Suddenly, I had become that girl that I used to be so judgmental of in my previous sobriety. “Why can’t these people get it? Why do they… You just do it.” I would get a sponsor, I would work steps. I would think, “What am I not doing right? Why can’t I get this again? I don’t get it.”
I would get periods of time, three months, one month, six months. I even put together one year, but every time, it just seemed like there was that… I was holding on by my nails trying to stay clean and sober. I was not getting any benefits that I had had before. Relief from the obsession. The obsession would not leave me.
Consequently, I just continued to relapse. I’ve been in these rooms here at the Suburban North Club for nine years and I watched people who would get to know me and they would be like, “Robin, you’re going to die. You’ve got to get this thing.” I always laid everything out. I live out loud. I always have. I don’t even know how to hide something, except from the people that I was in the house with. Of course, I continued to lie, cheat, steal, do whatever I had to do to get my drugs.
I lived in a very exclusive neighborhood, a stay-at-home mom, beautiful home which, in my mind, because I was that, I thought, “Well, the only thing that reflects what I do, what I contribute whatsoever to life at all is to keep the whole house spotless and make sure my kids are dressed in cool clothes, the cars are washed and all the business is taken care of.”
Every day I would wake up and I’d think, “Okay, I’d go to a meeting first thing in the morning and then I’d come home to my house.” I’d open the door and I just be like, “Oh shit. How am I going to do all this? Well, if I get fucked up, I can do it.” My kids, they never knew who they were going to come home to. When mom was clean and sober, they came home to mom. Dinner on the table, everything great.
Then the days that I would fall off, they might not even be able to get in the house. Have to go to a neighbor and have… One time, the police came and brought my son and they’re like, “We’ve been trying to call your number.” I remember just thinking, “Oh my gosh, how did this happen again?”
After all the things that happened, I couldn’t get clean and sober and I was trying very hard. This was in 2010. I took a trip out to California and visited with my brother and my nieces, all of whom were addicts and are now clean and sober. I feel like it was just a God moment. I thought I had many moments of clarity. I knew what I was. I knew what my problem was. I just couldn’t understand why the program wasn’t working for me anymore.
They had sort of a little family intervention going, “Aunt Robin, the light is gone out of your eyes. You don’t even look like you anymore. They’re like, “You’ve got to get clean and sober again. You are our inspiration. None of us would have this if it wasn’t for you.”
I thought to myself, “Really? Have I changed that much? I couldn’t see it.” I got home and I had like sort of a new resolution within myself. The lights went on and I realize that I was not living the life that I wanted to live. I came back into the program and with this new feeling in my heart, it was the first and only time that I realized I was willing to go to any lengths to get it.
I started meetings again, I got a sponsor. The difference was when I came home, if my house was a mess, it was a mess. I wasn’t available to take so and so to practice. I’d tell my husband, “No, I’m sorry. I have to go to a meeting.” Dinner wouldn’t be on the table. “What are we having for dinner mom?” “I don’t know. Figure it out. You’re old enough to make mac and cheese. I’ve got to go to a meeting.”
I got myself into recovery at such a level and I remember thinking to myself, “When was I the happiest I ever was in my life?” It was when my whole life really revolved around recovery. I just jumped in with both feet.
Another thing I did differently was there were several other women, all of us within a month of getting clean and sober and I was like, “Okay, we’re going to form a little group. We’re all together in this. Let’s meet at someone’s house every week and we’ll just have a bitch session and we’ll just be… We’ll do this. Together, we can do this.” We call ourselves the Sober Bitches.
The amazing thing about that is, out of seven women, six of us are still clean and sober today. The accountability for me was completely different. I didn’t go home to this other wife where I had to be this one thing and then come here in the rooms and be who I really am. I carried myself everywhere. I got my Robin-ess back.
I just started to get really happy again. I started to see a change in my kids because their mom was happy. They wanted to be around me all the time. They weren’t always like come home, go to their rooms. However, in terms of my marriage, my husband, he was in recovery, but really didn’t have a lot to do with the rooms anymore. One meeting a week if that.
The more happy I got, the more angry he got. I couldn’t understand it, because I was like, “All you ever wanted was for me to get clean and sober again. I’m clean and sober. Look, I’m happy.” It’s like, “Well, I come home, there’s no dinner on the table. You’re at meetings all the time.” I’m like, “Well, you’re in recovery. You can come too.” His life had branched out and he didn’t really have time for that anymore.
Consequently, I don’t know. I just knew what it took for me to be happy and what it took for me to be clean and sober. After a year of sobriety, I was given the opportunity to bring meetings into jails and institutions. Since I’ve been in Hamilton County Jail and, boy, I mean a lot of shame associated with it. I remember thinking when I was in there, “Someday, I want to bring meetings back to here.” I finally got my opportunity to do that.
I go into the Hamilton County Jail and I look like one of the real housewives of Geist or whatever. I’m facing all these women and they’re looking at me like, “What the hell do you know? Look at you?” Whatever. I open my mouth and the next thing you know, it was like all of a sudden, we were all the same. We were all on the same level.
We started out, we only had six inmates. Today, we haven’t enough volunteers for the inmates that want to come. Anyway, it just started to grow and it just really kept me so accountable. There was no way. I mean financially, we were in ruins. My whole life was just ugly. We lost our house.
My husband and I weren’t just too great, so I wanted a divorce. Going through that was really difficult, but those moments when I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing? I can’t handle what’s going on.” Immediately, the thought would pop in my head. “I can’t get drunk. I can’t get fucked up and go Thursday night and tell these women, ‘Oh, everything I’ve been telling you for the last X amount of months or days, disregard it.'” This is a great option and that wasn’t going to work.
I can’t even explain what it gave to my recovery to be with these women. The rooms, we have our Suburban North Club here. We started doing a lot more social things. I was used to recovery in Southern California and it’s such a big movement out there and it’s so… It’s bigger now than when I first started here, but I’m like, “You guys, let’s have a party. Let’s go here. Let’s do that. Let’s go dancing. Let’s go bowling.”
Pretty soon, there’s just a bunch of people now that are really comfortable in their skin having fun in public places clean and sober. We laugh so hard and we have so much joy going on that most of the time people think we’re drunk. It’s amazing to be able to just do anything in life and stay clean.
Today, my life is amazing. I have the job I never thought I’d get. I’m still very dedicated to trying to get a transitional home here for the women transitioning out of Hamilton County Jail. I work with the drug court. Our drug court here is relatively new. It’s only about four years old and these types of courts have been going on in California for… My brother went through one fifteen years ago.
Trying to get that started out and watching success stories, I love being a part of that. I sponsor a lot of women. I’m definitely known for being wild and crazy and I’m a rapper. People kind of say, “Really?” “Nuh-uh.” I use rap in the jail a lot to foster relationships with these women. They look at me, they think one thing and I’m like, “Okay, I got one for you.” They’re like, “What?”
Boom, the words start flying out my mouth and I’d be more than happy to do one for you today if you want to hear it. This is the one from my ladies in jail and it starts out like this:
“This is for my ladies in the H-C-J. I’m laying down around, so listen what I got to say. I know you all be, hey this shit, these steps are cool and shit for you, but my life is hard. My life is whack. My peeps talking smack. I can’t do that shit you do. I don’t want to look lame. I can’t be different. Got to be the same. Peer pressure is to blame.
“Well, to you, I say I feel you, but this disease is going to kill you. There is a better way and I’m begging you today. Be fearless and thorough from the very start. I say it from my gut, I say it from my heart. I’m not just some white chick spouting words for satisfaction. I want to make a difference to you, motivate some action. So if it’s not right now, but down the line you hear my voice, I’m Robin P, I’ve been there. I love you. You got a choice. Choose life.” That’s it.
Photographs taken at the Suburban North Club, where Robin attends twelve-step meetings.