Tara: April 25, 2011

People in Long-Term Recovery, Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics

“I think that the most important thing that I can do on a daily basis is be proud of myself. Then help others to feel proud of themselves for what they have gone through.”

My name is Tara Moseley. I’m a person in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that I haven’t used any drugs or alcohol since April 25th, 2011. What that has done for me is enable me to be a person in recovery, a student, a daughter, a friend, and a productive member of my community. I was born here in Louisville, Kentucky. From a young age, alcohol was always around. My dad played baseball and alcohol was always present. I thought that that was the way that you had fun and enjoyed life. That was always around.

My parents got divorced when I was about three or four years old. My mom took me to Bardstown, Kentucky, and that’s where I grew up. Moving from a big city to a small town, a lot of things had changed. A lot of things were different. It was a struggle to get to know my peers. I always felt like I was different because I came from somewhere different. They had known each other forever, because they all went to school together, went to daycare together.

It was a very small town, so that sort of thing was different for me because I didn’t know them. I couldn’t get to know them because I didn’t fit in. I didn’t feel like [them]. I struggled with that for a long time, throughout my adolescence especially. When I started in middle school that’s when I picked up my first drink. From that moment that I took that drink, it was like I felt a release. I was able to feel comfortable and confident, and able to talk to people, because I was really, really shy.

I would not speak to anyone. I was just really shy and awkward as a kid. Alcohol did that for me. It gave me that courage to talk to people and to make friends, to step over my barriers of myself because I didn’t feel comfortable. By the time that I was twelve or thirteen years old, I started getting into a lot of trouble, started missing school. My mom almost got arrested for me being a truant for not going to school for three or four months of a school year.

I felt like it was more important to me to go and party with my friends, because I craved that social life that I didn’t have when I was growing up. It got me into a whole lot of trouble. That whole situation happened with my mom. By the time I was fifteen years old, me and my mom were having arguments all the time. We were fighting all the time because I wanted to do what I wanted to do. She wanted me to come home, do my homework, eat dinner, go to class, go to school. These basic things that I just was completely incapable of doing because I just didn’t feel like it was important.

When I was fifteen, my mom and me got into our last fight and she kicked me out. My dad really wasn’t in my life very much at that point in time. I called him and he came and picked me up and took me back to Louisville, which was about an hour away. I moved back to the city from this small town. Yet again, I’m facing this adversity of I don’t feel comfortable, I’m not confident, and I don’t know anyone. I’m going to a high school now, so I’m already in that weird transition phase. 

I started going to high school. My dad had a really simple rule whenever I moved in with him. He said, “Do well in school, and it doesn’t really matter what you do.” I took that with every ounce of energy that I possibly could muster and did exactly what I wanted to do. I went to high school. I graduated top ten in my class, did really well in school. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA, all this really nice, prestigious stuff. Every year I’d get this Who’s Who award, and all these certificates. But inside school I was that person and when I left school I was this other person.

I didn’t hang around with the kids that I went to school with. I hung around with the neighborhood kids. They introduced me to a lot of different stuff. Now, living in the city, things were a lot different. It was more populated. There was a whole lot more trouble that I could get into. I loved hanging out with the older crowd. I was fifteen, sixteen years old hanging out with twenty-five-year-old people. Going to parties, going to clubs, getting a fake ID, living that life. To me, it was socially acceptable because I felt like I was grown, when really I was still a child.

That summer I was in another transitioning period. I was transitioning to go to college. I had a free ride, full scholarship for four years. I was going to a local community college. I went for about two weeks and stopped going. Didn’t withdraw, didn’t drop out, just stopped going. I had to deal with the repercussions of that when I came into recovery.

I stopped going to school and I just… I went down this dark spiral. Nothing seemed to work. I kept trying to manage and control my drinking and nothing worked. I tried to use different substances, thinking that I could get a hold of it or somehow control it. It just got worse. It kept getting worse. I would lose jobs. I would get really awesome jobs making really good money. Then I would lose them because I couldn’t show up to work or I would call in with some ridiculous excuse.

Like, “I got a flat tire, I’m not going to make it today,” or just ridiculous things. Because I was laying in bed and I didn’t feel well. That’s how it usually went. By the time that I was twenty-two I had been arrested a couple times for drinking and driving, which resulted in me losing my license for five years, amongst other things that happened. I really ruined a lot of my relationships with my family and my friends. People definitely did not want me around because they were fearful that I would steal from them, because I would.

I was at a very low point in my life at that time. I’d never been introduced to recovery. I’d never heard of recovery. I never knew of anything like that. When I went and sought help it was a whole new world. I had no idea what I was getting into or what I was about to embark on. I went to a local homeless shelter that offers a recovery program. I went there and I was scared to death. It was a really big facility. It housed 280 women. They offered a detox and a transitional period that’s called “Off the Streets.” Then, another part that’s called “Phase.” Then, “Phase Two” is after that.

It was, at the time, a six-to-twelve-month program, residential. The things that happened, that transpired while I was there, were something that I never knew existed for people, including myself. I knew a lot of people that I was using with and drinking with and partying with. I never knew someone who just didn’t use because that wasn’t normal to me. When I went there they were telling me all these things about myself and what I needed to work on. The light about recovery. The different side of addiction. I didn’t know what I was looking at. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know the feelings I was having.

The only thing that I knew was that for the first time in a very long time I could sleep. I could go to sleep. That’s probably the first thing that I will always remember that that gave me. That situation gave me. That place gave me. Because I couldn’t sleep for a long time without having a drink or some substance. I stayed there for a very long time. It was twenty-three months that I stayed. Like I said, it’s a year program.

I stayed there in transitional care because there was not a lot of places that were healthy environments for a young woman. I was twenty-three years old. When I completed and was moving on, I was twenty-four on the cusp of turning twenty-five, and didn’t know where to go, what to do. I knew I had set my sights on going back to college. I wanted to make something of myself because I knew I could do it. I knew I could do it. I had the confidence to know that I could do it. I just didn’t know how to do it.

I was in this point in my life where it was, “Where do I go?” My family wasn’t exactly the healthiest place for me to be so I decided not to do that. There were some transitional living opportunities that may or may not have been very good either. I sat down with the director at the time and another person. We sat down and talked about this continuum of care for women, what that should look like and if we should start something, and we did. We started transitional living for women.

At first, it was just one house of twelve women. Three bedrooms on one floor, three bedrooms on the bottom. Two people to a room. It was really standard stuff. They asked me to be the manager of this house. It was such an awesome opportunity and it was definitely something I wanted to do. I was in college and then I moved out. Because I was still in school. I was in school while I was in that treatment center aftercare. I moved out and then started this house. I was going to school and was scared to death, along with everything else that I was feeling. 

I was at the best place that I possibly could be because I was transitioning from myself. A level out of treatment into a different level with more freedom. Still some structure for myself as well, even though I was managing, but it helped me to deal with a lot of different things, different personalities in one household. Being able to be a role model. To be accountable. To be responsible, but also to show them the way. Show them the way to a different life.

I was in school and I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted a brighter future than I had given myself credit for in the beginning. That allowed me to do that. I helped a lot of people go back into college or get into college. I got to watch people transition out of that house and move into their own apartments. Get cars. Have a good job. Go to college. Make something of themselves. I got to watch them do that.

I did that for about a year-and-a-half, almost two years. Then it was time for me to go. I knew it was time. I moved on and got my own apartment. Something that I always carry with me is a specific person. I always talk about her because she was one of the most motivating people for me to join the organization, Young People in Recovery. When she was there, she had three years sober in recovery. She had a felony background. She also had a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. She struggled so much to find a job. So much.

She was a person that I would feel terrible that I had to go to all the time and say, “You’re not paying your bills. If you don’t pay your bills you’re going to have to move out.” I hated having to say that to her but it was my job. I knew that she was trying and I would fight for her all the time but it was hard. I can’t even imagine how it felt for her who felt backed into a corner. That was ultimately the reason why I joined YPR. Why I moved out and wanted to do something a little bit on a broader scale.

It was such a really great experience at that house. They’ve opened two more houses since then, which I helped start the programming for. That’s awesome. I still do referrals there. It’s a really great place for women, a healthy, good environment. But I wanted to do something that could have a real impact on people that struggle like that. Then I joined Young People in Recovery and started a chapter in Louisville. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind honestly, with peer support services. Because here, there’s not a lot of peer supports in the community.

There’s not much for people transitioning out of treatment. It’s like when you get out of treatment they say, “Have a good day, good luck.” That’s all you get. There’s no continuum of care. There’s no, “Check back in with us in a month,” or anything like that. From my personal experience, I know that there needs to be something like that. I wanted to bring that here because Young People in Recovery, that’s all that they talk about is continuum of care. Education. Employment. Housing. All the things that I feel so passionately about here.

I’ve been the chapter lead for that organization for a little over a year now. It’s amazing because I’ve gotten to meet so many people from across the country and are changing people’s lives in their community. Then I get to bring that information back home. I get to go into my school and say that I’m a person in long-term recovery and be proud and empowered of who I am, to my core. Not have to worry about being ashamed or feeling different or not good enough. Because I am good enough and I know that I am good enough.

I’ve helped other people to see that too. I think that the most important thing that I can do on a daily basis is be proud of myself. Then help others to feel proud of themselves for what they have gone through. Are going through. Will go through. Know that there is another side and that they can get past it and move past it. Since I’ve been working with them and going to college myself, a lot of amazing things have happened. I’m getting ready to graduate from the community college that I go to with my associate’s. Then, I’m transferring to a university here.

I was given a really awesome opportunity to intern at the Legislative Research Commission that’s in Frankfort, the State Capital here. That’s amazing for me. When I was, a couple years ago, in a homeless shelter. To know that I can do that, then anyone can do just about anything I feel like. I feel like that’s been a huge moment for me too. Obviously all these things are really, really nice, and awesome, and really great experiences.  

But I feel like the most important thing that I’ve learned is that I have respect for myself. I believe in myself. The one thing that I wanted to do when I came into recovery was work on my character. To know that I’m a person that if someone asked me to be somewhere, I want to make sure that I’m there. To know that I am accountable. That people can believe in me and trust me because those are things that people will always remember. People will always remember what type of person that you were to them. That was one thing that I learned.

I don’t want people to be hurt because of the type of person that I was. That’s definitely been one of the most impactful things that I’ve learned being in recovery. The type of person that I want to be, and to work on that. Everything else will fall into place. I’ve learned that. Four and a half years later, here I am. School. Semester starts soon, next week. I’m really stressed out and running around, going crazy. Trying to get everything done. Life has been completely amazing. I get to travel, which is something I never thought that I would do. But I get to live and be a part of life. Get to watch people be a part of life and change their lives.

Tomorrow we get to go play ultimate frisbee at the waterfront, which I’m really excited about. I get to have fun. I have friends. I enjoy my life. I think that’s the most important.

Photographs taken at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky.

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