As the other participants in Regina’s first group therapy session made their introductions, each person ended by declaring her or himself an addict. “I said, ‘My name is Regina.’ That’s it. And then I sat back down,” recalls Regina, laughing at the memory of herself in denial.
When she first entered the DeKalb Community Service Board’s Dekalb Addiction Clinic (DAC), Regina did not believe that she was an addict. Addicts lived on the streets, addicts were criminals, or at the very least, people who were willing to engage in unsavory activities to support their drug habit. She was none of those things. A month later, she voluntarily admitted to the room that she too was an addict. “Everyone was telling my story,” she said.
While each person was able to candidly reveal the details of a descent into addiction, Regina is one of the few from her dozens of classmates who can also talk about the journey back to sobriety.
Her downward spiral was slow. From the age of 19, when her mother died suddenly, to the age of 32, Regina dabbled with marijuana and cocaine. By her mid-thirties, she blossomed into a functioning addict. Her powdered cocaine habit became a major and increasing part of her life. Her family and friends finally took notice.
“I was very good at fooling people,” admits the fifty-one year old. “When I first started at DAC, I was actually looking to become even better at that. I wanted to learn about the signs so I could hide them.” Instead, what she learned through DAC’s 12-step recovery program was how to deal with her own emotions and other people. Even she realized that her drug use was a form of avoidance. Drugs made her so numb to her feelings that they actually made her bold.
“I knew how to talk to people at work,” explains the former customer service manager, “but talking to people one on one? I couldn’t do it.” At 19 and beyond, the real Regina was as timid as she was at the age of 15 – reluctant to speak up, eager to get along with people at all costs, and afraid to own up to her emotions. It took the coping skills she learned at DAC to help her realize that her drug induced, more assertive persona, “Victoria Christina,” was not necessary for her survival.
In the fourth step of DAC’s 12-step program, the self-inventory step, she is so enthused by her progress that she continues with her group and individual counseling sessions and continues to engage in open communication with her recovery buddy.
Regina, who has been drug free for more than a year now, is back in the workforce after a 10 year absence and is steadily reclaiming the other aspects of her life that she allowed to go unchecked. This time, she appreciates everything more.