Living with an emotionally distant, rageful father left Deanna Broaddus hungry for attention and solace. Men – lots of men – were her first recourse, and then alcohol and drugs.
Except for a suicide attempt at age 18, Broaddus did well, working and pursuing a master’s degree so that she could follow her passion to teach. When she graduated, Broaddus was performing so well as a wine sommelier that her employer offered her the equivalent of a teacher’s salary to keep her on. Abandoning her dream career, she said yes. “I could drink on the job,” she explains.
Then the relationship she was in became “very destructive,” she recalls. “I was in a very dark place. I remember looking in the mirror and saying, ‘I hate you. I don’t even know who you are anymore, Deanna.’”
Visions of hope
Broaddus’s first hint of hope came when a friend called her out on her behavior. “I yelled at her,” she says. “But it planted the seed. I didn’t want to get caught by my parents. I didn’t want to lose my job. It scared me that people were starting to find out what I was doing.”
One evening at home after heavy drug using, she was “just rocking back and forth,” she says, “and I had a vision. I saw three paths. In the first one, I saw me continuing to just rock back and forth, and I knew that’s where I was headed if I didn’t change. Then I saw a second path that was completely black, and I recognized that to be death.” She considered ending her life right then. “Then I saw a third path that had just a tiny glimmer of light. I got down on my knees. I prayed for the first time in many, many years, and I said, ‘God, if you are real, I need your help.’” She threw away all her drugs.
Broaddus continues: “A week later I got with this guy one more time and we were fighting and drinking, and I said, ‘I’m really nervous for my mental health.’ He said, ‘Are you that big of a loser that I need to take you to a treatment center?’ I cried myself to sleep. In the middle of the night I felt, clear as day, something jump on my chest, and then I saw myself at the foot of the bed saying, Deanna, you better get out of here now or you’re going to lose your mind. I was scared straight. I got up, took my stuff, and left. I’ve never seen that man again. And that was the hardest cord to cut. He was my drug dealer, and I loved him.
Once I walked away from him, I was able to walk away from everything else.”
Broaddus believes that the visions were “God reaching out to me. I had a lot of people praying for me.”
From there, she says, “I started telling people the truth about what I had been doing. That’s what gave me hope. It was the one thing that made me feel safe. I had been lying for so long, it was refreshing to tell the truth,” This included telling her boss at work. “Male authority figures can really trigger me. My boss is male, and a couple times we’ve had fights and it was just misplaced anger. I had to come clean and tell my boss that, and he deeply appreciated my honesty. I don’t know if I would have known how to do that without going through recovery.”
Truth got a hug
Broaddus went to her psychiatrist, fearful to tell her the truth. “I had tricked her into prescribing me some drugs I was abusing,” she says. What she got from her doctor was a hug and a referral to the Twelve Steps program. Broaddus joined a Christian Recovery program and found a sponsor with the same faith as she had. She recalls: “That gave me a lot of hope.” At first when she called others in her program for help, she says, “I was afraid I was wasting everyone’s time, but they said ‘Just lean on us for now,’ so that was a blessing.”
Using the Twelve Steps’ inventory process, Broaddus examined her relationship with her father. “Not so I could blame him,” she says, “but to understand a bit about where I came from and why was I making such poor choices, dating men who were emotionally unavailable.”
Done with debt
Broaddus had gone through bankruptcy and lost her house. She assumed she would always be in debt. But she found someone who showed her how to create a plan for financial health and she stuck to it. “I cut back, bigtime,” she says. Besides living rent-free with her parents for a year, she stopped spending money on outings with friends. “I’d call them and say, ‘Do you want to go for a hike?’ or ‘Do you want to get together and play a board game?’ I realized I was no less happy doing some of these things. It was the relationships I valued, and I didn’t have to spend any money.”
Now Broaddus uses what she has learned to offer hope to other addicts. She also offers money-managing guidance to women through her blog (www.recoveringwomenwealth.com) and personal coaching. Getting on top of your finances “just takes intention, a plan, and accountability, and it can be fun,” she says. “Get some cheerleaders, accountability partners,” she advises. “There are lots of meet-ups and other groups where you don’t have to feel like you’re doing it alone.”
Can’t break the habit
For Pat Williamson, living in the French Quarter in New Orleans meant ready access to alcohol. “Everything I did revolved around drinking,” he says. “I was either thinking about drinking, drinking, or recovering from drinking. I can remember getting up in the morning and saying today I’m not going to do this. At 4:00 or 5:00 pm, I was right back at it.”
Scrapes with the law because of his drinking landed him in jail overnight. “That was scary,” he says. “Also, one time I picked up someone in my drunken stupor, brought them home, and was robbed. I didn’t remember anything about it, but the next morning I woke up and my door was open, and all my things were gone. I realized then that I could have killed someone and not even remember doing it.”
A terrible hangover one day kept him home from work. The next day, he says, “My backdoor neighbor came over to where I was sitting on the stoop and invited me to my first Twelve Steps meeting. I said, ‘I don’t want to go.’ She said, ‘You’re going.’ I’m very grateful to her today for insisting that I go. I’ve been sober ever since.” He went to 90 meetings in 90 days. “I knew my resolve was not enough. I had to have help.”
Firing his God
Williamson, who now serves as a minister at Unity Minneapolis in Golden Valley, says that his spiritual awakening came as the result of the Twelve Steps, especially through Step Three, which speaks of surrendering one’s life and will to the “God of my understanding.” Says Williamson, who is gay, “The God of my understanding that I grew up with did not work for me. It was not a God who was accepting of my sexual orientation, not accepting who I was. My sponsor told me to fire that God of my understanding. I thought: ‘Oh yes!’”
Now he believes that “I’m made in the image and likeness of God and that I’m an expression of God, that God loves me. With that definition of God, I can listen to intuition guiding me what to do.”
Williamson still goes to Twelve Steps meetings every week. The program, he says, “continues to provide me with a lot of hope. It gives me so many wonderful things to live by, to structure my life around.” Williamson also keeps his hope alive by reading program and other spiritual literature every day, journaling to sort out what’s troubling him, praying and meditating, and saying affirmations that move him in the direction he wants to go with his life.
Follow Good Orderly Direction [GOD]
Recently, he applied the lessons of recovery during an experience with cancer, using the Serenity Prayer as his anchor. “I kept following instructions,” he says, “as I had learned to do in the Twelve Steps program. I kept following instructions from my doctors and their staff, following Good Orderly Direction [GOD] with the cancer treatment.”
As a minister, Reverend Pat, as he is affectionately known in his church community, frequently gives counsel to people in recovery as well as others hungry for hope. Often, he finds himself passing on the lessons he has learned in recovery, mixed with his characteristic warm-hearted humor. “I spoke to someone today who is very depressed and who has also had battles with alcoholism,” he says, “and I know her well enough that I could say, ‘Have you taken your medication?’ And to say, ‘Get your derriere in this office to see me and promise me you’re not going to hurt yourself.’
“I think of another case about a woman who was anticipating suicide. And I listened to her, and I prayed, ‘Spirit, what do I do?’ I went to her and said, ‘Look, I’m very busy. Don’t do anything crazy. I don’t have time for a memorial service this week.’ She laughed. And I laughed. She’s still with us. I was doing it for a joke, intending to lighten her up. And, my God, it did.”
Pat Samples is a writer and a facilitator for creative aging, body awareness, and creative writing. www.patsamples.com.