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Ralph Sara’s Recovery Journey
Name: Ralph Clement Sara
Where are you from: Born and raised in Bethel Alaska.
How long have you been sober? Since 01/18/2020.
What inspired you to find recovery? At first it was me being selfish. I was so tired of this revolving door of alcoholism I was in. I was only thinking of myself. Then while I was in the Ernie Turner Center something changed. I surrendered. It became clear to me that I wanted to go home and repair all the relationships that I have lost due to my drinking. Repair relationships with my children, my partner, my family and friends, my employer. At some point it went from being selfish and me, me, me. To wanting to help others suffering from the same thing I was going through. I want to be able to spread hope to people struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. Be a beacon of light to those who are still struggling in the dark.
What inspires you to stay sober? My children, my partner, my family, and my friends. Being able to do something to help others to get help for themselves. I also want to end the stigma associated with recovery. To end the stigma of “the drunk native”, “the drunk Indian”, or “the drunk Inuit.” We are somebody’s Grampa, Gramma, Dad, Mom, Brother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, friend. I want to be an advocate for Native recovery.
Biggest surprise or best part of sobriety you weren’t expecting? Finding a voice. Having the courage to share my story and allowing others to share their stories through my podcast in hopes someone still struggling can relate and find their own courage to get help.
Advice for those contemplating recovery? Being in recovery is not a bad thing. It is not shameful. Please reach out for help. You are not weak for reaching out. There are so many places you could reach out to. Google it! The internet is a wealth of information about recovery and where to find it. Don’t give up! If you fall, get back up. You are in charge of your story and how it goes. You can always rewrite it and change the path you are on. Just don’t give up.
The teacher who returned to the rural Alaska village where she was abused is not staying silent
A few years ago, Marie Sakar moved to the village of Chuathbaluk in Western Alaska to teach at the tiny village school.
It meant returning to the place she’d been running away from for her entire adult life.
Sakar grew up in the fish camp-turned-village on the banks of the Kuskokwim River, enduring years of sexual abuse.
She’d left as soon as she could, becoming a mother and earning a college degree in elementary education. But nothing chased away the memories of being molested, or the self-destruction that had followed.
And yet, Sakar, now 48, knew she had to return home to the community of 100 people. Read more of Marie’s story from Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica here.
My Two CentsI was binge drinking because I felt/knew that I could be more than I believed I was. I simply could not access my core worth and value and even my dignity.
I Found a New PeaceShirley Gover of Nikolai shares her story of alcohol misuse and recovery. Unhappy with her life and worried about her health, she gives her life over to God and begins again. In recovery, she works to re-establish broken relationships with her children, parents, and family. By forgiving herself, she is able to find a new peace.
I am truly grateful
Everything was falling apart. I was about to drop out of school (again), I was about to get fired from my job (again), and every time I turned around someone else I loved was dying from the disease of addiction. All for a drink, a drug, an escape from reality. I was so insecure, anxious, and depressed that I couldn’t stand being in my own skin.
I had known I had a problem with alcohol for a while. I even tried quitting drinking several times—claiming I was doing a cleanse or just taking a break. Throughout my using career, I tried any drug I could get my hands on, including sex, food, and people. I tried to control anything and everything around me because I couldn’t handle the inner turmoil I was experiencing. Alcohol was my constant. No matter what my drug of choice was at the time, alcohol was always there for me to help me come down. Finally, it happened. After years of watching people die from this disease, my closest and dearest friend for 12 years was lost to this disease. This woke me up. I realized that every shitty thing that had ever happened to me or to someone I knew—alcohol or drugs were involved. That was it. After drinking off an especially horrendous hangover, I finally set the drink down and walked away. I was done. I was broken and I didn’t have a clue how I was going to do it, but I was finally willing to ask for help.
I woke up from my very last hangover on December 28th, 2012. In the last 6 years I have finished my bachelor’s degree and went on to get my masters in social work, thanks largely to Collegiate Recovery Communities. I met the love of my life, moved across the country twice, went to India to become a yoga teacher, travelled internationally with sober friends (made tons of sober friends!!), made amends with both of my parents and solidified my relationship with my sister. I am now back in Alaska working as a clinician in a town I grew up in and have had the opportunity to make amends with places from my adolescence that carried a lot of pain. I’ve brought yoga for recovery back to my hometown and shared my story in places that I first started drinking and using.
Life is more incredible than I ever could have dreamed. I find myself experiencing a childlike sense of wonder for what the future may hold, and for that, I am truly grateful.
We’re All In This Together
My name is Ericka Weynand, I’ve been sober for 8 years. Today, I’m a loving daughter, sister and Auntie, proud Mom of 3, a college graduate and a woman in love with life… but that wasn’t always the case.
My early recovery was rough; I was what they call “a chronic relapser.” I can’t remember the age I had my first drink; I think I must have been around 6 years old or so, as one of my earliest memories is LOVING the taste of beer and wine at family events where I was allowed to have sips occasionally. For me, after I had my first taste, that was all she wrote. When it was around, I made sure I got some, and it was around a lot.
Like a lot of folks in addiction, I knew I had a lot of early adversity that had contributed to who I was and what I was doing with my life, and I didn’t understand any of it. I was ashamed of a lot of things and wanted to blame everyone else for the way I was living my life. I come from a long line of functioning alcoholics, and learned the blame game early. In our family system, it was completely acceptable and even encouraged to binge drink every weekend, holiday or vacation but to get into trouble with the law or OCS was unacceptable- so it wasn’t until those kind of negative consequences started happening that I realized I had a lot of things I needed to figure out or I wasn’t going to be able to stay sober for more than 90 days or so. I knew I wanted it, I just didn’t know how to get there. I did a lot of treatment, but treatment didn’t really seem to help, which scared the crap out of me and made me less likely to seek out other options on my own. Shame is a powerful thing. I thought I was a lost cause.
Eventually I made a choice that changed everything for me and my kids- something bad enough happened because of something I did when drinking that I hit a new rock bottom, lower than ever before. I knew in my heart I had to wake up and start taking the recovery thing seriously. I was at Hiland Mountain for a just a few days when an older woman approached me with a possible solution. I accepted and spent several months in the RSAT program. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by other women, 24/7, who were in right living. These women, these criminals who became my second family, could admit their wrongdoings and be accountable without shame or excuses, and had sweet plans for their lives after incarceration. For the first time, I felt hope…and I saw what integrity looked like in action.
The ladies in that therapeutic community showed me what acceptance was. They taught me how to love and be loved with boundaries and self-respect. They pointed out and helped me become aware of my thinking errors, negative behaviors and unhealthy beliefs with genuine care and concern- no judgment. I had found my tribe.
One of the assignments I had to complete before leaving was to create goals for myself, which I did. Because of the support of the women I had met in jail and the healing that had begun to occur, I finally felt strong and capable enough to actually start moving those goals forward. When I got out, each next right thing I did took me to the next right thing- through the 12 steps of AA ( one step at a time) , through treatment again (turns out it can actually help if you can bring yourself to a place where you can trust the professionals enough to be honest), through college (cum laude) and right into a career as a substance abuse counselor, which I love so, so much.
The reason I love it so much? I get to give back some of what I’ve been given. It’s never dull. I get to meet folks right where they’re at. I get to listen. I get to offer options- because I’ve lived it, I know treatment isn’t for everyone and I’m willing to explore that with folks who are on the fence. I’m trusted. I get to teach people how to love themselves again, and how to navigate through the challenges in life without wanting or needing to escape, how to cope with life on life’s terms. At work, most of my new clients ask me within their first week or two if I’m in recovery…and I always smile because I don’t actually know how they always know, but I guess it takes one to know one, and I tell them that. They teach me so much about myself and help me grow every day. I feel capable, safe, and respected in my relationships with myself and with others and get free counseling from my awesome peers when I need it. I feel valued enough to be my authentic self, and by role modeling that, they get to see that they can do it too…and that’s a beautiful thing.
My coworker sent the following to me after I graduated my first client, who was fixing to take on her first sponsee in her 12 step group. I was so very proud of her, and I was a bit emotional by the end of the day and having a hard time describing what I was feeling. She really summed up how a lot of us in the treatment field feel about the work we do, and I think it boils down to immense gratitude.
“Watching people transform their lives is an amazing experience. Then, watching them share their experience, strength and hope to make a difference and leave healing imprints in the lives of others is a miraculous and precious gift.”
To me, that says that we’re all in this together. And that we do recover.
Tyler Young aka 2essentialz: Do You (Rough Draft)