Two days ago, I shared part of Gretchen Beach’s story about drug addiction.
|Gretchen: There is always hope.
At the end of part one, Gretchen related that she had gotten arrested for driving a car full of drugs. She did not face legal charges because her drug dealer boyfriend’s boss was in the car and the cops were after him. He was the one who was wanted so he was listed as the driver. Even though she had a close call…
I still kept going and
I got tired. I didn’t have a job. I was lying to my mom. She was paying my rent. It wasn’t me. The life that I was living was so dirty and ugly. One day, I was out in the club with a friend who didn’t drink or do drugs or anything. A guy offered to buy her a drink and she said, “No thanks, I don’t drink, but she does,” and she pointed at me. That finger felt like it was aimed right between my eyes. It was like a punch in the gut. So I started trying to stop. It didn’t go well. I didn’t know what else to do with myself.
And then, I met a guy! I met him online in the early days of internet dating. He was from New York City. It was very exciting. He flew out to spend a week with me. He walked in and, within an hour of meeting him in person, he sat me down and told me that he was an alcoholic and he wanted to go to a meeting. I thought, “Is he going to be drunk and violent? Is he homeless?” I had prejudices against that word, alcoholic. I didn’t understand what that meant. The drug dealer boyfriend had been ordered to go to AA meetings so I went to one with him, and it was a room full of dirty and disgusting people who wanted to hold my hand. So when the guy from New York City said that he wanted to go to a meeting, I said, “Fine, as long as you can find one in Beverly Hills.” I figured that wouldn’t have gross people in it.
Lo and behold, that night, there just happened to be a meeting in Beverly Hills that was the Big Meeting on Rodeo Drive. I walked into a room full of 300 of the most beautiful people I had ever seen. These were the people I was at clubs with. These were the Hollywood stars; these were people I wanted to associate with. As shallow as that sounds, I did grow up in Los Angeles. So I continued going to meetings.
Eventually, the meeting that had the dirty and disgusting people became my regular home group. They weren’t so dirty after all. I thought that I needed to hang out with a certain crowd to be looked at a certain way. Growing up with body image insecurities, I thought that I was hideous and too huge. I always thought that I was stupid. It turned out that I was underchallenged. I was bored. I finished the work, I started talking and playing, and, from kindergarten onward, I got into trouble for it. I was too smart, and I was in a good school, but they didn’t see it.
I stayed sober, and we continued to date long distance. After about a year, I had a job offered to me in New York City, so I moved. I was told that everyone should live in Los Angeles and New York City once in their life. I kind of thrived in New York. Unfortunately, the man turned out to be a womanizer. About six weeks after I moved there, the company that hired me was bought out and we were all let go.
I couldn’t leave him. I wasn’t going to go back home. We stayed together for another six months. I was in New York City for a year before I got rid of him. I’d say that, in losing my job, I had my first God experience. I sat down and wrote a letter to myself describing my dream job. When I finished my letter and put down the pen, my phone rang. I got a job offer that met everything that I had written. It was pretty amazing. I was working there for about three years. I did commercial property management and development. I loved it. I loved my boss, everything was great.
How did you find your way to Grand Island?
One day, my dad called. He must have been in his early 70s by then. We had always traveled a lot. He said, “I am taking my last trip to Europe. Do you want to come with me?” Every time in the past, when he offered to take me, in my adult years, I said no because I was with a guy that I didn’t want to walk away from for two weeks or in a job that I couldn’t leave. So I said yes, and told my boss that I was taking three weeks off. He said no, and I said, then I will go write my resignation.
It was too important to me to take this trip with my dad. I was well known, and I was a star in my industry. I knew that I could get another job. I didn’t care at all. So we went to Europe on a motorcycle tour. My sponsor told me that I couldn’t get in a relationship for one year. It was nine months before I met Rob. He was supposed to be a two-week fling, not a relationship. After the tour, when he asked me to stay for the next tour, a week into that tour, I was madly in love. We met in 2006 and got married in 2012. And that is how I ended up on Grand Island.
Do you and Rob and children?
Yes. He has two sons and a granddaughter.
What would you tell people who are in recovery?
I don’t have any magic answers. I’m not a professional. I know what worked for me. Getting involved in a 12-step program was really important for me. I don’t have experience with opiates, and I understand that opiates are a whole different ball game, but I have friends who have recovered from opiate abuse so I know that it can be done.
How about kids? How would you divert them from drug use?
I think that it’s really important for kids to have something that means more than getting high. I had nothing to lose when I started doing drugs. It threatened nothing. If I were to start again, I have too much to lose. I am surrounded by loving women in the program. I have a fabulous life. I wouldn’t give this up for anything. I wouldn’t have this life if I hadn’t gotten sober.
What should the community do about the drug issue?
The most important thing that we can do as a community is to start listening to the people who have recovered, who are willing to speak out and break their anonymity. Once you leave us out of the conversation, we will go back into hiding. I don’t think that any of us have the answers. People who’ve recovered have far more to draw on than people who have studied it in a book. We hide because of the stigma. We hide because we don’t want to lose our jobs. We hide because we fear the judgment of people who don’t understand.
What we need is a movement, like the LGBT community has. That’s the example that we can take from. Those are people who should be involved in the conversation, too, because they broke the stigma.
I share my story to encourage others and to give hope. There
is hope that you can get clean and there is hope that you don’t have to hide
your sick family members. You can ask for help for them.
Note: I would like to continue this series. If you are a recovering addict or if the war on drugs has affected you in any way and, if you’d like to share your story, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org