My name is Lisa Simone and I am a person in long term recovery. For me, that means I have not used alcohol or other drugs for over thirteen years. I have been impacted by the disease of addiction in countless ways and lost many friends and family members to overdose. I know I could have very easily become a statistic had I not sought help when I did.
My introduction to substances started early. As a child, I fell to soothing my self with tv and sugar. I was extremely shy and fearful of the world around me. For the environment to feel safe, I felt I needed to control it and have it all figured out. As I grew, this way of being became more of a prison as I avoided the unknown at any cost. I suppose that is why when I found drinking and drugging, they were a refuge for me: it was an escape from myself.
I was a natural athlete growing up. In junior high I stayed connected to myself through sports and team fellowship. I was tall, cocky, and could perform. I’d be played on the starting line up without putting in much effort or paying attention at practice. This attitude and lack of effort eventually backfired in high school, and I did not make the cut for the basketball team. I never again tried out for a team. I then devoted my time to friends and partying.
When I was 21, I met the man who would become my first husband at the bar where I waitressed. His name was Cameron. He was like a guy version of me: big energy, and full of fun and life. Both of us loved to drink. He worked in the oil and gas sector and did much of his work in the southern region of the United States. I eventually moved there with him. The US was very different from anything I’d ever been exposed to: racism, poverty, and bad parts of town. I eventually got to know these bad parts of town far too well. Cameron was getting paid well, and we were young and foolish. We were soon introduced to crack cocaine. It started out as monthly thing, eventually turned to weekly use, and soon after got totally out of control.
While living outside of New Orleans and hitting new bottoms daily, I found out I was pregnant. All drugs stopped. By the grace of God, Cameron and I got transferred the next day and moved up north where we did not have access to the same drug world we had before. Would it have been a different story if we stayed? I hate to think about that as addiction is so cunning, baffling and powerful.
I had a great pregnancy, and birthed a healthy baby boy who we named Braden. We had created this wholesome family and begun a new chapter. I truly believed “party life” was over. Makes sense, right?
I was so wrong. We were transferred back to the southern United States, and with the move the drug use came back. We hid our addictions from all family, friends and coworkers. Living in the United States made this easy.
Just after our son turned two, my world came crashing down. I woke up after a night of drinking and using and found Cameron dead from an overdose.
His life ended, but my addiction continued: in shame, despair and confusion. You’d think I would quit as soon as I saw what the drugs did to my husband. I didn’t though – I could not cope with his death and my anger at God without the help of substances. Not only did Braden lose his dad that day; he also lost me to the bottle.
I spent the next year and a half isolated in the prison of my disease. Friends left me. Family got quiet. They didn’t have the words to reach me, so they said nothing. I stayed in pain and chaos until I realized something had to change or I was going to die too.
On New Years Day in 2001, I went and got help through a local 12 step fellowship. This journey was dark and painful, as many of the emotions I ignored after Cameron’s death surfaced. I was forced to work through them as there was nowhere to run. Sure enough, I got my life back on track and embraced recovery. I met a great guy named Chris, who was a single dad with a daughter the same age as Braden. I reinvented myself. I was so different now… wouldn’t my relationship to alcohol be different too? So, I tried it again.
With that one decision, I was back in the world of drinking. I also found myself in a whole new world of prescription pill abuse. I stayed here for 7 years.
Along the way, Chris and I got married, blended our families, and had two more children. I stopped drinking and using only while I was pregnant. We built a beautiful life for our family, yet I was still the great master of disguise. While everything looked great on the outside, the inside of me was just barely holding it together. Every time I tried to stop drinking and using now, I couldn’t. My disease had progressed.
I feared who I had become, but I was also terrified of changing. Deciding to give up an addiction is agreeing to change. In fact, everything needs to change. The benefits of such a dramatic alteration of course are wonderful, but it is also a giant step into the unknown. Even though I had been in recovery before, this time felt different. I knew myself better. I was scared to get sober because of what was underneath the mess. Would recovery hurt more? Could I face the demons that have been stuffed down inside me for so long? Could I even be happy without alcohol or pills?
But the fact was. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I knew what I would be if I stayed addicted – I trusted that I could this this again. One day at a time.
What I know now is that this is a disease we cannot fight alone.
My solution includes meetings, yoga, Buddhism, meditation, self care, therapy, service, prioritizing wholesome activities, family and friends. Recovery has given me a life I love, and I have also been blessed to make my living helping others. In my second year of recovery I heard a little voice inside me say, “You need to work at a treatment centre”. That voice of truth has never steered me wrong. Sure enough, I was led to an all men’s treatment centre called Fresh Start Recovery.
Starting as their receptionist, I worked at Fresh Start for ten years. While working there I went back to school, and eventually became their National Communications Director. In those years I also cofounded a National Advocacy non profit called FAVOR Canada (Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada) with some other bad ass women. FAVOR supports individuals and communities in recovery.
In 2016 I completed my 200-hour certification for yoga teaching. Upon completing that I was certified to teach Y12SR, blending yoga with the 12 steps of recovery. In 2017 my husband and I bought a half commercial/half residential building on the water in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We moved with our two youngest kids and dogs to the upstairs apartment. Downstairs, we built a community integrated yoga studio that also hosts Y12SR meetings twice weekly for those of us that are in recovery from whatever ails us.
In 2018 I completed my certification for addiction counselling and recovery coaching. Next to parenting my four kids, I have found my deepest purpose in this work. I am a lifelong learner and I continue my long-term discovery with the practice of the dharma. I have learned to live with ease and presence. I do not get rattled by small things. As for the big stuff, I feel it all and move through it with grace. My mantra for the last 5 years is “More will be revealed”. All things shift.