Carrie Burgess is one of The SHAIR Network’s first members and has been active in the community ever since. If you have joined our Free SHAIR Facebook Group, then you have seen her around!
Carrie was a perfectionist who became addicted to alcohol, marijuana, and painkillers. Her addiction was so bad, she taught little girls dance class while intoxicated. She broke into her mother-in-law’s house to steal pills while carrying her baby son on her hip. She smoked synthetic marijuana until she didn’t know if she had been coming or going to work. She became a hollow shell that didn’t care about anything anymore.
Now Carrie is celebrating more than 5 years of sobriety and has learned to overcome the guilt and forgive herself for the wreckage and pain she caused while she was in active addiction. Listen to her story from zombie mom to her new life in sobriety!
CLEAN DATE: October 9th, 2012
Listen to Carrie’s story now!
Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!
Carrie is the mother of a 7-year-old, so her days start off in a tornado. She gets up, gets her coffee, packs her son’s lunch, and fights to get him off to school. She stops to do a daily mediation and prayer. Then she is off to the races.
Carrie works at the Harley Davidson store and once she arrives, she does not stop. She is constantly going until she leaves, but she has a 45-minute commute to work that she is able to use as her quiet time. She listens to her podcasts and spiritual music. After work, she tries to call her sponsor and she goes to meetings 3 or 4 times a week.
It’s my medicine. I’m in my safe zone.
Carrie tries to stay in her spiritual mode as much as possible. She has to make herself stop and ask her Higher Power to let her walk with him.
Ask god to, “let me walk with you,” not, “God, be with me.”
Carrie recites the Serenity Prayer throughout the day. She thanks God for her day and prays for anyone who needs his help because she wants to be a servant to Him.
When I’m helping somebody else, I’m out of myself.
The First Time
The first time Carrie drank alcohol was at a friend’s house in 6th grade. They were looking for her friend’s parents’ stash. They found it, mixed it all together, and drank it.
I felt like I had arrived.
But alcohol wouldn’t become a major factor in Carrie’s life until much later. Her first love was marijuana. She remembers getting high at a college party on a bong hit.
That took my breath away. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, this is it!”
Carrie grew up the oldest of three girls in an average family. She compares her childhood with A Little House on the Prairie.
When she was a kid, alcohol was in her house all the time, but mainly for social events. Carrie became the bartender/ waitress and thought it was cool to fix drink for the adults. So, when Carrie became older, she didn’t feel anything was wrong with drinking.
Carrie started dancing at 3 years old. She was into tap and jazz, and that was her drug all the way through to high school. Carrie was the oldest sibling, and she thought she had to be perfect. She wanted to be the good girl and became a people pleaser.
When Carrie turned 20 years old, the lady she taught dance for asked her if she wanted to help her run the dance studio. That is when her drinking started. They would travel frequently to places like New York City to take classes and watch shows. Part of this lifestyle was drinking. She and her employer would get on the plane and drink screwdrivers. Then they would continue to drink for the rest of the day.
Drinking was just part of what we did.
Soon, Carrie met a guy. He was a drug dealer who sold pot. She didn’t want to try pot again at first, but she ended up going for it. She thought it was amazing and it chilled out her perfectionist personality. Him being a dealer worked out really good for her. She would get high on her breaks from dance classes. She still had no idea she had a problem.
That relationship ended and she soon met her husband. On her wedding day she was drinking, and one of her friends brought her a joint. Her new husband didn’t approve, so during her honeymoon, she hid in the bathroom to get high. Between the alcohol and the marijuana, Carrie was out.
She never consummated her marriage.
Her husband found out about her pot habit and told her it was not acceptable. Carrie didn’t think she could stop, but she did. This was when the drinking kicked in as a replacement.
Anything that’s going to make me feel different, I’ll take it.
Carrie tried to get pregnant, but nothing was happening. When she did get pregnant, she had a miscarriage. Being an alcoholic she felt sorry for herself and she drank more, but they kept trying.
One day at that age of 39, Carrie woke up to find out she was going to have a baby. It was a surprise. She thought she was going to be the oldest mom in kindergarten, but she was going through with it.
When she was pregnant, she didn’t drink. But she had a toothache and the dentist gave her hydrocodone. He said it was safe to take during pregnancy. Carrie heard conflicting advice, but she believed the ones who said it was okay. She noticed a great high when she took the pills.
Luckily, everything turned out great when her son was born. He was healthy and normal. She had a C-section and was given the really good drugs. After that, the pills took over. They made her into supermom at first. All she could think about as a new mom was how to get more painkillers. She didn’t care what she had to do.
Carrie’s mother-in-law, who lived behind her, had health conditions that required different prescriptions. Carrie knew this, and walked down to her mother-in-law’s house with her son on her hip. Carrie remembers using her key to break into the house and raid medicine cabinet. She didn’t care if she got caught. She was in compulsive addiction.
When her son was a year old she got back into marijuana. She also became more and more desperate for sources of pills. She went to great lengths to get prescriptions, even faking kidney stones multiple times to get painkillers.
I had it to a tee. I was a con artist.
Her downfall was accelerated when she discovered synthetic marijuana. It was very addictive and easy to get. She smoked it until she didn’t know if she was coming or going.
Then, in July of 2012, her eye sight faltered. She wasn’t feeling well and went to the emergency room, but they didn’t find any cause. The next day when she was sent home, things became far worse. She was urinated all over herself. She lost feeling in the left side of her body. She was essentially paralyzed. Still, all she cared about was getting high. She remembers struggling to load and smoke her marijuana with one hand with no care that she was half paralyzed.
At her next hospital visit, she discovered she had suffered six mini strokes.
Carrie thought maybe the synthetic marijuana had something to do with it. It didn’t stop her from wanting to get high. As she recovered and had to do physical therapy, she got more pain pills. The madness continued.
There was nothing inside of me.
Finally, her family stepped in. Her sisters confronted her.
I was such an empty shell of nothing I agreed to go get treatment.
What kept Carrie from getting clean?
Carrie never knew anything about recovery. She had no knowledge of the fact she had a disease. Once she learned her brain was different, she set out to find out how to manage it.
I wasn’t the only one.
Carrie remembers sitting in a class during treatment where the teacher described the difference between religion and spirituality. After growing up in church and bible studies, it had never occurred to her that she could have a personal relationship with God. When this concept struck her, she felt a burning warmth in her chest and experienced a new intimate connection with God.
Carrie remembers a suggestion from her sponsor when she first got sober. She realized that even at meetings, there are cliques. Some people are there for recovery and some that aren’t.
I don’t get caught up in the drama. Be around people in recovery that have something that you want. Stick with the winners.
Carrie knows now that when she was out there using and drinking, that it wasn’t really her. It was her disease. She would’ve never done any of the horrible things she did if it wasn’t for her addiction. In order for her to stay whole and keep her peace, she has to forgive her self because she knows her Higher Power has already forgiven her and that if he can forgive her, she can forgive herself.
Forgive yourself for your past. It’s going to take time. If you can’t love yourself and you don’t feel like you’re worth it, you’re going to have a hard time.
See you then!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.