Choosing Your Own Recovery Path with Kris Kelly

How can you find the treatment that works for you?

Today we have Kris Kelly on The SHAIR Podcast. She is the co-executive director of the MRC, the Minnesota Recovery Connection. The mission of MRC is to educate the masses, remove stigma, and change the language we use when discussing recovery.

I met Kris when I flew to Minnesota to become certified as a peer recovery specialist. She was one of our amazing instructors. She has an important story that highlights not only the fact that addiction recovery is not-one-size-fits-all but that there is a recovery option out there that will work for you.

CLEAN DATE: April 27th 2009

Listen to Kris’s story now!

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Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!

Daily Routine

Kris’s passions blend with her work. She lives and breathes recovery, which is 90% a positive thing and 10% overwhelming. Kris knows that being completely immersed in recovery is probably a dream to many, but she says that sometimes it’s necessary to ground herself outside of that scope.

You have to reconnect with what makes you human, not just your recovery persona.

Kris has a 15-year-old daughter who keeps her busy. Her daughter was only 6-years-old when Kris got into recovery and now Kris focuses on being the best, most present mom she can be.

Kris also has a sweetheart in her life. He is not in recovery but completely supports her and is her best ally.

Kris likes to keep her daily routine simple. She gets up goes to work. When she gets home the family loves to cook, love, and laugh together. They spend time with their dog, their friends and relatives, and each other. Even though her life doesn’t sound exciting, Kris says it’s far from boring.

Boredom is a lack of imagination. The gifts of life come in those quiet times that we might label as boring, but it’s where you find that connection.

Spiritual Connection

Kris taps into her spirituality every day. When she wakes up, she recites to herself a message to prevent her from getting overwhelmed:

Just worry about what you got to do today.

Kris likes to keep a pulse on life by being mindful of her body. What resonates with her body and what feels right in her heart is usually what she’s supposed to be doing. Sometimes it’s just being in the moment and not worrying about the shoulds.

The First Time

Her first introduction to a mind-altering substance was to alcohol at the age of 8 or 9. Whenever her parents would get ready to go out, her mom (a normal, sporadic user) always asked Kris to pour her a glass of amaretto. Kris would pour a shot, drink it, pour another shot, and drink that, and then finally bring the glass to her mom. Even such a young age, she remembers having that warm feeling and the relationship with alcohol took off.

It was like pulling on a cozy sweater or jumping in a hot tub.

Kris’s Story

Kris didn’t actively seek drugs until she was 12 years-old. She was an awkward kid with big glasses, buck teeth, and a funny haircut. Alcohol made her feel like she was okay in her body.

I never had the switch in my brain that said stop.

She consistently drank until 15 or 16 when she got into the straight edge crowd. and went to the punk rock scene with a Mohawk. She chose not to drink. She learned how identifiable alcohol was and she didn’t want to be labeled like she had issue so she popped a pill or smoked a joint without anyone knowing. She knew she wanted to hide her drug use and how to hide it.

This abstinence from alcohol lasted through college. She went to St. Cloud State University, a school notorious for drinking. She didn’t drink, and she was miserable.

Then on her 21st birthday, she went barhopping. She met a gentleman and it was love at first sight. He was a heavy drinker became her best drinking buddy. She would pursue an alcoholic lifestyle for the next 15 years, beginning with two DWIs.

The second DWI charge was a car accident. Kris passed out and T-boned another car. She didn’t remember anything, just waking up in the hospital with a neck brace on.

Her first reaction was to make a run for it. She yanked off the neck brace and walked home barefoot in the dead of winter with a broken rib that has never been treated to this day.

When she got home she tried to piece together what had happened. Her boss told her that the Chief of Police called her work and said her car had been impounded. She called the police station to ask them what happened to her that night. The cop she spoke to told her that she had hit another car, but he wouldn’t tell her if anyone in the accident had been hurt.

At that point, Kris called her dad and said, “You have to come over because I will kill myself if I hurt somebody.”

Her dad waited with her to find out if her drunk driving accident resulted in any deaths. It did not. But the people involved were hospitalized. She went to court for it and was given the option of a sentence or a newly implemented DWI program that required sobriety, community service, and clinical treatment. This was her first experience with AA, but even after 90 meetings in 90 days she couldn’t connect with it. Despite that, she successfully spent the next 2 years sober.

I was abstinent. I didn’t really change much in my life.

During this period her parents were in a car accident which left her mom in a coma. She was let off of probation to care for her parents. Within days she was back using. Kris had periods where she could be functional, but she’d return to losing jobs and friendships. Her family hung on, but they didn’t know what to do to help her. She kept trying, and had two more periods of treatment, but she could only do outpatient rehab. The stigma of addiction prevented companies from paying for treatment or allowing for leave.

Kris still couldn’t get AA and was labeled as treatment-resistant. What the problem really was, Kris says, was that no one asked her what would recovery look like for her.

It was getting to the point where she was going to lose her daughter, and she believed she should. When she realized this, she called her father and simply said, “I’m done.”

Her father came over and held her. He didn’t do anything else, and from there, let her steer her ship to recovery. Kris found a place in the woods that looked like a house and not a facility and said to herself, “That’s the place I’m going to get better.” Bering in the right place allowed her innate deep spiritual beliefs to help her turn it all around. Kris finally found long-term recovery at 35-years-old.

I’m all in because my other option is dying.

Now Kris facilitates training and helps run the MRC. The organization works with local state and national policies to make sure laws are fair and that different treatment options are available for everyone. She believes addiction should be treated as any other chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease. Access to treatment and a pathway to recovery that makes sense to the individual should be readily available so that people don’t have to hit rock bottom before they seek help.

We need the masses. We need more people.

What kept Kris from getting clean?

Not believing it was possible.

Spiritual Awakening

It was not powerlessness, but the moment on the couch with her dad that was the turning point.

I had just a pinhole of hope that I could survive and do something other than what I had been doing.

Favorite book

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

Best Suggestion

It’s not about you.

Suggestion for the Newcomer

Get out of your own way. Do what you know you can. Connect to that part of yourself and give it to others. Once you start giving back it solidifies everything.

We SHAIR our stories every Tuesday so subscribe to us on iTunes and Stitcher Radio!

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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.