Chotsie Barnes was well aware of the dangers of addiction from a young age. Her parents, Mary and Wade, met at Valley Hope, an addiction treatment center located in Cushing, Oklahoma. Married shortly thereafter, they packed up their life and moved to Dallas, Texas for a fresh start. Despite the change in location and the addition of a baby girl to the family, their struggles soon resurfaced and derailed any hopes of lasting sobriety. As their addictions grew, Wade began to disappear for days at a time without telling his wife where he was going. A week after Chotsie’s first birthday, there was a knock on the door from a detective. Her father had been found dead in a hotel room of a morphine overdose. Continue reading
At the height of Tyler Barnes’ addiction, he died of a heroin overdose. He stopped breathing long enough for those around him to believe there was no coming back. Tyler regained consciousness with half of his body hanging outside of a window. Another user was in the process of dragging his lifeless body out of his residence so that the cops wouldn’t discover it on his property. Despite the near death experience, Tyler continued using heroin for the next three days even as his body was rejecting food and water due to the harm that the overdose caused. Continue reading
Brian Paul has lived a life dedicated to serving others. As a member of the Oklahoma National Guard, he worked hand in hand with the FBI and ATF at the site of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building bombing in 1995, receiving both the State Activation Medal and the Army Humanitarian Medal for his work. Following his service in the National Guard, Paul became a volunteer firefighter in Kansas City, eventually working his way up to a full time firefighter and EMT in 2012. Continue reading
There is an oft quoted phrase in self-care circles that borrows from your favorite airline stewardesses’ pre-flight announcement; “In the event that there is a sudden loss of cabin pressure, yellow oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling compartment located above you…Please make sure to secure your own mask before assisting others.” It is easy to carry this concept over into one’s daily life. How can you be expected to meaningfully and sustainably help others if you don’t have your own affairs in order? This analogy was on my mind a lot as I approached October 10th, my three-year anniversary of becoming sober. As I look back, those first two years of sobriety are perfectly embodied with me struggling to put on my own mask; to take the time and effort to focus on myself, my recovery and all that entails. I’ve written in detail about those struggles here. However, in the last year I’ve found myself in a place that allows me to give more of myself to others. I find this to be true in my relationships, at work and in the community. Continue reading
I lost my good friend, Craig McAuliff, on Friday. He was an incredibly joyful person, who enriched the lives of all those who knew him. Family and friends came first in Craig’s life and he made sure we knew how much he cared about each of us. As full of life as Craig was, he also suffered from depression. His battle against the disease was a battle that I share with him and have written about here before. That shared struggle only amplified my already deep appreciation of our friendship. While I hope that he knew how much I, and so many others, cared about him, I regret never looking him in the eye and thanking him for not only being the best friend I could ask for, but also being so open and honest with me about that facet of his life.
Today, October 10th, marks two years that I’ve been sober. A milestone, to be sure, but I don’t always view my sobriety as a source of pride. Although it grows smaller by the day, there is still a part of me that’s ashamed by the fact that I decided to quit drinking; a voice that tells me it’s a character flaw or an indication that I cannot successfully manage a life in which I drink. As time has passed and I’ve become more accepting of my own struggles, I’ve grown to recognize that my own relationship with alcohol is not isolated to a story of addiction but part of a larger battle with anxiety and depression. And while I’ve fought these battles for most of my life, I’ve felt alone in those attempts until only recently. The associated shame and guilt that I carried on a daily basis could feel impossible to overcome at times, and it’s not hard for me to understand the thoughts of those who become hopeless in a state of desperation. I have lost friends and family to suicide, some very recently. There is frequently a stigma associated with mental illness, addiction and suicide and we can too often project a moral judgment on those who are suffering. The hardest thing for me has always been the desire to be truly seen by others; to find people who can relate to what I have been through and continue to go through on a daily basis; to understand that I am not alone. It has been difficult for me to overcome both the stigma that surrounds these struggles and my own fear of what those that I care about most will think of me as a result of them. However, I have found comfort and gained a deeper understanding of my own journey through the experiences of others, and want to share my story of why I quit drinking in the hopes that it may provide similar comfort and understanding to others.