Confused, Befuddled, Bedraggled

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There I was – on a park bench, confused, befuddled, bedraggled and in my Jimmy Choos. I’d just returned from my first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. This surely couldn’t be what they’d meant by “life beyond your wildest dreams!” My name is Clare, and I hadn’t planned on being an alcoholic.

London
There I was, on a park bench, confused, befuddled, bedraggled and in my Jimmy Choos. I’d just returned from my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. This surely couldn’t be what they’d meant by “life beyond your wildest dreams!”

I was married to a wonderful man. However, at the time, I would have happily traded him in for a bag of chips. Kevin’s a famous actor here in the United Kingdom, 20 years in the world’s longest running soap, Coronation Street; and I was his glamorous wife. I would tell people I was in PR; but in truth, I was a great blag (con) artist, among other things.

My journey into recovery started 19 years ago. I still have to pinch myself. My first stop was an Al-Anon family meeting. This was to be the very beginning of my awakening – the first place I heard about this killer condition and, more surprisingly, that there was a solution.

It took me two years of coming back, listening and learning, before I realized that drinking at your passed-out alcoholic husband was not normal behavior. It was here I finally heard, “Stop pointing the finger and blaming others for the way your life turned out. Every time you do, there are also three fingers pointing back at you and one pointing up at the solution. You’re the only person you can do anything about.”

In Al-Anon, I was told that maybe I should check out AA to clear up my confusion about always identifying with the drinking alcoholic stories in the family meetings. And, why, oh why, when I stopped drinking, couldn’t I stay stopped?

So, how did I finally get to AA? Was it my weeklong stay in a Saudi Arabian jail for being at an illegal drinking party? No. Or when, after a blackout, I found myself coming ’round on a Spanish traffic island in the middle of a motorway with all four tires popped and blood everywhere? No.

The mad, and sometimes fabulous, stories could go on forever; but it was a simple moment of clarity that actually got me started.

I was hungover and trying to get some food in me. I was shaking so much that I dropped the egg I was trying to boil. That was it! It was an “is this the life I want?” moment. It was the first time I ever fell to my knees and sobbed the truth, “I need help. Please, God, help me.”

As I looked up at that moment, I saw two lists of meetings, one for Al-Anon and one for AA. Above my pitiful sobs, I heard a quiet voice whisper, “Go to a meeting.” I thought, Yes, those Al-Anon meetings always make me feel better. But that little voice whispered again, “What about going to an AA meeting?”

And so I did. The meeting was a revelation – I was home; I’d found my tribe. I rushed back to my beautiful penthouse apartment to tell the world, especially my husband, that I finally knew what was wrong with me. I found my husband drunk and unconscious. Up reared my old coping mechanisms. Right! I’ll show you! Off I went to get my booze, but fortunately the little voice returned, “Ring that lady from the AA meeting.”

I listened. I bypassed the fridge and rang Gywn, a lady I would never meet again. She told me to calm down, which I did. I thought she would tell me how to deal with my drunken husband, but she didn’t. She simply said, “I’m not here to help your husband, I’m here to help you. Are you an alcoholic?” “Yes,” I whispered. Gywn continued, “So pick yourself up. Step over your husband and get the f–k out of there, or you’ll either die or kill your husband.” That was true; that was exactly what could have happened.

I ran from that penthouse like the devil himself was chasing me. There I was on that park bench with my Jimmy Choos, no money, no place to go, but with my life and my one-day-old sobriety intact. That day, I traded in the Jimmy Choos and the extravagant lifestyle.

Nowadays, I focus on the solution. That’s what keeps me happy and healthy.

Today, I’m passionate about recovery, not just about the Twelve Steps, but all routes to recovery. My skill set from my previous life – manipulation, stealing and dealing – were transferable skills when applied in an unselfish, productive way.

I’m productive – all for the greater good. I am a fulltime mummy. I dedicate two days a week to the community and also run an executive recovery coaching practice three days a week, where I work with professionals who are high-functioning addicts.

My husband, Kevin, is now in long-term sobriety. He and I are sourcing funding for a permanent nonprofit, an alternative social space with a live-streaming studio and a dry bar – think TED Talks, but ours are recovery talks.

After many years of volunteering and working in the recovery field, Kevin and I realized that recovering people have many hidden assets that should be revealed to the world. Together, we started Kennedy St. & Co., a nonprofit, user-led production and media agency helping businesses and nonprofit organizations identify and develop creative talent.

Our company, run by and for people in active recovery from drug and alcohol addictions, promotes sustainable, asset-based community development as well as green and conservation initiatives. In addition, we provide peer-led support, education and informal access to information, as well as a range of workshops, courses, and social and visual recovery activities. We help clients focus on becoming self-supporting by offering training, retraining and volunteer opportunities that ultimately lead to employment.

Throughout the year, we participate in local events that help grassroots recovery initiatives to be seen and heard. We help companies and individuals communicate a transparent agenda for change and help them share their vision with the world.

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Clare Kennedy is an addiction/recovery consultant in Hove, East Sussex, England. She is executive producer and presenter at Kennedy Street Production Company and co-director of Kennedy Street & Co. Community Interest Company. She and her husband, Kevin Kennedy, record and stream recovery-oriented talks that offer hope, inspiration and recovery options.

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