How Jenny felt “at home” with Al-anon

To close out Recovery Month, we’re going to share one more story from another Woman of Avalon, Jenny, who shares her 29-year recovery journey with us. In her words…

My name is Jenny. Thank you for the privilege of sharing my story with you. I am a very grateful Alcoholic and thankful member of Al-anon. By the grace of God, I have been sober for 28 years and connected to Al-anon for 29 years. I am blessed to have been part of AA, Al-Anon and Avalon on the North Shore for the duration of this time. I was first introduced to Avalon in my second year of sobriety and over the years have been ever increasingly filled up by the warmth and recovery found here. It is a very real lifeline for women. The previous Centre Manager was especially supportive to my family and I during some of the most challenging times of my recovery. Most recently, the current Centre Manager has gone above and beyond the call of duty…during the pandemic.

I grew up around a lot of alcoholic drinking and was exposed to the resulting heartbreak, chaos, drama, and loss which sadly all too often accompanies this behaviour. In my younger years, we had a huge family home in West Vancouver. One day, returning home from school, I learned that we needed to pack up, sell all the items and ship out fast. Some bad deals, made by my stepfather, necessitated our having to leave Canada overnight – for several years. Travelling abroad, I went to a new school at least once a year; We moved frequently living in lovely cities, near gorgeous seascapes and in rolling countryside’s around the world.

It was at times spectacular, compelling, and beautiful – while other times disturbing, confusing and painful. I saw the devastation wrought by excessive consumption of alcohol and swore I would never drink.  I buried my feelings of growing anxiety, fear, and powerlessness under layers of caretaking, relationships, intellect, and control. I started at a young age to live a double life acting out with older males, consuming lots of sugar and carbs and purging myself. I developed secrecy, guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I was unable to enact any positive change within myself or my family.

We returned to the Westcoast of B.C. It was there in a house party at the age 15 I grabbed a bottle of brandy and chugged it. It burned but I felt a sudden “woosh” seemingly cellular euphoria and unification.  I continued to drink and promptly blacked out. My drinking was always messy and it progressed in five years, despite my futile efforts to control it.

Through a series of miraculous events coupled with the hope of gaining integration and healing –  I went to counsellor and they suggested I go to Al-anon. During my first meeting, I felt exactly as I had at age 15, though this time sober.  I experienced a feeling flood over me and a visceral sense of unification within myself that announced, “I am home”. I was so relieved to learn that “I am not a bad person getting good, but a sick person getting well”. I was like a moth to the light bulb of truth and there was a way up and out that would save me.

I have always worked in the social services and after high school, entered post-secondary education – while continuing to live a double life. With much support I finished 2 degrees, continued to work and had a beautiful baby, but my life was a complete mess. I was living in a basement suite in a home about to be torn down, unable to make a living, paralyzed by fear, too terrified to drink and totally severed from my head to my heart.  I did not know what to do.  My child was the one ray of sunlight in my life – who inspired me to find something better in ourselves.

I have been honoured to walk with many wonderful women over the years. In about the second year of sobriety, I was offered by a friend in my home group, the opportunity to fill some shifts as coordinator at the Avalon Centre in Kerrisdale. That set me on a path of employment, where for over the past twenty-five years I had the good fortune work in the vocation I had initially trained for. More than this gift has been one of the greatest blessings received in sobriety, the birth of my second child. For me, being a mother in recovery, is by far the most priceless gift I have ever received.

It has not always been easy, there have been difficult times in my sobriety, times that evoked profoundly painful and sometimes unrelentingly raw feelings. Usually these were related to having the people I cherished, or plans I had hoped for, or the deeply held ideas I embraced, snatched away from me. Sometimes those things happened under the shadow of untreated addiction while other times in my needing to surrender and grow. My sustenance was found in withdrawing from mixed meetings, or large meetings, and attending women’s meetings at Avalon or smaller meetings on the North Shore.

I have attended many different 12. steps meetings, and could qualify for most, but have found my roots and wings in AA and Al-anon… I am a “double winner”.  I know all it could take is one drink and I could be wrapped around a pole – dead – but the disease to please can equally wrap me up into a knotted pretzel and cause unnecessary pain. During the pandemic while working in the helping profession and raising a teen, I found myself going into old survival mode patterns again. So, I went back to basics. I continue to listen to the great wisdom and suggestions of my beloved sponsor and attend meetings practically daily. I love the women’s meetings and cherish with all my heart those in their first year of recovery who are surely the most important people in the meeting. I am inspired by their courage and victories and feel an overwhelming joy in the breakthroughs I see.

As I return each day to my meetings, I feel an ever-present surge of love and gratitude. From the founders of this inspired 12 step program and the co- founders of Avalon and the board of directors – I am forever thankful.  The capable management of the Centres, as well as the volunteers, have brought countless women to a new freedom and happiness and kept the flame of recovery alive in each meeting. Though I haven’t always received what I wanted, I have received exactly what I needed…an endless list of treasures for which I am always grateful.

We would like to thank Jenny for her openness and exemplifying that recovery isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.  We recognize that many of you may relate to Jenny, and we hope that you find encouragement and comfort in her story, knowing that a place like Avalon could be a safe place for you on your recovery journey.  The first step is reaching out…we are here for you.

To check out Avalon’s meetings, please click HERE.

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