“I used to think getting sober would put me in a cage, but actually it broke me out of every cage I was living in.”
Mo Doyle, On the Misconceptions of Recovery.
Those of you who consistently read our Granite Recovery Centers blog may be getting tired of hearing how nice the day was in New Hampshire. I get it. However, I must be honest, it was another picture-perfect day. It is fall. The air has a clean crisp feel and when I looked at the majestic view from Green Mountain Treatment Center it was popping with shades of yellow, orange, and red. I was honored to be sitting down with Maureen, “Mo” Doyle. Mo is a 12-Step Coordinator at Green Mountain Treatment Center. Mo is a petite woman who exudes a remarkable amount of bright, positive, and powerful energy. Mo is soft spoken; and her thoughts about addiction, treatment, and recovery are robust and resounding. As I spent time with Mo I found myself wanting more time. I found myself leaning in and listening more intently, because I didn’t want to miss anything she had to say.
On her role…
“Mo your title is 12-Step Coordinator, what does that mean?”
“We are basically working with the clients going through their step work. One of the big parts of what we are doing here at Green Mountain Treatment Center is the step-work. The thing about step work, the way I went through it was a very individual one, working with another person in recovery. So, it’s not just reading out of The Big Book and it is not just doing a work book. It is about having that connection of working with another addict/alcoholic and making it individual. Clients can read about how the disease works in the Book but then it is our job to bring it into what that looks like in their day to day.”
How she got here…
“What brought you to recovery and the 12-Steps?”
“It all started in this moment, the stars aligned, and I got a good glimpse of what my life was. I had lived so long with this idea of not wanting to wake up in the morning and not caring about myself and just wishing that it was all over that it had almost become normal. I felt like I could continue doing that for a long time, living in that pain because I couldn’t remember a time before that pain. A lot of people talk about how drug addiction or alcoholism can take them to a negative place for me that negative dark place was there before I even picked up. It wasn’t like I looked back at a good time and remember when everything began to fall apart as I started using. It was looking back to a bad time and feeling depressed feeling anxious, and disconnected. Even in my teens and tweens, when I wasn’t using, I felt depressed and anxious. When I found drugs and alcohol, things got considerably better for a while.”
“So the Holy Grail for a second?”
“Yeah, it solved all of my problems. I wasn’t anxious anymore. I had a new group of people that I was hanging out with and I had a place in that group. When things started to fall apart, I didn’t want to blame drugs and alcohol because they were my saving grace. But a few things happened, I don’t know why I was receptive to it at that moment. I had had a lot of things said to me, I had had every aspect of my life thrown in my face. Through a series of events I got very close to what the truth was. And I tried to deal with it in my normal way by going out, getting high, drinking and I just floundered. I finally did it. I ended up asking for help.”
On Struggling with God and the 12-Steps….
Mo told me that she was raised a Fundamentalist Christian. She was raised with God and prayer in her life, but still felt completely disconnected. I asked Mo how she worked through that because that is something that many people struggle with initially. “It was a grueling process. I was separated from a woman in my sober house because we would sit and listen to atheist podcasts together. We were on a mission to prove this (God concept) wrong. Then a couple of things happened. First, I was going to my sponsor every day and I was hammering her. This poor woman, she didn’t have the background in religion that I did so she didn’t know the answers to a lot of these religious questions. I realized I was having this real happiness about making her look bad and then I would go home and I would sit on my bunkbed in this little tiny room and I would hate myself. I kept showing up there (to my sponsor) and she was happy. And I couldn’t justify this. How is she happy and I’m not happy when I am right and she is wrong? Secondly, I was volunteering at a soup kitchen where they do community dinners. I was sitting there talking to this homeless man. This poor guy, I am unloading my life on him even though he has all his own issues. I’m telling him how I can’t get on board with the God thing and how because of this I’m not going to be able to get sober through the 12-Steps. And I will never forget what he said to me, he said, ‘Mo, I believe that God, like art, was meant to be experienced and not analyzed.’ And that blew my mind. I was never going to be able to prove there is a God. I was never going to be able to prove there isn’t a God. The best thing I could do was just show up and see if it could start working for me. Once I had that connection, I couldn’t argue with it anymore.”
On Misconceptions about Treatment and Recovery…
“Mo what do you think are big misconceptions about treatment and recovery?”
“I think one of the big misconceptions is that if I go and stay a certain amount of time, I will leave sober. I find myself doing this to with friends who are going to treatment I think, ‘oh, good, they are going to treatment, they will be fine.’ I think there is a big misconception that it is all about managing drug and alcohol use. If I can learn how to either control my drinking or stay abstinent that is my goal. And it’s not about that. I wouldn’t be sober today if that were the case. The biggest way that I can define recovery or what my life looks like now as opposed to then is connection. It is about connection with myself and the world around me and finding connection with a higher power, something greater than myself. It’s about having a life. The Big Book talks about not using or drinking; but. it also talks about not fighting using or drinking.”
“It is an ongoing process but it isn’t about a battle.” I added.
“People think they are going to just have to go to meetings all of the time and that is going to be their life, but that’s not it at all. I have so much more freedom in my life than I have ever had. I never had a life before. The summer before I got sober I spent my entire summer in my room binge watching Breaking Bad. Music has always been very important to me and after I got sober I started going to shows again. I could never do that when I was using because I would spend my money on drugs or be too high to go to the show. I used to think getting sober would put me in a cage, but actually it broke me out of every cage I was living in.”
“Mo what would you want to say to a mom or dad who has a child struggling with addiction?”
“One of the reasons I got help was because, well, my plan was to run away. I had a younger sister who was living in New Jersey. She has always been my life line. She has bailed me out financially and emotionally. She’s incredible. I made a call to her and said I was going to move to New Jersey and try and get sober. My plan of getting sober was to go to New Jersey and crash on her couch. That probably would have lasted a day. She sounded like she was going to go along with it. I got a call from my mom about 20 minutes later that was one of the hardest calls I had ever gotten. She told me to leave my little sister alone. She said ‘you are not going down there, I don’t care what she has said, you are not doing it.’ I was furious. I tried the guilt trip on her. It didn’t work. I got a text from her later that night with a number to a sober house. She did not make the call for me or do any of the work. She just gave me the number and said we are not giving you easy ways out anymore and if you want help then you have it. I called the next morning. I haven’t gotten high or drank since then. The person I was with at the time he had overdosed, he survived but my mom knew that. And I’m sure she was thinking my daughter is next I need to rescue her, but she didn’t. And because she didn’t let me just slide out of the situation I was able to get real help.”
“She held a boundary but gave you an option.” I replied.
“Absolutely, it wasn’t a complete, ‘you are ex-communicated from this family.’ I’ve never been completely cut off from my family. They have been nothing but supportive of me. I used the geographical cure a lot. In my addiction, I traveled a lot of places to try and escape it. My mom would never send me money she told me she would only buy me a plane ticket home. She always answered my phone calls, she always spoke with me but when it came down to getting me out of those situations.” Mo paused.
“It was a one-way option only,” I added.
“Yeah.” Mo replied.
“Good for her.” I stated. “I’m incredibly grateful to my mom for holding that line. During my time of getting sober and in recovery, I could begin mending those relationships with my family. I ended up losing my dad a few months ago. I don’t know if I would have gotten sober later, maybe I would have maybe I wouldn’t have. But I got this incredible time of rebuilding my relationship with my father before he passed. And there is nothing in the world that I would trade that for.”
On her experience with depression and anxiety…
Mo, talked a great deal about her previous anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, that all started at very young age. She was experiencing this great emotional pain well before she turned to drugs and alcohol. I told Mo that I didn’t have to include this in the blog but I was curious if she was currently on any anti-depressants or medication.
“No, I’m not and you can totally write about this. I am not on any medication.” Mo stated.
“So there you were 10, 11, 12 and you had suicidal thoughts and you did not want to wake up in the morning. You moved into other addictions before you went to drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol eventually drove you towards a path of recovery, and now you are not feeling that way. Because you no longer feel disconnected; yet, you were completely uncomfortable in your skin for a long time. How did that happen?” I asked Mo.
“Well, part of that depression went away when I did start using. Essentially I was just trying to treat myself. Honestly, to break it down scientifically as to why I am not depressed anymore, I don’t know. But I am not depressed and I am not anxious. That hasn’t been my entire recovery either. In the beginning, there were definite ups and downs with that and learning how to cope with things, how to deal with things and learning life again. I remember doing laundry was so overwhelming because for me laundry days were drinking days. I would do shots while I did laundry. So, figuring those things out again was hard. As I continue to practice these things, I know my brain works differently than it did. And one of the biggest moments when I realized this was when I found out about my father dying and my first reaction was gratitude. Obviously followed by anger and all those normal human emotions. But the first place my brain went was to incredible gratitude to what I had had. And that doesn’t come from me writing things down about how I should feel, that doesn’t come from me speaking at a meeting and trying to be inspirational. That was my instant biological response. So, I know something has changed in my make up.”
“Do you have bad days in recovery Mo?”
“I absolutely have bad days in recovery, but waking up in addiction was this weight on me. I used to refer to it as the smoke monster. Waking up and inhaling this black, dark smoke. Waking up on a bad day now is like, ‘oh, I’m still tired and I want to go back to bed.’ It’s not facing this terrible monster every single morning.”
I asked Mo to tell me something most people don’t know about her.
“When I was 16, right before I started using, I turned to adrenaline sports. I ended up going to a rodeo school and riding bulls for a while.”
“Live bulls?” I asked as I sat across from Mo trying to picture her small frame on a bull.
“Yeah, I didn’t do super well but I was all about the adrenaline rush.”
“In a word Mo, what does recovery feel like?”
“Connection. My whole life was just disconnected. It wasn’t like I started using and then I slowly started isolating, it is from as far back as I can remember. It didn’t hit me until I was in recovery that most 10-year-olds don’t have suicidal thoughts. That was abnormal. But that is how I felt my entire life, even surrounded by people who were so supportive and caring and loved me genuinely for who I was. But I have this disease of complete disconnect throughout my entire life. Those moments of sitting down with someone and actually feeling connected to them and relating to myself and being a part of the world again, that is what recovery is.”
“Anything else you would like to add?” I asked Mo.
“Just that there is hope. A lot of people get into the recovery process because they built up a life for themselves and then they lose it. I was never one of those people, I never got off the ground. And to know you are not going back to the person you were before you started using. When I was writing my fourth step I stopped half way through it and I called my sponsor and I said I am not going to finish this because I don’t want to be the person I was before I started using. And she said to me ‘you won’t be, you will be a different person.”
I want to thank Mo for being so honest, open, and real. I didn’t know Mo before today. I am not sure who she was before she got sober and in recovery. But I’m grateful to know who she is today; an insightful and powerful young woman in recovery.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you or a loved one find life and hope in sobriety. Our dedicated and knowledgeable staff are ready to help. (877) 890-3234.