Addiction and family trauma made recovery illusive — until she surrendered.
Anna was the seventh of eight children, and her parents separated when she was young. She kept active after school to avoid the problems at home — mental illness, secrets, shame, and her mother’s struggle with alcohol. After her dad died, “I didn’t know how to deal with grief and not wanting to feel.”
“That’s where my disease took off.” She went from being in beauty pageants and the marching band to walking the streets of DC, people hurling degrading names at her such as “loser” and “whore.”
“My addiction took me to so many places,” Anna recalls, “and I did so many things I never ever thought I would do.” Her family’s history of mental illness compounded the stigma she felt. “You live those labels,” she remembers. “You feel that you’re never going to change.”
“I love that I can say, hey I’m going to be there, and I show up. And I show up on time today. And I show up with the authentic Anna. That’s major for me. And recovery has given me that. It’s given me my life back.”
Anna tried treatment, many times, but it never seemed to stick. “Treatment was tough for me because I wasn’t ready for it.” Eventually, however, it worked. “For me it was surrender. I knew that last treatment center, when I walked up those steps, that I really, really wanted it. It felt different. I could feel it in my body. People talk about being sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
“I knew that I was going to do whatever it took.” That was 20-some years ago, and Anna has not looked back.
“Today treatment is really, really different than treatment was when I was coming in,” Anna says. “Today there is major difference. Today it is person centered. Today it is about what are some mini pathways to recovery.
Recovery has brought many gifts for Anna. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She’s a student, having returned to college to get her degree. And she is a leader — a Certified DC Peer counselor to others seeking recovery and an advocate for those facing mental health issues. “I have a life today because I gave myself a chance to live. I tell others, ‘Give yourself a chance. This thing works.’” She pauses. “I’ll never give up on anyone. Never.”