Growing up in a military Family, I was taught to always do the right thing for myself and my Family, to walk a straight line and maintain a strong sense of responsibility and work ethic. As the daughter of a command sergeant major, student athlete, honors student and active member within my community and church, you would think that I walked a pretty straight line.
However, internally I was fighting a battle that quickly turned into a parent’s worst nightmare: “Addiction.” Very rapidly my bubbly cheerleader mindset turned to one of darkness and defeat. With my father being on long deployments and my mother busy with him being gone and doing everything for my brother and I, it was hard to fully recognize the depth of the disease that very quickly took over my way of being.
This was more than a normal teenage phase of rebellion and mild drug experimentation. It was a lifestyle that continued to make my life and the lives of those around me unmanageable for years to come. High school was just a small foreshadowing of the years to come; like most kids in college I partied, however, unlike some I had no control over any substance.
My addiction grew rapidly, as well as my life-altering choices. This time, the disease was hidden even more from my parents as my dad was on another 15 month deployment and my mother was hours away.
I needed help, but at this point I did not know how to ask for it out of fear of disappointing my Family. I was ashamed and filled with guilt, and those emotions drove me to hide behind the substance on another level.
I managed to graduate college, live drug free, and somewhat, clean up my act with the idea that I had my drinking “under control.”
Unfortunately, an alcoholic cannot and will not ever have their drinking under control, at least not for long. I moved to a bigger city, my drinking was unmanageable, and I was suffering the consequences of an alcoholic lifestyle. Although I never drank everyday, I was still blacked out anytime I made the choice to drink, and there was never any such thing as one social drink.
At this point my parents were fully aware of the severity of my situation. My life was controlled by a substance and there was no hiding it any longer. At the age of 26 I made the choice to turn my life around.
Still ashamed to disappoint my Family, I did not fully tell them of my decision to work a 12 step program and join the life of recovery right away. And when I did, a weight was lifted and I felt free.
It was amazing to have the support of my Family on my path to recovery. I felt their love and happiness for my new way of being, and it has grown our relationship to a level I never thought I would see.
As I get close to two years of sobriety, I am able to recognize that because of the love, support and strength from my Family and community, I have the life I always deserved to have, free from the chains of addiction.
I have a career. I am a role model within my community both inside and outside of recovery. I am working in mental health facilities and treatment centers. I am a graduate student studying to receive my Masters in Social Work in order to continue to strengthen my community and serve others suffering from the disease of addiction.
I am a human being that has the freedom to live powerfully without an altered state of mind, showing others that they too can achieve a life of recovery.
My work to stay sober will never be over. Even without the drink, I must dedicate every day of my life to my recovery, or I know I will very quickly lose it. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to work for and at the same time, the most rewarding accomplishment of my life.
If you or someone you know is battling the fight of addiction, there is hope. With love, support, resilience and hard work … anyone has the power to rewrite their story.
It is important to remember that the addict is not alone, and neither are the Families. Together Families and communities can rise together to join the voices of recovery by taking a stand.
My name is Kris Brooks. Today I am a grateful recovering alcoholic. I am not anonymous.
The Fort Bragg Army Substance Abuse Program Prevention and Employee Assistance Program will promote the National Recovery Month campaign throughout September. The Prevention and EAP teams can conduct training and provide educational materials to active-duty service members, civilian employees, retirees and their Family members. ASAP can also provide information on the 12 Step meeting programs and Al-Anon Family Group meetings conducted at Fort Bragg and the surrounding areas. For more information, call 907-5408 or 396-6067.
(Editor’s Note: Kris Brooks is the daughter of Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Tomlinson, an Army Substance Abuse Instructor at Fort Bragg Army Substance Abuse Program.)