May 01, 2012
I think every human at one time wonders and asks God to show them what their purpose is and it is usually a constant question. I am blessed in my sobriety to be given my purpose — to stay sober and help other alcoholics. It’s actually pretty easy since I have experience in this area. I don’t have to go to school, read a book or figure it out. I know what it is like. Now, my experience cannot be all things to all people; there is nothing in this world that can be all things to all people.
I love dogs. A few years into sobriety as I came to and wanted to be more of a part of the dog world, I wanted to save canines everywhere. I thought about contacting a shelter or rescue group and doing a few hours of service work a week, maybe even fostering a dog. But then I decided my primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics. I realized there were dog people out there that were more suited to advocate for our furry friends. Obviously, it’s not the best idea to give money to addicts and alcoholics, so I decided to give money to animal shelters and foster organizations, and keep giving my time to alcoholics. It has worked out great; I feel like I am able to contribute to a cause that is important to me without losing sight of what should come first in life.
A few years later I wanted to volunteer to help the homeless. I looked into different organizations regarding their volunteer policies and began asking friends about different organizations they were part of. I found programs where I could mentor children, serve food or help with administrative work. Not one of these opportunities dealt directly with the disease of addiction or a program of recovery. This went on for a few months when suddenly I had the thought, “Really, Kristen? A huge percentage of people who are living on the streets and shelters ARE alcoholics and addicts! There could be no shortage of opportunities.”
I knew The Salvation Army had treatment programs so I went to their website and immediately found they had a long-term facility for women who did not have resources for a private treatment center – Sally’s House. Guess what I did? Nothing. I finally found what I was looking for, but fear of the unknown kept me from taking that step. Do I really have something to offer these women? One day a friend came by my office and proceeded to tell me a friend of ours needed volunteers on Monday nights at The Salvation Army’s Sally’s House. I couldn’t believe it! It was God doing for me what I could not do myself; the volunteer opportunity fell into my lap even though I had not had the faith or courage to pursue it myself.
The following Monday I was there. My friend made it clear she was ready to pass the meeting to someone else; after that I was downtown every Monday night. These women were not presented with recovery the way it had been presented to me and the way that had saved my life; within a few weeks it did.
I brought friends to give their experience, strength and to expose them to a different side of life. Most of these women at Sally’s House stayed for nine to 12 months and I built relationships with several of them. There were many Mondays I would arrive and noticed a few faces were missing and would then be told they had been kicked out, never returned from their jobs (one requirement to stay there that long), or had straight up walked out the door — drugs not God.
I heard stories of rape, prostitution, living in the streets, abandoned children and spousal abuse. One woman told the story of living two weeks in her daughter’s attic. During the day, while the daughter was at work, she would sneak downstairs to shower, play on the Internet, watch TV and in the evenings climb back up to the attic. Each night she overheard her daughter talking with concern and fear to her siblings as they wondered where their mother could be. She eventually came clean, had nowhere to go and came to Sally’s House for a new beginning. I loved helping there. Here was a little blonde girl who, they often joked, had “teeth from a Colgate commercial,” actually offering hope and connecting to them despite our lives being on opposite ends of the spectrum. It still amazes me.
One day an alumnus of the treatment center I work for called asking if I knew of any volunteer opportunities. Uh, yes … meet me downtown on Monday nights. Kelly began meeting me every Monday night and often brought friends of her own who were starting out on their sober journey. A few months later it looked like I would be moving to the Hill Country. Kelly was committed and would take over the meeting.
I received a call from her several weeks ago. I had been gone almost a year and she told me that she was still at Sally’s House every Monday night and continues to bring many women — housewives, professionals and young affluent girls — there to expose them to lives that they only see on the 5 o’clock news. More importantly, the message to these women continues to be one of hope, recovery and a plan of action.
I actually believe I am here to fulfill a lot of different purposes, some big and others that have a very small impact. But the foundation of my life is built on staying sober and helping other alcoholics. I am a very visual person and the idea of a foundation that allows me to build the house of my life makes a lot of sense to me. The foundation is strong as I start building walls and rooms that make up the areas of my life. There is the support system room built with walls of love for my family and friends, a room for my love for animals, one for recycling (the walls of this room would definitely be painted green) and a professional room with walls built with past jobs and accomplishments in the work that I do.
The house will get bigger as my life expands. However, if the foundation cracks and shifts, cracks would begin to show in the walls and every room would be affected; every aspect of my life would be impacted.
Image courtesy scottchan/freedigitalimages.net.