Tammy Carlton, a Peer Support Specialist at First Step Recovery, recently celebrated 30 years of uninterrupted sobriety. In the Q & A below, she shares some of the experience, strength and hope that she’s gained along the way.
What led you to seek recovery?
I was 28 years old, and after 14 years of using and having one child, I thought it was time to grow up. I realized I was an adult and I needed to take responsibility for my life. The party was over. Drinking and using was no longer worth the price of admission.
What was your drug of choice?
Originally, I liked smoking pot and drinking. Later, I experimented with any other drug my friends were doing. One of my other top choices was LSD/acid because it made me laugh and have more fun. At the time, I felt that acid really got my mind where I wanted to be.
What consequences did you experience?
I dealt with emotional, spiritual and mental consequences. I had become everything I didn't want to be. I was disgusted with my behaviors and feelings of inadequacy. My thoughts were constantly consumed by finding the time and money to “do my thing.” I was physically and emotionally unavailable to everyone important to me.
Did you ever experience relapse?
I had tried many attempts to maintain sobriety on my own and I failed every time. Finally, I went to a 12-step meeting for help and was encouraged by others’ desire to stay sober. I found support, love understanding and acceptance in the rooms. But my desire increased even more when my brother died as a result of the same disease. I have not relapsed since I committed to working a 12-step program 30 years ago.
What coping skills have you used over the years when faced with triggers and stressful situations?
I’ve relied on prayer, journaling, sharing my problems, learning how to ask for help and attending meetings. Applying the principles I’ve learned in the 12 steps has made my life easier.
How have you grown during your time in recovery?
I am a different person than who I used to be. I have become responsible, dependable, honest and selfless.
What activities do you find most enjoyable?
I have found extreme satisfaction in helping others, watching them grow and having a desire to improve their lives. I like leather, chrome and riding motorcycles. I appreciate seeing God’s handy work in nature and people. I like sober events, banquets, dancing and participating in activities with sober people. I also enjoy spending time with family.
What advice would you give someone new in sobriety?
Have an open mind, take suggestions and learn to mimic the people who have good, quality sobriety. Keep things simple and embrace the moment.
Today, Tammy’s role as a Peer Support Specialist enables her to give back by helping women in recovery to re-adjust to living in the community.