My name is Camille Butler and I am grateful to have lived without the use of drugs an
d alcohol since January 9, 2014.
Growing up I was very religious and promised myself I would never drink or use drugs. I was raised in a wonderful family and always had everything I needed. My father has been sober my entire life but struggled with alcoholism before I was born and was always very open with me about the risk that it may run in the family. All of my convictions about abstaining from the use of drugs and alcohol were removed when my uncle passed away unexpectedly and mysteriously when I was 17 years old. After finding out that my uncle passed away and that I may never find out the circumstances that led to his life being taken, I felt like my world was falling apart and began to question all of my beliefs. Almost immediately I started doing what I said I would never do. I started smoking marijuana and drinking heavily the week after he passed. I did not want to face the grief that I was feeling so I did whatever I could to feel as numb as possible. I no longer had any reservations and my consumption was out of control from the start.
It was my junior year of high school and prior to my uncle’s passing, I was doing well in school and playing for the soccer team. After my uncle’s passing, I refused to go back to school and decided to graduate a year early through an online high school program. I was trying to escape from the way that I felt in every way that I could and moved away for my first semester of college before my 18th birthday. Although I graduated with honors three and a half years later, my entire college career involved smoking marijuana and drinking to the point of blacking out every single day. I would often experiment with whatever drugs I could get my hands on and abused prescription drugs that I was able to convince my psychiatrist to prescribe me. The fact that I was still able to make good grades and did not face any legal consequences made me feel like my use of drugs and alcohol was justified.
After getting my undergraduate degree in Philosophy, I went to a graduate school in Los Angeles, California hoping to study to be a Professor of Philosophy. I did not know anyone in Los Angeles and felt very isolated. My addiction progressed drastically and I was using by myself constantly and didn’t take care of myself, including neglecting to eat most days. After a few months I decided graduate school was not working out for me and moved back home to Austin. On the plane ride home I stood in the back of the airplane throwing up into a plastic bag the entire flight as a result of being hung-over and not being able to access the drugs I had been taking to mask the damage I was doing to my body. I continued to feel miserable once back in Austin and thought I may be withdrawing from alcohol. Once a nutritionist diagnosed me with gluten intolerance, I told myself I was only feeling bad because of the wheat in the beer I had been drinking. After returning home from leaving the graduate school program, I felt like I had failed for the first time and used it as fuel for my addiction. Again, I felt justified in what I was doing and resigned myself to working jobs that would allow me to be able to use and drink during work without anyone noticing.
Over the years I caused a lot of harm to others and faced many negative consequences due to my drinking and using. Many friends and family members expressed their concerns about the events that were happening in my life and I responded by making excuses or attempting to point out faults in them. I continued with my using and drinking patterns until December 4, 2013 when I was given the gift of desperation. An incident occurred that finally made me realize how destructive I was being to others, and to see my self-sabotaging behavior for what it was. I finally faced personal consequences that made me want to do something different and I have not had a drink since that night. I continued to use marijuana until a power greater than myself placed someone in my life that brought me to my first 12-step meeting. I was out shopping for Christmas gifts and a casual conversation turned into a discussion about addiction with someone in the program that encouraged me to go to a meeting. The first meeting I went to I found a sponsor and started working the steps. She helped me understand my powerlessness over all mind-altering substances and I surrendered on January 9th and have been completely sober since. Before I actually came to believe in a power greater than myself, it began working in my life, and I strongly believe that it was a result of me beginning to remove the things that were blocking me from it.
My life looks completely different today and I believe in a higher power because I know no human power could have freed me from my addiction and the grief that initially provoked it inside me. Now I can live in a way that brings honor to my uncle’s life and the love I will always have for him. Ultimately I had been seeking something greater that I could never find through drugs and alcohol, and that I have found in recovery. Today I feel in touch with my higher power when I am able to enjoy the present moment. I love spending time in nature and with animals, reading books, listening to music, doing yoga, and being in relationship with other people. I realize I was missing so much when all I cared about was being under the influence and now I get to experience how beautiful life can be. I find the greatest happiness in the moments when I am able to get out of myself and focus on what I can do to be of service to others.
Especially since I have not had any formal treatment, I am so grateful to all of the people who have supported me throughout my recovery thus far. I am amazed every day at the relationships I get to have with other people in recovery. In addition to participating in 12-step meetings and working a program with a sponsor, the Recovery Alliance of Austin has been an invaluable resource for me through my recovery process. I have had the opportunity to enhance my connection with my higher power through qigong, meditation, yoga, and the fellowship that the Recovery Alliance of Austin provides. I have so much to be thankful for because of my recovery and so much to look forward to, one day at a time.