- Posted February 3, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Same-sex marriage hearings: Your thoughts
I Grew Up In A Sober Living
CNN asked for ireports on "Being LGBT -- Then and now". This ireport is about diversity, about coming together to recover from an enemy that does not discriminate based upon sexual preference or gender or religion or race or age. This ireport is about love and learning. Here is what happened.
If someone had told me in ninth grade that my mother would turn our house into a sober living for women, I would have thought, “Are you are on drugs?” But as it turned out, a sober living is exactly what my house became four years ago. Six to ten women live with my mom and me at any given time. Privacy is now a luxury, closet space is only a memory, and the occurrence of a quiet afternoon happens only when I wear ear plugs. Sometimes we have struggled, but this house has helped so many women --and men-- along the way. If I was given the choice to have my life as it was, I would decline.
Even though my mother is very strong, severe trauma caused her drinking to escalate into alcoholism six years ago. Our relationship was worsening and the prospect of getting my mother back seemed less and less likely. But for some reason, I was one of the lucky ones, and she did stop drinking. I don’t know why I was given such a blessing while twenty three million Americans still suffer from alcohol and drug addiction and most never recover.
This fact was why my mother wanted to start a sober living. She said she wanted to help women who had suffered as she had and doing this would help her stay well. The idea of a bunch of recovering alcoholics and addicts living in my house, however, was an image that frightened me. I never saw myself as someone who discriminated against people. In fact, I had always been active in civil rights groups, such as the Gay-Straight Alliances at my schools, even when doing so became threatening. At that time, however, like most Americans who do not understand this disease, I thought alcoholics and addicts were irresponsible people who chose to ruin their lives. Fortunately, I loved my mom more than I hated the idea of my house being filled with people in recovery. I consented and my house officially became a sober living for women.
Nearly sixty women have lived with us since then, gay and straight, white and black, hispanic and asian, protestant and catholic, jewish and muslim, buddhist and agnostic, young and old, women coming from all walks of life, both beautiful and horrific, lives so extraordinary to me they could have been in the movies. I got close to many of them.
I realized that these were not simply and indefinitely irresponsible people; they were human beings who were suffering from a terrible disease. They deserved love, a home, and a second chance. A few have become like family, others have gone on with their lives, while some I may never hear from again. Although I have been hurt by relapses or women leaving without saying good-bye, most of the women have gotten well and I have seen dozens of recoveries and new lives. I have learned I cannot expect people to act or be anything other than who they are, and that all we can do is love them. I have learned, as cheesy as it sounds, to not “judge a book by its cover” because underneath these battered lives are amazing individuals I am lucky to have known and to still cherish.
I will carry this with me as I leave for college in September, in my music and in my heart. I could never have learned this anywhere else. This is my home and it will always be the home to these women. We have all been blessed.