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Carolyn Delaney of Journey Enterprises On How To Achieve Great Success After Recovering From An…

Carolyn Delaney of Journey Enterprises On How To Achieve Great Success After Recovering From An Addiction

An Interview With Penny Bauder

Get connected to others. Do some research to find a local recovery community center or peer support center. Take a deep breath, call them and tell them you need help. They can take it from there.

When people are trapped in a severe addiction it can feel like there is no way out and there is no hope for a better future. This is of course not true. Millions of people are in recovery from an addiction and they go on to lead successful, fulfilling and inspiring lives.

Authority Magazine started a new series about women who were able to achieve great success after recovering from an addiction. The premise of the series is to offer hope and inspiration to people who feel trapped in similar circumstances. As a part of this series we had the pleasure to interview Carolyn Delaney.

Carolyn Delaney is the founder of Journey, a print magazine devoted to making recovery from addiction visible to amplify hope and show that people can and do recover.

After getting sober in 1993, she spent 20+ years leading IT departments until 2018 when multiple overdose deaths were the catalyst for wanting to use media to reduce addiction stigma by sharing inspiring personal recovery stories.

Launched in 2019, Journey provides helpful articles, hopeful stories and accessible recovery programs where people live, work and eat.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

When people talk about being a square peg in a round hole, I felt like a misplaced triangle — not square, not round and there was no place that I was going to fit.

A couple of things made me different in my younger years: I had a horrible lisp as a child so I was quiet, alot; I had to wear a back brace at a young age for a while (so I waddled); and I was really smart. Straight A’s without trying and some things just came easy for me.

The noise in my head was loud, very loud about how I didn’t fit … anywhere. In my family, at school, in my neighborhood. I had very few friends and those that I did have were mostly because of my sister. My mom would make my sister bring me with her to sleepovers because I had so few friends and no invites.

I learned how to play chess and do computer programming at a very young age which really only separated me more — the boys didn’t think girls should play chess and the girls didn’t think girls should play chess.

So I was alone most of the time and with thoughts that I didn’t fit.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers how you were initially introduced to your addiction? What drew you to the addiction you had?

Alcohol settled my thoughts. It was the solution to the problem I had which was a mind that was relentlessly beating me up for everything I did. I read disgust into the faces of people walking by me, even if they weren’t looking at me. I read judgment into questions asked by teachers — simple questions.

That first sip of alcohol felt like a deep sigh that I had been waiting to take for a very very long time. An “ahhhh” feeling that settled everything on the inside. I “fell asleep” and when I woke up I knew I had found something that would enable me to show up very differently in the world than I had been. I think I was around 12 years old.

As you know, addictions are often an attempt to mask an underlying problem. In your experience, what do you think you were really masking or running from in the first place? Can you explain?

I was masking an all consuming, relentless belief that I was not good enough to breathe the same air as other humans. I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know how it became a core belief for me. I just know that, honestly, in the early days, alcohol probably saved my life because it was a solution that kept me alive.

Can you share what the lowest point in your addiction and life was?

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had been homeless (although I called it “couchsurfing”), I had been to detox, I had been to 12 step meetings, and I had just gotten out of a rehab — my mum and sister had my two kids … and I was drunk again. That low point is my sister standing in the doorway of my dirty apartment, I’m drunk and she’s crying and asking me “Carolyn, what is it going to take?” and I honestly didn’t know. I had tried all “the things” and here I was drunk again.

Was there a tipping point that made you decide that you needed to change? Can you please share the story?

I don’t know if it can be described as a tipping point as much as an event that led me to believe that I was going to be ok in this new second life of mine … no matter what happened.

I was 8 days sober I think, in a half-way house with 11 other women.

One woman there, a woman I had known growing up, was so sad and so hopeless. She was really the only woman I connected with because we had known each other way back. Our conversations were not hope-inspired, not filled with “maybe this is exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to be doing.”

Our conversations were not supportive, encouraging or helpful.

I found myself feeling worse and worse about where I was and the mess I had made of my life and started to really believe that I was never going to be able to “get sober.”

Together we really talked ourselves into a spiral of despair that ultimately would have ended in a relapse like neither of us has experienced.

The next day, bright and early, she got kicked out of the house for using. I couldn’t see her, couldn’t talk to her and she left by taxi.

That night, I went to a church basement meeting and ran up to a person I had been talking to about getting sober, crying, telling him that my friend had been kicked out. He held both my hands, very quietly and very gently said “Carolyn, God puts people in our life for a reason, and he also takes them out”

At that moment, I felt warmed from the inside out, almost like the roof had opened up and the bright sun was shining on me. And in that moment, I felt held and cared for in a way that I have never experienced and in that moment I knew that for whatever reason, I was supposed to be alive.

It was a defining moment in my life.

Can you tell us the story about how you were able to overcome your addiction?

It was after many attempts in the 12 step halls, and “drunk again.”

My inability to stay sober for a single day was very visible to my neighbors, and out of sheer concern for my children’s wellbeing, they called child protective services.

Child protective services stepped in and sent me to rehab. That rehab had planned for a long- term program — a woman’s half-way house. From there I went to a transitional house called McAuley Residence where I stayed for over a year while I got my children back and learned how to be a sober mom.

A 12-step community that I didn’t think worked for me welcomed me, provided a solution, a structure and a community where I didn’t have to make anything up. My job was to not drink, show up and take some direction. That ultimately has saved my life.

How did you reconcile within yourself and to others the pain that addiction caused to you and them? Can you please share a story about that?

A woman once told me, as I was trying to get my kids back, that I wore an old coat of female shame and mother’s guilt, and I knew exactly what she was talking about. Repairing relationships and healing the damage done for me is a life-long process and one that shows up daily.

Part of that ongoing process is to let go of my own hold on shame, guilt and remorse.

I call this group of raw emotions “ick” because in real-time when it shows up, it’s hard to separate and untangle one from the other. So, I just label that ball of emotion that gets between me and another person “ick.”

At times the “ick” is closer to the surface. What it looks like for me is that I start ruminating on all the things I either didn’t do or things I did, and it starts to retell an old story about myself and changes the way I perceive myself today.

Thankfully more times than not, there’s a moment of grace where I can take a deep breath, ask for some help in a prayer form (because that works for me) and often, it gratefully shifts.

When you stopped your addiction, what did you do to fill in all the newfound time you had?

My first 2 ½ years were in structured living situations; I had to live within a framework defined by other people. I really needed this structure because, honestly, left to my own design, I would not have known where to start or what to do.

With help, I learned to pay attention to my medical needs (I was physically very sick and needed glasses) and my mental health needs. And I learned to schedule appointments (and show up).

Not having worked for a while, I got myself a part-time job and was able to rebuild some skills and earn some money.

What positive habits have you incorporated into your life, post addiction, to keep you on the right path?

I’m a 12-stepper so I do 12-step things. What this looks like for me is attending meetings in church basements and Zoom windows, actively working steps and traditions, a sponsor who helps me reason things out and look towards our program for solutions to the types of things showing up in my life today.

I work with others and share what has been so freely given to me one-on-one, and the benefits of those relationships cannot be overstated.

Meditation is important to me as it strengthens my relationship with a God that I can’t define and don’t understand but trust implicitly.

Can you tell us a story about the success that you achieved after you began your recovery?

Over 29 years, there have been a lot of successes for me. Right now what feels like success is harnessing the energy of a group of volunteers to publish our magazine and staying true to our core values of belief in transformation, relatable stories, inclusivity and optimism.

Journey’s mission is to amplify hope and celebrate freedom from addiction. We use media, marketing and publicity to shine a light on recovery programs, resources and inspiring stories.

We aim to build the business to provide an environment for women in early recovery to learn marketable skills in order to earn their own money and break the cycle of limited economic potential.

Most recently, I’ve accepted an advisory position with Heritage CARES, a national organization that offers a virtual support program. I’m excited because I believe their platform can help change the narrative around substance use disorders and how people view and seek help, and I’ll be able to lend my own personal experience of recovery to shape its future.

Here is the main question of our interview. Can you share five pieces of advice that you would give to a person who is struggling with some sort of addiction but ashamed to speak about it or get help?

1. You’ve suffered enough. There’s hope, help and support waiting for you.

2. You are not alone and you don’t have to ‘figure anything out.’ People who have “been there, done that” but they aren’t there now genuinely want to help you.

3. Your past doesn’t define your future and your future can be brighter and different than your past.

4. Your story isn’t over yet. Getting help will help put you in control of how the next few chapters can be written.

5. Get connected to others. Do some research to find a local recovery community center or peer support center. Take a deep breath, call them and tell them you need help. They can take it from there.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Brene Brown because of her ability to translate data into a story. Her communication helps others hear the results of her research in a way that enables them to take action and change their life.

I’m in awe of that ability because that translation amplifies her research and creates ripples that create more ripples. The result of which most likely will be long-lasting systemic change.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Carolyn Delaney of Journey Enterprises On How To Achieve Great Success After Recovering From An… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.