I’m Shameela, I’m an addict
Take my will and my life / Guide me in my recovery / Show me how to live.
In this moment, I’m sitting on the floor, on the phone with my youngest sponsee, writing my story. My cats are pulling at my tights, and I’m by the fire trying to warm up because I still have that Houghton House mentality of not wearing pyjamas around the house.
I am proud to say that I’m sitting here, 8 years later, 8 years clean.
Being the addict that I am, I have to be completely honest… I’m busy reading through my old stories and looking at my social media posts, looking for old parts of my story that will carry a message. Those of you who know me are probably laughing right now because you know I’m looking for a shortcut. But those old parts of my story, they’re not my story right now. I can’t use the story my old self wrote because I’m not the old me. I’m new, I’m different.
Alex used to tell me that over 7 years, all the cells in your body die and are replaced by new ones. He said that every 7 years, your body is new. I used to think it was nonsense, but I can actually feel it. I am a whole new person, and I’m still getting to know myself.
I’m finding myself outside of making other people comfortable, because at the end of the day, not everyone loves me, and not everyone understands me… But that’s okay because it’s not everyone else’s recovery. It’s mine. I’m an addict.
I have learned so much in the 4 years since I wrote my last story for Houghton House. And I’m still learning, every day. It’s funny how so many small things remind me of my time with Houghton House. In fact, the last milestone I shared face-to-face, my 6th birthday, was at a meeting at Houghton House.
Then COVID hit, and the pandemic changed the whole world. Living in this pandemic reminds me of rehab. I didn’t know it at the time, but Houghton House actually prepared me and taught me how to separate my mind from the chaos around me, sit quietly, reflect, and discover myself at my own pace.
So I did what I knew, I used the toolbox Houghton House gave me, the one I’ve been filling up, and I jumped into online service. I found my space and being a service junkie, I loved it!
I shared my year 7 milestone at an online meeting, and it was incredibly special. My old counsellors were sharing about how I was always the one in trouble in primary. I was the one they worried wouldn’t make it, and there I was, making it! Making a life in my recovery!
I shared my life story on tv once, and it seemed hilariously ironic that I — the menace — was coming forward, telling the cameras to straighten out. All while Alex was fixing his hair and asking, “Do I look okay?”. I just laughed and said, “Ya, you look fine”. Alex immediately shot back saying, “Oh please, queen of zoom meetings.” And me, I just laughed and said, “Agh, shut up.”
Who would have ever thought that I would talk to my counsellor like that?! That I would have built a relationship with the people at Houghton House.
Now, Houghton House is my family. My second home. Living in this pandemic, recovering in it, trying to survive during COVID times, my second home became more of a home. Over time, I realised more and more how special recovery is. Back then, I thought I knew what it was to be open-minded, but now, I do know. Only now do I see that the place I was reborn, the place I awoke, well they were only tapping me.
Houghton House was only tapping me, preparing me to go out into the world and truly awaken, in every single way. I was taught how to embrace every awakening I had, and see myself as a whole person, without overcomplicating it like I used to.
“Keep It Simple.” Those logos in the black lounge, they still affect me. 8 years ago, I was looking up at that wall, frowning at those sayings. Until about 5 years ago, when I started to really understand them. Now, I use them every single day.
I’m an addict I even say to my girls (my sponsees), “come on guys, keep it simple. Go outside. Really now, come on. Don’t full up your plate all at once. Take only the necessities. When you have space, you can go back. But keep it simple.”
I even learned how to build relationships, strong meaningful ones. Like the ones, I have with my Houghton House family. I’m such good friends with Diana now, we regularly have tea together and catch up (well, until covid hit…).
There are so many other things I’ve learned through working my program at Houghton House, and I’m only understanding a lot of them now. I understand now the meaning of unity, real unity. All the winners, and old-timers, and my predecessors, they are all just like me, just people with a problem.
I understand now that Alex is just a person with a problem. I’m just a person with a problem. We are all just people with a common problem, and we are all just doing our best to live in the solution.
I grew up in a very strict, traditional Indian culture, where the elders are often above us. But in this recovery, we don’t discriminate. The ‘elders’ are just like the newcomers, we’re all just trying to find our place in the world.
Today, I sit here in the lounge, where I’ve found my place. I have cats now because Socks, the resident cat at Houghton House made me realise how much I love cats. I love them so much that I even have 5 now, and they are in my place with me. I’ve found a place where I feel happy and serene (most of the time). I’ve found a place in my recovery where I’m extremely connected with my recovery network, and always will be. I’ve found my place not only in my home, but in my family, in society, and in myself. You see, Houghton House didn’t just give me my life back; they gave me ME back. I’m an addict
I see now that they were actually giving me the person I was always becoming, the person I’m still becoming, the person I’m constantly evolving into. I have become someone with a profound appreciation for life, and all those who are part of my life. But I’ve also become someone who is always willing to put in the work. I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am.
I followed the suggestions, I did the 5 pillars, in all parts of my life. Yes, there are no rules in recovery, only suggestions, and I always tell my girls that. But I followed those suggestions. Even when I didn’t understand them. Even when I didn’t like them. I wholeheartedly threw myself into my recovery. And my determination has transformed me into a whole different person.
Today, I don’t feel the need to change how I am, I don’t feel the need to hide behind superficial masks, or wear all the cosmetic makeup I used to. I don’t have to, even. I have become so comfortable in my own body, and in my own soul. I used to cringe when I heard my voice on recordings, but now I’m so comfortable that I will send people voice notes that are long enough to be audiobooks. And I will even go back and listen to them, and laugh at my own jokes because I know that voice. I recognise myself in that voice. That’s my voice! And I love it because it’s me. I’m an addict.
Houghton House taught me how to love myself — I’m an addict
Every part of myself. It has taken me a while to get here, but I’m here, and that is what matters. Houghton House made me realise that I actually am a people person after all. Who would have thought! And that is only because of service, and because I knew that I always had a safe place to return to. Always.
When everything got too much, and nothing would make it stop, and I got scared, Houghton House was always there. They were always kind enough to invite me back for a session or two when I needed it. I can always phone my counsellor. I know, with extreme certainty, that I can always phone Alex and talk about anything. He might not take my call right away, but he will always call me back before the day is over. Houghton House has always supported me. I did service at 2019’s regional convention, and Houghton House was there with me. They are a part of me.
As I progressed further into my recovery, I got little ones of my own (i.e. sponsees). And even they went to Houghton House. Because if it can work for all the people before me, and it can work for me, can’t it work for them too?
To date, I’m still doing meetings, and I still love doing service. I still read, but now I read recovery literature. I am definitely living my 12th step. Now I understand how to walk the walk. And I’m doing it, I’m walking the walk. I have made recovery my life while learning how to balance all the different parts of my life and all the different parts of myself. I’m still learning how to balance my outsides with my insides, because I have learned that if I am not okay in myself, then nothing else around me will feel okay. And vice versa.
I understand now that this is a selfish program. Because if I don’t take care of myself, if I don’t eat, sleep, and connect; if I don’t have quiet time for myself, then how will I be able to be a functioning member of society? Prioritising is very different now because my priority is myself.
I don’t live life superficially anymore, because life is Real. I’m an addict.
Life is actually life & death. I’m an addict.
I’ve lost many friends to this cunning, baffling, and powerful disease. But every loss has taught me the importance of being present in my life and being grateful for every moment and every emotion. When the world gets loud, and I can’t get hold of my sponsor or a sponsee, and I can’t get to a meeting, I know what to do. I grab one of my little kitties, I sit in my place, I take my shoes off, I take a sip of water, and I ground myself. And I breathe. Just breathe. My girls always laugh because I tell them to take their feet off instead of their shoes, hahaha.
And I always find my way back to myself. In these times, it might be cloudy around me, but in my head, there is sunshine. I make my own sunshine, with the help of my Higher Power.
I breathe, and I feel what I need to feel. I know that it will pass. I’m an addict.
Everything passes, and as Elli always reminds me, EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.
It just might take a bit of time.
I haven’t quite mastered patience yet, but I’m growing it in my garden of recovery. Life is better in my garden of Recovery.
And I have blossomed in my garden.
I have grown to understand my mum, and I have moments with her that are precious.
It wasn’t always like this. But what matters is that it is now. In getting me back, I was able to give my mum her daughter back. I was able to give my hubby his wife & best friend back. I was able to give my kids their mum back. And I am now able to be present in their lives. They got me back, and I got them back. My family embraced my recovery, right from day one. They have supported me and loved me through all of it.
We’re a family, in every single way.
We’re all on the same team now, always.
I’m an addict.
Because so what if the cat toys are everywhere?
There is nothing wrong with that now because I’m not trying to control every little thing anymore.
My home isn’t a chaotic place anymore.
My home is warm, spiritually and literally.
The fire is burning, and my Yankee candles are lit. I even collect Yankee candles now because my recovery helps me tune into my senses, especially my sense of smell.
The peace and love in my home is immense. You can feel it.
My home is a place of safety, for all who live here, and all who visit here; friends, family, everyone. We still take turns making coffee and washing cups.
We still sit by the fire, no kumbaya, no forced conversations. We just sit and be, together.
Our home is lived in. My life is lived in.
I want to end by saying that Houghton House did indeed give me my life back, but they also taught me how to actually live it.
The simple way.
I’m an addict.
“I is kind, I is smart, I is important” — Aibeleen Clark
If no one has told you they love you today,
Me, I’m telling you:
I love you!
P.S. Evangeline, thank you for everything, I love you.