How sharing her story keeps one woman sober
This is the third part of a series exploring alcoholism in Michigan written by Carly Keyes, a recovering alcoholic who is on a mission to improve awareness about the disease and ensure others find the help they need. Read her first post here and her second post here.
The concept of addiction is tough to grasp. It’s a cunning, baffling, powerful disease, and unless someone has experienced it first hand, it’s impossible to comprehend entirely. But sobriety is also a complicated concept that’s rooted in contradiction: you must surrender in order to win, pray for those who offend you and give in order to receive.
I used to live a very different life. I fought everything and everyone, scorned those who offended me and took whatever I wanted. Not anymore. Now I let go, I love, and I live to give. Those three statements go right along with the core tenets of the Alcoholics Anonymous program: Recovery, Unity and Service. Ever since I began to practice these principles, I’ve stayed sober.
For me, the key has been service. My primary purpose in life is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. And so, I share. When I offer my experience, strength and hope – my tale of struggle and survival – I acknowledge that I’m just one of many who encounter obstacles like mine on a daily basis. Since I was a kid, I’ve been telling stories in some way, shape or form. And in the past seven years or so, I’ve met people, been places and seen things that are worth talking about so that others feel less alone.
One way I do this is through music. I’m a singer-songwriter, and the majority of my songs are based on experiences that took place during my addiction and are inspired by the feelings that flow in sobriety.
I also create films. I’m a writer-director and in my first short film, “Initiation,” a college freshman on the varsity soccer team, newly in recovery from addiction, must choose what’s best for him or what’s best for his image during a hazing ceremony. In my first music video, “696,” a young man loses his college girlfriend and love of his life to a drunk driver and must move on, despite the anger and pain he carries for the tragedy. Both projects will premier for a special, one-night-only screening at The Michigan Theater on Wednesday, April 9th and will be online shortly afterwards.
I also tell my story through my writing. I’m a columnist for the Michigan Daily student newspaper, and for more than a year I’ve addressed such topics as depression, suicide, fear and anger. Next up? A novel. To be completed this summer.
And lastly, I talk about my experiences. I speak at AA meetings and conferences as well as at high schools, where I address health classes about my addiction and recovery. If just one student listens to what I have to say and makes better decisions because of it, then my efforts are worthwhile.
I do this even though I’m supposed to keep quiet about my struggles. I’m supposed to hide my true identity (it’s even in the name of Alcoholics Anonymous!). I have the utmost respect for this principle, and I would never comment on anyone else’s recovery but my own, but I can’t stay quiet.
I’m hoping that, once again, I can use a contradiction to my advantage. By defying the norm and speaking up about my disease, I want to shift the false perceptions of addicts and end the stigma that society has so wrongly perpetuated. In doing so, I pray that I may continue to be of service, continue to stay sober, and continue to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
About Carly: Carly Keyes is originally from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and currently studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she has a double concentration in Screen Arts & Cultures and Psychology and a minor in Writing. Carly is a filmmaker, a singer-songwriter, and a film journalist and health and fitness columnist for the Michigan Daily newspaper. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/carlykeyes, follow her on twitter @CarlyKeyes, and discover her talents and learn more about her journey at www.carlykeyes.com.
Photo credit: jeffrey james pacres