By Valerie Belew



Huge tears were rolling down those perfect youthful cheeks. At thirty-four, my youth was coming to an end, her budding womanhood only beginning. Somehow her eyes appeared greener through the tears, the tears my life had caused. The youthful heart had believed in me, even through my recent insanity, even through my present loss of contact with reality. I placed a flower-covered journal into her small hands.

“Take this,’ I said softly. “It is yours now. It is a copy of every song and story I ever wrote. I want you to have it. I want you to always know I love you. Your big sis loves you no matter what, and always will.”

I had written a short note inside the journal, an offering of its contents to her. I was on my way to a psychiatric unit, and it was not my first time. I had been there before, and my troubled lifestyle was now calling for an encore. Jessie had only been a newborn my first trip around, hardly more than a neonate, incapable of this type of emotional pain. But she would experience much more of the same before her young life developed into that of a legal adult.

“It’s okay,” I consoled, though I hadn’t a clue of how it was going to be okay. I was hardly even in contact with reality, yet I continued to understand the concept of love, and its pull on the heartstrings. “Don’t cry, Jessie. Big sis is going to be just fine.”

Her beautiful youthful tear-streaked face was the last thing I saw as I walked out the door, and those small hands holding the flower-covered journal tight and close to her heart.


Magic happens with the emergence of hope. I never really planned to stay drug free. My life was broken, but I hadn’t a clue of how to repair it, and seriously doubted I was actually addicted to a drug. I found my way into twelve step meetings quite by accident, knowing nothing of the relationship between alcohol, drugs, depression and other mood swings. I had experienced what was diagnosed as a manic episode, not once, but twice, seven years apart. I had created chaos in the lives of my parents and siblings who had all but given up, and allowed me to enter a state supported group home after being discharged from Georgia Regional Hospital the second time at age thirty-four. There was nothing more they could do.

Several residents of the group home became my friends, and were convinced I was an addict. Was I addicted? I still don’t know, but it ceases to matter. What I do know is that I do not want to return to the life I experienced before my second admission into Georgia Regional. Whether I was actually an addict or not didn’t matter, twelve step programs began the process that was to save my life, the process of hope. Today I regret that twelve step programs often pressure people into labeling themselves as addicts or alcoholics, which is totally unnecessary. All that is necessary is to listen to the stories of others, and find your own story within them.

“I always quit jobs,” the sandy haired young man reported to the local Narcotics Anonymous support group. “I start thinking I’m going to get fired, and stop going in. I’ve never felt I did anything well and live in fear of being terminated every day. When the
fear gets to be too much, I just stop going in.”

“It was always the same for me,” shares a tall blonde female from the corner of the room. “I’d panic every time the boss wanted to talk to me, assuming I was about to get canned. Then one day, I left after lunch and did not return because my supervisor had said she needed to talk to me.” She grinned ever so slightly. “Later I learned from former coworkers she had planned to increase my hours. Boy did I blow that one. I’ve been on my present job for ten months now, and many times I’ve thought I was going to get fired, but I haven’t run away, and I’m still there.”

A small kernel of hope was born in me during that meeting. Maybe if I didn’t quit next time I feared being terminated, I would discover I wasn’t really being fired at all. Maybe it was only in my head. The truth was that I did not know because I had always quit to avoid taking the risk of being fired. I didn’t know if I was an addict or not and actually doubted it, but suddenly I wanted to be an addict, because if I was an addict my addiction might be causing this all too familiar scenario. If only I could be an addict, all I needed to do was do what these people told me to do. And if that were the case, maybe I didn’t have to feel like a “loser” any more.

I committed to sobriety that day, not because I believed I was an addict, but because I was experiencing hope that I could change, and in order to fit in with this group, I had to stay sober. Twenty-eight years later, I have obtained a Master’s Degree and a Certification within the field of addiction. I have served first as an addiction counselor, then moved on to supervise and direct addiction programs, and finally to publish my first novel. And it all began in a twelve step meeting with the emergence of hope.

Valerie Belew is the published author of Undercover: Our Secret Obsessions. Visit her
website at www.valeriebelewundercover.com