Re(Pro) #27: Melissa Johnson

This woman right here is doing magical things. The epitome of service in recovery, Melissa started a nonprofit called Clean Life Clean Home.  I'll let her tell you all about it but suffice it to say, expect big magic from her.  She's also got a well of patience a million feet deep because she's been waiting for her Repro for almost 9 months.  I had the pleasure and HONOR of meeting her in NYC last weekend for #SheRecoversNYC where I got to give her a big hug. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Melissa.


Melissa Johnson RePro 27

Name: Melissa Johnson

Age: 37

Location: Norman, OK

Recovery date (turning point for mental illness or addiction): 5/19/2015 

Creative niche (art, music, writing, entrepreneurship, etc.):
Blogging and Non Profit Creator

If applicable, drug of choice (or *not* of choice): Alcohol

Recovery Story in a Nutshell:
I struggled for many years with alcohol. I was always so insecure and self conscious but alcohol gave me the confidence I longed for. I could say and do what I wanted without a care in the world. I didn't care if I blacked out and did things I would never dream of if I was sober, I wanted that carefree feeling. I would chase that feeling for many years through the depths of hell. I have been arrested three times for DUI in Dallas, Texas. I am a three time felon, DUI and two felony child neglect charges. I have multiple misdemeanors all having to do with alcohol. I never cared about going to jail, it was like a time out for me, then I'd be back at it. I never wanted to quit. Ever. After totaling a second car and leaving the scene of the accident to avoid another DUI, I went to an AA meeting and ran like hell to the nearest bar. I wasn't ready. I had many more years of hell to put myself through.

It wasn't until my kids were removed from my home by Dhs for the second time that it clicked. There I was in front of the same judge deciding where my kids would live AGAIN. I finally surrendered. I finally accepted that it will NEVER get better, it will never be fun, it will keep getting worse. It was one thing for me to suffer the consequences of my actions but for my kids to suffer too? I was done. The obsession and desire to escape reality has been removed.

After I found out I would not be going to prison for my latest charge I knew there was something else I was meant to be doing. I felt led to share my story. Not exactly what I wanted to do. Who wants to tell the world they have had their kids removed from the home twice due to their drinking? No one!! But I felt called to do it and I couldn't sleep until I listened to the little voice in my mind. So I fearfully began my blog My Truth Starts Here, because I felt it was time to finally own my truth and to share it without the guilt and shame I have felt for so long. I began sharing all the parts of myself that I wanted to hide, and what a journey it has been.

Almost a year after my kids were removed in May of 2016, I began a nonprofit called Clean Life.Clean Home. where I go in and clean free of charge for a mom or/and dad in recovery, but I also share their story of addiction to recovery. Basically I am being of service, paying it forward to a beautiful sober human being while sharing their story of hope. My goal is to show others out there struggling, that recovery is possible and that they don't have to be ashamed anymore, and just look at all these people getting their house cleaned that have been through hell but have come out the other side better than before.

Top 5 Recovery Tools

1) Blogging!

I get such a release when I type something up and send it out into the Internet. Crazy how much better I feel when I get it out there.

2) Yoga!

Hot yoga is my fave. I love to sweat. I feel amazing afterwards.

3) Running!

I'm definitely not fast. I'm not going to win any races lol. But I love running outside especially early in the morning. Nothing like it.

4) My life coach!

She is amazing and has helped me so much. I am slowly becoming the confident independent woman that I had always tried to be with alcohol.

5) 12 step meetings!

Although I don't have a sponsor and I don't work the steps this time I got sober, I still get so much out of the meetings I go to. I love hearing what people have to say. I always hear what exactly what I need at that moment. Plus I have some amazing friends in AA, I love seeing their beautiful faces.

Connect with Melissa.

Clean Life Melissa

Re(Pro) #5: Robyn Joy

Robyn is one of my new favorite people.  I love love love love her and you will too.  The End!

Name: Robyn Joy

Age: 39

Location: Vermont

Sobriety date: January 1, 2016 

Creative niche (art, music, writing, entrepreneurship, etc.): 

I've recently gotten really into zines, both as a reader and creator. I got a small grant from Long Distance Love Bombs and have written and published two issues of "Best Intentions" since I stopped drinking. I used to be a painter/assemblage artist and I am finding my way back to that slowly. I have been a performing musician in years past, but I'm currently working on quieter projects at home and using my kitchen as a creative vegetarian studio. I'm also getting married in July, and doing everything DIY including all the decor and my dress, so at the moment I am surrounded by papier mache and heart garland and lace.

Drug of choice (or not of choice...): Booze Booze Booze. So much booze.

Recovery story in a nutshell: 

Erg. This is hard to describe in a short blurb. I was a drunk for a million years, or possibly something like 25. I started drinking when I started forming my personality, discovering my sexuality, exerting my independence. Boy that all turned into a gnarly mess of a girl, but a functional one. I got involved in romantic relationships with the opposite of what my parents hoped for me more often than not, put myself in dangerous and harmful situations because I hated myself so much, and played the victim for as long as I can remember. I drank to feel complete, to feel validated, to feel pretty, to feel confident, to be the fun girl that everyone wanted to be around and love. It didn't work out. It never does, right? I had a lot of continual disasters (sexual assault, self harming, financial trouble, divorce, loss of friendship, etc), but I didn't quit because I hit rock bottom. I hit that a couple times and drank harder. I quit because I was tired and sick and if I wasn't super embarrassed or ashamed by my drunken behavior, I was scaring myself. I went to rehab after I realized I had been blacking out every single night for longer than I'd care to admit or think about. I talked to my job and my fiance and my family and friends through shaky voices and tears sometimes. I spent 3 weeks there. The first two were life changing, mostly because I was taken out of my booze soaked environment. The third was mostly frustrating due to a lot of circumstances, so I ditched a week early (on Thanksgiving day). I was sober for a week at home, but then thought I could try drinking like a normal person. I now know that I do not drink like a normal person and to try is only going to awaken my little gremlin-wolf-snake-beast who's thirst is unquenchable. My last drunk night was new year's eve 2015. I drank lots of wine. I staggered to the store and came back to the apartment with a ridiculous amount of more wine even though I was already slurring. We went to a party and no one was mean or judgmental, but I could feel and see on everyone's face that I was as expected - wasted before 10pm and heading for a train wreck. I got a ride home and was in bed by 11pm and woke up in the morning with a new feeling. I actually wanted to be sober instead of just saying I did. My fiance took me for a walk and he made a video of me dumping the last bottle of wine over a cliff. I haven't had a sip of anything since.

How you stay sober / Tools for a happy recovery:

I read a lot more than I used to. I've incorporated reading into my nightly routine, which is so good for me for so many reasons. I listen to books on tape sometimes too. I listened to Alan Carr's "The Easy Way to Control Your Drinking" in my first few weeks of sobriety and felt brainwashed, but in a good way. Currently I am about to finish "Recovery 2.0" by Tommy Rosen - a MUST read if you like the idea of a holistic recovery process, and I'm going to start "Dry" by Augusten Burroughs. There is also a vibrant community of people in recovery on the internet that I read and I look to for further recommendations. And I am an avid reader of recovery zines (or "perzines") and it's easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of wonderful writing there. One writer recommends or mentions another and so on. I am adding to the pool with my own and feel humbled to be part of such a powerful bunch of voices.

Diet and drinking.
I keep myself well stocked with seltzer, either with a full tank in the soda maker or a full 12 pack in the fridge. I make a ritual out of pouring it into a glass and adding fresh lemon, ice and non sugary juice if I am feeling fancy. I know that when I am out, I order a soda with a splash of cran and a lime. I was already eating relatively well, but drunken nights often used to lead to late night junk food binging, laziness, and a lack of concern about my body. I gained 50 pounds in the last few years and continue to struggle with that and ongoing body image issues I was born into. I try to cook a healthy dinner most every night, which is quite a thing sometimes, but it's an important thing, and my skills and creativity constantly improve. Actual diets to lose weight or change my habits drastically tend to make me obsessive and overwhelmed, so I have learned to not be tempted by their promises. I am strictly vegetarian, I read labels and educate myself, and I try to eat whole foods as much as possible, and I think that's the best possible scenario for me. 

This is an imperative part of my self care and growth. I have always enjoyed it, but have never stuck with a routine for very long. In rehab, we had a free yoga and meditation class once a week, and it helped me to remember that I really like it (and once a week is not nearly enough). I came home and committed to spending the time and money on a local yoga studio. I don't always go as often as I would like, and the cost adds up, but lately I have been able to get 3 classes on a regular week and up to 5 or 6 when I am truly on my game. I'm hoping to find a balance at some point and still continue with the studio some, but get a home practice too. I have yet to meditate regularly, other than when I am falling asleep at night, but it is in my future goals as well. 

AA Meetings.
I go to one AA meeting every week. I love this group of people and I don't know that any other meeting is like this one, and I don't honestly care, because I feel like this is all I need. Tommy Rosen's book broke down the process of working the 12 steps and I will most likely give it a go sometime soon, but I haven't gone there yet. People who are way into the program will continue to insist that I get more involved, go to more meetings, devote myself to being of service, blah blah blah, but right now, it is a small piece of my pie.

I have been in therapy for years, so this isn't a new thing. The catch phrase I hear a lot now is "dual diagnosis" - having an addiction paired with mental illness.  I no longer have access to benzodiazepine because of being in recovery, and that can be really hard for me. I do take an anti depressant that also helps with anxiety, but sometimes I have to really pull myself away from panic inducing situations and rely on safe tools I have learned to self soothe. Breathing techniques I have learned in yoga are indispensable, but I often just avoid being in places that I know are going to threaten my mental health. After a lot of reading, I suspect my depression/anxiety and PTSD are actually Bipolar II, but I no longer see a psychiatrist because I don't really like where that leads me. I had a drug/alcohol counselor before rehab and then another one when I came home. They were fine, but very clinical in their approach, and I didn't find either of them super helpful. But my regular therapist has been life saving.

More Self Care [editor's note: YAYYY!!!]: 
I am learning about taking care of myself ahead of everything and anything. I am a die hard codependent person. I become whatever I think will make the most people pleased with me. I don't know how to make choices about simple things like what music to listen to or what shirt to wear or what food I like. I participate in social things for the sake of making people believe I like the right things that will make me the most likable. This is all changing for me in sobriety, and it is both amazing and excruciating. I am REALLY emotional a lot. I want seclusion and independence a lot more than I ever have before, but I also want to fall back into the old me and be taken care of and not have to think for myself. But I have to do what serves me best before I can be a good friend, lover, sister, teacher, or anything. Being sober has been the best thing to happen in my forever healing process so far.