I REACHED FOR JOY: An interview with Penny

It’s been a joy to not only see Penny’s life transform in recovery, but also the lives of those around her – family, friends, Reach clients, AA sponsees, the list goes on. And all because Penny chose to reach for recovery. 

What led to your struggle with addiction?
My dad was an alcoholic and died when he was 42. I remember looking at him and thinking, “If I do what he’s doing, I’ll be what he is.” I didn’t drink in high school. I didn’t drink in college. I didn’t drink during the majority of my first marriage. Then my husband and I were getting divorced and I started drinking. I was right. I became hooked. 

How did addiction impact your life?

I was what you would call a functioning alcoholic. I went to work every day, had a successful career in telecommunications, but life had become unmanageable. I didn’t have it under control. I would have died that year if I hadn’t gotten sober.

When did you reach out for recovery?

I remember it was a Monday when I finally reached out. I called Reach and the receptionist said, “I can’t fit you in today.” I just went wild. I knew if I didn’t get in, I’d be right back at it again and would never be back to get help. She put me on hold, came back, and said, “I can fit you in tonight.”  

How did Reach for Recovery help? 

I did the intensive outpatient program and I got counseling at Reach. I went to AA. And here I am sober, 25 years later, living a good, full, rich life. 

Now I’m still an active member of AA. I’m a state-certified recovery coach here working with women at Harbor House. When I started coaching at 72 years old I thought, “How am I going to identify with some of these younger women that come into the program?” Well, when you’re an addict, other addicts identify with you if they can feel your truthfulness. That’s what I try to be. I’m truthful about the horrors of going through addiction. I’m truthful about the fact that I’m an addict, that I’m in recovery, and that I have to be vigilant about my recovery. 

What do you wish people understood about recovery?

The first person you have to take care of in recovery is yourself. But you have to want it. You have to work on your recovery one day at a time. I’m not saying that it’s a chore every day cause it’s not. It’s a blessing every day. 

I have a gratitude list and I pick one thing off that list in the morning and carry it with me all day long. So when a good day turns bad, which inevitably it can, I take that thing out, I look at it, and I say, yes, I’m grateful. And I wouldn’t have that if I wasn’t in recovery.