By Stacy Charpentier
I am not a person in recovery from an addiction to drugs and or alcohol. However, I am a family member of a person who suffered from an addiction to alcohol, and several other drugs. My father was an addict for the majority of my life. He drank, he smoked, he snorted and he shot up. His addiction affected my life in so many ways that I would not even come to realize until I began working in this field as an adult.
Although I’m not in recovery, my lived experience should not be discounted.
As a child I often was tasked with walking to the corner store to buy rolling papers and cigarettes for my father. It was routine. I didn’t even realize I was doing something a five year old shouldn’t be doing. I would go with my mother to buy pot every week to a drug dealer a town over. I would sit and play with her two large dogs while my mom handed over money she earned at one of her three jobs, to get a plastic sandwich bag filled with pot. Upon arriving at home, we would climb the stairs to our third floor apartment where my dad would be drunk, eager to grab the baggie away from my mom. On a good night, he would roll his joint, light up, smoke, and fall asleep on the couch. On a bad night, his bag would contain lots of seeds, and he would yell, scream, throw dishes, and punches at my mother who was obviously at fault for the bad batch.
As a child I did not invite friends over to my home. I lived with my own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In one moment, my father could be the most warm, sensitive and caring man, and in the next he morphed into the most terrifying monster I could imagine. I could not bear for anyone to meet him, or see that this was the life I was living. I felt shame, embarrassment, anger and jealousy. I envied all the perfect houses I walked by on my way home from school. I envied the kids at school, thinking they all had these perfect homes, with the perfect parents and I was insanely jealous of them all. I was intensely self-conscious of my situation. I felt as if they all had these happy, loving, wonderful lives, and that they could secretly tell that I did not.
We were often kicked out of apartments because of my dad’s outbursts and violent tendencies…and for a short time were homeless. My great grandparents on my mother’s side took us in for a month, while my mom worked to get us into a new apartment. My father’s father, also an alcoholic, refused to take us in.
When I was 14 years old, my mother finally got to her breaking point. My father, wild on a bender, went nuts and kicked her out of the house demanding she go to get more pot. It was late and my brother and myself each hid under our covers hoping neither of our bedroom doors would open, dragging us into the madness happening right outside. I heard my father scream to my mother as she shut the door,
You’ll be lucky if we are alive when you get back.”
Knowing my father kept a gun in the home, I trembled with the most fear I have ever felt in my life, praying he would just simply pass out – like usual. I heard nothing but silence. I must have eventually fallen asleep, because I remember my mother, eyes dark and puffy, waking me for school the next day. My mother, who has to this day never put one illegal substance in her body, was a survivor, and unbeknownst to my brother or myself, she decided that was the last day she would live under my fathers control, violent temper and threats.
It was 3 months to the day that my mother moved us out, and into an apartment, without my father’s knowledge. She had saved money, bought furniture and in the nights where my father would be passed out drunk, she secretly built us a new home. It was summer and my brother was away at an overnight summer camp where he was working as a junior counselor. I was going on vacation with my aunt and uncle. Neither of us could be contacted in those first few days that we moved out. My father called me at my aunts they day we returned and begged to tell me where we were living. I still did not know. That night my father drank, took whatever pills he had on him and crashed his car into a jersey barrier on purpose. This was the first time he was put into rehab. I would eventually lose count how many times he got clean and relapsed.
Fast forward to 2011. Two heart attacks later, my father was living at a shelter at the VA, a benefit he received from being a veteran in the Vietnam war. My father had finally found recovery. He was on suboxone for his heroin addiction, attended support meetings regularly, and met with a counselor for his diagnosis of PTSD, Anxiety and Depression. Although he only had his one room, he was proud of his success in recovery, and over time, I reconnected through regular visits with him. My children finally got to meet their grandfather at ages 6 and 8. In 2015, I lost him to cancer. Even in this loss, I am grateful that recovery gave me back my father, even if it was for such a short time. The last memory of my father is getting to accompany him to his last chemotherapy treatment. In that time together as we drove to the VA hospital several towns over, we got to talk about our lives, my work at CCAR, and my desire to buy my first home, and the promise from him to help in any way he could. And because of his recovery I believed him. I had the father I had always needed. For that, I will be forever grateful – grateful for his recovery, and recovery in general, and its many pathways and forms.
I tell you all this, because while I may not be in recovery from an addiction, I will always be in recovery as a child of an addict. Even with that, there are some that feel I do not have a place at the table; that I cannot connect with others the way a former addict would. In some states, I am not welcome to become certified, or even apply for certain jobs. My lived experience does not qualify me. I realize that I am privileged in that I was not afflicted with the disease of addiction, in the damaging way my father was. That is not lost on me. I am reminded every day in my work, how hard the struggle to overcome addiction is and how powerful recovery is. I get to see miracles everyday, just like the miracle I saw in my father. I am so very fortunate and grateful to work at an organization that values my contributions, and understands that my ability to care overshadows the label of not being in recovery from an addiction.
I expect to be treated as an equal. I know my lived experience is different than a person who has overcome an addiction. I believe both perspectives are vital to create a powerful recovery movement.
Stacy (Rosay) Charpentier began working at CCAR in 2013 as the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy (RCA) Coordinator and now serves as the Director of CCAR’s Center for Addiction Recovery Training (CART). Although she had the qualifications on paper to serve in this role, she didn’t fully realize that she had a place in the recovery community and felt like an outsider. When Stacy first attended the RCA she discovered her powerful story provides a much needed perspective on addiction and recovery from a family member’s point of view. She hopes to utilize her past experiences, along with her passion for this work, to bring professional development opportunities to people who want to help others discover that Recovery is Possible. Stacy lives in her new home in Bristol, CT with her newly blended family, which includes her husband, 2 daughters, 2 bonus daughters and a new puppy!
19 thoughts on “My Lived Experience”
Beautiful! Your story moved me almost to tears, I’m grateful you have a seat at the table now.
Thank you, Stacy, for sharing your story so honestly.
I am an addict in recovery and, in my book, your story matters, your perspective matters, and your experience matters. You have earned your place at the table with all of us who are recovering because you too are in recovery. The reasons someone may discount your perspective or not welcome you at the table has nothing to do with you — that is 100% on them. It illustrates an area where they need growth, not you.
I think your story was frightening, sad, heartbreaking, courageous, and hopeful. You have lived the disease and now the recovery. Thank you <3
What an amazing and inspiring story Stacy. Thank you so much for sharing and putting your face on recovery.
Stacy. I too am a child of an addict, and the sister and granddaughter of ones. I feel every word you wrote. And, I’m amazed at what you have become and your dedication to helping others.
“A person is in recovery when they say they are in recovery”. Welcome to the table.
Welcome to the party of life. You are one of us! You understand how addiction sucks the life out of you and puts it back with the miracle of recovery. I come from where you come from and I am happy to know there’s another one of us talking about surviving the hell and then, thriving. I may have went on to more hell through my addiction, but I know you got the juice and don’t let ’em tell you otherwise.
My goodness I love you
I read this and said “ this is me”
Thank you for having the courage to speak out-
Sincerely, written by
“A person in long term recovery from my parents addiction”- Tiffinee
Stacy-Thank you for sharing your story. I am also the daughter of an alcoholic and sister of a drug addict, both of whom lost their fight. I believe your perspective is extremely valuable. Thank you for your dedication.
Stacy, thank you for being a voice of recovery, and for being courageous enough to share it with us! Your story has more value than most “normal” people will understand. I am grateful that my own child did not succumb to the same demons that his momma did, and grateful to view that world through your (and his) eyes.
My heart is with your heart 🙂
Dear Ms. C,
You have a powerful story of recovery and thank you for sharing it with us. That you did not become under the influence of a chemical is immaterial–your suffering and overcomig is a great example. And, your wonderful works with CCAR & CART are just amazing. I know you have been a big help to me. Thank you!
I, too, am the child of an alcoholic. Maybe 3rd generation or more. I did not realize the impact until after I became an adult and a social worker. Years of 12 Step for ACOA, therapy and more. Yet, like Stacey, I am shunned by “peers” in my state and not qualified. Lately this also means I am not sought out as a trainer. Thanks to CCAR for recognizing me and others as Recovery Professionals. I have gained so much from my association with you and your great organization. Catherine
Like you, Stacy, I am passionate about recovery precisely because I’ve witnessed firsthand the tragedy of seeing my husband die from his addiction to alcohol and the triumph of having my dad around for 20+ years of remarkable, brilliant, high-quality recovery. And I feel grateful that at CCAR, my path and my story have been both valued and validated. You’re right…our recovery movement is stronger when every passionate soul has a voice. Thank you so much.
Stacy, Thanks for sharing your voice of recovery. Your story matters. It takes a village.
Beautiful story! I am a RN in recovery and I work in a detox. I am often asked if I am in recovery and I usually feel comfortable sharing that information. I have a great friend and co-worker who is not in recovery but has lost two sisters to overdose and lives with other family members in active addiction. I know she has felt like an outsider at times and I wish there were more people like Stacy who can proudly take their place within the recovery community without having to justify it. Anyone who thoroughly understands this disease and is willing to help fight it deserves their well-earned seat in the “recovery room” whether they are in recovery or not. This disease is so prevalent and intensely powerful. The recovery community needs every bit of support that is offered. Together, we can eradicate addiction.
Thank you Stacy, you are an amazing and very valuable part of CCAR. The disease of addiction spares no one, and your recovery is amazing. The disease of addiction is systemic, families, and communities are affected, and also deserve to heal. You are a powerful example of what is possible.
Your story stirred old feelings of what it was like to live a life of neglect and abuse.
I will be sharing my lived experiences with other in my work as a recovery coach today.
Fortunately I have been in recovery for many years and I know and find out every day that I am in recovery it is an on going process ” One day at a time “
Kudos for your story Stacy! When I am training RCA, even with such serious material, I like to lighten things up a bit. When this subject comes up…do you have to be in recovery to be a recovery coach, we invariably have opinions that you MUST be in recovery. I then ask, “If you need to have brain surgery, do you want your doctor to have had brain surgery?” After a bit of laughter, I close with…we are all in recovery from something! Your definition of you, is the only one that matters.
Experience always changes the perception of the community toward people who are addicts. Thank you so much for sharing .
Enjoy the moments of life