From the August 2012 magazine.

August 2012: Back from Haiti

After 18 years, a disaster-relief nurse forgets her primary purpose

I landed in my first treatment center at the age of 14. After 61 days in rehab, I moved back to my small hometown of 7,000 people, where I found AA. At first, it was difficult for the older members in the group to accept me, and for me to accept them, but I stayed sober until my senior year of high school, when a novel thought came to me: my problem was drinking alcohol, so I decided nothing bad would happen if I smoked marihuana. Very soon I started drinking again. The next thing I know I came out of a blackout to discover my car was parked on a gravel road and I had a loaded gun in my hand. That scared me back to my sponsor, and back to the rooms.

During my freshman year in college the thought occurred to me that my problem with drinking was that I was too young when I had started, but that was then—right? Many blackouts later, I found myself tossing a coin: if it landed heads I would kill myself; if it landed tails, I would get sober. It came up tails, so I did best out of three. I'll be damned but it came up tails again all three times. So I made one of the hardest phone calls of my life: I contacted a sober woman in AA who took me to a meeting and later helped me see that another treatment center might be able to help me. Here I was, 20 years old, and already in my second treatment center. My family and friends were greatly relieved and loaned me the money I needed to pay off my fine for having a fake ID.

-- Susan J.

Iowa City, Iowa

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