I went on my very first ISP retreat in the spring of 2010. My friend, Rose, who had been on a retreat told me it was an experience I should have. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but I remember that I was both excited and scared. When I look back on it, I remember how scary it was to sit in that circle of women. These were people I had just met and I didn’t know how or what to share. It was a relief to discover that we all had so many things in common. After that first retreat, I felt like a new person, “renewal” is the word that comes to me. I found out things about myself that I didn’t know, feelings that I didn’t know I had. It was exciting and motivating.
Since that first retreat, I went to another one about a year later. Since then, I’ve been a witness at two retreats. I was a total wreck the first time I did my witness statement, I was so terribly nervous. I wondered how my story could help anybody else. I shared the story of my alcoholism with the group, telling them how my desire for recovery led me to separate from my husband in 1997, although it took eight more years for me to get and stay sober.
During that time, my husband committed suicide in 2005. Then in 2009, my thirty year old son also committed suicide. At that time I had been sober three years, and I am proud of the fact that, even with the shock and pain of my son’s death, I did not go back to drinking.
I’m not used to thinking of myself as a leader, but giving that statement showed my that I can give hope to others, and this motivated me as much as the group.
My best friend of 42 years died a year after my son. I think about what she would say about me now since I’ve done these retreats. I think first of all she would be proud of me. As my best friend, I think she always knew I was a gentle, loving person, but I think she would also say, “Judy has turned over a new leaf. She’s willing to share, is more outgoing, and is just a more positive person”.
I went back to college when I was fifty-seven years old. I enrolled in a women’s program, “Choices, Challenges, and Change”. I think now that that is what life really is, and I have made positive choices, have risen to challenges, and I have truly changed. I’m in a job training program, and working as a receptionist at a YMCA. Although I was estranged from my daughter, I’m now very close to her, her husband, and my four grandchildren. I love being a grandma, if my best friend could see me now, she would say “Judy’s face has been beaming for two years!”
What have the ISP retreats done for me? I like to say that I’ve had a spiritual awakening. Between AA and ISP, my spirituality has come alive. I try to do the right thing, I take one day at a time, and I try to keep the past in the past, and let myself heal. Every time I share my story I keep my spirit renewed. It’s funny, I didn’t really think I had a “story”.
Sharing it has taught me that I do, and that it can help others. Telling it helps me accept who I am and keeps me motivated. I’m enlightened myself every time I tell it. When I thought of that first ISP retreat, I thought of the word “renewal” and my spirit still feels renewed every time I go on a retreat. I have one last thought—the sharing of my story has brought me totally out of my shell, and lets me see the bigger and better picture of what life has to offer!