Joan Amburn Story of “The Courage to Change the Things She Can”

Read Joannie's Story-

Joan Amburn Story of “The Courage to Change the Things She Can”

My name is Joan Amburn and last November 1st I celebrated 20 years of continuous recovery. I came in to recovery because after almost 30 years of using I knew I was crazy. I didn’t want to quit using I just didn’t want to be crazy any more. My addiction had taken me into a spiral of theft, drug sales and prostitution and had kept me trapped in a mentally and physically abusive relationship for 14 years. I knew I needed to make changes or I was going to die. I must explain though that this clarity about my insanity came after 3 years clean in in a family member support group…because of course I didn’t have a problem…he did.

 I was quickly carried into recovery because of several events in my first year clean. During that first year I was diagnosed with a disease call lupus and my 6 year old was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. My disease meant that if I used I could die sooner than later and my son’s disease meant that he would forever pay the price for my using. I realized I needed to stay clean to take care of him and so I stayed clean in the beginning for him. It’s called a reservation but sometimes it takes what it takes to keep us here til the miracle happens.

 Another event was meeting a fellow addict who was to become my husband. We both had almost a year clean when we met. 5 years later we were married and we just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. As long as I work a program of recovery I am able to accept the gift of an amazing relationship. I work really hard to stay out of his program because I know that if I am looking at him I am not taking care of me.  We don’t do it perfect but we keep working on it.

 Early in recovery I learned the difference between religion and spirituality. Someone once told me that religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell and spirituality is for people who have already been there. I grew up in a very fundamentalist church and I never wanted to go back there. A gift of recovery was to learn a new spiritual way of life. This way of life has taught me love and respect for all living things and recovery has given me the chance to share it with others. What a blessing.

 Because I never expected to live past 35 and because of my many years of using I have had to deal with some serious health issues in recovery. In addition to the lupus in 2007 I was diagnosed with breast cancer; very scary words for me because in 2003 I had lost my Mother to breast cancer.

 Recovery had given me some gifts to help me through this; first of all I had been gifted with a conscious contact with a higher power and second I was gifted with an amazing recovery family. 20 days after my diagnosis, I was in the hospital having surgery. Members of my recovery family and my husband were there with me every step of the way. I made a full recovery and celebrated five and a half years cancer free. 

I have had to take some medications in recovery. Taking medications in recovery means taking them as prescribed…no more no less! I have also found that my fear of the pain is usually greater than the pain. My Doctor and I discuss medications first; to my amazement, I don’t need pain meds nearly as often as I used to think I did. 

 If you know me, you may know that I have severe breathing issues due in part to my drug use. Today I have the courage (thanks to you and recovery) to work towards a lung transplant. Lots of tests to do before I can get on the transplant list and one more time my recovery and my recovery family have helped me walk through the fear. They have also rallied to raise money for my transplant. Lots of fundraisers and donations, brings joy to my heart and tears to my eyes as I see the blessings and gifts of recovery.

 Recovery has taught me to face my fears and walk through them using the things I have learned from each of you. You have taught me to believe in and trust a higher power. You have taught me to not allow fear to paralyze me but instead to ask for help from my higher power and seek guidance from the people I know in recovery. You have taught me that if I don’t know what to do, go to a meeting and if I cannot get to one I ask for one to be brought to me. Most importantly, you have taught me I never need to use again. 

 BREATHE!

Note from Hands Across the Bridge Project:
If you want to make a donation to Joannie’s lung transplant- please contact Patty Katz – patty.katz@handsacrossthebridge.org

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