My story- Kiki Kline
It is September, 2017 and this is the snapshot perspective of my recovery story at this particular time of my life. My
perception of reality has gone through major existential shifts throughout my adolescent and adult years, and I take
this as the norm of my living and experiencing life. I am eternally learning and growing from the insight and
wisdom I gain through challenges faced and the open-minded perspectives I have taken.
My story of recovery is idiosyncratic, just like everyone’s.
At the time I am writing this I am 4 years sober from alcohol and drug use. My sobriety count is based on the
physical act of not putting a mood-altering chemical into my body. However, even though I’m sober, some days I
don’t’ feel sane; sometimes even more fucking crazy than I did when I was drinking and using.
Pre-sobriety, on the inside I felt empty, hollow, and completely worthless; on the outside I looked put-together. The
few years prior to recovery, I married a man in the US Air Force and we moved to Delaware for a duty assignment.
We had a home with a literal white picket fence and two dogs, a black German Shepherd named Ariel and a
Husky/Shiba Inu mix named Alice.
Daily, I would come home from busting my ass at school, go hard as a mother-fucker at the gym, then stop at the
liquor store and pick up my drink of choice. It shifted from vodka (with water and propel nonetheless to give myself
a more subdued hangover), to rum and diet colas, to tequila, to wine. I could whole-heartedly justify drinking wine
because it was not hard liquor; it was good for my heart (they said) and if I for some reason did have a problem with
wine I would be considered a wino (and that was classy). Night after night I went home to make myself some
healthy low-calorie dinner and sit in front of the TV drinking until I blacked out. Sometimes I would buy fancy
cheese and eat it with my wine because I had an interest in becoming a cheese and wine connoisseur, just by myself
in my living room.
Like Groundhog’s Day for quite some time I carried-out a drunken routine: passed out, peed the couch, and made a
mess all over myself and the area I blacked out in. My husband would come home from work to clean up my filth
and carry my limp body up to bed. I didn’t see a problem because I would get up the next morning and go to class,
most of the time it was French and j’adore le vin.
My husband had been asking me to stop drinking and I denied any type of problem, until I woke up one morning
and was still on the couch laying in my pee. We had just inherited a newer couch and I had peed all over it. I felt the
shame suffocate me and I promised I would go to a 12-step meeting that night. I fortunately knew about these types
of meetings because of a close family-friend having 15+ years of sobriety.
No, I could not be an alcoholic. I did not live on the streets drinking vodka out of a paper bag. I was only 24 and a
woman; an academic mind you.
However, there were surprisingly a large handful of women my age who were also at these meetings, and shared
similar experiences. After I started to listen to the commonalities I had with people in the meetings (instead of
fucking judging the label of alcoholic) I was able to surrender to the fact that I could not manage my own life. I
could not enjoy or take charge of my drinking, my life was uncontrollable under my command, and I was constantly
stricken by the compulsion to evade reality. God dammit, I was an alcoholic.
There were moments in the process of my recovery where I had visceral responses to the changes taking place in my
life. I pictured a draining of negative, black energy clearing out of my body, and a light opening up into my chest. I
went through the full process of the 12-step program fairly quickly and started engaging in service work as well as
taking other women through the program within the first few months of my sobriety. I took inventory of myself and
with the help of another alcoholic, was able to see torturous ruminating thoughts in a completely new way. I got rid
of the things causing me pain and made room for a light to shine in and through to me. I kept note of the things that
blocked me off from this feeling and became willing to get rid of them with the help of other people in the program.
Inevitably, others were hurt in the processes of my unmanageability and I had done things that my conscience could
not sit right with until I rectified them. Prayer and meditation became a large part of my recovery as well as keeping
close contact with people on the same path as me. Part of my life’s purpose was then to help others find that way of
I challenged the concept of God many times. In the beginning I hated the word, tied to the preconceived catholic
notions I had grown up to believe. I tried innumerable conceptions of a higher power: the god of recovery; the god
of cause and effect; spirit of the universe; creative intelligence; the G-O- D (group of drunks); and even just
quotations to describe my understanding. Frequently I thought the program was a cult and that all the members were
brainwashed and naïve (albeit always smiling and happy).
Most of my life I struggled with an eating disorder. When I got sober my eating pathology roared its ugly head and
took charge of my life again. Even after times of feeling immensely spiritual and connected to others and a higher
power, I would use symptoms. I hurt myself over and over again, and was living a dual existence of spirituality and
I tried using the 12-steps to cure my eating disorder, and that alone did not help. My skewed thinking drove me to
believe I was not getting better as a direct result of not working hard enough in the program and being a terrible
I knew I needed outside help and admitted myself into an intensive eating disorder program, one where I had been
eight years prior. This was a humbling experience because the treatment center I attended was my most recent
employer. I had just worked for this organization as an organizer and advocate of eating disorder recovery (oh, the
irony). I also studied eating disorders in undergrad and had planned on making a career out of researching and
implementing treatments to those suffering with eating disorders. In spite of all the academic knowledge and prior
treatment experiences I had with this, I could not beat it on my own or in any way I knew how.
Intensive eating disorder treatment seemed contradictory to the program and 12-steps. I had the deepest beliefs that
NO HUMAN POWER could have relieved any of my psychological ailments, and that included therapists and
psychiatrists. I had the perception that therapeutic psychological treatment and 12-step spiritual recovery were
opposing viewpoints. Cognitive dissonance understates the experience; it was more of a massive brain-fuck.
After stabilizing my eating disorder symptoms, I turned the blame of my suffering towards the 12-step program. I
resented everyone who graciously took me through their experience and accused them for my pain. I was wrong, but
could not see it.
After 3 ½ years of sobriety I did another fourth step; but this one was pertinent to the 12-step program I was
attending. I needed a drastic perspective change after finally addressing some of the other concerns in my life not
related to alcohol. At the top of my list of resentments was the 12-step program itself. I felt betrayed by it.
Unbeknownst to my understanding, a woman took me through the steps again. I challenged every single concept of
the program as we read through line-by- line. However, she was able to explain it in a way that turned my
perspective to incorporate both 12-step and eating disorder recovery (therapy) into my life. She had similar
misconceptions of the program, and it turned out I was not the only one who had every questioned the 12-steps.
With epiphanic insight, I learned that I could incorporate all of this and more into my life and into my recovery.
Practicing the 12-steps; attending therapy; learning from autonomous spiritual teachers; certain religious practices;
heavy rock music and head banging; and even applying the information I learn from fucking science! – this could all
be woven together as my personal recovery experience.
Sobriety and recovery are two separate ideas for me. A life in recovery- which may include sobriety, is fluid, gray,
every-changing, forgiving, and undefined. Recovery is a place where I learn to connect deeply to my authentic self,
taking care of me and giving myself compassion. Recovery is where I find peace of mind, body, and heart and exude
energy towards the world and other people. I am forever learning and growing, getting closer towards a higher and
wiser self, and working towards creating positivity and love in the world.