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Embracing Multiple Pathways of Recovery with Love

Embracing Multiple Pathways of Recovery with Love

It feels like it was just yesterday Granny Annie and I were driving down George Bush Highway with our sun-kissed golden skin, windows rolled down as our hair wisped through the windows, with “Stand by You” by Rachel Platten vibrating through the old battered speakers. We’d point at each other with a smile as we howled “Loveeeee, you're not alone. Because I’m gonna stand by you”….

Our friendship started in 2014. As my baby boy and I sat outside our apartment complex which I called “The Pepper Palace '' so it sounded better than it looked; Wilson, Anne’s border collie pup at the time, sparked an interest in us. Anne could hold a full-blown conversation with a wall in the deepest southern accent you would ever hear and always smiled so hard I'm surprised her cheeks didn’t hurt. She came from what some would consider a traditional family upbringing, one of four siblings, parents still married, and good jobs down in ol’ Oklahoma. We had a lot in common from the way we were raised to our unplanned matching flannels. Anne was chill and laid back, our friendship felt so natural, it was easy.

It’s funny how the world has a weird way of giving you what you need if only we’re open to receiving it.

A couple months into our friendship I told her to apply at the bar I was working at as she wasn’t making much money at the po’ boy shop down the road. To my advantage, she got the job so not only did we live by each other and spend our time off together, we also got to work together.

Saturdays we’re our favorite. We’d have poker night inside the bar and the “Redneck Rockstar” playing on the patio, our liquor always hidden in the styrofoam cups by the computer, and the shots just kept coming. Anne and I were a dream team, despite the amount we drank we were good at our job, and walking out with a wad of cash was just the icing on top.

I’ll never forget that one night Anne had a double dose of liquid encouragement and decided she was gonna sing with the Redneck rockstar. She sat on the janky bar stool, swaying side to side with her body as she sang “Walking in Memphis”. She didn’t care. You could see the music run through her as she sang every word with her soul. Whether you knew the song or not, you couldn’t help but love it because of the way she loved it. Since then I can’t help but smile when the song comes on my playlist.

When we weren’t working we’d go on drives to nowhere talking and playing music, Wilson went everywhere with us. Anne loved animals, I’d always get frustrated when she tried to bring them all home or we’d have plans to be somewhere and ol’ Annie’s digging cats out of the dumpster.

I guess you could say it was her gift.

Eventually, she got with Bradley, who I worked with at my other job at the country club. I think he thought I was the third wheel, but in all honesty, he was the third wheel. Good ol’ granny Annie and I were inseparable. We’d lay on our bellies across the laminate wood floor with incense blowing along my mandala tapestry hanging on the wall as we did puzzles. On Thursdays, we'd pack a picnic and go down to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas Texas and listen to free live music under the big Texas sky. It was beautiful. Those were the days we didn’t drink as much, we’d smoke a bowl or roll a joint but it was always calm.

After a while life changed, the late nights and fireball soon caught up to us. I’d go to rehab, she’d go to rehab, we’d play phone tag and when we got together we’d tell stories about our rehab experiences but neither of us could remain “Abstinent”. We’d get a couple of days, weeks, months here and there and just smoke weed… It didn’t matter though, people still said we weren’t in recovery.

A little over 5 years ago I attended my last rehab and moved to England, although the Atlantic ocean was between us our friendship remained the same. We would Facetime often, my son would yell in the background “Hey, Granny Annie” and Anne would laugh and smirk saying “You are your momma’s son that’s for sure”.

Those times when we weren’t talking I knew she had a reoccurrence with alcohol and when she was ready to talk she knew I would be there to answer.

When she would reach out, she’d say “I’m ready to confess my sins although you already know them”. I was always a listening ear, it often sounded as though Anne felt so much pressure. Pressure from loved ones who possibly didn’t understand addiction thoroughly. Pressure to be the perfect daughter. Pressure from rehabs, services, and mutual aid groups to be “Abstinent”. Pressure to do recovery the “right” way all while trying to navigate life after her marriage ended with the man she still loved. It’s a lot for someone who simply just needs love and belonging.

Two years into my recovery journey I became a Recovery Coach Professional, RCP. That was when I first heard the term “Multiple Pathways of Recovery”, I knew of multiple pathways of recovery but CCAR put a name to it. Recovery Coaching became my world and naturally, my conversations with Anne became soaked with the tools and principles of recovery coaching.

After she spent almost a year in the hospital and went to rehab again she would call me, so upset while telling me stories about people saying she’s not in recovery because she smoked weed. I knew the years of drinking were starting to take a toll on her, so naturally I was angry because in my eyes if Anne was smoking weed and getting well that’s all that mattered. I would say “Anne, F**k them. It does not matter what they say you are doing amazing”.

We know the power of language as well as the impacts of stigma so although I was supporting her she still carried that weight.

On May 12, 2023, I lost my best friend.

On the streets of Rome, I saw a freaking Facebook post. In all honesty, I didn’t believe it.

I always joked that my mom became a CIA agent in my active addiction, but when you love so deeply for someone you will do anything to find them.

It was as if the world shook like thunder. Almost 10 years of memories spun around my head as my knees got weak and my body jolted forward trying to ensure the rest of my heart didn't fall out. Then came the wave of emotions. Anger, that she was too kind not to call me so she didn’t “ruin” my vacation. Powerless, that I wasn’t there, that I didn’t and couldn’t save her. Anxious, about what would happen next. Abandoned, Anne's calls had become a part of my daily routine and now I’m going to be lonely without her. Furious, at everyone who ever told her she wasn’t in recovery, or that “abstinence” is the only way.

I believe in my heart that if Anne would have had the opportunity to recover “her” way 5+ years ago when our journeys started she’d be here with me today.

Before Anne’s passing, I would have given this amazing answer explaining multiple pathways of recovery, but really it’s love.

I never realized it until Anne passed away but it didn’t matter what pathway of recovery she was on, or if she even wanted to call it recovery. I loved her anyway. I simply just wanted her to be happy and well.

Anne was 32 years old and almost 8 months abstinent from alcohol when she passed. She had just completed the CCAR 5-Day Recovery Coach Academy training and was looking at potentially becoming a recovery coach. She knew how supportive Wilson had been along her journey and thought others might benefit from having coaching sessions while walking their dogs or petting animals. We were planning on traveling Europe next summer, for her first big adventure out of the US. She had goals, dreams and so much life to live.

Anne’s favorite quote was “Go out into the world and do well. But more importantly go into the world and do good”.

My hope is that by sharing her story we can all do good by embracing multiple pathways of recovery and at the end of the day love them anyways.

- Calliese Conner


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