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Hope and Healing from Addiction

January 18, 202416 min read

A Momma and Daughter’s Journey to Peace and Purpose

As told by Renée La Montagne Dunn (The Mom)
(God bless all the addicts--and Mommies--out there.)

What do I love to do? What am I good at? What is important to me? What was I born to do? Why am I here?

Life has a way of stretching us to the max; sometimes so much so that we feel like a rubber band ready to snap. So was the saga of this Momma as she trekked the plains with a precious alcoholic daughter, whom I love C-R-A-Z-Y, BTW. I tease my daughter that I’m grateful she’s an alcoholic, otherwise I would be wandering the earth still unsure which turn signal to choose. I found my purpose in life through the gift of alcoholism as we traversed that slippery slope of (almost) sane, survival and near death together.

In this post, let’s call my daughter Jane.

When humongous problems consume our lives, sometimes we have little energy and could actually give a flip about our purpose in life. Just taking a breath may be our purpose for that day. Just eating or showering may be our purpose for that day. Though we think we only have enough energy to get up for that day, it is amazing how thinking outside ourselves can boost us, energize us, catapult us to a higher level of thinking, feeling, caring, doing….and becoming.

When my daughter was in the throes of fighting her demons, we, of course, were worried about her very survival with alcohol; she, of course, was worried about her very survival without alcohol. The relentless battle never ended. But THANKFULLY, it never ended!

She was a gifted businesswoman. But not being sober enough to pay attention cost her many, many millions of dollars. She lost her hard-earned fortune. She lost her husband. She lost her kids. Her life was typical of an alcoholic: DUI’s. Jail. Prison. Homelessness. No food. Cold. Beatings. Rape. And… near death. Several times, her blood alcohol was 0.40+—the highest at 0.44--and because her tolerance was so high, she was still alert, talking, and joking with the medical staff at the emergency room. At 0.44—her blood was nearly half alcohol—and at this stage, most alcoholics die. Most often that deadly desire for “one more drink” propels them to the liquor store, but that one more drink stops the respiratory system and throws them right over the edge—and most never return.

Unbeknownst to us (and her), Jane’s alcoholism began when she was a child. We didn’t keep liquor in the house when our children were growing up. But she took one drink of alcohol at a friend’s home in 5th grade and craved it from then on. She became an active alcoholic after the tragic death of her sweet little 29-day old baby boy. Jane went under and nearly drowned countless times in her cheap poison of choice (McCormick Vodka, $4.99 for a 5th at the local liquor store). When she was drunk, she could lock the reality of her baby’s death in the closet; when she was sober, she had to face the heartache, the anguish, the deep ache for her baby. I was the cleanup crew—finding empty bottles of vodka stashed behind toilets, in toilets, in dishwashers, under beds, between mattresses. Some alcoholics hate to throw those bottles away. Go figure. Holding a bottle upside down for 15 minutes would maybe in a ga-zillion years drip another drop, but why keep something that was drained and clearly not giving birth again to even the teensiest little lip drip?

They say you shouldn’t dump their alcohol down the drain. I did that so many times. I confess it was oftentimes because of the abuse that came from her near delirium, and oh, how hard it was to endure the verbal attacks when her body was filled with that skanky liquid that robbed her of conscious choice, and loosed her tongue. Never would she treat me sober like she did as a black-out drunk. My heart ached for her. What’s a mother to do? So, in order to hopefully end the cycle of abuse and serious self-inflicted pain for Jane, I dumped it. Never worked.

She didn’t surface for a long, long time after her baby died in 2004. Jane tried to get sober. She wanted to get sober. She hit a dozen recovery centers over the years. But every time she came up for air, the grief would set in and down she’d go again. She tried, and tried, and tried. So many times, she teetered at the brink of death. So many times, we sat at her bedside wondering if that yellow “banana bag” hanging from the IV rack was the last to ever rouse her.

She started losing her teeth due to the lack of nutrition and the sugar in alcohol. To this day she struggles with bone deterioration and significant painful problems in her mouth because of drinking. Her physical health isn’t doing’ so hot either. It’s all catching up to her.

It wasn’t until around 2016 that Jane wanted to fight her demons seriously. But wanting to, and actually doing it, are two different things. She was seriously knocking at death’s door—and her Dad and I knew time was running out.

It took this momma almost two years to get my daughter approved by A & E’s Intervention. During that intense confrontation by family, she had to drink vodka every few minutes—deathly afraid not to have her poison—deathly afraid to have it—deathly afraid to be naked and feeling and nothing to anesthetize the shame and guilt, sadness and grief—deathly afraid to walk into sobriety again when it meant enduring the pain of detox--and abstaining. Finally, Jane agreed to go.

A & E put her in a recovery center geared for addressing grief issues and aired her story. But, when she walked out of recovery, she walked right back into the liquor store. Down again she went. Up and down. Up and down. It was so hard to watch her pain; so hard not knowing how to help; so hard teetering the line of enabling and loving; never knowing how close to death we could let her go before taking the reins and helping her through another ghastly detox… but she would always come up for air. And once again, we all hoped.

It has always been amazing to me that an addict would want to go through detox. Subjecting oneself to such unfathomable discomfort, horrendous pain, unrelenting distress, gut-wrenching nausea, burning diarrhea, sweats, chills, body aches, shakes, and DTs, is just ghastly. But those of you who choose to come up for air and “try” one more time, I must commend you. The miracle of “coming back” to try again is just remarkable! Making that choice is so courageous and says a lot about who you are. For sure, Jane has grit and tenacity.

Let’s hear it for AA! I have attended hundreds of times with my daughter, and frankly, would consider that hour as inspirational (most times) as a church meeting! I can do without the cuss words, but I am blown away at the sincerity, the camaraderie, the open and raw stories told, the respect attendees have for the rules of the meeting and for each other. I learned a lot in those rooms. It is a sacred place. No place for judgment… for there by the Grace of God go I. God bless every single soul that walks through those doors. Hopefully, they will keep comin’ back.

When the fog cleared and her brain could function, Jane and I talked often about her dreams, her purpose in life. The memories of those heart-felt discussions over the years are precious to me. When we had those chats, the light would come back into her eyes. Jane talked a little faster; her voice was a pitch higher and more compelling; she sat erect, and she exuded a longing for the if only... I always believed in her. I never gave up thinking somehow, some way, some day she would get through this, and God would open the doors for her to do what she was born to do…to use the lessons she learned to help others. She wanted to build a ¾ house for alcoholic women wanting to get sober; for addicted women coming from jail or prison or recovery centers; for women that really wanted to find themselves, to learn the tools and skills needed to make it in life and gain their footing, to discover who they are and why they are here on earth. Life is much more rewarding when you live for something bigger than yourself.

My heart ached when I visited Jane in jail/prison for DUI’s. (I thank God she never harmed anyone while driving intoxicated.) As I heard the stories these women shared, I vowed someday I would do something, somehow, some way to help them. Most of them had never been treated with kindness; most of them had never known anything but manipulation, control, and abuse. They weren’t told they were beautiful or special, or that their lives mattered. Most had lost hope, only lived for the moment locked in a vault of despair, depression, and desperation. Most lost their children, their homes, jobs, and families. Most were abandoned…and forgotten. My heart ached for them. Oh, how I wished some way I could help…

Similar stories came from people living on the streets, and Jane landed there many times. Jane lived with me off and on for about 8 years. After a very sad divorce from my husband of 34 years, she came in and out of my life when life was too much for her. But with her came the black-out drinking, and I was always the brunt of her verbal assaults. Of course, she never remembered the trauma she caused because she was a “black-out” drinker. Good excuse.

One day, through several weeks of enduring, I finally had enough. I gave her the choice to stop drinking in my home or live on the streets. She chose the streets. There was plenty of kindness between “street buddies.” But these people were beaten down, pummeled by cruelty, never appreciated, never truly loved or validated. Finding their next fix, their next drink, consumed most of them. They were locked in a vault of nothingness and thinking outside themselves was not even possible. There was so little hope. Most were without shoes or warm clothes, shelter, or food. Society had turned its back, and most were ignored and barely tolerated. Most were abandoned…and forgotten.

Jane’s life had been so different than the majority of these people. Her childhood was like a fairytale and included two parents that were nutzo when it came to having fun with their 3 girls. Every weekend brought slumber parties—with sometimes 20-30 giggling girls, all spread out in their sleeping bags, mesmerized, as Jane’s Dad told the enchanting story of Cinderella for the 3,425th time, acting out all the different voices, sounds, and colorful character antics. It was magical…and the girls never got tired of hearing it. Saturday mornings brought homemade donuts. The Rocky theme song blared throughout the house every morning to wake them up for school. For years our family traveled the states teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ through music, performed by our family’s band. Jane’s life was rich and colorful with precious moments in time. Her family loved her. And no matter what the nasty disease of alcoholism hit us with, the Mom and Dad didn’t give up on her. Most these women were left with no one… not one single person gave a flip whether they were alive or dead.

Jane held on to her “if only…. She never gave up on her dreams. She went under thousands of times as her disease pulled her from sanity and drove her to near death, but she surfaced again and again with the same convictions: that someday she would share her lessons—and her heart—to help others facing similar demons. Someday she would build a ¾ house and give a leg up to women who truly wanted to soar.

If it weren’t for Jane, you may not be reading this story now. MY purpose came from walking this walk with my daughter. Most addicts end up in jail (and/or prison) for something or other along the way. Jane’s journey was no different. Going back decades ago in that first jail, I remember the overwhelming sadness I felt as I listened to the stories of the women who shared jail cells. When I vowed way back then to “help” somehow, I had no idea those visualizations and dominant thoughts would lead us to the Prison Project.

I found my purpose. I am living a dream that percolated for nearly 20-30 years. And if it weren’t for Jane’s relationship with this horrible disease, my husband and I probably would not be walking this sacred journey.

This has been a heart-wrenching, confusing, sad, horrifying journey. Alcoholism is a family disease packed with a bunch of enablers: someone always angry, someone always denying, always over-compensating, always bailing her out, always making excuses. I had to trust my Father in Heaven—that He knows my daughter oh-so-well, and loves her much more than me. He knows what she needs. I begged Him to protect her, fortify her, and help her find a reason to stop drinking—for good.

I ceaselessly pray my daughter will continue to walk in sobriety. She has slipped a few times, but comes back quickly, craving now the joys that come from living with a clear head. What this mother has seen, though, is that a new (healthy) “addiction” has consumed her. She lives now for listening, praising, complimenting, nourishing, uplifting, and buoying other human beings that don’t know—or who have forgotten--who they are. In that, she tries to keep the bottle at bay. In this wonderful journey of her own recovery, as she helps others to heal, there is no time to do otherwise! She lives and breathes to care. And…finally, her ¾ house is being built.

You are reading a story of the trials Jane faced. You are reading the story of what a mother went through as she became the caretaker, the cheerleader (and the enabler) in this “family” disease of alcoholism. Sadly, I have had to fight my own demons, asking myself such questions as, How far do I go to help her? Where is the line of loving and caring and enabling? What do I do when death draws near? When do I step in? When do I not step in? Do I leave her on the streets? Do I take her food? Do I offer her shelter? All these questions gnawed at the heart of this Momma so many times. What was this mother’s primary purpose if not to protect her child?

The GO Broken to Beautiful Foundation, the Prison Project, serves incarcerated citizens and formerly incarcerated citizens who have risen from their ashes and now want to change their lives for good. Our program is taught from the #1 International Bestselling Manual, GO Broken to Beautiful™: What to Do When Life Leaves You Broken, (for women), and GO Broken to Badass™ (for men), offers a free Personal Response-Ability Coach™ (a life coach), that walks the client through a whole-person, spiritually grounded course. There is no charge to the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated citizens. Learning the tools and skills in the program arms the clients with an “insurance” policy of sorts, that if used, will help them combat the negative dominant self-talk that took them to jail/prison in the first place.

I believe we were all born for a reason, a purpose, something bigger than ourselves. The GO Broken to Beautiful Program helps clients discover the answers to those very important questions: Why am I here? What was I born to do? What would God have me do? It’s not by accident that YOU are here now, reading this. You made it (again) through similar grisly, horrific situations. You have been saved from death…and you never quit! And it’s not by accident that you have surfaced again, that your higher power has kept you from giving up. You are here because you are valuable. You are here because you chose to be here. You have a purpose. There is something bigger than you that ONLY you can do. YOU have been preserved for something. YOU have been preserved for something greater than you! YOU have held on for some reason… We invite you to discover what may be that reason. YOUR LIFE MATTERS!

If there seems to be no more energy today than to just breathe, then just BREATHE! You are in control of this moment in your life. Breathe, but with every inhale pull that oxygen high up into your brain and THINK about what you LOVE to do; exhale out all the toxins--and all those negative, sabotaging thoughts… I’m not good enough! and the, I’ll never amount to nothin’! and all those paralyzing, I CAN’Ts! If just breathing IS what you are here for today, you will still have an impact on other lives somehow. So, don’t think God put you here by mistake and you have no mission. However small or great that is, YOU matter!

Get a notebook. Consciously decide to find your purpose. Use the My Life Purpose Predictor Tool in Lesson Two. Take it seriously. Discover WHY you chose to keep coming back, why you surfaced again through unspeakable pain and discomfort. Have you come back to DO something more than just breathe? Write down these questions: What do I love to do? What am I good at? What is important to me? What was I born to do? Who am I? Why am I here? What gifts do I have? Why have I been saved for THIS day, and THIS life? For the next 5-10 minutes answer those questions. Dig deep. Dig deeper. Do this EVERY day. Just write. Don’t think. Gut it all out. Discover who you are and why God placed you on this planet!

If you do nothing more than just breathe, you really ARE leaving a legacy of NOT quitting. That, in and of itself, is so admirable. But you have more in you! Find it! FIND you! Discipline yourself to write every single day. I guarantee you, discovering who you are will be the most rewarding, most fulfilling, most revealing moment of your life. THEN… GO… AND DO!

God has a plan for YOU. FIND YOUR PURPOSE. You are not here by accident. YOUR LIFE MATTERS!

An update from Renée: Jesse and I gave birth to the GO Broken to Beautiful Foundation, The Prison Project which you will read about toward the end of this Manual. It’s amazing how quantum thought, quantum entanglement, and planting the seeds for dominant thinking manifested our reality. Two decades ago, I vowed I would help the women in prison somehow, some way….and here we are years down the road, proof that EVERYTHING begins with thought. The universe conspired, God aligned the forces and opened the windows, and not only are we fulfilling my purpose, (which has become Jesse’s purpose), we are serving a community of marginalized, forgotten people who are THRIVIING with the GO Broken to Beautiful/Badass™ Program. And that’s a God thing!

Addiction recoveryAlcoholism journeyMother-daughter healingOvercoming addictionPurposeFinding Purpose
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Rene'e La Montagne Dunn

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