So, my name is Valerie McCormick and I am a mom of 4 children, 2 living. My daughter will be 20 next month on September 5th and then my son who is 16; he’ll be 17 August 16th. I am currently a full-time volunteer in my community and also a full-time college student at Skagit Valley College, pursuing a degree in Human Services.
I have been in recovery since 2008. So, 10 years.
How did your addiction start?
I believe that it really started from childhood. I just always felt unloved and I felt like I didn’t belong and so I, as a child I was always told to, like I didn’t show my emotions. We were told to just be tough and tough it out and as the years grew on I faced some things in life and I was afraid I guess to show my emotion and so I stuffed it. I started experimenting with alcohol at a young age and I was in a very abusive relationship and I just – it was the feeling of not showing my emotion and when I really had seen the problem and others started seeing a problem is shortly after my daughter passed away and my son. My daughter was diagnosed with cancer on her 7th birthday and 31 days later my infant son of 5 months old passed away. And months after that my daughter passed away, so it was about a 1 year span where both children passed away and it left me in a really, really dark place. I had no – I didn’t want to live, the pain was so bad and I was really depressed and I started drinking because that’s what I knew and if we had problems that’s what we did. I was all around it all the time, we drank. We drank to our problems and so I started drinking and it was every weekend then it was during the week. Then I started experimenting with cocaine and meth and the drinking lasted for a lot longer but the meth and cocaine and that other stuff probably about 2 years. I didn’t even know who I was. I was so lost in that.
How did you find recovery?
It was a time where I had actually broken my knee and I was left in a wheelchair for a full year without having to – (laughs). I had a lot of thinking to do and I ended up going to church and meeting a gal who was just so welcoming and she didn’t judge me and I felt so comfortable with her and she shared that she was a recovering heroin addict and it was like I was just meant to meet her. And just listening to her and knowing that there was a life outside of the life I was living. And I just started to really feel like I could have a different life too. But it had to be my choice and so, all that time sitting there and listening to different podcasts and reading different bible verses and just really doing some work within myself to know that the scary part for me was that I didn’t have a choice in the way that my children were diagnosed with cancer and passed away or my son just passed away suddenly; they were taken from me. And the 2 children that I had remaining, I had a choice whether they were gonna be taken from me by the state because I obviously was in a place not to care for them from my addiction, or I can become clean and get the help that I needed. And so that was a turning point for me that my kids meant a lot to me and I needed to do what I had to do.
Did you think that recovery was possible for you?
No. Honestly, I didn’t and I think that was the fear of all I knew was that – I didn’t – and everybody that I was around. The family – I didn’t see anything else, I didn’t see how it would be possible.
What were some of the inner challenges that you faced?
The biggest challenges for me were, the fear of being alone. I had so many family members that were addicts and alcoholism was huge and I felt like, who would I have left for support, or well that I thought was support ‘cause they weren’t supportive but, the fear of being alone… And a challenge of ‘now what?’ ‘now what’s my purpose?’ ‘now what am I going to do?’. It’s like you’re a whole new person but how do you live when you’re so used to living that way and now you have this new life now that you had to relearn how to live.
What are some of the external challenges you face?
There was a lot of judgement. A lot of people kind of just seeing you for the choices that you made and they didn’t really see you as a person and so that was hard because I think just for so long you always try to appear to be someone that you’re not and so then when you really are who you are, you feel like you want to be accepted and so it’s the fear of that rejection and so I guess just being accepted for who you are, flaws and all, not letting the addiction be your face. That’s not who I am, that’s just something that I struggled with. But you know, just being seen for who I really was.
What brings you happiness?
Watching my children and volunteering. Watching my children because thinking back, that was the one thing I was so afraid of messing up my kids. I didn’t want to ruin their life by… ruining their life by making bad choices in my own life because when I look back on it, growing up as a child, seeing some of the choices that my parents made and what an impact it had on me, was something that I always carried with me and I was so afraid of just messing up my children. On the other hand – on the other side of that, I think that was one thing that I really can look back and say ‘wow, my kids seen me go through the worst and they’ve seen me come out of it’. And for them to see that, I think it’s really helped them to see that no matter what they go through, that they can overcome anything with the help of our God that is always with us. Just to see my daughter graduated last year, high honors. Oh my gosh she is so smart. She’s in college with me; we go to college together and she’s in physics and engineering and my son, he’s just a loving, kind young man and I am just so proud of them. I’m so proud of them for just who they’ve become and I love volunteering. I know how it is being out there in the community where we don’t feel welcomed and we’re judged and so I love to volunteer. I have compassion for others and it brings me so much joy and it’s been healing for my own life to go out and volunteer and serve others.
How do you think your children view you?
My son was kind of younger, he doesn’t know too much but my daughter, she just says that I turned into somebody who cared too much. She’s like maybe it’s a little too much but it’s not a bad thing. Cause I’m so overprotective, is what she says and so, she just says that I’m a caring person, that I just love people and she’s like ‘Mom you’re a little overprotective and you care too much but it’s okay! It’s not a bad thing!’ and so they just have so much good things to say about me and they’re always showing me so much love and I take my kids with me to go volunteer and to go serve. We go down to the Ronald McDonald House as a family and we serve and hang out with the children fighting cancer and they say that I’m a really – they said that I’m the best mom ever (laughs), they just have the best mom ever and they’re just like ‘mom you’re the coolest mom!’ (laughs).
Why did you decide to share your story?
I decided to share my story because I believe that there’s so many like I was myself that was scared of coming out and sharing who we were and I know there’s a lot of stigma and shame and people judge us by our mistake and our choices and I wanted to share my story because I want people to know there’s hope for you. I didn’t think this was possible and I want to share my story because I want to bring others hope that no matter what we go through, that we can change our life. That we have the power to flip the script in our life. Our life does not have to be our addiction and our choices. We have the power to change that and I just want to bring hope to others that no matter what we face in life, that we can change it.
Do you think non-addicts generally understand addicts?
Well I think that they’ve got it all wrong because I feel that you have to be really educated if not be someone who is in recovery or dealing with that issue to really understand and I just think that it’s sad that so many people will assume and fear the addict or the one in recovery, that we are somebody bad or that we have this disease that’s gonna destroy them, because at the end of the day all we need is support and just have some compassion. We are an *?????individual?????* just like the other person. We just have some challenges and we just need some support to get through it rather than judgement. Just show some compassion.
Are you optimistic about the future?
I’ve got so many goals and plans and I just graduated this June with my high school diploma. I was a 7th grade dropout and so being in college after 25 years and I have 1 year to go to graduate with my Human Services degree. I plan to transfer down to Fairhaven eventually on to get my Masters and I want to start my own non-profit organization one day. I really want to be out there helping others that are in the same struggle. I know the support, how much it meant for me and I really want to be able to give that back and, in my community, to help others that are in that same struggle. And so, the sky’s the limit. I have so much to live for.