Leanne is the first of many woman to participate in our project. Let's give her some love, support and encouragement for this courageous and insightful display of honesty about her path of addiction that has led to an awakened recovery.
Leanne we are very proud of you for how far you have come in your life and in your recovery. It was a pleasure meeting you and two of your children. All of you have a very noticeable, very warm and loving energy. Your humble and spiritual approach is making the light of change oh so bright. Never stop embracing your recovery. You are an inspiration for all of us.
Q: Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
A. My name is Leanne Smith. I am a 36 year old mother of 4. I was born and raised in Plymouth Ma. I moved to Pottsville 11 years ago. I grew up in a broken home and both my parents abused drugs and over used alcohol. I rarely felt loved and accepted by my family. Mostly, I felt like an obligation. There was a lot of yelling and physical fighting that went on between my parents. I don't think i was ever really shown what love looks and feels like. Consequently, I had a lot of trouble choosing a decent partner for myself. I got pregnant at 16 and had my first child at 17. Her father never had much to do with her at all. I had another daughter by 19 but her dad and I did not work out either. I moved to Pottsville the summer I turned 25 and a year later, met and eventually married. We have a 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son. The real trouble began when he and i played with fire...heroin. The more he used, the more scared i became and tried to make him stop. I failed at every attempt. Eventually, i used in hopes that it would stop the lies, make him closer to me again. What happened was worse; it covered up my feelings. It made me stop caring that what we were doing was wrong. I was hooked. We are currently separated and have been since I got clean.
Q: What was your drug of choice?
A. I've tried it all but those bath salts. I never had an issue putting anything down...until I used heroin. It was all the love and acceptance, the warmth and release I'd ever dreamed.
Q: What is your sobriety date?
A. My sobriety date: July 9th, 2013. The first day of my new life!
Q: Looking back, was there a turning point during your active addiction?
A. Yes, when it didn't matter anymore that what I fought so long to stop my husband from doing was now what I was doing to myself. I had gone from snorting to the needle. I sold my wedding rings, my professional camera, and several electronic devices. I could not afford diapers for our son or oil to have hot water. I barely had food. My children were hungry and dirty but I was high.
Q: What is a slogan that best expresses your current pint of view in recovery?
A. I heard this quote in rehab...Conewago Pottsville. "Through desperation, HOPE is born." In those last days of my run, I was desperate. I craved change. I'd have done anything to break free of the life I was living. I hated the way I felt when I looked into the eyes of all my kids. Though my addiction was a secret I kept from anyone but those I used with, I knew my older ones could tell something was dreadfully wrong. It was that sheer desperation that brought me to my knees and helped me surrender. Those word will always mean so very much to me.
Q: What are some daily practices and key aspects in your life that assist you in your recovery?
A. Meetings and service really helped me through the first year and a half of recovery. I learned so much... about myself, coping skills, perspectives. I changed old routines. Got a new phone and new friends. I took up meditation this past winter and do it daily. It helps keep me centered and living in today.
Q: As a person in recovery, do you have any advice you could offer to someone looking to get clean?
A. The best advise I have for anyone looking to get help is to speak up. Talk about what's going on, just open your mouth and say "help me". Never let fear stop you. Fear is the absence of faith. Have faith that if you do the right things, the right things will happen for you. I know it can be scary to step out of your comfort zone but that's exactly what ya gotta do to break the chains. Do something different.
Q: Addiction is affecting hundreds in Schuylkill County and abroad. It's very saddening. Any advice to people trying to help their loved ones to seek help?
A. Advise for loved ones would be boundaries. Set boundaries and keep them firm. I damn near killed myself trying to save my husband from himself and it never worked. He wasn't ready for the help. You can be compassionate and still have those boundaries to protect yourself and stop from enabling. Also, educate yourself on addiction. The more you know what you're dealing with, the better prepared you can be. Lastly, find others in the same position you are in. Having support from others goes a long way in coping with the pain you are going through.
Q: Why are projects like "The Skook Recovers" important in this day and age?
A. These projects are so very vital in today's society because education and awareness are key in fighting this epidemic. With these projects, we can dissolve the stigma of addiction and bring more compassion and understanding to the forefront. This will, in turn, make more addicts feel comfortable with stepping up and asking for the help they need. The result...lives saved.
Q: Could you tell us about the good things that your new life in recovery has brought to you and/or improved, including what you are grateful for?
A: Since finding the light recovery has brought me, I have finally secured a decent home for my family. Funny how grateful I find myself for having hot water these days! I have had steady employment. My older girls are seeing major changes in my attitude toward life and i can be a better mommy to my younger kiddos. I've found my self worth. I've found that I can love myself now. I learned the importance of not keeping secrets. I'm grateful for all the love and support I receive from the healthy people I surround myself with today. I was present for my oldest daughters high school graduation, my youngest daughters first day of kindergarten. I am grateful for each day I wake up...because tomorrow is never promised.
Q: Anything else you would like to add, or people you would like to thank?
A:Thank you all for taking the time to read my story. And thank you to Travis for allowing me to share. A big thanks to my kids who's love and support means the world to me and to Sherry Heller, Ana Flores, the staff at Conewago Pottsville...you all never judged, lifted me up and loved me till I could love myself and then some!
A moment of silence for a few dear friends I've lost to addiction.. .rest peacefully my friends. I will live clean in your memory.