signs of hope: the bumpy road of sobriety

during this season of easter, i am going to share a few of my friends stories of hope in the midst of the real life. these might not seem too exciting to the un-trained eye, because they aren’t stories of complete and total 100% rock solid true blue victory over the darkness and struggle. i personally don’t believe that’s what healing looks like.  what these stories are, though, are signs of hope that Jesus is alive and well, working in wild and unexpected ways. and that any sliver of hope is worth celebrating, especially in this harsh, broken, and beautiful world. i hope you find a little for you through reading them, too.

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one of the greatest gifts i get to participate in refuge life together is being with friends who are battling an addiction of some shape or form.  i believe we are all addicted.  yeah, even though i haven’t had a drink in 16 years, i am addicted to work and codependency in all kinds of wacky ways and continue to work toward greater healing on a daily basis.  at the same time, some addictions are more life-destroying than others, and i can’t tell you what a joy it is to celebrate at our weekly gatherings our friend’s sobriety from chemical addiction.  seeing the journey up-close-and-personal is so beautiful, and a constant reminder of the 1st beatitude (which folds directly into the 1st of the 12 steps)–blessed are those who are realize their need for God.

so here’s a little sign of hope for you this week. meet my brave friend janice* (like the out of the darkness and view from the margins series, all names have been changed because the world wide web is weird and i want everyone to speak freely.  you first met her in God’s ghetto).  she has almost 5 years sobriety from a 30-year cocaine addiction; we have been friends through relapses and starts and stops, and the one thing i am more clear of then ever–the journey toward sobriety is a bumpy road that a lot more to do with change than just stopping using.  it’s about healing, letting love in, finding voice and strength, and learning to live in pain and freedom instead of run away from life.


  • you now have over 4 1/2 years of of sobriety from cocaine addiction. congratulations, i am so proud of you! this is no small thing and definitely not for the faint-hearted. how did you get there? what has the last 4 1/2 years been like for you?

I got sober thru a 12 step program and a group of friends I call the God-Squad. The first 2 years I had to concentrate 100% of my energy on my recovery.  It was like a full-time job. It was the most painful, nail-biting and yet exciting time in my life. After 2 years I quit going to meetings regularly, and even though I have stayed sober and am part of The Refuge, my sobriety has been in a sleep mode.  I am clean but not moving forward, sometimes even backwards.



  • what were some of the things you cried out to God during this season?

I cried for God to take the cravings away, I cried to him for the loss of friends that I had to give up.  I cried for God to just take me home so I don’t have to face another day–sometimes I still do.



  • recently, the pull toward using again became a little stronger when you hooked up with some old friends to catch up on old times. what happened?

I met 2 high school friends I haven’t seen in 25-30 years.  One of them was someone I sold drugs with for many years.  I really wanted to catch up on old times, but I knew it was a big risk, too.  He suggested we take a ride and get high just like the old days. Thankfully, the other friend said he hasn’t touched drugs in years and things didn’t go that direction.  The part that scared me was that I sat there and said nothing.  I didn’t tell them I quit almost 5 years ago. It was like I had no voice.


  • when you walked away from that moment with your sobriety intact, how did you feel?

I felt very lucky , thankful and somewhat sad.  I admit, I miss those days sometimes.   Even though I now have quality people in my life, I miss the quantity, the constant action that comes with drinking and drugging through life together.  But I’m glad I am still clean after that close call.


  • can you help people understand what the day-to-day battle looks like?

I have a lot of down-time due to being on disability.  I have severe arthritis, a leaky heart valve and asthma. If I don’t make good plans with people or the weather is bad or I’m in too much physical pain, I sometimes go for days without any human contact, and that is when the loneliness sets in. The old days start to look inviting. Some days I’m pacing back and forth in my apartment because the pull is so strong. Some nights I have cocaine dreams that are so real that I wake up with the taste of coke in my mouth.  The pull is always there.


  • part of keeping your sobriety is helping others keep theirs.  you are beginning a 12 step group at the refuge to provide a safe place for people across addictions to find on-going support and hope.  how is being a catalyst for this group helping you?

It helps me get out of myself and my sh*t.  I never understood how helping others would help my recovery, but I have seen healing for me many times while helping others. It’s a win-win situation. I still don’t understand it but I know it works. And I know right now in this stuck part of my recovery, I need to start taking it more seriously again.  I want to be able to be in the kinds of moments I was with my friends and use my voice instead of stay silent.


  • on days where the battle gets extra hard, what brings you hope?

I find hope in people who love me for me. I find hope going to the movies, lunch or coffee with people who care. A hug, phone call or even a simple (i love you ) text shows me glimpses of hope.  Without people, I wouldn’t have hope.


  • what do people who aren’t addicted need to keep in mind about friends who are?

Once you are an addict you will always be a addict. We need support no matter  if we have 1 day sober or 4 years.  We are 1 drink, 1 high away from our addiction. Keep checking in just to see where they are at.  And never, ever, give up on them.

  • what does hope look like for you right now? what’s surprising you about it?

Hope is a scary thing for me. Hope seems like I’m setting myself up for a letdown, but I’m trying to let more of it in.  For me, sometimes hope is making it through this day and not thinking about the next one.  And to somehow help someone else in their sobriety, too.  That gives me hope and makes me excited about my recovery, too.  I am hoping to find that voice and someday be able to totally close the door to my old ways


* * * * *

thank you, janice, for this sign of hope–that against all odds it’s possible to be clean despite a gripping addiction.  your story reminds me that the journey toward healing & sobriety is made one day at a time.  and that one of the things that seems to give us the most hope sometimes is being part of others healing, too.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • hey janice, u keep hanging it there girl. i’m proud of the work that you have done and the progress you have made in the five, or so, years that i have known you. so glad that you are part of my life. love you sweetie!!!! viva las vegas!!!

  • Please pass along thanks to Janice for sharing her hope. A few days ago, I just heard exactly the same thing from a friend of mine in my community downtown: “Battling addiction is like a full-time job, a minute-by-minute affair.”

    I love the idea of sharing signs of hope. That’s what we’ve been focusing on at my church on the margins since Easter. On Easter morning we looked at the story of the women at the tomb, and their witness to Christ’s resurrection (even though no one believed them at first). We reflected that we’re far more eager to share stories of pain than stories of life in our congregation, so we need to be on the lookout for LIFE and witness to it, like these women did. We’re even keeping journals until Pentecost, to write down the signs of life we witness.

    I’ll have to write this down… 🙂

  • Thanks, Kathy and Janice for reminding me how important ongoing supportive contact is. It’s easy to forget that the struggle continues, even as change is occurring.

  • Thanks for sharing Your life, Janice!!! You have an amazing gift of recovery to pass on to others.

    The Church needs you. We have had too much’magical thinking’ that freedom from addiction is instant if we are Christ followers. Your voice is an important one to help provide hope and guidance to others. I am inspired to hear that you are busting out of isolation to pass it on.

    God’s best to you, and to you, too, Kathy. Love how you intro your Refuge family to the rest of us!!!!

  • Janice, your story feels my heart with a courage to face my days with grace and hope. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  • Janice,
    I am really so very proud of you. It is sooooooooooooooo not easy what you have been doing, and even on your darkest of days, you have way more courage than you realize. July 17th is just around the corner, and your abulity to hang in there is NO.SMALL.VICTORY.

    You are thought of and loved every day. Every day. I tell you often how your example has made a difference in so many lives, and I am so honored to be a part of yours.

    Love you.

  • this post screams – honesty – maybe this is where healing begins? – by being honest with ourselves.

    He is indeed a healer our Father.

  • thanks everyone for your thoughts & love.

    – i’m so glad we’re all on this wacky journey together

    annie – yeah, we have cool friends, don’t we?

    beth – thanks so much for sharing what you are doing this easter. how fun. yes, sometimes we have to strain to see these signs of hope, signs of life, but we must. otherwise, we’ll perish.

    al – thanks for reading and for your encouraging words.

    pam – you’re the best, and i so agree, we need to keep telling these stories to remind each other we’re not alone, and magical thinking just won’t cut it. the power of healing community, Jesus-in-the-flesh-through-each-other, over the long, long haul, will. love you!

    amos – thanks for the link & the inspiration.

    michelle – me, too. i love your words: “janice’s story fills my heart with a courage to face my days with grace and hope….” so good.

    stacy – so glad you’re in this beautiful mess with us. you ooze hope.

    mark – i do think that’s where healing begins. honesty. raw scary honesty before God, ourselves, others. thanks for being part of the carnival, mark. i am thankful for your voice and heart.

  • Janice,
    You are my heroine. I get great hope from your honesty and courage. Thank you for being my friend and for being there for me when I am down. Love you always, Dawn

  • Janice- rock on!!!! You speak so powerfully by simply sharing with honesty and openness about your life. It is easy i think for all of us to get caught in *magical thinking* as one person said, and think turning to Jesus suddenly causes a *lived happily ever after* reality to occur and it simply ain’t so!! I am with you on being afraid to hope for fear the rug will be pulled from under me. I hope your leading a support/recovery group will supply you with more of what you need to keep on.

    Kathy- thanks for sharing the beautiful souls in your life with us and letting their lights shine!!! You encourage us all to step out and risk in good ways!!!


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