By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
When Tosha H. first arrived at Liberty Place Recovery Center for Women in 2008, she thought it was a cult.
“They all held hands and prayed,” she said.
Now, the 34-year-old recovered addict pays it forward by being an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor to nine other women going through the program. She has been sober since 2008, but has no problem with referring to herself as an alcoholic.
“It’s a constant reminder to me of where I could go back to,” she said.
The attractive, radiant brunette now is a full-time student at Eastern Kentucky University, but her first experience with college life was not so promising.
“I went to college in 1997 and drinking was a big, open thing,” she said. “It was all bars downtown. Around 1998, I got a job at the Manhattan Club as a stripper. I tried Extacy (MDMA). I got in a horrible car wreck Christmas Eve of 1998, and that’s when the pain pills started. But, the longer I worked in the (stripping) industry, the more drugs I tried. I worked in it for seven years.”
Upon entering Liberty Place Recovery Center, Tosha was facing jail time. She failed two drug tests while out on probation.
“It was Oxycontin, Lortabs and Valiums,” she said. “I did various drugs. That’s just what they caught me with.”
At the age of 30, Tosha faced up to 20 years in prison for possession of cocaine, trafficking in a controlled substance, having a concealed deadly weapon and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Aside from being in legal trouble, her body was giving her troubling signs.
“I could throw down a pitcher of beer with no problem,” she said. “I bought a 24-pack of beer the night before I went to jail and after two beers, I could barely stand up. I knew that something was wrong, but I just thought that I couldn’t handle my alcohol anymore. But, when I came here (to Liberty Place Recovery Center) I learned that it was signs of liver damage.”
After coming to Liberty Place Recovery Center and getting in the SOS (Safe off the Streets) program, her feeling that it was a cult began to diminish.
“You start getting comfortable in there,” she said. “I started hearing stories from women from other (recovery) facilities who were serving as mentors, and I wanted so bad what they had. I thought that if they can do it, I can do it. I learned to have faith in myself and trust myself and that’s one thing that I never did. I’m very self-critical. A lot of us women are and we have this empty spot.”
Going through the 12 steps of recovery was scary for her at first.
“You have to keep it simple and you have to trust in God,” she said. “Some of the hardest steps for me was making amends with the people I had wronged. I had to lay all my dirty laundry out. That was the scariest part for me but it was refreshing when it was done.”
Eventually, Liberty Place Recovery Center began to feel like home.
“When I go into (AA) meetings, that’s my family,” she said.
Because of her success in recovery, Tosha now is much more involved in her children’s lives, regaining custody of her 11-year-old son and seeing her daughter on a regular basis. Her divorce was finalized in 2011.
“I hadn’t seen my daughter for seven years,” she said.
Tosha is studying psychology at EKU for a variety of reasons, one being to help change the misconceptions mainstream society has about addicts.
“They don’t believe that addiction is a disease,” she said. “They think you can stop at any given moment. My dad said it was just a phase. A 16-year phase? I’m like, ‘Daddy, it’s not just a phase.’”
Her advice to those who may find themselves tangled in addiction is to know “they’re not alone,” she said. “I thought I was alone, and I didn’t think anybody understood me. There’s people out there who are just like them who understand what they’re going through and can help them through anything.”
Ronica Shannon can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6608.