Step five, month five in the path to recovery
Larson: ‘I just got tired of being tired’
Admitting one’s wrongs can be hard no matter what the situation, but in the 12-step journey to recovery, step five forces a person to come face-to-face with their wrongdoings as a result of their addiction.
Sandy Larson, of Cassville, said that accountability keeps her on track even six years after her recovery journey began.
Alcohol can create a strong hold on someone’s life, and because it is a legal substance, it can be even more difficult to realize there is a problem.
Larson said she did not realize she had a problem until she was will into her 30s.
“I was born and raised in Washburn,” she said. “I always drank in high school, but I didn’t see it as a problem — it was just a social thing.”
After two DWIs, time spent in jail and multiple wrecks, Larson began to see the damage she was causing.
“My childhood was great,” she said. “We went camping and fishing a lot, we were happy.
“Looking back, I think there was some alcoholism problems on my mom’s side of the family.”
After high school, Larson saw all of her friends and drinking buddies go off to college, but she stayed back.
“I got married,” she said. “We just drank all the time. He was an alcoholic, too.
“I had my first child in 1984, and I got my first DWI in 2006, I think. On the second DWI, I didn’t even have a license.”
In her 30s, Larson was bouncing from job to job, unable to hold anything down.
“I would call in or be late because I was hungover,” she said. “Then, in my 40s, I began having seizures.”
Larson said one of the side effects of alcoholism is memory loss.
“I don’t remember dates or timelines very well,” she said. “I don’t remember when all the wrecks happened.
“They were bad, but even though they almost kill you, you still have that addiction. I would heal up, then go get a drink.”
Larson believes her first seizure was in 2014.
“I had been to Celebrate Recovery a few times on and off, but I never stayed for long,” she said. “The seizures were alcohol-induced.”
After her first seizure, the doctors told her she was with in hours of starvation.
“I would just drink and forget to eat,” she said. “They put me in a medically-induced coma to nourish me back to health. If I was smart, I would have gone to rehab right out of the hospital.”
The doctor told Larson’s now-fiance if she continued to drink, she would be dead with in a year.
“But, I continued to drink, and I continued to have seizures and blackouts,” she said. “I was living with my daughter for a couple of years, just drinking my money away. I never had money for anything, but I always had money for alcohol.”
Larson’s fiance sobered up, and eventually she got sober too.
“I had at least two bad seizures, but I think I had more when I was blacked out drunk,” she said. “I got a job and started saving money for an apartment.”
One hot summer day, about a year after getting sober, Larson wanted to have a beer.
“Within a week, I was a full-fledged alcoholic again,” she said. “It seems like when you go back it is even worse, faster and harder than the first time. I lost my job and drank for another six months.”
Her fiance stayed sober and decided to stop coming around.
“Finally, I just got tired of being tired,” she said. “I was going nowhere and everyone was mad at me.”
On Aug. 8, 2015, Larson went to the Joplin Ozark Center: New Directions.
“That is my sobriety date,” she said. “I was in detox for more than five days because my blood pressure was so high. I stayed for 17 days total. I had to beg them to keep me that long, because I knew if I left earlier I would drink.”
Mark Barton picked up Larson after her 17 days in a church van.
“The first time I went to Celebrate Recovery was in 2012, and Mark always told me he wished I would come back,” she said. “On the way home from treatment, we talked about me running the women’s home in Cassville.”
Larson started going to Celebrate Recovery regularly after that and moved into the women’s home in November 2015.
“I thought the women’s home would be overwhelming,” Larson said. “But, it got me living in a sober, clean and Christian environment.”
It was also a great opportunity for Larson to help other girls in a similar situation.
“I knew that I was not going to do recovery without God,” she said. “When you don’t have anybody, he is always there. I can’t count the number of times I asked God, ‘Please help me.’”
Step five is admitting to God, yourself and another human being the exact nature of your wrongs.
“James 5:16,” Larson said. “Confess our sins and pray so that we may be healed. I felt a relief — to me it was a serenity and a peace.”
For maybe the first time, Larson felt a calmness in life.
“I know God is there with me,” she said. “My life was beginning to make sense again. I hadn’t had a driver’s license for 12 years, and I got it again in November 2016. That was a big day for me. I feel just like a kid getting it for the first time.”
Then, she got herself a car, for the first time all by herself.
“I got a job, and I have been there for six years,” Larson said. “I have met so many great people. It is important to have people around you for accountability.”
Even though Larson has been sober for almost six years, she has seen her children struggle with addictions as well.
“I truly believe that addiction can be hereditary,” she said. “Thinking back to problems on my mom’s side of the family, and then watching myself go through what I did, only to see my children struggle, too, I think people need to better realize those connections to keep them and their children safe.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are many things that can contribute to an increased risk of alcoholism — genetics is one of them.
Another is drinking at an early age. In fact, according to a study, those who drink before age 15 are five times more likely to have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This risk is higher in females than in males, according to that 2019 study.
Mental health conditions and a history of trauma also increase the risk of AUD.
But, genetics and a family history of alcohol problems have been proven to increase one’s risk of AUD. Heritability accounts for a 60 percent risk of AUD, with the risk being influence on an combination of genes and environment.
“I would suggest that people find a church family, or come to Celebrate Recovery,” Larson said. “No one judges and we welcome you with open arms. Celebrate Recovery can help point you in the right direction through either open meetings or small group.”
Larson said she and her fiance have a happy life now.
“We have our own home, we have jobs and we have a little dog,” she said. “Life is good. On Aug. 8, 2021, I will celebrate six years sober.”
Through step five, Larson found the peace in talking to someone.
“Sometimes it helps,” she said. “Seek out someone who is sober.”
This article is part of a monthly, 12-part series giving an inside look into the testimonies and lives of a dozen individuals who have met their recovery goal. Each month will focus on the corresponding step in the 12-step process, as well as its biblical comparison.
While the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, it also deals with the pandemic of addiction. For a time, due to social restrictions, Celebrate Recovery and other meetings were postponed. Those in recovery understand the struggle when they are unable to reach out for help.
With these testimonies, they aim to reach those who need help, but are unable to get it. They want to reach people in their communities and offer them a hand, a resource and a safe space.
In 2019, there were 304 felony and misdemeanor drug-related charges in Cassville, and as of the first week of December, there were 293 for 2020.
Places people can turn to include:
• Celebrate Recovery Cassville — Tuesdays at the First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center in the loft. Meal is served at 5:45 p.m. and large group is at 6:30 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mark Barton at 417-766-5449.
• Celebrate Recovery Seligman — Wednesdays at Mozark Fellowship in Seligman. Meal is served at 6 p.m. and large group is at 7 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mike Avers at 417-342-8659.
• Celebrate Recovery Monett — Thursdays at New Site Baptist Church in Monett. Large group goes from 6-7:30 p.m. Child care provided birth to fifth grade, and The Landing group is available for youth grades 6-12. Meals to go at the end of every evening. People may contact 417-235-6135 for more information.
In addition, the local Clark Center office number is 417-476-1000. The 24-hour Crisis Line is 1-800-801-4405, and the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
Those involved with this 12-month, 12-step series hope to reach as many people as possible in their communities.