Still In The Making

Raven was surrounded by the reality of substance use for her entire life. She was aware of the effects this disease could have on the individual and relationships, and believed she was immune to the effects of it. However, this did not fully protect her from exposure to substance use. It was after her first drink that she could not stop thinking about the next opportunity for relief.

Struggling with mental health and other difficulties while in high school, Raven quickly found outlets for numbing the continuous discontentment of life. She reflects on this time saying, “I had some void in me I was trying to fill by controlling the external world.” This was revealed through her struggle with an eating disorder and later her exposure to a variety of substances, all in an attempt to find wholeness. These difficult events in high school acted as a catalyst to her struggle with substances and led her down a path of continued coping and running. Despite being caught many times in high school, Raven was not able to be honest with herself or others about the severity of her struggle. When she moved to college, she adopted the identity as “party girl”, however nothing seemed to fully resolve the pain she was feeling and began dealing with depression and anxiety. The prescriptions did not solve these issues and contributed to the growing addiction, which reached a climax after Raven graduated and found herself living with her parents. Recognizing the need for help, Raven tried to quit on her own and reflects on this season saying, “I was in a constant state of crisis because at this point I had tried to stop and couldn’t.”

Raven Johnson

Through a series of accumulating events, Raven found herself at a rock bottom when she and a friend made a suicide pact. This led to an intense bend of using which reached a life-threatening state and concluded when Raven called the paramedics. The following day she admitted herself into treatment. Expecting the focus to be mental health, Raven assumed that once she was done she would be able to control her drinking. This assumption quickly dissipated as Raven learned that she was an alcoholic and everything she has walked
through was connected. She also found freedom in the realization that her struggle with substance use was a disease rather than a moral failing and her ability to stop was not dependent on her ability. It was through recovery that she worked the 12-steps and found holistic healing from years of substance use. However, it was after almost a year of sobriety that Raven stopped working the steps. The delusion crossed her mind, “If I have enough time away from it, I can control my drinking.” This lie led to a weeklong relapse. “It was like I picked up right where I was before I went to treatment the first time. Nothing had changed.” It was after this week, Raven found herself in treatment once more, this time with a new determination to find recovery. Within two months she had working the 12-steps and started sponsoring other women. “It was different this time… I was so mad for so long that I had almost a year of sobriety when I relapsed…but now I realize that it was not about me. I help women all the time that are going through the same struggle. All the bad things I did to myself or that happened to me, none of it has anything to do with me really, it has to do with using it for other people.”

Raven later says,”I try not to focus on the time I have sober, but the one thing time does give you is experiences and the ability to overcome difficulties as well as experience good things.” Raven’s story is still in the making and always will be as she continues to grow and learn and use her experiences for the benefit of others.  The redemption found through her pain is what has made Raven strong and has equipped her with the ability to love and counsel other women who are fighting this disease today. Raven found healing, not only from the eternal issue of substance use, but also from the trauma she was seeking to numb for so long. Raven now works as the Project Director for APC. She is a valuable member of the team as she manages and organizes prevention projects and strives to prevent substance abuse and relapse in the community of Birmingham.


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