Toni’s Story


Toni P.
Sobriety Date:  September 9, 2016

    My name is Toni and I’m a sober alcoholic. I was born on the west side of Cleveland to a middle-class, hard-working family. My dad was an alcoholic and from an early age I learned about living in fear and making myself small and quiet. I also have some forms of abuse in my story. Those things didn’t make me an alcoholic, but they did give me very unhealthy coping skills. Today, I am not a victim…as Katie Patton says, “victims don’t stay sober”. She’s right about that and it took me three times going through Jean Marie House to learn that.

    I went to Cleveland Public Schools until 8th grade when busing started. At that time, I went to a very strict Christian school. I went from being an A/B student to being a D/F student with daily detentions. When I turned 16, I got my first job at Deaconess Hospital. I worked with a lot of kids my age, but these kids were different from the kids at school. They were cool and funny and everything I wanted to be. I started drinking and smoking within a few months…it was 1981 and things weren’t as regulated as they are now. I met a man; he was 24 and I was 16 and my drinking and drug use progressed. We were together for 8 years, sadly he died in 2005 from cirrhosis. I really preferred the drugs over the alcohol because my dad was an alcoholic and I promised myself I would never be that way.

    I graduated high school and began a Medical Assistant program and while doing my internship I realized it wasn’t for me. Luckily, the pharmacy at Deaconess was hiring and I got hired as a technician. I loved my job, but I quickly started self-medicating. I recently remembered as a child, my doctor prescribed Hycodan for my bronchitis and when I got it as an adult and took the Hycodan, I remember feeling completely different. I remember feeling like I could do anything and getting so much energy from it. Long story short, I worked in many pharmacies from ‘85-’99. I recently had all my felonies expunged. That’s one of MANY blessings that has come from doing the next right thing and remembering my early days at Jean Marie House.

By 1999 I had been introduced to AA via the court system. I found every way possible to drop clean.

    In 1990 I met a man I would be married to for 24 years and the father of my only baby. My beautiful baby girl, but as much as I loved her…which was more than anything in the entire world…no human power can get me clean. If you were to ask my daughter about her childhood, she would say it was great, but I know I could’ve done so much better. By 1999 I had been introduced to AA via the court system. I found every way possible to drop clean. I’m going to fast forward to 2010, my daughter graduated from Padua and started CSU, where she lived on campus.  Suddenly, my reason for getting up and functioning was gone, my marriage was quickly deteriorating and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t put 3 weeks of clean time together. In 2012 I went to Jean Marie House for the 1st and 2nd time, I’m a champ at sitting halfway, but as soon as I get my phone and car, all bets are off, and I’m using by the second week.

    After many trips to psych wards, Laurelwood and a trip to Metro on life support for 2 weeks from a fentanyl overdose, I showed up at Jean Marie House completely broken, hopeless and full of fear. I breathed a sigh of relief as my mom kicked me out of her car and said “tuck and roll kid, I’m done with you” I remember feeling instant relief when I saw the long hallway, like the hugest burden had been magically lifted off my shoulders. I don’t know why it worked this time and not before. All I know is that I was tired of being sick and tired and treating my family like crap. I believe that my countless relapses gave me a better sense of empathy for the work I do today. I went transitional and got a job at Panera M-F 5a-2p. I hated it, but I went every day, and I was never late…it is also the only job that I didn’t get fired from or led out in handcuffs. They even gave me a going away party!! In April of 2017, I was able to host a bridal shower for my beautiful daughter. In June of 2017, I went to her wedding with my first sponsor as my plus one. I had God signs all around me that day, starting with a double rainbow at 7am in the backyard at Jean Marie House. Jean Marie House is famous for rainbows LOL!   I had an amazing time with no thought of drinking or using. Thank you, Jean Marie House.

I lived at Jean Marie House for 19 months and I needed every second of it.

    I lived at Jean Marie House for 19 months and I needed every second of it. I still do the Sunday 7pm in house for the ladies at Jean Marie House, it’s a huge part of my recovery and it’s such a privilege to meet the ladies and see their growth and milestones. I’ve been doing peer-support work since 2019, in 6 short years my life is better than anything I ever dreamed possible. I became a grandma in June of this year and that sweet, beautiful baby boy will never see his Grammy under the influence of any mind-altering substance. I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunities given to me by simply staying clean and sober and everything that was taught to me at Jean Marie House. If an older lady like myself can do this, trust me, you can do this…stay until the miracle happens, I promise you it gets easier.

    Thank you, Katie Patton, for 3rd chances and asking me to share my story. I will never be able to repay the gift I’ve been given, but I will continue to listen and do!!

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