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Using Life Experiences to be a Guiding Hand for Others

News | Oct 19, 2020 | Back to List

By Susan Lyons, VWW Regional Re-Entry Support Specialist

I spent my eighteenth birthday in the penthouse suite of a five-star hotel in Denver, Colorado, eating lobster tails and drinking Cristal champagne. I was on top of the world! Excited to be starting my freshman year in college – as far away from family life in New Jersey as I could possibly get. My head was full of BIG dreams of changing the world! I was going to become a lobbyist; my voice would be heard!

Fast forward twenty-five years – I am face down on a cold, hard cement jail cell floor. Shaking, shivering, convulsing and suffering in the midst of full fledge delirium tremors from alcohol withdrawal. What happened to the girl who was going to change the world? It appeared that the world had changed ME (and sadly, not for the better).

When I was first introduced to alcohol, I felt as though I had found a magic potion that allowed me to enjoy the beauty of the world around me while simultaneously blocking the view of the cesspool that resided within me. I spent thirty years as an active alcoholic, creating tornadoes of destruction wherever I went. I wrecked cars, homes, lives and relationships, all with reckless abandon.

My life came to a screeching halt December 25, 2007, when I placed the most difficult, incredibly painful, heartbreaking call of my life. A collect call from the “hole” in Windsor County Correctional Facility to my sweet, innocent little boys at home. They were home patiently awaiting Santa’s arrival and I was locked up yet again. This time it was on Christmas and it was the end of the line for me.

That Christmas I spent in jail was the bottom I needed to hit to come to the realization that I needed to do something to change my life.

Up until then I had no idea that my drinking was hurting anyone. I couldn’t fathom bringing any more pain into my children’s lives. Unfortunately for me, I had to lose my job, my home, my partner, my truck, my cat and custody of my children before I was desperate enough to act.

I was all alone in the world and contemplated suicide on a daily basis. I had no coping skills to rely on. Drinking and drugging were the only two things I knew. I was lost, alone and desperate. My self -esteem meter read zero. My self-worth was nonexistent.

I found AA and threw myself into the program whole-heartedly. As the months ticked by, my life started to improve. I was seeing my boys on a regular basis and I had amazing people in my life who cared about me even when I didn’t care about myself.

Susan Lyons and her two sons

Little by little my life slowly started to improve. I gradually regained custody of my boys and struggled to raise them as a single mother. I went back to school and earned a degree in Human Services along with a certification as a drug and alcohol counselor. I managed to turn my life completely around! I took all of my life experiences and used them to carve out a bright future for myself.

Today, I am a woman in recovery. I have regained all that I had lost and so much more. Things that I never would believe were possible are coming true. I have gained the respect of my children, my peers, my community and most importantly my self-respect. I am a woman of dignity and honor. I realize my self-worth today and I have regained my voice.

My passion today is to help other women who may have become lost in their addiction. I strive to be the life raft that others can cling to when they find themselves drowning in a sea of self-deprecation. It is my desire to give back what was so freely given to me; the gifts of hope and faith.

Working at Vermont Works for Women provides me the opportunity to shed some light into the darkest of lives. I can use my experience with the judicial system to help navigate women though the appropriate channels and assist them as they negotiate the necessary steps to take to regain their freedom! My experience has taught me to be compassionate with others who are less fortunate and to never look down on someone who is at their lowest. I can become the guiding hand to those women who have lost their way and lead them on their journey to become the incredible, extraordinary, wonderful women they were intended to be. I am woman hear me ROAR!!!


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Meg Smith says:

Thank you for sharing your story, Susan. There is nothing more powerful than hearing how one person can overcome the odds and find themselves again. Exposing your vulnerability strengthens all of us. More power to you and thank you!

Martha TORMEY says:

congratulations, Susan. I work at the Chittenden Clinic, and reading this was a wonderful 'break' in my day. So glad you lived. So glad your sons get to have you in their life (great picture). Thank you for your work, your struggle, and your decision to share this life with us.