I just wanted to take a moment to express my extreme gratitude for Caron. My life was forever changed upon entering treatment for alcohol and drug addiction in December of 2006. I recently celebrated 6 years of being clean and sober, one day at a time. The tools that were given to me at the beginning of my recovery were fundamental in creating a strong foundation for my sobriety.
In September of last year, I entered the Breakthrough program. I heard so many wonderful stories from people who had attended this “miracle” program, including my own mother, and I felt compelled to dig a little deeper into my own recovery. I have to say that Breakthrough was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received! I learned so much about myself and found so many blind spots that were hindering me from enjoying my life to the fullest.
I was nervous the day that I checked into Breakthrough. I remember sitting there with a group of strangers and, being my normal self, trying to break the ice with random conversation. Later I realized this was a quality I learned early on for my own comfort and protection. I always felt that I had to be right in the middle of things for my own safety and comfortability. Little did I know that these people would be some of my greatest teachers.
My group became my family, and some of the people in my group took on the role of those who had affected me most in my life. It almost seemed like Caron had really dug deep into all of our backgrounds to perfectly match us. As fate would have it, the universe has a really great sense of humor. We all played a role in each other’s experience. We practiced experiential therapy, group activity that involves action such as art, music, psychodrama (i.e. role play), emotional expression and guided meditation, which was new to me. I can’t put into words how intense the process was.
I have always been a peace seeker and I would get so close to finding my own peace, but I had built these fortresses around me that were holding me back. I built these walls throughout my life, and there were a lot of them. They came in the form of shame, people’s opinions of me, people calling me a disgraced Miss USA, others’ shameless behavior, abuse, my family, my addiction. They were loud and constantly in the back of my mind. I was put on a pedestal throughout most of my life and always had to be a certain way for the people I was involved with; my parents, my bosses, the pageant community. I never really had the opportunity to just be Tara.
I took on a lot of pressure from other people for their own comfortability. I had to change my speech patterns for Miss USA. My pageant instructors always wanted me to look the part of a pageant princess. My family wanted me to hold it together through times of tragedy. I have always been a little unique and different. I like crazy hair and tattoos. I have my own edgy style. I can be very sensitive, but I always had to play roles for which I wasn’t fully equipped. I always felt like I was failing someone. It was so much pressure! I saw all of these things clearly through my experiential therapy. I never had the opportunity to be myself, so no wonder I felt lost.
Two of the hardest tasks I have found in my own recovery are learning to have compassion for myself as a human being and forgiving myself for some of the choices I made in my journey. Thanks to Breakthrough I have learned to appreciate all of my life lessons! My life has been calculated so beautifully and I can now see things through a different lens.
I have been diligent in keeping sobriety my number one priority and have continued to uncover and discover things about myself that need attention and nurturing. I hit a little bit of a lull in the past couple years of my sobriety and, for the life of me, I couldn’t seem to figure out what it was that was preventing me from seeing the peace for which I had been searching. Breakthrough opened my eyes to the patterns I developed at my early stages in life. Although they were brilliant ways to protect me from harm, they were so brilliant that they had built shields which prevented me from seeing all of the good around me.
I made peace with my past and grew to appreciate not only my path in life, but also the path of others. If I could leave you with a gem of information from this post, it would be that we are all born with inherent worth and value. We are perfectly imperfect! Breakthrough taught me this and I will remember it forever!
Since leaving Breakthrough, I have noticed a lot of change in myself. I am quick to draw boundaries, which was so hard for me to do before. When I am having a bad day or sitting in a feeling, I won’t act like everything is okay. I always felt like I had to be happy on the outside to make other people happy. Feelings are a part of life and they’re all beautiful in their own way. It is okay to have a down day now and then. These days bring about growth. I am now more comfortable in my skin. I am now more selective about the people I bring into my life. I am not people pleasing. I am putting myself first. I have a new freedom and appreciation for myself as a woman. I’m a better listener. My relationships have more substance. I’m chasing my dreams with less fear. As Pink suggests in my personal anthem, I am “changing the voices inside of my head and making them more like me instead.”
I highly recommend Breakthrough for anyone feeling stuck in life, or for anyone needing a freshen up course in their sobriety. The staff is amazing and you’ll find a family you never thought existed. I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m doing it with a “Breakthrough” mentality.
Thanks again to the Caron Treatment Center and to the staff at Breakthrough! Once again, you have forever changed my life.
Tara Conner is a Public Advocacy Consultant for Caron Treatment Centers and the former Miss USA 2006. To find out more about Breakthrough at Caron, visit www.breakthroughatcaron.org.