For the month of August 2021, Fellowship RCO would like to recognize Cynthia Rodriguez

I have been free from the grips of alcohol since October 10, 2018. At one point in my life, I only drank alcohol on special occasions. I didn’t even like the taste of alcohol.

I grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park area, a drug and gang ridden neighborhood. I’m the oldest of 3 and only my mother was present growing up. 

When I was 15, even though the girls in the neighborhood had warned me, I had sex for the first time with what I thought to be the hottest guy in town. My relationship with God began to deteriorate after this, because I started to feel shame and guilt. I wanted to pretend God didn’t see me. So, I stopped talking to God. Soon after, I got pregnant, and made the incredibly hard decision not to keep the baby. My shame and guilt were suffocating me, and I started to ignore God completely. I got pregnant again and had my first of 2 daughters at the age of 18 with that same guy and we got married. My husband’s promiscuity led me to become a divorced young mother who was struggling financially. I was determined to give her 2 young daughters the best life possible. I graduated from college, got my real estate license, even opened my own restaurant by the age of 27.I started dating another guy from my old neighborhood, and I didn’t know it at the time, but he was the head of a large drug organization. He told me he loved me and wanted to leave the business and start a new life with me in Miami. My daughters and I moved to Miami, and he bought a supermarket with a cafeteria, and I opened the restaurant. Before I knew it, he was back in the game, and it caught up with us several years later. He was arrested, and I was indicted, facing 7 – 14 years in a federal prison. During the 3 years that I waited to get convicted, I began another relationship – but this time with a woman. I had a lot of things going on; a pending case, I worried about what would happen to my daughters, I was also running and hiding out from death threats due to the nature of the drug case, and I had entered yet another different kind of lifestyle. By the age of 30, the stresses of adult life, motherhood and the consequences of poor decisions started to weigh on me. I started to notice how alcohol helped me feel…relief, uninhibited and I could temporarily forget my problems. I began to say “yes” more often to a drink. I started making it a point to reward myself with drinks on the weekends. Alcohol made me feel so good. Little did I know my disease was just lurking. I started blacking out and fighting with my girlfriend. I didn’t know blackouts were a serious sign of a problem. I started praying to God again for the first time in a long time, and he spared me from that prison sentence. I did, time served, 1 year of house arrest and I got 2 ½ years of probation, but I forgot about God again. My 2 ½ years of probation turned into 5 years because I couldn’t stop drinking or using drugs. I kept risking being sent to prison, and my relationship became very violent. After 10 years my girlfriend and I broke up, and my struggles with alcohol and drugs grew as I found myself moving on to my next relationship with a much younger guy that lasted a couple of years.

By the time I met the man I would fall in love with; I felt like I was a strong independent woman who was financially stable with grown children who lived on their own and he was really digging the woman that I was. He did not do drugs therefore I stopped, but I couldn’t stop drinking. I didn’t really see it as a full-blown problem because I was still having fun and enjoying my life and relationship. My boyfriend bartended during the evenings, and I would go out and treat myself to dinner and some drinks. It soon became just drinks and then bar hoping, and sometimes this led to some promiscuousness.  

My family and friends started to complain about my behavior while I was drinking, and I started to get black-outs and couldn’t remember the night before. As the years past, my life spiraled out of control. I lost my job; I lost my relationships with my daughters and family members. My hands trembled so bad I couldn’t fill out a job application, and I was in and out of hospital emergency rooms. I got into a lot of trouble and gained 2 felony records. My family suffered so much as they watched on, because I was in denial of how sick I was. I became very lonely and depressed. I became very ill, physically, mentally and spiritually. But I could not stop drinking. All I could do was think about was how I would get my next drink. I had become a prisoner to alcohol. One day, my boyfriend walked in my apartment and found a naked man in my bed. He broke up with me and stopped paying my rent. I got evicted and ended up living in my car. I was so broken, lonely, lost, afraid, sick and helpless. I couldn’t even think about how to get myself out of my situation. In the month of May 2017, I became homeless. I could not mentally help myself. It’s like my brain had lost all rationale and I only lived to survive. The physical pain I felt without alcohol crippled me. I lived only to do what I could to get alcohol in my body. I felt like I was dying, and I didn’t want to die. I wanted my family back.

My family found me very ill and put me in a hospital and drug rehab. I was so desperate for help; I was willing to do anything. I surrendered and became willing to change my life. I found a sober living home and a job. I started a 12-step program. I was doing well and started counting sober days as little steps towards my happiness. Until one day, I picked up a drink. That one incident triggered my disease back into motion. I started to obsess and crave alcohol again. A year went by as I struggled to stay sober. I got kicked out of my sober living home and lost my job. I was homeless, again. I was so scared and ashamed that I had let this happen. Immediately, I checked into a hospital and started looking for help. I wanted to get locked away somewhere, away from alcohol so I could search deep inside my soul and find what was making me relapse. I knew that if I went back into the streets, I would not make it back alive. Unfortunately, it was time to leave the hospital and I still didn’t have a residential rehab to go to. There were no beds available. I had to wait for availability, but I had no home to go to. That is when I was referred to the Fellowship Recovery Community Organization. At that time, Fellowship had a location called the Respite. Respite saved my life. They allowed me to stay there and provided me with meals and a clean, safe shelter free of drugs and alcohol, as I waited for a 90-day facility to continue my treatment. When I finished treatment, I immediately reached out to Fellowship again. I needed a safe place to live while I looked for a job and began to rebuild my life as part of my recovery from alcohol. They provided me with a place to live in their women’s recovery housing. I welcomed all the rules they had to keep me safe and help build a strong foundation in my recovery.

I thrived in this safe structured environment. I was serious about getting my life back. I missed my daughters badly and I wanted them to be proud of their mother. I did everything Fellowship asked of me. I got a job, I got a sponsor, I went to meetings, I journaled, I did service work, I keep my side of the street clean! 

I did my best to work a 12-step program. I practiced on changing my old behaviors. After about a year and a half of continued sobriety, it was time to leave my safe haven at Fellowship and face my fears. I moved out on my own and started taking care of my responsibilities as a sober member of society. I was doing great at my job. I got my family back, the great boyfriend that never gave up on me and awesome new friends.

I started to grow in my faith. I knew that God had done for me, what I could not do for myself. All I had to do was surrender, become willing and take action. I continued to work on my 12-step program and my relationship with God. I started to sponsor other girls trying to recover. I started to wake up and go to bed with gratitude. I would wake up and tell myself I was going to be happy, on purpose! No longer was I a victim or a person living in shame. I wanted to be responsible for everything I put out into the world. I gained a heightened awareness of my actions. Now, I know that God never left myside…I pushed him away. I know that I am worthy no matter what I’ve done in my life and no matter what anybody else thinks of me. I am valuable and loved, and that is the most important thing! I am an alcoholic and I can never drink again, and I am okay with that. I know what alcohol will do to me. I also know that I am living the best days ever, sober. I have fun and I don’t need alcohol. I wake up with gratitude every day and I am happy on purpose! I know that one day at a time is all I must do, and that God has gotten me this far, and will carry me through! I don’t look at the things wrong in my life. I look at the things that are right and I apply pressure to get through the pain and uncertainty that creeps up on me sometimes. I keep telling myself…this too shall pass, and it does.

I am not a victim, and I am responsible for my actions. I try hard to remember not to blame others for how I feel or my situation. I try hard to practice the principles of this program to the best of my ability because I see the progress and I’m excited about continuing to grow spiritually. I am more responsible now for what I put out into the world. My daughters admire me, and my granddaughters call me and want to spend time with me.

During the start of the Covid pandemic, I was blessed to be able to work from home. During that time, of lock down…I was able to focus more on myself. I had been wanting to start my own business. My daughters were very supportive and would offer encouraging words and ideas. In March 2021, I ran with one of those ideas. With full support from my family, I educated myself while at home, opened my own business working from home, quit my job and was able to replace my income all within a couple of months. I now live with my supportive boyfriend of 10 years and have been able to travel with my laptop by my side. 

I just visited my daughter and granddaughters in Georgia for a week or so and was able to participate in throwing a surprise birthday party for my mother’s 70th birthday in Chicago. Matter of fact, I’m still hanging out with her as I write this, since I can work from my laptop.

Freedom is the ability to act, think and speak without restraint. Sobriety has given me the freedom to change and grow into my full potential. I’m free to love myself and others. If there are 3 things, I can leave you with after reading my a little story is: 

  1. With God all things are possible…so never give up!
  2. We do recover and a 12-step program is continuing to save my life from the disease of Alcoholism.
  3. Being responsible for what you put into this world and be of service to others is changing our world for the better.

I am eternally grateful for all the hands, both near and far that helped me get the care I needed to regain my life.

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