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Locals Share the Road to Recovery

The faces of addiction may inspire you.

(page 3 of 3)

Healing Cup of Coffee
Along with the fancy lattes and frothy frappuccinos, Cowboy Coffee in Bellevue offers a big dose of community and caring. Owner Gary Orr runs the coffee shop while his wife Shannon runs her successful beauty salon, Shannon’s Hair Care, right next door.

“Six years ago I was living in my truck with my dog and my motorcycle. We were split up,” says Gary Orr. After ‘hitting bottom,’ the couple went through a recovery program and began attending 12-step meetings.

Now the Orrs spend their lives helping others. “What works is when you start thinking of others first and doing things in the community. When you’re doing drugs and alcohol, you don’t care about anything. It’s about you.” Helping others helps them stay sober.

Now Gary goes into jails to share his story of addiction and recovery. “They come out of their cells, and I get locked up with them in the drunk tank.” Gary leads meetings where he shares his experience, strength, and hope. “We tell them what’s going on in our lives and how they can get assistance when they get out of here.”

“It was miserable,” remembers Shannon, “but today I have things beyond my wildest dreams. I have a business. I have a home. I have a stable marriage. I have everything I dreamed about when I was a girl.” Laughing with Gary, Shannon adds, “You’re a country-Western song played backwards—you get your dog back, you get your truck back, you get your life back.”

Breathing to recovery
March 9, 1980. That was the day that Victoria Roper became sick and tired of being sick and tired. Four years later, she won Best Teacher of the Year in Idaho.
Roper had been using drugs and alcohol for years—ever since she attended Harvard University during the 1960s when drugs were in vogue. She got married in a blackout and couldn’t remember her wedding. But one day she attended a special ed class where the professor described an experiment in which rats learned to press a lever to stop an electric shock.

Later, when the shock was changed to hit them when they pressed the lever, the rats still habitually continued to press it, even to the point of death. Roper sat in the classroom after everyone left and cried. Alcohol was her lever, she thought. “My lever is killing me. I asked myself what’s the difference between those mice and people in recovery. We have language. We can support each other in a fellowship. We have these steps to work and we rely on some kind of higher power which is left up to the individual to define.”

She reached out to a group recovery program that she calls my “god with skin on.”

Now Roper teaches yoga which she finds a great adjunct to recovery.
“The breathing helps to cope with stress. There are breathing techniques that are energizing and some that are calming, so we can do a lot of mood altering with our breath. It’s really wonderful how much we can surrender if we just take a nice deep breath in, hold it and then exhale it all out—it’s the letting go of the things we can’t control and relaxing into the present. Yoga’s a lot about being in the present,” an important element of alcohol recovery.

The yoga poses and meditation give a sense of balance and discipline. “People are constantly surprised at how good those simple things make them feel.”
Roper talks about the inner holes that we all have (perhaps due to something missing in childhood) that create a craving to fill them with something, anything, whether food, drugs, alcohol, work or whatever. Instead of trying to fill them, Roper suggests “connecting through that vulnerability” to heal, which group recovery programs also encourage. “We connect through our holes.”

Now Roper is making the ultimate connection. She’s getting married again, but this time it will be a real wedding with flower girls and all the trimmings. This time, she says smiling, “I’ll be totally present.”

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