From the Podcast: Kim Jorgensen-Richard – Intergenerational Trauma in an Alcoholic Home
Kim Jorgensen-Richard is a lifelong resident of Southeastern Massachusetts. She is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and a woman in recovery from trauma and addiction. She first began her recovery journey in 1987 at a detox facility in Fall River, Massachusetts. In the 10 years that followed, she began her career in the field of addiction treatment, started a family and continued to stay on her path of recovery.
Eventually, Kim became distracted by her good fortune and decided to celebrate with a drink. This was the beginning of a three-year relapse. Fortunately, she never stopped seeking treatment and eventually began to find traction on her road back to recovery. She does not apologize for her relapse but acknowledges it as one of the most powerful life lessons that she has ever experienced. If you want to hear Kim’s story in its entirety click here.
Kim grew up in Fairhaven, Massachusetts with six siblings. Kim’s mother was a self-admitted alcoholic, and her grandmother was an alcoholic with undiagnosed mental health issues. She recalls her grandmother cheering as violence ensued in the house, “there would be fist fights in the middle of the living room between my mother and half-brother.” The one thing that brought joy into her home growing up was music. Kim felt her family was always bonded by music, “despite everything, we really all had a love of music, so when music was around, it seemed like there was peace and joy even in the house.”
At one and a half years old, Kim was diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy. She spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital in Boston and remembers doing a lot of physical therapy and exercises. Despite having no mental capacity issues, people treated her differently because of her condition. “In the 70s if you had something that may be considered a handicap or something you are automatically put in special needs classes even though nothing was wrong with my mental capacity,” explains Kim.
Kim and her younger sister were sexually abused by a relative at the ages of 6 and 4, “that was extremely traumatic for us, and very frightening at the time.” Kim was older and she recalls resisting and questioning the abuse, but her abuser would tell her that her sister was doing it and would pressure her to allow it. “The acts were getting more daring and more aggressive,” Kim describes. After being sexually abused for three years, Kim stood up to her abuser, “I said if you don’t get off of me, I’m going to tell, and I was never touched again.” Kim’s sister was still in danger and she felt an overwhelming responsibility to protect her, “there was always a lot of terror in protecting her.”
When Kim found alcohol as a pre-teen, she found peace, “alcohol was terrific, the magic elixir really,” she describes. When she was 12 years old, she got drunk at a wedding and felt incredible. “I had three 7 and 7s and I felt like a princess, I felt very beautiful and graceful, and that is what I’d been looking for,” she remembers. The drinking continued and quickly progressed into heavy drinking on the weekends. Kim was in junior high school, getting bullied and found a group of friends who did drugs and drank alcohol. “They were like my family and they protected me from being bullied; we hung together on the weekends.” At this point, even though Kim’s mother had a few years of sobriety under her belt, “she never really recognized the problem until I was in my 20s.”
When Kim was 17, she entered into a relationship with a 21 year old man. She adored him, and she adored that he could buy her booze even more. He became her first love and played an instrumental part in her graduating from high school. “He would withhold love if I didn’t show up for class, he got me to stop using hallucinogens during school, and cut down on smoking weed.”
As Kim began to drink more, they broke up and that devastated her. Eventually though, they got back together, and Kim became pregnant. When she was 19 years old and five months pregnant, she went into labor, was rushed to the hospital and four hours later gave birth. Her daughter, Bethany, weighed just over one pound, and was not going to survive. Kim was devastated, but when she held her baby, she “was so messed up that [she] couldn’t even conjure up any kind of feeling.”
At 20, Kim moved into a sober house, where she felt accepted. She describes her feeling that being sober and accepted, “did everything that booze did for me right in the beginning.” She had a blast and learned how to live without a drink. Five years later she got married to her college sweetheart, “he was the total opposite of that first boyfriend, he had a stable family, they were so generous and normal,” Kim describes. They met, fell in love, built a beautiful home, it was magical. Unfortunately, this fairy tale did not have the perfect ending, “I became complacent, and I stopped going to meetings,” says Kim.
Kim’s husband was also in Alcoholics Anonymous and he too stopped going to meetings, “so you had two untreated alcoholics looking for things outside themselves to make them feel good.” Kim and her husband had a daughter, and when her daughter was six months old and Kim was 10 years sober, she decided to take a Percocet and drink before heading to a concert. “Fear was no longer there; excitement took its place,” explains Kim. She was now 30 years old and wanted to make up for lost time, “everything I couldn’t do, I was going to put on my alcoholic bucket list and get it done,” she says.
This turned into three years of drinking. Her husband would stay home and drink, and Kim would head out to the bar and stay long after closing hours seeking out whatever else she could. “Getting home at 2 AM was a good night, and it took me three days to recover,” says Kim.
Kim eventually entered a detox facility for 21 days, where she realized how much power alcohol had over her. “The progression of my disease demanded that I be really aggressive when it came to my recovery program this time around, and so that’s what I did.”
Kim just celebrated 20 years of sobriety. Today, Kim has a job in the recovery field, she attends meetings, and talks to her sponsor regularly. “I try to maintain my spiritual fitness by practicing those 12 steps to the best of my ability.” Kim has developed coping skills and worked through her trauma in therapy. She has a trusted support group and is now in active long-term recovery.
Quotes edited for clarity.