By Jordyn Grzelewski
Kim Scotchie’s journey began while she was laying on a dirty bathroom floor – drunk, high on cocaine, her limbs jerking uncontrollably, surrounded by used feminine products and condoms.
Mustering the strength to pull herself up to the bar’s bathroom sink, she prayed for the first time in years.
Seated in a church pew in the fading afternoon light recently, Scotchie began to cry softly as she recalled that night.
“The cry went out, something like, ‘Dear God, if you’re up there and you’re real and you hear me and you help me get well, I promise you: One day at a time, all the days that you grant me, for the rest of my life, I promise I will do my best to love and help your children in 12-step recovery.’
“And that’s the way it’s been for the last 26 years,” she said.
Her path – from the sexual and emotional abuse she says she endured as a child to when she started drinking at age 10 to the life in recovery she lives today – will be chronicled in the “The Journey Home,” a stage performance that interweaves the real-life stories of three recovering addicts with the broader topic of today’s addiction epidemic.
The show will take place Sept. 12 and 26 at the Southwoods Executive Center in Boardman.
“If you would have asked me 26 years ago if I would have the life that I have today, I would have said, ‘Things like this don’t happen for people like me,’” Scotchie said.
Markus Douglas, director and producer of the show, wants people to know that it does.
‘TRUE RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE’
The message that Douglas wants to convey to audiences who see “The Journey Home” is that a life of recovery is possible to achieve, and beautiful to experience.
“The name of this play just came out of that, looking at the journey that everyone has made. It’s what I call ‘home,’ because it’s not what you had before – it’s better than what you had before,” he said.
“What each of us experienced is walking out of a nightmare. ... When you walk out of this nightmare and you can truly see the light ... It’s a different life. It’s a different home. It’s something you never, ever experienced before.”
Douglas, a social worker in the drug and alcohol field at a Veterans Affairs hospital and Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic in Youngstown, has been in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse for 22 years.
“What was wrong with my life was that I didn’t fit in anywhere. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, and I was really pushed away from a whole lot of people,” he said.
“I started drinking at age 13, and I found that people who drink and do drugs, they accept you. It gave me a place,” he said, seated in the church chapel surrounded by people who today seem to bring him that sense of belonging.
One person Douglas counts as a friend is Virja Tisdale, a cast member in the play.
When it’s her turn to share, she recounts her life of drug and alcohol abuse matter-of-factly, and with a healthy dose of humor.
“I love beer to this day; I just have an allergic reaction to it – I break out in handcuffs,” she joked.
Out of everyone in the cast, her substance issues started at the earliest age.
“I had a taste for alcohol ever since I was 3 years old,” she said.
Tisdale spent 40 years living that life, she says; she drank, smoked crack, lived on the streets and did things to get her next high that today seem to make her cringe. A stint in jail was the wake-up call she needed.
“I asked God to take the taste away from me, and by the grace of God he took the taste away from me, and I have seven years clean in December,” she said.
David Ross, who will replace Scotchie in the cast in the Sept. 12 show, also spent 40-plus years abusing drugs and alcohol. At age 58, he considers himself the “baby” of the group – next month will mark two years of sobriety for him.
“The scary part about my story, the way I look at it, is the way addiction happens to families – you can be in some of the best families, and that drug addiction can fall into the same pattern and it can be real ugly,” he said.
Ross grew up in a loving, Christian family. His battle began when, as a kid, he experimented with alcohol he found in the house. By the time he was a teenager, he had added harder substances to the mix.
“I experienced alcohol; I experienced marijuana; I experienced crack cocaine; I experienced shooting powder cocaine, and it came down to the ultimate decision and the choice that I made – the present drug, heroin,” he said.
“The heroin was what grabbed me. It was the heroin that took me to the highest point.”
It’s difficult for him to discuss those years, the darkness of which is still fresh in his mind. He’d rather focus on today.
“No, I did not want to get clean. And I really didn’t. But, what I experienced was much greater, and that feeling was freedom,” he said.
“I just saw a great-nephew a couple of days ago, just running around, joyous, just so happy. He wasn’t worried about anything, and that was a beautiful feeling,” he said. “And I’m experiencing that now,” he said, explaining he no longer has to get up in the morning and immediately focus on getting high.
“When I wake up at five o’clock or six o’clock in the morning now, it’s to read a spiritual book and to thank the good Lord for another day,” Ross said.
That sense of joy is palpable with cast member David Schezzini; it radiates from him, even as he talks about his darkest days.
“I lost everything,” he said. “Everything was just taken away, and I was battling with God to take my life, because I wanted to die. I actually wanted to die. And I was taking more and more drugs. I’d wake up the next morning, more angry, until one night I said, ‘God, I don’t want to die.’ So I checked into a rehab.”
Today, he has 16 years of unbroken sobriety.
“The person sitting here is not the person 16 years ago. ... I got more back – not material things, but I got more back than I could ever imagine. More happiness. I found out who Dave was,” he said.
It hasn’t been easy for any of them, Douglas and the cast agree, but they want people to know that a life in recovery is possible.
After 25 years in recovery, Scotchie says, she had built up the strength – which she attributes to help from others and “faith in something out there greater than yourself” – to endure the most difficult episode in a life that’s contained more than a fair share of tragedy. Her husband, Robert, committed suicide last year.
“He was the love of my life. And without all my friends and the people who love me so much, I would never have gotten through that, without 12-step recovery. They keep me strong, and that’s why I have to keep coming back,” she said, breaking into tears.
“He was my love story, but these guys are part of my love story, too,” she said. “No matter what life hits you in the face with, you don’t lay down and take it. You just keep moving.”