When you meet Carole S. today, she is beautifully coiffed, made-up and stylishly dressed. She is articulate and warm and tells you how wonderful her life is. She relates that she has led a full life, but you would never suspect how full it has been. As a child she had been abused and molested by family members, regularly cut herself, run away from school and had her first child at sixteen; she abused alcohol and drugs for many years, lived on skid row, attempted suicide more than once, was married and divorced several times, and had been in and out of mental hospitals.
In 1976 Carole was in Harbor General Hospital’s psychiatric ward. In the past, mental hospitals had always been a safe place for her, a place where she could be medicated, drink and escape (in the early 1970s doctors rarely considered alcohol an issue). For the first time, a nurse suggested that alcoholism was her core problem and recommended AA. Members from local AA groups had just begun visiting hospitals, talking with patients about alcoholism. Carole remembers two who came to the hospital. One, Mary Jane, was a counselor from House of Hope. Listening to them, Carole began to realize that she had no other solution, that only God could help her. Concurrently, Carole read an article that appeared in The Daily Breeze which discussed alcoholism and treatment centers, and specifically mentioned House of Hope. This opened the door for Mary Jane to bring her here.
Carole especially remembers the love and comfort she received during the 1½ years she stayed at the House. The director told her she was broken, but that she would be safe here. At that time the program was small but robust, with only eight residents. They went to AA meetings and volunteered at HOH’s local thrift shop. That Christmas Carole was able see her kids who had been taken away from her. She was cautioned it would take a long time to recover after 20 years of drugging and drinking, but she stuck with the program and got well.
On her own again, Carole finished high school and took on different jobs, but she always stayed close to AA. She became director of a sober-living house, continued to be active in the program and married a fellow alcoholic. When she and her new husband later moved to Arizona, they started an AA club there, and then another one in Iowa when they moved again. Over the years she has sponsored many women.
Carole’s 40-plus years of sobriety have not always been easy. Family relationships have often been rocky. Her daughter died of cirrhosis, and in 2012 her husband died. Early in her sobriety, doctors discovered Carole had a brain tumor. A woman had once urged her “just not to drink today,” which Carole says has been a 24-hour song, a song she still sings despite more recent recurrences of the tumor.
Last June Carole moved back to San Pedro to be close to HOH because, as she says, “This is where my sobriety began, and this is where I can pass on the gifts I first received.” You can see her at local AA meetings. Look for this proud grandmother of seven (and a great-grandmother too!) who is grateful that none of these children have ever seen her drunk.