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Eliminating the Stigma of Addiction

Information for Our Alumnae:

Eliminating the Stigma of Addiction—One Person at a Time

Florence Crowther is a recovering alcoholic. She started drinking in 1967. She quit drinking in 1985. And she has remained sober ever since. But, Florence will tell you, if it wasn’t for an event that could have ended in tragic results, today she might still be drinking, or even worse, be dead.

That event that happened over 22 years ago still stirs up a deeply painful memory. “I had gone to a party with my children (1 and 3) and had a few drinks. Truthfully, it was more than a few. As I was leaving, I knew I had drunk too much. But honestly it never occurred to me that I was too impaired to drive. So, I buckled my children into the car and got behind the wheel. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t remember the drive or how I made it home.”

Florence Crowther“That hit me hard,” says Florence. “I had done the unthinkable. I had endangered the lives of my two beautiful children.”

In that most painful of moments, Florence swore that she would stop drinking. And she did. But the road to recovery was difficult and filled with uncertainty. “I was plagued with depression, confusion, and an incredible amount of guilt.” Not only did she feel as though she had neglected her young family while drinking, but now she felt she was neglecting them when she attended AA meetings. “Early sobriety felt as disruptive as the disease,” says Crowther. After six months of recovery, it was clear she couldn’t do it alone. On the recommendation of her sponsor, Florence Crowther checked herself into Residence XII, a gender-specific treatment center located in Kirkland, Washington, which focuses on women and their families and the unique issues they face with alcohol and chemical dependency.

It was at Residence XII where Florence received the support and information she needed to succeed in her recovery. She learned more about alcoholism and came to understand that it was a disease that affected millions of people of every race, culture, age, education level and economic standing. She learned that alcoholism did not affect people because they were weak, but because they were genetically pre-disposed to it. She learned that while many people were able to drink in moderation while maintaining a normal everyday life, she would never be able to have another drink because of her pre-disposition to addiction and depression.

“That was a critical piece for me,” says Crowther. “I became very clear that the more I drank, the more depressed I got. In the end, that depression could lead to my taking my own life. That really scared me. I could never put my husband and children through that.”

Since leaving the treatment center, Florence Crowther has been very open and public about her recovery and the role Residence XII has played in it. “I never kept it secret,” says Florence. “That’s how I kept myself accountable.” Her openness and desire to help eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and recovery has made her a strong advocate for Residence XII. Serving in various roles and capacities, she has been one of the center’s most passionate Alumnae. Currently, she sits on the Board of Directors.

In gratitude of her ongoing commitment, in Spring 2005 Residence XII’s Board of Directors, led by then-President Carla Wigen, surprised Florence with the creation of the Florence Crowther Scholarship Fund for Women with Children. The fund provides access to treatment to women and their families who might otherwise be unable to afford it.

“I feel such a great sense of gratitude toward Residence XII,” says Crowther who never thought of herself as a role model until the announcement of the scholarship at the center’s “Night of Miracles” auction in Spring 2005. ”Staying involved with them just always seemed a natural extension of that. Until now, I never imagined how far the ripple of my single pebble could actually reach.” For Crowther, the scholarship addresses two important issues facing women with alcohol and chemical dependency. “First, it will help women overcome their own personal and financial fears for seeking treatment.” This is something Crowther can relate to personally. “But also, by bringing awareness to the disease itself, this scholarship will help eliminate the social stigma associated with addiction and recovery.”