Nicole Nelson: The Messenger

Nicole Nelson: The Messenger

This month we talked to our own Nicole Nelson!  She commenced our program last May.  Recently she also was invited to become a member of our Second Mile benevolent group.   Having worked her steps, Nicole has discovered a new freedom and new happiness.  She further knows serenity and has found peace, but it was not always this way for her.  

She was abandoned by her parents as a newborn and grew up with an unshakeable sense of having been thrown away like garbage.  She asked herself the same questions such children normally do: why they didn’t love her, what she did wrong, and what was wrong with her.  Nicole grew up feeling disconnected, and she suffered a deep sense of being empty and alone.  Thus, at the age of only 23, she had already checked all of the boxes one might expect of a child who grows up parentless: living in poverty, with four children out of wedlock, and deep into alcohol and drugs.  

Tragedy begets tragedy.  In an aimless search for the missing piece from her soul, Nicole fell headlong into a very bad crowd.  Tragically, one of her children died when her drug dealer went on a rampage.  He and his crew invaded many houses, including Nicole’s, looking for missing drugs but found nothing.  A struggle with one of her captors ensued while she tried to escape with her children.  In the scuffle her one year-old, Cayden, fell to the floor and suffered fatal injuries.  The police arrived to find Nicole out of her mind with grief, having nearly beaten her assailant to death.

Her surviving children were removed to safe homes by protective services.  “The DFS said that I was an unfit parent, that I would never have my kids again.  I just gave up, thinking there’s no point, and started using.  I fell off on heroin really bad.”  She told us about several hospitalizations too:

They said that I went crazy after what happened with the kids.  I was stuck in torment for an entire year.  I couldn’t hold a job down, function, and was completely overwhelmed with grief.  When I would get clean for a couple of days, it all came back and I would go crazy again.  I didn’t want to feel anything.”

Finally, an old friend told Nicole about CORE.  She came to our Springfield program and, after an initial false start, returned and started working the 12 Steps.  She also began volunteering her time back to the program.  During our interview Nicole expressed her gratitude to CORE for sticking with her and helping save her life:

CORE gave me a home when I didn’t have a home.  They allowed me to work on myself and have mistakes, and they still accepted me.  I’m blessed.  It’s why I give back.  Everybody else gave up on me, but CORE never did.  Even when I messed up the first time they didn’t turn their backs on me.  They continued to help.  They saved my life and showed me the way out.

While working her steps Nicole processed some bitter resentments, against her assailant (who’s serving time in prison), herself, and God.  Two months ago, however, Nicole became ready to publicly show her commitment to God and was baptized!  Her morning routine now includes reading from her Bible and getting on her knees next to her bed to pray.  Likewise, at the end of each day, Nicole gives thanks to God.  “I really don’t ask him for anything,” she said, “like before, I would say please do this, or help me, but now my prayers are ‘thank you.’  I can’t be more grateful for Him showing me life out of the darkness that I was in.

Nicole has also discovered that she can be a powerful witness for God.  The Big Book says that our experience can benefit others “no matter how far down the scale we have fallen.”  She recently realized just that when she gave her testimony at Joplin’s Lafayette House.  Nicole later learned that one of the ladies in attendance had contacted CORE and specifically mentioned her testimony.  “I’ve done something so bad.  I didn’t appreciate how it might help others,” she said.  Energized by the experience, Nicole has committed to helping teach our CSR recovery classes.  She’s nervous but is preparing and feels up to the challenge.  

CORE is very happy and proud for Nicole and her progress with the program.  We wish her the very best in rekindling loving bonds with her children again.  We have every confidence that she will inspire and help clients with their recoveries.  Above all, we look forward to her being with us as long as she can in the future!

What It Means To Be Recovered

What It Means To Be Recovered

When we think of recovery generally, the idea of getting over an illness might come to mind, as may a return to health.  With respect to drugs and alcohol, similar thinking about recovery has prevailed until relatively recent times.  In fact, there is confusion today about what even constitutes recovery.  Some providers unfortunately are redefining recovery to include dependency on narcotic substances, or even planned intervals of intoxication.  The reasons for this unfortunate development are many but, as a result, the sufferer’s prospects for quality of life are inevitably compromised.  Clients and families are left wondering whether they can ever be made whole again, and for good reason.

At CORE we won’t water down recovery.  We advocate the 12 Steps.  Our clients do find recovery, and we expect the same results for everyone who works our program.  We are happy to tell potential clients about the quality of recovery that they can and should expect.

Recovery means nothing less than finding new life apart from drugs and alcohol.  An entire emotional rearrangement happens inside where old ideas, emotions, and attitudes are replaced with a new set of healthy conceptions and motives.  In recovery we become imbued with a profound sense of freedom, hope, and happiness.  We find release from care, boredom, and worry, and begin to live with meaning and purpose.  As the Big Book figuratively puts it, we find “much of heaven” and are propelled into a “fourth dimension of existence.”  The essential condition, of course, is that we work the program.  We must trust God and clean house in our lives.  Although our substance abuse problem is beyond human aid, with God’s help we can and do fix it.  

Once we recover, we also begin moving toward becoming the best version of ourselves.  We find (a) honesty, (b) abstinence, (c) a spiritual life, (d) emotional health, and (e) gratitude.  


Working the 12 Steps demands rigorous honesty.  It extends to every aspect of life, but it begins by getting honest with ourselves.  We may have been rational and well-balanced with respect to other problems, but when it came to drugs and alcohol we were powerless.  Our personal experience amply proved this, certainly to our friends and families, and this admission to ourselves was crucial if we were to live at all.  Moreover, our inability to control our use essentially left our recovery to one alternative, complete abstinence.  


Recovery must include freedom from all drugs and alcohol.  In our illness we pined for these substances like lovesick adolescents.  It was a genuine obsession – we couldn’t imagine life without them.  This obsession is lifted through working the 12 Steps and committing to live a spiritual life.   Once recovered, we can safely go anywhere business calls or to social functions without any temptation to use.  The Big Book variously calls this process of release a “psychic change” or spiritual “awakening” or “experience.”  Regardless of nomenclature, it solves the drink and drug problem.  

Spiritual Life

We also commit to living by spiritual principles because we begin to understand that our problem runs deeper than simply alcohol and drugs.  Our selfishness, manifested in various ways, had defeated us in other aspects of life too.  We had to free ourselves of pride, self-pity, dishonesty, and self-seeking motives if our health was to be restored.  Accordingly, we relied (and continue to rely) upon God to remove from us all things that are objectionable.  We make progress here, not perfection, yet the results are nothing short of miraculous.  The release from our obsession thankfully happens, but obviously not on our own power.  We had a common experience with the original Big Book authors.  We realized “that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”  This is a great mystery of the 12 Step program to outsiders.  To us who are recovered, however, it is a great fact, and nothing less.  

Emotional Health

Living by spiritual principles promotes emotional health.  We invariably find ourselves living in a new and wonderful world.  It may seem incredible that we are able to rise out of such misery and bad repute, but we live happily, respected, and feel useful once more.  More often than not we mend broken or damaged relationships with family, friends and employers.  We return to the stream of life and find productivity again.  We are able to dream of the future with hopes for tomorrow.  Indeed, we feel reborn.


A deep sense of gratitude emerges in our hearts, too.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” takes on genuine meaning.  For us it is a pointed call to carry a message of hope to suffering alcoholics and addicts.  It takes effort, of course, and may mean the loss of many a night’s sleep, or even interference with our personal lives and businesses.  We are happy to do it, knowing that a Good Samaritan once reached out and helped us.  Frequent contact with newcomers and our group also becomes a bright spot in our lives.

In sum, we think the foregoing better outlines recovery, where our attitude and outlook upon life changes, and we live with contentment and purpose apart from alcohol and drugs.  This isn’t an extravagant promise.  We see it every day.  It happens for everyone who works the 12 Steps.