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How the 12-Step Program and Therapy Helped Me Deal With Addiction, Depression & ADHD

“I met my future husband when I was 26 but I never felt truly connected to him. I felt just as invisible to him as I did to everyone else. When we decided we wanted to have children, by some miracle, I was able to abstain from drinking just before and during my pregnancy. I coped by being very controlling, a shopaholic, and a workaholic. The twins were born when I was 31 and postpartum depression led me back to the only solution I thought I had: drinking”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi! My name is Mary Addison Yates and I like to be addressed by my first and middle name, MaryAddison. I’m a South Carolina native and have lived there most of my life, with the exception of three years in TN from the ages of 13-16.

I’m the second to oldest of five siblings, soon-to-be ex-wife, and co-parent with the father of our amazing 11-year-old boy/girl twins. I was a dental assistant for 20 years until 2020 when I had the courage to discover my passion and became an ICF certified life coach.

I’m extremely passionate about sharing my experience, strength, and hope to help people feel connected, seen, and heard. It is my belief that each and every human that is brought into existence is beautifully and uniquely created on purpose, for a purpose. Our life is evidence of our inherent worthiness; we do NOT have to earn it.

Feeling happy ebbs and flows for me depending on my inner state of being, outer circumstances, and attitude, but I can always find something to be grateful for. I feel the happiest when I have taken care of myself first, am fully present in the moment, and am focused on serving others.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I believe my struggles are a conglomeration of my DNA, my life experiences, how they affect me, and whether I have the awareness to address them. My greatest challenge was not knowing I was worthy of love due to experiencing emotional neglect as a child.

I experienced anxiety, panic attacks, and addiction for 16 years. I experience chronic musculoskeletal pain due to scoliosis, mood swings, brain fog, and fatigue due to perimenopause, poor working memory, time blindness, inattention, and hyperfocus due to ADHD. I am currently experiencing a cycle of depression due to having a major depressive disorder.

My earliest memory is of me desperately seeking evidence that my existence mattered. I felt unseen and unheard; invisible. The emotional pain was so intense I found a way to store all my feelings in my gut and disassociate from my body.

I had a constant stream of thoughts running through my mind. I used people-pleasing and strove for an undefined version of perfectionism in an attempt to feel useful and worthy of love.

I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation around age 14, started taking anti-depressants, and began therapy. I was also introduced to drugs and alcohol around that time, and it was a way to quiet the constant noise in my head.

At some point I crossed an invisible line that took me from recreational use to not having a choice whether I was going to drink and do drugs, it was only a matter of when I would again; no matter how many times I swore to myself that I was going to stop.

When I was younger, I worked extremely hard in school to make good grades but it was extremely challenging for me. Either I was undiagnosed with ADHD or I was unaware of it. Either way, I didn’t think I was as smart as everyone else because schoolwork seemed so much more difficult for me.

As I got older, I thought I was lazy, unmotivated, and irresponsible. I would start many projects but had a hard time finishing them. Trying to manage a job, household, and motherhood seemed so overwhelming and I judged myself extremely harshly. 

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I was so used to people-pleasing and masking my pain, that most people didn’t seem to notice that I was extremely depressed. Eventually, I barely went around people who cared about me.

In my darkest moments, I wanted my life to end. I was drinking so heavily on a daily basis, I would black out (be awake and functioning but have no memory of what I did) and behave in demoralizing and dangerous ways.

When I would wake up and learn about what I had done the night before from someone else, I was so ashamed of myself. I hated who I had become, it was a vicious cycle and a living hell.

Yet, somehow I was able to become a dental assistant when I was 20 years old. I could only keep a job for 1-3 years before I let my anger and resentment slip out and get fired for being disrespectful to my bosses.

I was a really hard worker and could hide my feelings for a while so I was always able to get a new job. I wasn’t able to recognize that I needed help because I didn’t see myself as the stereotypical addict begging for money, living in an abandoned house or under a bridge somewhere.

I met my future husband when I was 26 but I never felt truly connected to him. I felt just as invisible to him as I did to everyone else. When we decided we wanted to have children, by some miracle, I was able to abstain from drinking just before and during my pregnancy.

I coped by being very controlling, a shopaholic, and a workaholic. The twins were born when I was 31 and postpartum depression led me back to the only solution I thought I had: drinking. 

👉 Share your story: Help thousands of people around the world by sharing your own story. We would love to publish your interview and have a positive impact on the world together. Learn more here.

Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

The moment I recognized that I’d rather be drinking than taking care of my babies was simultaneously the most horrifying and most wonderful moment of my life.

It was at that point that I was given the gift of desperation, to do something different. I met with my therapist and she recommended that I attend a 12-step recovery meeting.

I was terrified but I was determined to figure out how to overcome my pain and addiction. For 32 years I felt lost and broken. Twelve-step recovery was the beginning of a life I never even dreamed could be possible.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

After I was aware that I had a problem, that I needed help, and became willing to seek it. Being a part of a 12-step program gave me a group of people who could relate to my experiences and feelings. It gave me hope and showed me that it was possible to get better.

Having a mentor help me through the process of the 12 steps taught me how to become aware of my thoughts and actions, to understand what I could and couldn’t control, how to be responsible and accountable, and how to connect with and rely on a Higher Power- who loves me unconditionally.

Treating my disease of addiction is something I focus on, daily. It has been one of the key elements that have allowed me to practice acceptance and experience moments of happiness and joy every single day.

Understanding how ADHD affects the way my brain works has been a huge part of learning to love and accept myself. I now understand that ADHD is a superpower that I can work with vs. trying to do things in a neurotypical way and feeling like a failure.

One of the things I learned was that I am not necessarily motivated by what is important, I’m motivated by what is either urgent or interesting to me. I can use this information to ensure I have a specific deadline to complete a task and/or gamify anything that’s boring or mundane to me.

For example, grocery shopping is a monotonous task that I would avoid, but I can gamify it by setting a time limit for how long it can take for me to get everything I need and check out.

Before I go, I can write the list in order of the way the store is laid out and when I’m there I get to find the quickest ways around other people to try and beat the time I set for myself.

I continue seeing a therapist to help me process past events and emotions. Currently, I am seeing a therapist that uses a technique that allows me to express and process my emotions.

I have also learned to use EFT Tapping (emotional freedom technique), a mind-body therapy that involves tapping key acupressure points on the hands, face, and body with your fingertips while focusing on uncomfortable feelings or concerns, and using positive affirmations to neutralize those feelings.

It’s critical to utilize my psychiatrist to manage my medication for depression. It’s been my experience that depression is a process of gradual decline and oftentimes it is hard to notice until I’ve gotten to the point of hopelessness.

I just recently recognized that I was suffering from depression again. Having someone who knows my history and is able to ask the right questions to assess my levels of depression is vital for me.

To support my physical body, I see an integrative medical practitioner to help monitor and treat any nutritional and hormonal abnormalities. I also see a chiropractor and massage therapist on a regular basis to manage my chronic pain.

I also have daily self-care practices that ensure I make time to nurture my mind, body, and spirit. Sleep, hydration, movement, Epsom salt baths, meditation, mindfulness, time in nature, feeling my feelings, giving myself compassion, reaching out to others, and making time for creativity are some ways I increase my ability to experience happiness.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I am an open book. I truly believe my darkest experiences as well as my moments of joy and happiness are equally important and necessary to experience life fully in its entirety.

If I can help one person feel that their experience is relatable and recognize that they are not alone, and that there’s hope that they, too can experience happiness, I will feel fulfilled. We all want to feel like we matter, want to be seen, heard, and in connection with our humanity.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Find something to be grateful for. One of the most powerful tools I have is gratitude. I am NOT advocating for you to ignore your struggles or to try to be positive all the time, this can be very damaging. Instead, I like to acknowledge, validate and express my feelings to myself and then I search for something to be grateful for.

When I first started my gratitude practice, I would write down three things I was grateful for each day. It wasn’t easy, but before long the list would fill my entire page and now it’s almost automatic. I can honestly say that even through challenging times, I am extremely grateful that I now understand I am worthy of love, and have the ability to advocate for my well-being.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • The book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie was an incredibly eye-opening and useful resource that helped me understand what codependency was, losing oneself in the name of helping another, understanding that I am powerless to change anyone but myself and that caring for myself is where healing begins.
  • The book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown revolutionized my understanding of worthiness. It was the catalyst that began my journey to practice courage, compassion, and connection with others. It is a book I will read over and over again because I always learn something new depending on how I’ve processed the concepts since the last time I read it. 
  • The podcast ADHD for Smart Ass Women with Tracy Otsuka is the number one tool I recommend to women who have been diagnosed with ADHD and women that I suspect have ADHD but are undiagnosed or unaware. It is the most empowering show I have found that focuses on the strengths of ADHD and shares other women’s relatable experiences. It helped me understand the signs and symptoms that women with ADHD experience and I stopped shaming myself for the brain I was gifted with!
  • The app Insight Timer is my go-to app for thousands of guided meditations, sound healing music, courses, and more. The free version is packed with value. You can search by any topic and filter by rating score or length of time. I especially love it for my afternoon naps!

Where can we go to learn more about you?

Learn about my coaching practice, speaking events, podcast interviews, and more on my website.

Find my story in the Amazon best-selling book Magnetic Abundance: Stories of those who have tuned to their heart’s mission.

Feel free to reach out via email, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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