By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Some journeys take you further from where you come from, but closer to where you belong.” ― Ron Franscell,
The Sourtoe Cocktail Club: The Yukon Odyssey of a Father and Son in Search of a Mummified Human Toe and Everything Else
Why Did I Write Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate?
Throughout my life, I’ve crossed paths with people just like myself, who ask the same question I did – “What if”?
Sometimes that question was merely a reflection; other times, I wondered what my life could be like if I gave up drugs and alcohol. Then there were the times that I regretted a choice I’d made and felt guilty.
How many times have you asked yourself that same question?
If you’re wondering about giving up drugs and alcohol, I hope Finding North will encourage you to do so.
What If Our Lives Are Different?
Are our external lives similar? Perhaps not, but when it comes to the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of addicts, I’m sure that you’ll relate, and that is the purpose of this book. To help you see that you can recover, too.
I wrote this book to show how different and yet, distinctly typical an addict’s path is. We’re all unique, but the same; individuals, but a group. And in choosing recovery over addiction, takes guidance, support, and help from others.
We All Have Support When We’re Doing the Right Things
So let me thank those who helped me on the journey and were instrumental in creating Finding North.
First, I am grateful to my daughters, Dannella and Andrea, and my sister, Dianne. They showed me forgiveness and allowed me back into their lives. I feel much gratitude to my parents, Mary and Walter Davis for understanding Gray Hawk’s vision when I was uncertain and not giving up on me even when they couldn’t support my decisions.
My grandchildren, Bailey, Parker, Emma, and JB because they allow me to be a child with them. Never having seen their mothers or Nana use, they represent the promise of breaking the addiction cycle.
My Mentor and First Sponsor
Gray Hawk was a 74-year old Native American with 34 years in recovery when I met him. He knew I was the woman to open the house of healing for other women when I had no idea who I was.
The Women of North House
The women who came to North House to heal and, in turn, taught me to play, learn to trust women, and confided in me their secrets. I hold them all near to my heart and keep a God Box today, knowing their lives are ultimately in God’s hands.
The 2nd Set of Eyes
Claudia Ricci, Catherine Townsend-Lyon, and Shahnaz Radjy were the editors, proofreaders, and second set of eyes that every writer needs. But more than that, they are women I trust with not just the syntax but the substance and secrets of my life.
People at Recovery Support Meetings
To everyone who shared at a 12 step meeting, your words guided me in 1988, and those same words continue to enrich my life today.
As an addict, I hope you find in this memoir the commonality of our feelings, thoughts, and poor choices in our addiction and our ultimate redemption through our recovery.
Black Elk said that Great Spirit caused everything in nature to be round. “… You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop.”
My father never saw North House and passed on May 12, 1990, but even with his garbled speech, the message came through while I was visiting him at the hospital. “Marilyn, you have exceeded your potential. I’m proud of you and love you.”
Those were some of the last words he said to me. I keep them close to my heart and remember.
My mother and I reconciled many of our differences, forgave one another, and got treatment for her OCD. She passed on December 17, 1994. Her passing helped Andrea get into recovery, and she recently celebrated 25 years of continuous recovery. Dannella recently celebrated 19 years in recovery.
Each of my daughters is a mother today, having their children after they got into recovery, which means that none of their children, my grandchildren, have ever seen any of us use. Perhaps the cycle of addiction is broken.
Gray Hawk continued to provide an Alcoholics Anonymous study group at North House and passed in 1996.
Over the next 21 years, North House served over 1000 women, many of whom are still in recovery. Some relapsed; some died.
The house won multiple awards and was a THOR provider for the Department of Pardons and Paroles, Georgia.
North House partnered with 18 Drug, Alcohol, and Accountability Courts in Georgia, providing residential services to those women who weren’t successful in the judicial model.
Working with Brenau University, nursing students completed the circle with the University. They sent me to treatment, and I gave back by creating a 16-hour psychiatric clinical for 4th year nursing students. In 2008, Brenau University began the Marilyn Davis Community Service Learning Award, given yearly to recognize advocates in recovery, nursing, healing, and wellness.
In 2010, I was the recipient of the Liberty Bell Award given to non-attorneys and judges for contributions to the criminal justice systems and communities. I had worked to increase awareness within the judicial system that sentencing should include treatment rather than incarceration in many cases.
From the Gainesville Times, “Davis started North House in 1990 and has worked closely with court officials. For 20 years, Marilyn has been a driving force in helping thousands of addicts shattered by drug abuse lead better lives,” presenter Graham McKinnon said. “Marilyn’s passion is on display every single day.”
Later that summer, we celebrated 20 years of healing at North House with a ceremony in the park near the house. Graduates of the program, my extended family, business supporters, board members, and the Master Gardeners were present to commemorate their donation to North House – new plantings.
We Can All Become Advocates
Just as I became an advocate for women, recovery, and the process of change, I sincerely hope that this inspires someone, somewhere to open a house of healing or to listen to their inner guidance.
What begins as a small thought, a sudden inspiration, or a cosmic smack on the back of the head – all are signs that might lead someone to believe that they too have a calling, a vision, or a dream.
Whatever obstacles, internal or external, they overcome to facilitate these become part of their circle.
While I would welcome someone contacting me with news that they want to open a house of healing, I must accept that, like my father, who never saw North House with residents, I may not know about how or if this inspired someone.
In the circle of life, my father’s contributions and inspiration were significant. Perhaps this will be inspirational as well, and I do not need to know of its influence.
However, I’d love to hear about your adventures in recovery, so write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.