Jason and Amy Potts, of Fort Dodge, have both been in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction for 17 years.
Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series on substance use recovery. September is National Recovery Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). To learn about your options for recovery and get connected to resources, visit YourLifeIowa.org.
Amy and Jason Potts, of Fort Dodge, will be celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary next week. They also celebrate another kind of anniversary each year — when they each entered treatment for drug and alcohol addiction and began their recovery journeys. This is year 17 for that anniversary.
In total, the couple has been together for 23 years, but the first several years of their relationship were filled with drugs and alcohol. It took the clarity of sobriety for Jason to be ready to pop the question to Amy.
“I probably never would have married her [otherwise] but in recovery I learned how to really be a man,” he said. “I asked her to marry me at an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting.”
For both of the Pottses, drug and alcohol use started in their early teen years.
“I was around 13 and just started hanging out with the wrong crowd,” Amy said. “They did drugs, they smoked pot and drank alcohol. Me and my girlfriends started stealing alcohol from our families and sneaking out, staying out all night and just running amok in the streets of Fort Dodge. I just wanted to be the cool, rebel-type bad girl.”
For Jason, it was about fitting in. “When I started experimenting with things, I felt like I was a part of something,” he said. “Like somebody would be doing something and they’d seem like they’re having fun and I wanted to have that fun, but I just didn’t know how to fit in.”
So at 13, he began smoking marijuana and eventually progressed to alcohol and harder drugs.
“For me, it became the addiction, but also the obsession — I felt like I couldn’t function without it,” Jason said. “As the years went on, it was like you couldn’t have fun without it.”
Amy said she was 23 when she realized she had a problem with addiction.
“I ended up homeless and in chaos and rage and wasn’t talking to my family, had no job,” she said. “I lost everything, I had no more control. Drugs controlled me.”
In 2003, Jason first went to treatment for his addiction, but it wasn’t long afterward that he began using again.
“When I first put myself in treatment, I was doing it for the wrong reasons,” he said. “It wasn’t for me.”
Jason began spending time with friends from before treatment, friends who were still using drugs.
“For many years, I was functioning and I would just be smoking or snorting [meth] and then I started intravenously using it,” Jason said. “And that year, while using, my whole world just collapsed instantly. Friends wouldn’t talk to me, nobody would talk to me.”
For a while, Amy stopped using methamphetamine, but would still drink heavily.
“So I didn’t have a ‘problem,’” she said of her mindset at the time. “I was that hypocritical, judgmental person who thought everyone else had a problem.”
In 2006, Amy’s addiction had gotten so bad — she was using methamphetamine every single day — that her family had her involuntarily committed to substance use treatment at Community and Family Resources. Bitter and angry at first, she connected with an old friend who had gone through treatment and was living in CFR’s men’s recovery house, which was next door to the inpatient facility at the time. She also began attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
“I started meeting these people and they were happy and they were nice and I could see that [treatment] works,” she said. “So my mind started opening to, like, maybe this is going to work. Maybe I can make a change.”
A month after Amy started treatment, she gave Jason an ultimatum — “either you do something different, or we’re done.” So Jason checked himself into treatment at CFR.
“We joke that she’s got 30 days on me,” Jason said.
Though it was Amy’s ultimatum that gave Jason the push he needed to seek help, this time he was doing it for himself.
“She had to have her own path and I’d have my own path, and hopefully our paths would come back together,” Jason said.
Their paths did come back together and the two learned to navigate their new recoveries together. Realizing they were often too “co-dependant,” in the early years — and even now sometimes — they leaned on their sponsors for support.
Then came having to rebuild all the relationships in their lives that drugs and alcohol had torn down.
“There was no trust at all,” Amy said. “I was just a big liar. I was always trying to quit and then I go to them and tell them I quit and expect them to believe me … but it was only maybe a few hours or a day.”
But, with the support of Jason, their sponsors and the Fort Dodge recovery community, Amy worked on earning that trust back. She went back to school, earning a degree in human services. In 2012, she began working as a treatment tech at CFR.
“12-12-12 (Dec. 12, 2012) was my first day and once I got there, it was like I felt at home,” she said. “I knew that’s where I was supposed to be.”
Today, she’s the house manager of CFR’s women’s recovery house.
“We both have 17 years [sober] and sometimes I’ll sit back and think, ‘Holy crap, people trust me today,’” she said.
Recovery has also given the Pottses four precious gifts — their three youngest daughters and a mended relationship with Jason’s oldest daughter.
Resources for Recovery
YWCA of Fort Dodge
826 First Ave. N.
Services: Clinically-managed residential treatment for women and women with children; intensive and extensive outpatient care for males and females.
Community and Family Resources
211 Ave. M West
Services: Prevention and education; detox; outpatient substance use treatment; recovery housing; mental health services; residential substance use treatment.
Visit www.aa-iowa.org for local meeting information.
Visit www.na.org for local meeting information.
Rainbow to Recovery
An LGBTQ+ focused addiction recovery support group. Meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays at the Vincent House, 824 Third Ave. S. Search “Rainbow To Recovery” on Facebook for more information.
Your Life Iowa
Help for alcohol/drug/gambling concerns, suicidal thoughts and more.
Resources in other parts of the state can also be found at yourlifeiowa.org.
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