Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Felisha Hunter. Felisha consistently leans into authenticity and healing as she journeys through her recovery from substance use, trauma, and codependency.
Felisha is a nurse and the founder and recovery & wellness coach for Recover My Soul. She is the author of ‘Exit Wounds’ and ‘Internal Bleeding,’ with the release of her third book coming in June of 2023. Felisha hosts and creates the ‘Ouch, That Hurt’ Podcast.
Felisha shares fearlessly about her journey and is open about the generational impact of the disease of addiction, and the hope and healing recovery offers all.
To register for The Embrace family Recovery Coaching Group, click this link:
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See Full Transcript below.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast. A place for real conversations with people who love someone with the disease of addiction. Now here is your host, Margaret Swift Thompson.
Intro: Welcome back! Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Felisha Hunter. Felisha courageously shares her story of being a recovering addict, daughter and granddaughter of alcoholics, a nurse, recovery coach, and author.
I need to offer a trigger warning that this episode touches on assault and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, most of us listening are far too familiar with these being a part of the story when we journey with someone with the disease of addiction. Please meet Felisha.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast
Felisha, I am so glad you’re with today! Thank you for doing this. I know whatever we will talk about will help families out there who have lived with and loved people with this disease. If I were to meet you on the street, which we kind of did, except we met on a social platform, how would you introduce yourself to people?
Well, I’m a recovery coach, first and foremost, and I’m a nurse as well, and an author. But if I’m getting deep and honest, then I’m a person in recovery for substance use, and trauma, and codependency and all of those things as well. And I think that, that title almost holds more weight than any of the other ones, in my opinion.
And I think that’s a really interesting point. Was that something you would have thought always held the weight? Or is that something that’s come on your journey?
That’s definitely something that’s come. At first, I was really ashamed, obviously. And through my healing process, I’ve come to realize that I needed that chapter. And I couldn’t do what I do today without that chapter. And now I’m able to help people through the same disease. And it’s a badge of honor for me now.
And do you remember when that switch happened? Do you remember what it was that got you to the point of going from maybe the shame, the keeping it a secret to badge of honor?
I think when I started to heal, and then surpass any baseline I’ve ever had. And I started to become more aligned with who I am, and start making decisions that weren’t just survival. They were impact. And I was able to accomplish so much more in my day than I used to, and reach so many more people than I used to and have incredible conversations.
And when my life started to be better, sober, and not just surviving sober, because there’s a period there where you’re just surviving, and you’re just getting through each day. But eventually, it became that now I have a life, I never thought I deserved. And that I’m afraid to lose. And that’s the switch.
Never thought you deserved and afraid to lose. So, prior to recovery, and the survival mode, life was?
Life was I can look back now, and I can see signs. I thought life was great. But I can look back now, and I think my first drug of choice was adrenaline and was invincibility.
So, I was a nurse in prison at the age of 19. So, there’s a pattern in my life where I’m going for titles and being different and being the best. And I liked being in a room with danger and surviving it. I loved that high.
And did that start with that job in prison? Or did you experience it early in life? There was that piece of your life like that or did that come?
Yeah, I have little outbursts, I’d say growing up of rebelling, you know, I did the whole like take my mom’s vodka and fill it up with water as if she wouldn’t notice. I did all of that stuff. And then I’d kind of come back and then I have a behavior outburst again, all honestly, stems from my dad. And he left at a really young age. And I thought, because he wasn’t in my life that it wouldn’t affect me. He’s an addict. And I never saw anything for the most part. Except one situation. I did see.
When you say you didn’t say anything, do you mean you didn’t see him using?
Yeah, I saw him drinking once with me. And I ended up calling the police at like eight years old. And that was the first time that I had saw him in years. And growing up in my teenage years and into adulthood, I thought that if I didn’t drink like my dad, then I wasn’t an alcoholic.
So, if I didn’t drink alone, because he would drink alone and cry alone in the dark and go through a 24 pack of beer. If I didn’t do that, then I didn’t have a problem. So, I never drank alone. Might have drank alone at the bar. But that’s not at home alone in the dark cry, right? Yeah. So as long as I wasn’t doing that, then I thought that there was no way I had a problem.
Take us back to your childhood when you made that call.
Margaret: Eight or nine?
Margaret: First time you’ve seen him in a long time?
Margaret: You were at his place?
Yeah, I had a little brother, who’s has a different mom than me. So he was with us. And he’s three years younger. So he would have been five. We were at my dad’s house and then he had to drive me home. And it was an hour drive. And I watched him take a beer and pour it into a coffee mug and bring it into the car. And I didn’t understand fully. But I knew in my gut, something wasn’t right. And I remember my mom telling me that dad can’t drink around me. And I’d given him a few passes in my head, like what’s one beer, right? But then I’m in the car, and I’m in the front seat, and I’m watching him. And then I watch him, pull out a beer under his seat, crack it open and refill, and then put the coffee cup beside us again. So, I said I had to go to the bathroom. And we stopped at a gas station. And I went up to the to the till and I said you need to call my mom. And then I locked myself into the bathroom. And there was so much drama like him banging on the door and all of that. But I just knew in my gut, that what he was doing wasn’t right. And I think it maybe was the secrecy. Like why, why not just drink the beer if you’re allowed to drink the beer? Right? And then after that, I didn’t see him until I was, I think 19.
How scary and also how brave. And I think of all the families listening who’ve got children in the midst of this disease, whether it’s a parent or a sibling. At what age did you know dad had a problem? And what were you told by your mom, or your dad?
My dad never admitted it, ever. And my mom, she never bashed him. She always focused on keeping me safe. And drinking is okay. It’s just in the way that you do it. And when dad does it, he becomes angry. And he does these things. You know, I’m thinking right now. And I’m like, I got three DUIs. And yet I recognize that problem in my dad.
Well, what you speak to right is the insanity of the disease. That we can see in someone else, something we can’t see when we’re in the throes of it. Just like your dad couldn’t see it in himself or wouldn’t admit it.
Felisha: Mm hmm.
Margaret: So, do you think that was enough information for you to know, on that drive? I need to do something to protect myself and my brother.
Yeah, I had this fear of getting in an accident. And that was like, in my gut, I felt it. And my emotions about it were I’m never going to be allowed to see my dad again. If I make this call. And I made the call. And he was very angry with me. And yeah, we didn’t talk until I was yeah 19.
I don’t think this is probably new information, but I’m gonna say it for the sake of the audience as well. Your dad’s disease was angry with you.
Felisha: Mm hmm.
Margaret: Your dad’s disease who had him gripped, was angry at you and pushed you away for betraying dad. Not your dad. My guess is your dad’s a good man at heart and is consumed by the disease and there’s no way your dad would want to risk your life.
No. And it took me being an active addiction to understand that. It took me hurting the people that I loved without even realizing it. To understand this disease, alcohol and drugs take the forefront of any relationship. It comes first when you’re in it.
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So, you mentioned that you dabbled, and you were rebellious and tried things?
Margaret: When did your disease progressed to be problematic for you?
I was really career driven. You know, six years in prison, I felt like I was just on fire. Lots of promotions, I was working with the most dangerous offenders in Canada. I was on the top of my game. But I was losing touch with reality, because of the high of the job. And I thought I was invincible. I started to get a little bit reckless, like throw myself into situations that a nurse doesn’t have any business being in. And then I got hurt. And so, I had been left in an inmate’s cell alone without a guard and I was injured. And he had like, put his blood in my mouth. And I then had to go on HIV protocol. All of the things. I had blunt force trauma to the head.
And this is the thing, this is how I knew I was sick, is I started my shift at seven. I was in Emerg by 730 in the morning, and I came back to do my noon meds at 1. And nobody taught me out. I came back as if though, like nothing happened.
Felisha: And I continued on for a few more weeks, but I started to drink after every shift. I started to be more reckless. I remember going out for drinks with a few guards. I offered to drive one of their trucks. I said I was fine. And I like raced it, just wanted to feel something. And I came up on a police check. And I decided just to plow through it. I’m just not going to stop. And they can’t catch me, and I have all these guards in my truck. And we get pulled over and I get out of the car, and I say arrest me. I wanted to be arrested. And the cop was like no, let’s get you some help. Like all of the other guards are like she’s gone through something like we need to just get her help. And I was like no, I just, I want out. I don’t want to be here like just take me out. And they didn’t even, they didn’t charge me. They suspended my license for I think seven days. They didn’t impound the car because it wasn’t mine. And they said “go get your shit together”. I took that as another ticket of invincibility. I’m untouchable.
When you said you drove fast because you wanted to feel, huh? Do you feel that you had stopped feeling after the assault, or you were wanting to feel something different than what you were feeling from the assault?
I was very numb. And I felt like the only thing I could feel was adrenaline. That was the only safe feeling for me to let in was that.
So, the drinking is progressive.
Yeah, I lasted about two more weeks, quit my job at the prison. I packed up my whole life, I gave my dog away. And I moved six hours away, I didn’t tell anybody. And I had been writing a book this entire time in prison, documenting what was happening to me. And my goal was to just go far away from my family, thinking that if I was physically away from them, then they would get used to me not being around. And then I could end my life.
Conscious thought. That was the plan.
Yeah, I wanted to finish my book, ‘Exit Wounds’, and then end my life as soon as I published it. That was the plan. And so, I kind of prepared my family by backing off, and not letting them in. I used to call them every single night. And they were a big part of my support in the prison system. And I slowly started to back off, and not come home, not attend any events. And luckily, I do think this is a blessing, it’s going to be controversial to say, but I’m glad that I found drugs, because I like drugs more than the idea of ending my life. And that saved my life today. I know that’s really weird to say.
I’d not judge it. I know for family members; it might be hard to hear that. So, break it down for us. Yeah, laying it, like explain it to a family member who does not understand how that’s possible. It’s so destructive in their mind.
Yeah, I was so set on ending my life, I had written it out. There was no way I could see a future, it was done in my head. I just wanted this book to get out there. And I wanted out. And the more I got to the end of the book, the darker my life had become. Now I’m super isolated. I don’t have family that’s talking to me regularly. I don’t have any friends. I’m in a new city where I don’t know anybody. I changed my name. When I first moved there. I was not Felisha, the prison nurse, I was a completely different person. She had died. In my head, she was dead. And one night I was at a bar, and I met a guy. And I was outside with him. And he was like, do you want to smoke this? And I’m like, sure didn’t even ask what it was. And it was crack cocaine. The high from that gave me the ability to see a future with that drug. I wanted to stay now. And yes, that went on for about a year and a half. And I had published ‘Exit Wounds’, released it. And then continued with my addiction.
When you look back at ‘Exit Wounds’, which you wrote during a very high adrenaline, powerful control, but yet out of control work. The risks were huge. To the dark point in your life where this was your, almost your exit strategy. I’m going to write this, publish it and then be done with life. When you look back at your writing, is it evident? Can you see this?
Yeah, I start ‘Exit Wounds’ by wanting to see the best in people and wanting to bring humanity to inmates. And just like there’s this, like, light in me that I’m wanting to share. And I’m wanting to share it in a big way, and I don’t know how, and I haven’t found my way. And I’m young but I’m ambitious. And you see me become so dark, no longer seeing light in myself or anyone else. questioning what life even is like, just getting to such a dark place. And it’s my favorite book, because it is my darkness in a book, and I wasn’t able to express it to anybody. So, I wrote it.
I actually had a therapist who told me to write from other people’s perspectives. And so, there’s one chapter where I’ll write from an inmate’s perspective. And then the next chapter is me, and how I did that. I would find some peace in making up a story to counter the abuse that I had in the jail. And the things that happened to me I would make up a story to make that logical.
Felisha: Why would someone do that, six years I’ve been so kind to every person here. Why am I getting hurt? Right? And so, making sense of it. It was just an artistic thing that I was doing, but it turned out it’s my favorite book. Yeah.
Outro: Felisha shares fearlessly and represents the power of storytelling through oral story and written. She offers clear examples of this generational no-fault disease and also the impact of recovery on the family. Come back next week we will get to hear more of Felisha’s journey and recovery. And we will get a treat and hear an excerpt from her book ‘Exit Wounds’!
I want to thank my guest for their courage and vulnerability and sharing parts of their story. Please find resources on my website,
This is Margaret Swift Thompson.
Until next time, please take care of you.