Who’s in Charge?  How Sobriety Helped Me Answer that Question!

By Dee Waddington

If you are a woman who has a substance abuse addiction, I hope this article will awaken hope in your heart and a sincere desire for change. Let me share with you how I changed my life and for the better! For most of my life, I looked to others to make decisions for me. At the core of my belief system I thought that if I did what others suggested, I would be liked and, most of all, not responsible for the outcome of my choices. The fear of being wrong and rejected for my mistakes was bigger than wanting to be in charge of my life. 

I left home at 18, which may seem ironic considering my ingrained fear of making decisions. It was because I had made a huge mistake in loving the wrong guy (at least according to my family) and, therefore, I felt I had no choice but to leave home. I blamed my parents for this decision. In leaving my hometown, I was full of fear that maybe I was making another huge mistake. This contributed to some of the darkest times for me. To continue, in my new found freedom, fraught with fear, I began drinking and taking unhealthy risks. It amazes me today that I survived some of the situations in which I placed myself. I blamed my youthfulness and inexperience for these choices. Underneath, I was full of guilt and shame for having disappointed my parents to the degree that I felt it necessary to leave home. 

Even though I was impacted negatively by many of my family dynamics, my own insecurities, and lack of life experience, I eventually did learn to take responsibility for my own life in order to move beyond these crippling effects. It did take a long time before I took full responsibility for my life decisions without blaming others. Twenty-two years ago, at the age of forty-four, I discovered a phenomenal recovery program for women that taught me how to cope with life’s changes and challenges. The organization taught me to develop healthy coping skills and to let go of my fear of decision-making and rejection. May you feel encouraged after you’ve read my story of recovery to reach out for help.

For years, I pondered the question - Who’s in charge of my life? It took me to therapy, through a divorce, through several moves, and helped me decide to quit drinking. I learned that drinking gave me a great sense of relief from being responsible for my life and creating my own happiness. It allowed me to escape the past and continue not loving myself. It also provided fertile ground for becoming an expert in the blame game. I would have been top winner on any TV game show that asked the contestant to give examples of blame for the mess in their life. 

I had created the most bizarre mantra to go along with my sense of worthlessness.  It was a perfect fit for my state of mind. Every morning I woke up, looked in the mirror, and told myself, “You’re stupid, fat and ugly.” Now that’s a real self-esteem destroyer, but it played into my blame game perfectly. I was stupid because my 10th grade guidance counselor told me I wasn’t college material, so I automatically assumed that I was too stupid to do anything. I lived that message for years! I then married a very intelligent man who, once again, fed into my stupid theory and low self-esteem. Only he could make the right decisions, so I went along with allowing him to be in charge. When traveling on a business trip, he would sign checks because I wasn’t smart enough to be in charge of keeping track of our finances. (Fortunately therapy helped me to recognize his behavior as controlling, not an indication of my intelligence).

To continue, when I had children, it was my inability to make my own decisions that created unrealistic doubt that I could handle an unforeseen emergency. Even the fat part of my mantra I told myself was my former husband’s fault. He once told me, after many months of rejection, that if I lost weight, he would be the real partner I needed. Well, that didn’t work out. Oh, I lost the weight but the rejection continued. So what was the point! Again, it was his fault that I gained weight again. The ugly part I think just completed my mantra. Sadly, it all made sense then. My low self-worth from childhood did not prepare me to take charge of my life or to find a way to reflect on what was the truth about the things feeding on my fears of being rejected. It did not prepare me to say, “Enough of that negativity and false beliefs.” 

Today, I can look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” and mean it and feel it.  The journey to this new mantra was a lot of hard work; the Women for Sobriety “New Life” program, a wonderful self-help recovery program for women with addictions, saved my life of torment and unhappiness. 

The discovery of WFS was purely a divine intervention. I was at a retirement party and for one split second my eyes darted across the hallway to a woman who was hanging up a sign. I thought she looked familiar and walked over to her. The sign was a meeting notice for Women for Sobriety. She seemed embarrassed (a feeling I eventually understood in my early sobriety). I discovered that I knew her through a highly respected recognition program at the women’s organization where I was employed. I had only seen her in a photograph at that point, and I recalled reading her impressive professional background, one certainly deserving of recognition. She called the next day and invited me to lunch. We discussed our jobs and dabbled in small talk. As is common when time is running short, the real issue hadn’t been addressed; she hurriedly threw in some general information about the WFS “New Life” program. This woman mentioned being a certified moderator and, to be honest, it still had not occurred to me that she had a drinking problem. After all, an intelligent, professional businesswoman could not possibly be an alcoholic! As you can see, I needed a lot of educating. As we said good-bye, she encouraged me to obtain copies of two books by the founder of WFS, Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick’s, Goodbye Hangovers, Hello Life and Turnabout: New Help for the Alcoholic Woman. These books had inspired her and changed her life; something I eventually would understand and experience myself.

What could I lose? I did read those books and they were filled with the most dynamic, positive, and inspiring messages I had ever read about women’s recovery.  Shortly after that luncheon, at work, I was promoted to Director of the Women’s Program Department. This gave me the opportunity to develop programs to meet the needs of women searching for guidance, direction, and support. It was a dream come true! Because I never attended college, I felt intimidated. My supervisor had faith in me before I had learned to believe in myself. As director, I arranged to have Dr. Kirkpatrick speak to women in our community. After hearing her speak, I was more determined than ever to have this empowering program part of the Women’s Department that I was managing.

At that time, I still had not considered myself to have a drinking problem. After all, I had stopped drinking during my pregnancies and while the children were young which I eventually learned is not uncommon. No, I just wanted to help other women. Thinking about it now, I must have felt deep down inside that this was also about my need to change my life. Why else would I have spent so much time and energy on this whole issue of recovery? It slowly became clear that I was drenched in denial. My existence as I knew it was about to make a complete about-face. Trust me, it didn’t happen immediately. I decided to become a moderator. In order to become a certified moderator, a woman must have a year’s clean sobriety, read Dr. Kirkpatrick’s books, and understand and practice the WFS philosophy, “Forget the past, live for today, and plan for tomorrow.” I decided to make the great sacrifice to quit drinking, for the sake of the women I wanted to help. For those of you who know all about denial, I can hear your laughter from here. It was a rough few months but I was bound and determined to make it through the year. When I sent in my papers to be approved as a certified moderator, I was a nervous wreck. All the doubts about my worthiness, my capabilities, and my intelligence came tumbling out. My self-esteem was still weak. Then I received notification of my approval; I turned another corner in my journey to learning to believe in myself. 

There are 13 Statements of Acceptance for a New Life in the WFS program. These are included at the end of this article. My favorite in the beginning was Statement 9: The past is gone forever. No longer will I be victimized by the past. I am a new person. This spoke to me because my past had brought such pain, guilt, and shame into my present life. By dwelling only on the misery of the past, I had missed that there were many lessons to learn. I was now ready to see more clearly what I had to do to heal. One of the most difficult issues for me to face was coping with my biological father’s rejection and sexual advances. When he died, I remember crying while taking a shower. I wondered what I did that made me so unlovable and yet allowed the abusive behavior. That’s when Statement 9 became so clear to me. I realized that I was victimizing myself when the victimizer wasn’t even on this earth anymore. I had been a young person without power. I was not responsible for what happened. A large percentage of women in recovery have been sexually abused and somewhere along their life journey, find a way to numb or bury those nagging feelings of blaming themselves for the victimization. I was and am responsible now as an adult for how I treat myself, how I feel about myself. Why would I want to carry on the legacy of a victim? I had to write a new, empowering and loving message to myself; and that’s exactly what I did. 

The WFS program has been a guide for living my life with authenticity, dignity and love. In our support groups, we introduce ourselves as competent women and share a positive experience/feeling that happened during the week that relates to one of the 13 Statements. This builds awareness of the positive changes we are making and how we are living this powerful program in our lives. The Statements are no longer words on a piece of paper for me; they have become a way of living. WFS believes that an addiction is a coping tool and not a person’s identity. WFS is very different from traditional Twelve Step groups. We affirm and focus on the positive about ourselves, which is why we introduce ourselves as competent women. In fact, we call ourselves 4C women – capable, competent, caring, and compassionate. 

I feel blessed that over these past 20 plus years that I have had the privilege of sharing in the life changes of many other women. Right before my eyes, I have witnessed, over and over, women becoming empowered, raising their self-esteem, and having fulfilling lives. In WFS we know we are both students and teachers as we learn from each other and give back to each other. In the support groups, we share how we handled certain situations, people, and feelings. There is no advice given or judgments made. Each woman is responsible for her choices as part of the learning process. What we do offer is support and encouragement. 

One of my favorite sayings that I found on a calendar and reflects the philosophy of WFS is, “Life is Change, Growth is Possible, Choose Wisely.” This is what I have learned along this difficult and yet rewarding recovery journey. If you are in need of a new life, I encourage you to seek help and to know that you are not alone. Building confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth takes practice and there are coping tools within the Women for Sobriety program to do just that. If you want to be in charge, to take responsibility for your life, it is possible.

Now to answer the question, who is in charge?  I need only to read Statement 13: I am responsible for myself and for my actions.  I am in charge of my mind, my thoughts and my life!


Women for Sobriety “New Life” Program

1.   I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.  I now take charge of my life and my disease.  I accept the responsibility.

2.   Negative thoughts destroy only myself.  My first conscious sober act must be to remove negativity from my    life. 

3.   Happiness is a habit I will develop.   Happiness is created not waited for.

4.   Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to. I now better understand my problems and do not permit problems  to overwhelm me.

5.   I am what I think. I am a capable, competent, caring, compassionate woman.

6.   Life can be ordinary or it can be great. Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.

7.   Love can change the course of my world.  Caring becomes all important.

8.   The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth. Daily I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities.

9.    The past is gone forever.  No longer will I be victimized by the past.  I am a new person.

10.   All love given returns. I will learn to know that others love me.

11.  Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.  I treasure all moments of my new life.

12. I am a competent woman and have much to give life. This is what I am and I shall know it always.

13.  I am responsible for myself and for my actions. I am in charge of my mind, my thoughts, and my life.

© WFS, Inc.

We close our meetings by standing in a circle, holding hands and reciting the WFS Motto: 

“We are Capable and Competent, Caring and Compassionate, always willing to help another; bonded together in overcoming our addictions.”


WFS Statement of Purpose

  • Women for Sobriety is an organization whose purpose is to help all women recover from problem drinking through the discovery of self, gained by sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women in similar circumstances.
  • Women for Sobriety is unique in that it is an organization of women for women. It recognizes woman’s emerging role and her necessity for self-esteem and self-discovery to meet today’s conflicts.
  • Women for Sobriety is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous.  Members of Women for Sobriety sometimes belong to AA.  However, each organization has its individual purpose and should be kept separated.
  • Women for Sobriety believes that drinking began to overcome stress, loneliness, frustration, emotional deprivation, or any number of other kinds of harassment. Dependence and addiction resulted. This physiological addiction can only be overcome by abstinence. Mental and emotional addictions are overcome with the knowledge of self gained through Women for Sobriety.
  • Women for Sobriety members live by the Women for Sobriety philosophy: forget the past, plan for tomorrow and live for today.
  • Membership in Women for Sobriety requires a desire to stop drinking and a sincere desire for a new life.


WFS will soon be celebrating 35 years of helping women find an alternative or addition to traditional self-help programs in their recovery. While the program began as an outreach for women with drinking problems, it now includes other substances and chemical dependency.

For more information on Women for Sobriety, go to the website.  In addition to face-to-face meetings, there are online meetings led by certified chat leaders and a message board on line as well. Many women, who are unable to attend WFS meetings, have recovered solely through the outstanding online community.

Dee Waddington, now retired, lives in Alabama close to her daughter and granddaughter. She has a son who lives in New Jersey. Dee is an active volunteer in Alabama. She moderates a WFS group, volunteers at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, where she is responsible for the Food Pantry, and serves on the Vine Pastoral Counseling Center Board of Directors.

Dee also serves as President of the Women for Sobriety Board of Directors in Pennsylvania, where she has presented workshops at the annual WFS conference.

While living in New Jersey, Dee was Director of the YWCA of Bergen County’s Women’s Center Department. She supervised, coordinated, and developed programs that included the Single Parents Group, Women for Sobriety, Bergen County Rape Crisis Center, Racial Justice Programs, and Encore Plus, a free screening program for breast cancer. In 2006, Dee was honored with the Rose & Scroll Women of Achievement Award by the Bergen County Chapter of the NJ Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO). This award was for outstanding community leadership and being a role model and advocate for women. At the annual state conference later that year, Dee was then selected to receive the NJAWBO State Award.






Love Offerings and Tithes Appreciated
Send to

View Alphabetical Article List from InnerWords Messenger


View Back Issues

Tell A Friend

Innerworks Publishing         Site Credits

E-mail your articles, questions or humor to:

Copyright © 2003-2017 Innerworks Publishing -- All Rights Reserved