Episode 14: Betty G A Journey from Addiction to Recovery Through Surrender, Forgiveness, and Service

Betty Guadagno tells the story of her recovery from drug addiction in March 2019. Formerly trapped in addiction and as a sex worker, Betty underwent a spiritual transformation, embracing faith and determination. She now works as a recovery coach, helping others on their journey to healing. Betty's experience proves that with dedication, recovery from addiction is possible. Her story serves as inspiration, showing that a life beyond addiction is attainable through faith and perseverance.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/buddhabetty/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/buddha.betty/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@buddhabetty

Email: betty.guadagno@gmail.com

Betty's coaching/mentoring service for anyone interested!


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Podcast Transcript

Hello World and welcome to Choices Books and Gifts podcast where  You Always Have Choices. Today, I have a wonderful guest. I saw her video on YouTube, and she connected with us. So I'm happy to present Betty Guadagno. Good morning. Betty, how are you

Well, I'm very grateful to be here. Thank you so much. 

That's terrific.

So I want to jump right into it. So as I mentioned to you a little earlier,  Lisa and I had watched your YouTube video, and it was fantastic. So I just want to jump right into it and say, you know, with your family It was an unbelievable story - You and your family. Can you tell us about the younger years with with your family?

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for creating this space. I think that it's so empowering to create conscious space centered around healing. So I just really want to give you my deepest gratitude for creating a space like this. And, yeah, let me let me unload my trauma trunk on you. It's pretty big. but I definitely endured a lot of trauma as a child.

Every kind of trauma that you can imagine happened to me from at a very young age. And my whole family is kind of this perpetual cycle of addiction and poverty and sexual trauma and everything that goes along with just being really poor and being addicted to drugs. So, you know, I, I watched my family, they kind of taught me how to use drugs, not in the way that they shot me up with, you know, a needle or anything.

But I watched their behavior and anytime they were going through an emotion and it could be any emotion didn't have to be depression and sadness. It could also be joy and elation. But anytime that they experienced an emotion, they would smoke something or drink something or take a pill and their mood change. And so I made all these mental notes at a very young age that as soon as I'm old enough to figure out how to do that, I, I to do that, to

I know I did the same thing in my household. I come from, the youngest of four. And, you know, I would knock on my brother's door, my oldest brother's door, and I know he was getting high with his friends. And I'd come in there and, and, you know, eventually he just turned his back to, turned his back to it, and I would get high with his friends.

And then I saw the whole family. That way the whole family would always react very strangely to life on life's terms.

what was it like? Especially after. After their suicide? Were you still young? Where you had to live with somebody else? Or were you able to to be on your own at that point? 

Yeah. So a big turning point in my addiction is that in 2007, my parents committed suicide together because they were at the end of the road with their addiction.

They didn't even know that there was a way to stop using drugs without dying, because they did what other people in our family did, and that was that. If you wanted to stop using drugs, you had to die. And they they weren't like overdosing on their own. So they intentionally overdosed. This was the height of the OxyContin epidemic.

So my parents on average had, you know, prescriptions of like 600 pills prescribed to them apiece every month.

So it was refill day and yeah, you know, I was 23 when that happened. My sister was 18 and my sister still live with my parents, but she happened to be spending the weekend with me because the lights were turned off.

The gas was turned off, there was no hot water. There was no internet in my parents home because, again, very impoverished and just, you know, hitting another bottom in their lives. So I took my sister for the weekend and, you know, we got a phone call from our parents, like halfway through the weekend. And my dad said, keep your sister with you.

There's no electricity here, so there's nothing for her to do. Keep her with you for as long as you can. And that was it just said, like, tell your sister that I love her. And that was the last phone call that we had from them. And and it seems like right after that is when they started to, you know, like, just take this mountain of pills.

And when my sister and I found them, you know, the bed was just covered in orange prescription bottles and pills, and they had left behind the pills that they knew that I could sell to make money for, you know, their their double funeral. Because, again, we were super impoverished and, you know, it was it just it was like in that instant that my addiction stepped right in and became my parent, you know, like I was so wounded with abandonment and rejection in the moment of my parents suicide that my addiction just stepped in and this really charismatic way and said, I'll never leave you like they did.

I'll never forsake you. It's me and you together forever. Let's do this. Did you have to take care of your sister after that? So I did. You have a bout with drugs and alcohol as well.

so I, my sister doesn't like when I talk about her, so I'm not going to talk about her too much. But I will say that, you know, I felt like this impending sense of responsibility to take care of my sister and I was very resentful.

And again, my addiction was telling me that I it was the only thing that mattered. And so I abandoned my sister. I was like, this is way above my pay grade. I'm not doing this. And I just I moved across the country. I left her to fend for herself. And, you know, that's been one of the biggest things in my recovery process where I have to find forgiveness for myself and, you know, I've made a formal amends to my sister, and our relationship is not anything that I idealize in my mind, but, you know, I do have a lot of acceptance in my life today for the things that my addiction made me

Well, I understand, I understand, it makes us do some crazy things. And as I said, I'm going to also post your YouTube video on my site because I want people to see that as well. But can you tell us if that's okay with you, Offcourse can you tell us a little bit about, you know, the last two years when you were hitting your rock bottom?

Can you tell us what life was like? You know, towards the end

It was so chaotic, so insane. And I've had a lot of bottoms in my life and I didn't realize that they could keep getting deeper and deeper and going. And there's a saying in 12 step that you know, you're done hitting bottom when you stop digging and I didn't know that.

And I just thought that the world was out to get me, and I just couldn't catch a break. And I never thought that I had. I mean, I knew that I was addicted to drugs, but I it was my personality. Like, I'm even covered in tattoos of liquor bottles and packs of cigarets. Like, this was my identity. It branded me.

My addiction made me its own. And so the last couple of years of my active addiction, I had tried to get clean. I went into a long term treatment facility. I just felt like they didn't get me and I left, and I had taken all of these mental notes while I was in that facility on how to be a quote unquote, better drug addict, I thought that I was learning from the women that I was there with asking them like, well, how do you market yourself to be a prostitute and how do you make all this money?

And what do you do? How do you keep using? Or what drugs do you do like which ones haven't I really gone all the way with yet? And it was totally chaotic and it was so manipulative with my addiction to instead of using it as an opportunity to learn how to heal, I use it as an opportunity to learn how to get more messed up.

And when I, you know, like quote unquote failed at that attempt of recovery, I really beat myself up. And I started, you know, like, substituting other addictions like men and codependency. That's a big addiction for me as well. And so I left treatment and I thought that I was going to try to do recovery. And I lasted like maybe nine days out of treatment.

And I met this guy, and I put all my energy into him, and he didn't use drugs and he didn't really drink. And then he told me that he was actually, in kidney failure and that he was waiting for a donor. And so I thought, oh my God, this is going to die. We should be living our best life.

And to me, living your best life meant using drugs because I didn't know any other thing about living life. And so, you know, I ended up getting my boyfriend kind of strung out on cocaine. And then one night while partying, he ended up dying. He. His heart exploded. He died of a cocaine overdose. And I felt so insanely guilty.

I mean, you know, he was an only child. I watched the pain on his parent's faces and you could feel it. And it was so tragic what happened. He didn't even like using drugs. He just really liked me. And that's what I like to doing. And so the immense amount of guilt that I felt was just so overwhelming. And so I made a deal with myself that you know, I really tried recovery and I made it about 30 days, is what I was saying. But in reality, I was actually still taking like one pill a day.

And I was rationalizing and justifying, oh, it's not heroin, it's not 30 pills. It's just one that doesn't count. I'm still clean. It doesn't count, by the way, that is not being clean. And, and then, you know, after that 30 days, I went out to celebrate, and I, I went right back to my first drug of choice, which was methamphetamine.

And if you don't have any experience with that drug, I'm so happy for you. It was invented in Nazi Germany and Hitler was on meth. So that will give you a little scope of what it's like. It's genocide. It's insanity. It’s so insanely crazy. And it evaporated. My life evaporated. I mean that so quickly, so quickly.

I went all the way to the bottom of rock bottom, and it was like I was taking a rocket ship all the way down into the ground. And, you know, like I had lost most of my teeth. Thank you, recovery, for letting me buy some teeth in my life. I was super skinny. My skin was gray.

I was totally sunken in. My eyes were dead. I had picked these huge holes all over my face and my arms. Because I was completely convinced that bugs lived inside me. And so I would cut myself open with razor blades and burn yourself with torches, trying to get the bugs out of my skin. And that happened every time I used in the end.

So, you know, like, that's how I know that I have a disease of addiction. This is not a moral deficiency. Nobody would actively choose to feel like there's bugs crawling around inside of them. This was something that was totally out of my control. It was so, so insane. and that's really where my my bottom of rock bottom came from.

So yeah, I can only imagine what types of trouble and things that you, you were doing those last two years, what you got into. But, you know, it's funny because you were right after the two years, I know you had quite the process of getting sober and staying away and meeting all those wonderful women. And you know what I call them?

God shots. Especially when you were saying you would call your drug dealers and each and everyone was sort of getting out of the business. And then I love the part of your story where, you know, you're at that meeting and you, you talk to that while you speak, you hear that woman speak, and you really want to be a part of her.

And she leaves early, and then you meet her on the bus. To me, there are no coincidences like that. And that is something that, really God stepped into your life and, and helped you with. 

That matter of fact is what is God to you? Do you have God in your life? 

Yeah, I do today. I definitely have a conception of a higher power. Part of my process of coming into recovery was in 2019. I had an overdose where I had a near-death like experience, like this white light moment, and it felt like I got so Hi, that I’m a God, and God had a message for me. And that message was, girl, you got to stop using drugs. And I was like, wow, I'm so high right now that I think I drugs are breaking up with me.

What's happening? because, you know, I didn't believe in anything before that experience, that spiritual experience. And I didn't even believe that it was a spiritual experience. I just thought that it was drug and do psychosis.

And so, you know, and then, like you shared, I had a bunch of these beautiful signs and synchronicities leading me to this very narrow path. And the path was recovery. And I really did not want to do this. I was perfectly content living and dying the way that I was, and also my addiction spoke to me very loudly and said, if you let go of drugs, you let go of your parents, you let go of the legacy of your family. Who do you think you are to let go of the legacy of your family, despite what the legacy is?

It's not a great legacy, but it's yours, and you have to continue to carry it out. And my addiction made such a fool of me. It just kept embarrassing me over and over and over again.

You know, today I have this amazing conception of a higher power, not just from my spiritual experience that I had, but also, you know, the process of working the steps in a 12 step program has really shaped my idea of a higher power in a very unique, individual way.

And that's my favorite thing about 12 step is that you can be an atheist, an agnostic, a free thinker. You can subscribe to a particular religion. It doesn't matter. You accepted, and the process of working the steps and developing a relationship with a higher power is completely individual.

So at first when I came into recovery, I thought of my higher power as this condemning, fearful God.

And I thought God was like, you have to do recovery. You messed up your life, get your ass into treatment. And so I was scared. And then as it started to go on, I realized that God wasn't this condemning parent. God was more like a loving parent. But still, I thought of it as a parent, like somebody that was instructing me to do things.

And so there was still sort of like a judgment attached to it. Yeah. And then as I started to work the steps and also here, other people's conceptions of their higher power, that really helped me in my process, too, because I was able to cherry pick things from other people's experience as. And now today, having walked through, I'm on my 10th step in my in my 12 step program, and I have a little under five years clean and today my relationship with a higher power is like a best friend. It's so, you know, it's like it's like my higher power is holding my hand through this process. 

As I walk through my amends and recognizing the wreckage of my past and there's no judgment, it's just the best friend cheering me on. And, you know, is there for me as I continue to go on in this direction.

That's wonderful. I know so many of us have the same experiences, and I think that's why, you know, programs like, like this work. I know that I went in originally and I had that very fearful God because I was growing up, you know, Catholic and an Italian Catholic family. And, you know, I had all the church behind me.

But AA taught me. I remember I even heard a,  speaker once said that, AA our church is the church at a certain time. And I believe that because it showed me a God that I could understand and love and be with and, you know, have a relationship with in. Did you ever sort of forgive your parents for, for leaving you like that and bringing you up with drugs and alcohol.

Oh my goodness, absolutely. I mean, okay, so part of my spiritual experience was kind of seeing that everything is always working in divine right order. Even the things that I can't conceptualize. There was a purpose for that. And, you know, at the time, I never felt I never felt, slighted by them except in the fact that, you know, I felt very abandoned on the earth experience.

And I felt very resentful that I had I'm like my my little sister, that I felt like I had to take care of, that I didn't do that. But, you know, like, I knew what my parents were going through in some weird way, I know that desperation. I know the desperation of physical withdrawal and how absolutely mind boggling painful it is.

And there's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing. There's no cuts on you. You're not on fire. It feels like you are, but there's not. And it's so mental. And so, you know, I've I've done a lot of healing around my parents suicide. I went to suicide support groups for years and years and years. And I still have a relationship with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

And I go to their yearly conference in New York City, where I live. And, you know, I find it to be a very healing space because we all can identify with ourselves with each other when it comes to this particular kind of loss, which is a very unique kind of loss, and it carries its own pain with it.

But, you know, I, I always kind of knew what they were thinking and definitely in the end of my own active addiction. Yeah. The feeling of mental and spiritual suicide that I was going through. I knew exactly

what they were going through. And I've never resented them. They didn't have any tools. Nobody taught them, you know what I mean?

Nobody taught them. And nobody taught me. And so that's why I stayed where I was. Now I'm so grateful for my open mindedness, and I'm so incredibly grateful for my 12 step fellowship, because I have new moms and dads in my life today. I have wonderful mentors and teachers and predecessors, and they teach me how to live life on life's terms.

My parents didn't have the tools to do that, and I don't just recover for myself, I recovery for them. I recover for the memory of them as well. And it is this beautiful kind of circle of coming together. And, yeah, I definitely have no resentment towards my parents at all. That's that's wonderful to hear. Absolutely wonderful.

Let me ask you, how did you overcome some of the other things in your life, especially the guilt like that young man, you said that, you know, use drugs because you did. Your family, your sister. Was that a difficult thing to overcome?

Yes, you know, guilt and shame has tried to lock me down just as, Yeah, just as hard as my addiction did.

And I think for me, you know, I went away to a long term rehab. So I was inpatient for 17 months. That really helped me with starting to process my feelings because I was locked inside of a building. So every time a new feeling came up, I couldn't run out to the liquor store or go cop because I was locked inside of a facility.

So I went through these oceans and tidal waves, and sunami’s  of feelings of grief and guilt and shame and confusion and frustration and embarrassment. And I was somewhere safe. And I had a counselor. Right. Like I had an anchor on this, like, little, you know, boogie board that I was surfing these waves of emotions on. And so I, you know, I had a counselor, I had peers, I had, you know, like the program director who I know was an absolute angel in my path.

And, you know, through having the the support of a community, I was able to get through a lot of those things. Also, you know, I take a lot from my spiritual experience, which taught me that there is no such thing as condemnation and everything is working out exactly how it's supposed to. So while my human, my ego wants to feel guilt around the loss in my life or the harm that I caused because I caused a lot of harm like, I didn't even get into all the crazy harm that I cause.

Like I was a traumatized person who was traumatizing other people. And, my ego wants me to feel really guilty and, and feel a lot of shame for that. But my spirit is unconditional love and forgiveness. And I know that that's a big part of my spiritual process, is coming into the forgiveness and really forgiving myself.

That's wonderful.It really is. And you know what's amazing, too, is how much work you did on yourself. I think it was 17 months. You said you stayed up. You stayed in program and not in program in a program. And let me ask you this what is life like with that?

You helping others today? Does that help you a great deal? What do you do? I'm sure you do a lot because of the video I see and I know it's talking now. There must be quite a story behind that. 

Yes. Oh, thank you for this space. Yeah. So, you know, like I shared, I caused a lot of harm in active addiction, especially the last, probably decade. I was a prostitute and active addiction.

But not only would I prostitute myself, I would manipulate other women. I would get them strung out on drugs, and I would prostitute them as well to make money from my own addiction. And today I have this amazing opportunity to make a universal amends. And so today, I assist women on their healing journeys, whether I'm assisting women in my 12 step program by sponsoring them or being part of their support network, or I'm assisting women with the career that I have, which I have a career of service.

I work in the recovery field today. You know, every time that I get to work with somebody in a way of recovery, I keep the women in my mind that I harmed in active addiction. And so as I assist one woman, I think of the woman that I harmed in my head and I feel like I'm repaying that debt.

And so it's a beautiful process of my, my amends process. But I do live a life led by service. I do a lot of service in my 12 step fellowship. I love being of service, my favorite service commitment. I go back to the rehab that I was in for a year and a half, and I bring the message of H and I, which is hospitals and institutions.

If you're not familiar with 12 Step Fellowship, we go into facilities where residents can't come out. And that's my greatest. I love that commitment because I get to watch those women who are really me just in a different body, and I get to watch them evolve and grow the same way that I did while I was there.

Yeah, yeah, I agree, helping others helps me.

I know that was always a great thing. And that old saying, you can't, you can't keep it unless you give it away. And it sounds like you do a lot of that. So what's what's your daily life like today? You wake up and and how do you keep you recovery? Do you have a practice with God meditation program?

I would love to share about that. So one of the first I'm really into manifestation and the Law of Attraction. I've been able to manifest a beautiful life for myself. I went from being a homeless method prostitute strung out on heroin to not any of those things. I have a beautiful home. I have a career in the recovery field.

I have a beautiful support network. I have a wonderful relationship with a higher power, and I do have some routines that I feel like help assist me in that. So one of the my favorite things to talk about that I do is when I wake up, I drink a liter of water as soon as I wake up and I speak into the water.

And this is part of my seventh step as well, which is turning over your shortcomings to a power greater than yourself. So one of the things that I do is I say into the water, you know, I call my higher power source, I say source, I surrender my shortcomings to you today. Please lead me towards the path for the highest good for all.

And then I drink the water and it feels like for me, every cell in my body is vibrating with my intention. And so that's my seventh step. Every day that I get to do so. That's a really big part of my day. And I'm always, centered in recovery. My my home group is a virtual meeting, and we meet every day and we read literature together.

So I'm in my home group every day, immersed in the literature of my 12 step fellowship. That really helps keep me grounded. I have a private coaching business where I assist people through aspects of addiction and spiritual awakening and spiritual integration. I have a job at a clinic in Harlem where I work, full time, and then I also work part time for the International Association for Near-Death studies.

I'm very passionate about people and their spiritual experiences, and so I have this great opportunity to give back in service and work for this amazing organization. so I'm a little bit of a productivity addict today. My typical day looks like something that would make a regular person vomit all over themselves. I’m working on calender.

I'm working on it, I'm working on it.

But I love being of service and I love making connection. I was so isolated in my addiction, I didn't have any people in my life. And today I am so filled with spirit and community and others. It's incredible. It really is the antidote to addiction for me is connection.

So I agree with all of that. Absolutely, completely as far as the coaching, is that something that if what if one wanted to get in touch with you, one could and call you about? And if so, how would we reach out to you? 

Yes. Thanks so much. So I'm on all social media. My handle on everything is Buddha Betty. It's a play on words.

And please feel free to reach out. I'm on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook. I would love to connect with anybody who is looking to. And I also offer a sliding scale. So if you're somebody who's kind of like in the depths of it and you can't afford services, you know, we can make an arrangement to figure out how we can best support each other.

And I really think that a big part of stepping into recovery is asking for help. You know, when I was in treatment, they had all these crazy rules. And one of them was that you had to ask somebody who had been there longer to go into the refrigerator for you if you wanted anything. And I was like, this rule is so ridiculous.

I'm a grown woman. I know how to use a refrigerator. But I realize in hindsight that it wasn't about the fridge. It was about asking somebody else for help. So every day, multiple times a day, I had to ask somebody else to help me. And so now it's like this regular routine in my life. I have no fear of asking others for help, because I'm in that practice of doing that.

And so I really do think that asking for help is the first step in living the most awesome recovering life that you could possibly ever imagine. So please reach out.

So yes, that. Which leads me to my next question. So say we have some people out there that are seeing this and you know, they're on the fence. They're  sick, they're suffering. They don't even know they have a choice. What what can we tell them? The ones that that are that are still suffering. 

What what was what do you think we can say? 

Man, I wish that there was some magic word that we can say. I will say this if you check out my before and after photos, you will know that recovery is not only possible, it might be inevitable.

I mean, if you look at the person that I was before and the person that I am today, you'll be blown away and inspired that if I can do it, literally anybody can. I'm no more special than anybody else. We are all infinitely special and we all have access to this. I think the biggest key for me, and, you know, I've watched a lot of people die in recovery too.

You know, people who just couldn't surrender. And for me, the key really is surrender. You gotta give up before anything can really happen. You gotta make that space in, in your soul for something new. And, you know, it doesn't make any sense to the logical ego mind. Like, how could giving up be winning? But for me, giving up was most certainly the biggest win of my life.

I had to let go of the idea that I could figure out how to use successfully, that I could make my life work while being so strung out on drugs that I could barely see straight or talk or do anything else. So, you know, surrender really is the key. They say surrender to win. And I really don't think that there's any slogan that makes more sense to me than that one.

And you don't have to worry about not using drugs or alcohol forever. You know, you just keep it in the day. It's like such a cliche slogan that we have, but it's so true. You know, I don't I'm not I'm not saying I'm never going to use drugs again, but I know that for today, I'm not going to use drugs, and tomorrow I'm going to do the same thing all over again.

And staying present has really been such a huge key to addiction. Always kept me in the past.

I always was living in the past, just living in fear and resentment and anger and frustration. And today I stay really present and those emotions come up. But I have a community that helps me deal with it.

You did such a wonderful job and I've seen those pictures and believe me, I agree with her.

You see those pictures? You had no other choice but to. Otherwise I think you wouldn't be with us today. So I am so happy you came and joined and spoke with us today. We appreciate you so much and we hope to have you on, you know, down the line. Okay. Is there anything you want to say in parting, is there anything you or you good.?

This was so great. I really appreciate the space. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to get to connect with you. All right, Betty, have a great day. Bye bye.