Recovery Rocks – Michele W. Miller

Michele W. Miller photographed by Dorri Olds

Michele W. Miller photographed by Dorri Olds

This is just one of those stories that will make your jaw drop. It’s a story that needs to be told and is a great example of why I wanted to do the Recovery Rocks interviews. I was just fed up hearing about rock-bottom stories and not enough about recovery. I wanted to provide a place where we can share our recovery stories and demonstrate that recovery is possible and amazing.
Michele W Miller has been practicing law for twenty years, she is the mother of 11-year old twin boys. She lives in Manhattan and is a black belt in the Jaribu system of karate. In her spare time she writes books and recently published: The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery. I have to confess to being a complete ‘geek girl’ and am literally obsessed with the zombie apocalypse (I know, my husband doesn’t get it either). So this is literally the perfect book for me Recovery + Zombie apocalypse!

Please read Michele’s incredible and inspiring story of recovery.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

It would be convenient to say that my bottom was being arrested and locked up on New York City’s notorious Rikers Island, facing 15-to life in prison under New York’s Rockefeller Law. But that was only the beginning of years of degradation, including homelessness, poverty and domestic violence. I tried to stop but couldn’t seem to do so. At one point, though, I knew I had to either stop using or I would have to live the rest of my life as an addict. I knew that, if I chose lifelong addiction, a nightmare lay ahead, which would be worse than the pure hell I was already in. I decided it was time to stop and miraculously stayed stopped.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

I white-knuckled the first 30 days at home with only two sessions a week of outpatient therapy. At 114 days, I was on the verge of using because the feelings of loneliness, sadness and boredom had become overwhelming. Determined not to pick up, I finally joined a fellowship and was somehow “struck willing” to follow suggestions. I recall a woman named Linda R., who said: Listen to how people share. People with 30 days share differently than those with a year, people with a year share differently than those with five years, and so on. I observed that people had grown in ways I could barely imagine, and that they just kept transforming the longer they remained in the process of recovery. The people with five years (“old-timers” in our fellowship back then) intuitively knew how to handle their lives. They had a serenity I wanted. That gave me real hope that I could have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I also learned in those first weeks that even a person with one day clean could help a newer person. That revolutionized my life, making me feel that my own life was worth living even though my personal circumstances were painful and difficult.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

I have wonderful memories of the bliss of falling asleep with my infant twins asleep next to me; snorkeling with 25-foot whale sharks; and hiking with my children in caves full of bats in a Panama jungle. I’ve had great professional successes and a novel published, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, an apocalyptic thriller with lots of inside jokes and serious messages for those of us in recovery.

However, one of my most meaningful memories is of a 12-step meeting two weeks after 9/11. At the time, I chaired a meeting about five blocks from Ground Zero. The authorities had just opened up the immediate area around Ground Zero for those who worked or lived there. So, I opened my lunch-hour meeting, planning on sitting there just in case anyone came. (Most of the offices in the area weren’t open yet; I didn’t necessarily expect people). No one from my fellowship came. But about a dozen people from another fellowship arrived, mistakenly directed there by their Intergroup Office. They were mostly members of a group which had met within the World Trade Center. I told them that they were welcome in accordance with the Third Tradition, and we had the most moving meeting of my 25 years. Some of them had lost dozens of friends. The ability to provide that meeting meant more to me than I can say.

I am also proud of the small part I played in securing the first successful AIDS treatment for hundreds of children who would have otherwise died. As a renowned pediatric AIDS doctor told me, we had played a part in turning a deadly disease into a chronic condition. (Of course, I played a very small part.) These type of experiences provide much more of a lasting sense of fulfillment than money, property, prestige or parties.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I tell people now that there’s no two-minute warning before you hit a new bottom. You can wake up one morning as a high-bottom weekend alcoholic and go to sleep that night in jail for vehicular manslaughter. The difference between a high-bottom and low-bottom story may just be luck of the draw, and sometimes there’s no coming back from a bottom. But I doubt that someone saying that to me would have stopped me because I was too lost and hopeless. Perhaps it would have helped if I could have convinced myself that there was hope, that I could and would survive my feelings if I stopped medicating them, and that I had a choice about using. It might also have helped if I had told myself that we addicts/alcoholics have a special gift that civilians don’t have: We save lives of other addicts/alcoholics by sharing our experience, strength and hope. That’s an amazing gift of recovery unavailable to the average person, which has inspired me on the sometimes challenging road of life.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I’m only human.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

I received funding to produce an audiobook of my novel, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery. The Renowned 2013 Grammy-nominee, Gabrielle de Cuir (Ender’s Game) agreed to narrate it. She created an amazing performance piece, available on,, and itunes, which has so far received stellar reviews. The novel itself has been out for a year and many people in recovery have let me know that it greatly entertained and even helped them. My forthcoming novel, known as Lower Power, was selected as a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (top 25 of 10,000 entries). I will have more news about its release soon.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

The War is Over.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Recovery opens up a wonderful, bountiful world, containing joy beyond anything I would have imagined.

13th Step: Zombie recovery
The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery is on sale this week for 0.99 on Amazon!

2 thoughts on “Recovery Rocks – Michele W. Miller

  1. Lisa Neumann

    Michele’s words are inspiring. I love her streamlined, laser perspective on life and recovery. And you, you grabbed me with the opening, “[this] is a great example of why I wanted to do the Recovery Rocks interviews.” I really love how you always manage to focus on the challenges in recovery and show the actual work people are doing in real-time. Great post. Although I am not much for the zombie stuff, I think I’ll give it a try on this book. TY Lisa

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