Linda Antonides is an alcoholic, and her ability to admit that probably saved her life.
It's been almost two years now since the Payson resident has had a drink, and she says she owes it all to the people she has met through Alcoholics Anonymous.
"They were the catalyst for me," Antonides said. "I couldn't do it on my own or through my church. There is a wonderful support group in this town of alcoholics and drug addicts; there are an awful lot of both in Payson. They've not only kept me sober, but given more purpose to my life."
Antonides, who was born in Toledo, came to Payson 10 years ago from the Valley, where she worked as a secretary.
"I came to Payson like a lot of people do as a getaway," she said. "I came here to vacation and decided to live here."
Her decade in Payson has, she says, been life-altering.
"When I moved here, I went into the health field into what was then a new field called gerentology," she said. "I got my certificate as a nursing assistant and went to work at nursing homes and at the hospital."
Antonides also went through hospice training to become a volunteer, and, she says, that was a big part of the life-changing experience.
"I was able to slow down from the chaos of the city and get more in tune with myself," she said.
That's when she began to realize she had a drinking problem.
"I can remember at 20 getting into the refrigerator and getting a beer and realizing I needed it. I think it was at that point I became an alcoholic. Until then, I had gone to parties, but I hadn't looked at alcohol as a medicine or a tonic or an escape."
But knowing you have a drinking problem and knowing what to do about it are two different things.
"I knew I was an alcoholic, but I didn't know there was a solution," Antonides said. "I had pretty much been defeated by alcohol. I was a functioning alcoholic, able to keep a job, pay my bills. But I had to drink every day, and it created a lot of my problems in my life."
The death of a friend finally led Antonides to look for help.
"When a friend of mine was killed in one of the bars, that's when I realized that my life wasn't on the right track, or I'd gotten off the track somewhere, or I never knew where the track was, and I needed to do something different."
She turned first to religion.
"I went back to church, but I'd leave church and go to the bar, which was right across the street many times. It was an easy walk."
Antonides had been trying to quit for seven years when she found Alcoholics Anonymous.
"I walked in on a group of people who were not glum they were happy," she said. "They were from all walks of life, right here in Payson staying sober. I said, 'Hey, these people are doing something I don't know how to do by myself.' I kept going back and I still do. I go to at least a meeting a day. It's a wonderful program."
What AA gives alcoholics that many don't find in church is a sense of brotherhood.
"At AA, I met people like me people who have a problem with alcohol," she said. "In church, there may be people with a problem with alcohol, but you don't know it. I'm not going to stand up in church and say, 'I'm an alcoholic.' Church gives you guilt and an alcoholic doesn't need more guilt. We have enough already. I wasn't getting delivered and then I felt guilty I was 'less than.'
Antonides never felt like she 'fit in' at church.
"I'd go and sit in the pews, but I didn't go home to anybody's house or invite anybody home to my house," Antonides said. "It was a different world.
"I still feel that way in church, even though I'm sober and have jumped over the hurdles of feeling 'less than,' because no one is really admitting they have weaknesses. At AA, you get together with a group of people who have weaknesses. Everybody gets a little humble."
Antonides' newfound sobriety was put to the test when she was laid off at the hospital when that facility changed hands a couple of years ago. Instead of falling back into her old ways, she went back to school.
Today she is a full-time student at Eastern Arizona College-Payson majoring in psychology.
"I want to go back to people work, social work," she said.
In the meantime, she stays active helping people in the same position she was once in.
"I'm trying to help others learn how to live without chaos and alcohol, or drugs, or domestic violence, or any of the crap that tries to destroy us," she said.
"If I can take somebody into my home for 72 hours to let them dry out or help them start over, that's where I get my peace of mind. Alcoholism and chaos go together. It's a lack of peace."
Name: Linda Antonides
Occupation: College student
Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio
Family: One son, 33, two grandchildren, seven and 10.
Personal motto: Carpe diem one day at a time.
Greatest feat: Sobriety
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Creativity
Three words that describe me best: I don't know.
I don't want to brag but ... I can (brag) about my son and grandchildren.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: Carl Jung
Luxury defined: Peace of mind
Dream vacation spot: Payson
Why Payson? It is paradise.