No One Knew the True Me
The first time I drank alcohol was when I was 16. I had 2 Smirnoff Ices at a popular guys’ house and I was trying to fit in. I grew up in a LDS household in California, and was very active in my faith. At that moment in high school, I was trying to please my peers, but also ease the discomfort I felt by being in my own skin. I wanted to feel and be different than I was.
About 6 months later, two days before my 17th birthday, my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. My drinking became pretty regular soon after, partially due to my desire to be around friends who distracted me from the painful reality of my dying father, and partially as a way to numb it out. This continued until he passed away one year later. I was in a very dark place at that time; I had lost my father, and hated myself for spending the time I had with him with my friends and partying. My drinking escalated, and I started to drink alone in my room. I felt so much guilt for what I was doing, knowing that my behaviors were unhealthy and that my religious faith did not approve of alcohol consumption. I sought out a drug and alcohol counselor toward the end of my senior year, but that ended when I went on my senior trip to Hawaii and blacked out almost every day.
Downward Spiral of Love for Drugs
Upon returning, and at the request of my friends, I stopped drinking and was honest with my mom about what was going on. I moved to Provo to attend BYU and really cleaned up my act while in school, only drinking when I was home visiting in California. My sophomore year I began dating a guy long-distance. I moved back to California to be with him, which began my downward spiral into drinking and smoking weed daily. He introduced me to cocaine. Never in my life had I experienced anything that made me feel the way cocaine did. I was in love. And it became part of the combination of substances in my life that controlled me.
In the middle of our 6-month long break up, I went on a girls’ weekend to San Francisco. While there, I was sexually assaulted in the bathroom of my hotel room by a guy I had met that night. This experience contributed greatly to my substance abuse and dangerous behaviors, as my already low self-esteem became practically non-existent and caused PTSD. Repeated abuse and unhealthy relationships from boyfriends and not having a father to offer the unconditional male love I needed encouraged drinking and drug use to block out the pain, shame, embarrassment, and complete lack of love for myself.
No One Knew the True Me
The next few years were a delicate balance of daily drinking and cocaine to help me keep my inebriation under control. I was hiding something from everyone: no one knew the true me. In fact, I didn’t even know the true me. At the recommendation of my therapist, I sought out an A.A. meeting for young people. I went a few times, and knew that I related to those there, but I wasn’t done partying. After making enough messes I couldn’t clean up in California, I moved to Utah to return to BYU in hopes that I could tame my “wild side.” I quickly found a group of friends that drank, and drove to Salt Lake almost daily to party. Again I was living a double life.
On a visit back to my hometown, I blacked out while at a bar and woke up in jail. After such an eye-opening event, I thought I was done with alcohol. But my brain found reasons to rationalize just one drink, then two, and I was quickly back at my old tricks. In June of 2008, I attempted to prove that I could not drink for 30 days. I lasted five. I drank all weekend, and by Monday, I woke up to remember I almost totaled my best friend’s car, which certainly would have killed her. I couldn’t believe how out of control my drinking was, and every attempt at controlling it failed. I lost friends, hurt my family, threw away years of my life and potential, and almost killed someone I cared about. I needed help.
Getting Help and Finding Myself
I checked myself into a treatment center a few days later, and stayed 45 days, also addressing my eating disorder. I learned about the disease of addiction and started to get to know myself. I even started to like myself a little bit.
After inpatient treatment, I went back to school and was active in the 12-step community. I worked the 12 Steps and began sponsoring. I graduated college and met and married my husband. I worked in the treatment community and was able to help other women turn their lives around. I learned to love myself and started to be the honest, confident, and kind person that I had always wanted to be.
I wish that was the happy ending to my story. But unfortunately, it’s not. After staying sober for 2 and a half years, I relapsed on alcohol. My alcoholic brain told me that the only thing that could make my life better than it already was, was alcohol. I was determined to prove that I wasn’t actually an alcoholic, and that it was just a phase I was going through when I was younger. In my mind, as long as I didn’t do drugs, I was fine.
It did not take me long to prove myself wrong. Within six weeks, I was in a sober living facility in California and my husband was in inpatient treatment in Utah. We were still newlyweds, but our marriage was on the rocks. Luckily, we had so much support, both individually and as a couple, we were able to put our marriage and our life back together.
Recovery: Life Feels Amazing
It has been over two years since the last relapse, and my life is better than I could have ever dreamed. My husband and my relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. I get to help others struggling with addiction and share my experience, strength and hope at work. My husband and I are both applying for our Masters in Social Work, so we can help others the way we were helped so many times by so many people. I am free from the chains that alcohol and drugs put around my life, and it feels amazing.
Discharge Prevention in Drug Treatment
The family is an important aspect of the drug treatment process. This video provides valuable information about the partnership between the New Roads staff and the client's family.
Uncovery: Voices of Treatment
This post was written to introduce the Uncovery: Voices of Treatment campaign for Mental Health Awareness Month, which asks people to share their stories of mental illness in a creative format. Visit our submission page to contribute your own.
When I was a sophomore in college, one of my creative writing teachers told our class "Poetry is the art of saying those things that are impossible to say." It's one of those phrases I've remembered ever since, because, at first, it doesn't seem to make any sense. It's a contradiction, a bit of circular logic--if what you're trying to say is impossible, shouldn't any method of saying it be impossible too? But in poetry--and, I would argue, in all creative mediums--it's in those contradictory spaces that we discover strength, meaning, and truth.
When I started writing in earnest, it was because I didn't know what else to do. I was fifteen, halfway through tenth grade, and suffering from what I now recognize as deep depression and anxiety, partially brought about by my struggle with undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. I was caught between the desire to engage meaningfully with my surroundings and a lack of the intrinsic social knowledge I needed in order to do it. I would cling to and isolate myself from my friends by turns, while feeling unable to describe to them the dark fearful place in which I was living. I was fighting to find a way to articulate a lived experience that felt more disjointed and alien every day.
The Pink Cloud, by Kate Y:
Are Recovery and Happiness a Temporary Illusion
After a recent visit to my therapist I got to thinking about the Pink Cloud Phenomenon, an AA-coined term for people new in recovery that are seemingly high on life and out of touch with reality. I was explaining to her how happy I have been lately. I’m fresh out of rehab, I have a new job, new kitten and things in general are pretty good. Her immediate response was “Kate that might be your pink cloud talking, try not to get over confident and complacent.” And then suddenly I sort of dropped out of the proverbial cloud I was sitting on and seriously thought about recovery and happiness.
This Pink Cloud concept leaves me pondering so many questions. Does the recovering addict need to remind themselves whenever they feel happy - “look self, snap out of it, it’s just the pink cloud…?” Does this mean I’m living in a fantasy land right now unbeknownst to me because I’m new in recovery? Can we really just be happy and sober? And finally, why is the cloud pink? Personally, my cloud will be mint.
There are some negative characteristics when speaking about the pink cloud, such as being overly confident in your sobriety and giving up on the tools and processes that keep you sober. I believe this is true; once you think you are “cured” or above the problem of addiction, chances are you will be getting high really soon. If I think back to my previous relapses, this is very true indeed.
Life is a roller coaster ride and there will always be ups and downs. It’s knowing how to ride these waves that is key during sobriety. If you can manage the lows, use your DBT recovery skills and still maintain a positive outlook on life and living sober, then stay on that cloud my friend!
A pink cloud, silver-lining, “honey-moon phase” (or whatever you want to call it) in recovery is not a bad thing and it doesn't have to be temporary. We should all be relishing in the fact we are sober and happy. Let’s face it, being high on a cloud versus high on a speedball is definitely the better alternative.
Sobriety and happiness does not need to be an illusion, it can be a reality for years and years to come. Here's a little to-do list to keep you motivated, happy and sober so you can maintain that pink (or *insert favorite color here) cloud status:
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Best. Advice. Ever. I lost my kitten the other day (don’t worry, he was sleeping under my couch) and I nearly had a heart attack. I even contemplated drinking over it for a second. But using some DBT skills (improve the moment and radical acceptance) I was able to turn my panic around and accept that things will turn for the better. And poof, my kitten appeared to say hello!
Now Sweat Out the Small Stuff
That’s right, if you do find yourself sweating the small stuff in life – go work up a sweat! Exercise is known to release endorphins, reduce stress and get your mind off worries. Find that activity that speaks to you and sweat out all those stressors that life can throw at you.
Be a Little Selfish
Being new in recovery gives us the perfect excuse to be selfish and take care of our needs first. That means YOU and your recovery are the number one priority. Learn how to push pause on activities and events that do not have your best interest in mind. Is that St. Patty’s Day party going to keep you sober? No, I think not. Push pause, think it through and do what’s best for you.
Embrace the Goodness
After being sober for some time now, I've learned to enjoy the simplest things. I love eating sweets (brownies and banana bread for days…) and buying myself flowers. I like to treat myself to small pleasures as a reward for another day sober. And since I get to be a little selfish in my recovery, what’s wrong with buying myself a dozen roses and saying they’re from my fictional boyfriend? Yeah, nothing.
Live the Dream People
Being newly sober frees up a lot of time in one’s life. I once had a friend/recovering heroin addict say to me “If I had used all my time and energy on my web and graphic design skills instead of heroin, I would be on the cover of Fast Company Magazine by now.” This statement rings true for all of us when we were in our addiction.
Here’s mine: “If I used all my time and energy on my yoga practice instead of drinking wine, I would own a yoga studio by now!” Now say yours: “If I used all my time and energy on thing you like to do instead of drug of choice, I would _________ by now!”
And since we no longer drink or drug, let’s make these dreams a reality and live a little!