I know that in the past I have written about my treatment and recovery a few times, but always in a broad sense. I don’t know if it’s easier to address that way, or if I consciously try to block out certain parts of my rock bottom because they embarrass me (then again, it wouldn’t be rock bottom if it were something I was proud of).
So here goes – this is my attempt at setting the record straight. This is what really happened before, during, and after, not just the happy, yay-I’ve-come-so-far parts.
For brevity sake, I’ll skip over the events that led up to treatment and sobriety (but there’s the link) and start with May 7, 2013 – the day after I ended up hospitalized with a .34 BAC. A day I spent the majority of still fairly intoxicated and convinced my parents were blowing the whole event out of proportion.
Somehow I managed to feel great that day. Well, most of it at least. I was not to be out of my parents’ sight (no one specifically said this, it was kind of unspoken), so I was forced to accompany my dad to my nine year old sister’s soccer game that evening. The game was in Minnetonka or Wayzata – some swanky city with money.
All was good and well until I decided to try to drink a Gatorade. That in my empty stomach, combined with the motion of the car, led to an awkward “Dad, pull the car over RIGHT. NOW.” moment. I proceeded to puke up orange Gatorade on the lawn of a house with a “Private Property: No Trespassing” sign. But hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I think we all needed a bit of comic relief at that point, so we laughed about it. I mean of all places to let it out, I probably picked the worst one.
The next few days are still a bit unclear. So much happened, and I don’t recall the exact timeline. Within the days following my hospitalization, I realized that my parents were not going to let this blow over and give me another chance. My mom played tough love, while my dad was my comfort – roles which are usually reversed.
An appointment was made with a psychiatrist to determine what our next steps would be. After talking to her (looking back, I probably wasn’t completely honest about my drinking) she declared that I abused alcohol and should seek a two day per week treatment. Now, alcohol abuse and alcoholism were two VERY different things in my mind. I clung to her diagnosis because it meant I was not “dependent” upon alcohol. In my mind, this meant I could learn to moderate and control, to stop abusing.
Turns out that isn’t how it works. My mom spent the next few days attached to the phone and computer, trying to find a program that fit our (my) needs, while I spent those days being a stone-cold bitch. She finally settled on an outpatient program at Hazelden Center for Youth, which to my dismay was four times a week instead of two.
She (we) knew I was a candidate for the program, but I still had to do an intake assessment on the phone with a man I had never met. A man who was asking me all these prying, private questions. Cause yeah, that’s not going to make my guard shoot right up. I’m pretty sure I was snarky and sarcastic throughout the phone call, but at the end he told me I reminded him of himself, to which I didn’t take too kindly.
Some days later, we had figured out all the insurance mumbo jumbo and I was set to start the program. I still remember the first day there so vividly. During the drive, which was about 40 minutes, I was mostly calm. But every time I thought about where I was headed, it was met with “WTF am I doing? This isn’t real life.”
But it was real life. I pulled in the parking lot, early as usual, which in this case was not good because it gave me time to Flip. The. F***. Out. I literally couldn’t open the car door and walk inside. I had to call a friend and have her talk me in to not driving away.
Since it was my first time, I was met by a woman who took me in a small room and proceeded to go through my belongings, a process which felt like such an invasion of privacy but would soon become normal. Then she made me pee in a cup. That part never became normal. She then gave me my materials for the program (which included a mug, cause yeah, that’s what everyone wants to remember rehab by). Said materials also included an AA Big Book, which I eyed and refused to acknowledge. It was so foreign.
Right when I started to warm up, this little old grandma lady sent me on my merry way. Yet again I felt awkward and alone, more childlike than I had felt in a long time. I was quickly whisked away again, into my new counselor’s office, where I proceeded to speak as little as possible and let my bitch face do the talking. She wasn’t fazed, unfortunately. I had a discussion about my drinking habits for what felt like the 394839483 time, and made sure to point out that I was an abuse diagnosis, not a dependency diagnosis (in other words, I didn’t need to nor want to be there). She didn’t care.
Walking into a group of about 20 other high school/college students was unnerving to say the least. I was so clearly the “new girl.” I plopped down next to one of the only other females in the room, which brought a little comfort. Turns out she liked to talk. A lot. And I didn’t.
We went around introducing ourselves, and it seemed like everyone said “addict” after their name. At the time, I didn’t know that referred to a different substance abuse, so that is how I introduced myself too. I probably confused some people. After that, it took about four weeks before I could say “Beth, alcoholic.” I was defiant as hell.
The topic that night was higher power, something I had never given much thought to, especially pertaining to sobriety. In fact, it kind of made me pull away more because I didn’t want someone telling me what to believe. That night we also did an exercise about “walls.” If I remember correctly, we literally had to draw a wall and write words on it that described our figurative walls. I felt like a kindergartner, which in a way was appropriate because that was what I became in the next few weeks.
I drove home and immediately went to my room, purposefully not acknowledging my parents or telling them how it went. My mom gave me a little time and then came down, upon which I burst into tears and said I had nothing in common with those kids, they “were all potheads and that wasn’t my problem.” I had yet to realize that addiction is addiction, it just manifests in different ways.
My mother wouldn’t be my mother if she didn’t call Hazelden to verify this claim. And of course the staff there was like, “Uh, yeah, ignore her. She belongs here.” So after that there was no conversation. I was stuck there.
I believe I started on a Thursday, which meant the first “parent’s day” was two days later, on Saturday. I was less than thrilled with this development. Saturdays varied in content, but this happened to be a speaker day, in which one former patient and one former patient’s mother spoke. During the former patient’s story, my mom started crying and didn’t stop. I just remember she had this damn scarf on that she kept crying into quietly, which made it worse somehow. Of course, since I was still in stone-cold bitch mode, I was beyond irritated with her and ended up leaving the room in the middle of the session. Just walked on out. The following hour was a lovely family conversation, which just resulted in more tears. That may have been my hardest day of the whole program. It was so much harder to see my parents hurting because of me rather than disappointed or mad.
I continued to stonewall my mom and seek comfort in my dad, which I knew broke my mom’s heart. Maybe that’s why I did it. I was hurting, and in my mind it was because of her making me get help, so I wanted her to hurt, too. We have always had an above-average mother-daughter relationship and I needed control over something, so I took it out on her.
Maybe part of it was protecting her, too. I didn’t want her to know who I had become, some of the choices I had made. I lived in fear of her noticing the scars on my arm from when I drunkenly decided cutting would make me feel better – it was only once, but still. I couldn’t stand to see her break for me.
After about three weeks in the program, when I was started to melt the bitch face a little bit and warm up to my counselor, she announced she would be moving to in-patient and a new counselor would be coming in and taking over. I was a bit devastated, and wound up right back where I had started, not giving an inch to the new counselor.
I continued to go through the motions, speaking up in group sessions because I knew I had to. About halfway through the program, each patient tells their “story” to their peers and counselor. I wasn’t really sweating this for whatever reason, thinking I’d just breeze on through and be done. Not how it happened. I made it through the story, but only with a lot of justification and “buts” which one of the counselors kindly pointed out afterwards, in front of the whole group.
Then she asked, “Beth, do you consider yourself an alcoholic?” I was livid that she would ask me that in front of 20 other people when it was so clear that I did not think I was one. How could I possibly answer that without sounding like I was in denial? I couldn’t. So I burst into tears instead, in front of everyone. To this day, that is one of the times in life I have been the most furious and humiliated. It was also a turning point for me.
After that, something changed in me. Not in a single moment, like some grand acceptance. It was more gradual for me. But I did eventually come to realize that I belonged right there with each of the other patients – maybe even more so than some of them. I had a problem. Drinking alone was not normal. Drinking before class was not normal. Nothing about my habits was normal, something I always knew and refused to see.
I still struggled through some days of treatment, but overall I found myself looking forward to nights spent with people who understood me. People who were like me. I liked seeing my days of sobriety passing a week, two weeks, a month. I started to be able to look in the mirror again without feeling ashamed. People started to tell me I looked like the old Beth, something that always almost moved me to tears.
I was scared to end the program. Not being there meant less people holding me accountable. So in dramatic Beth form, I wrote and posted a Facebook status about what had been happening. I was sick of hiding behind it and wanted to face whatever backlash there would be. To my surprise, there was little. Instead people were kind, understanding, supportive, gracious. I realized I had many people on my side.
“Graduation” day at Hazelden arrived. Both parents and patients stand at the front of the room and say whatever they feel the need to say. I don’t think one single person could understand me through my sobbing, but even that spoke volumes. Crying in front of a room of people wasn’t something I would have done mere weeks before. And this was the good crying, the thankful kind.
There was still so much uncertainty in front of me as I left that day, and that eventually set in. Having more free time meant more time to think and dwell, something which never serves me well. But that’s what AA meetings are for, that’s what peers from Hazelden were for. Fellowship pulled me through the rough, woe-is-me days.
I don’t know if “After Treatment” is the right title. Treatment never really ends, you’re never “cured.” For consistency’s sake, we will stick with it.
Now, almost 15 months sober, it still hurts to rehash some of the details I’ve pushed away. But the truth is that they are all part of me. I still have a difficult time talking to my parents about sobriety. I still have days where I want to just punch a wall and have a fit because I’m different than most people my age. But for every one of those days, there are 99 happy, thankful days. I love myself again. I’m pushing myself, accomplishing things I wouldn’t have done if I were still drinking. I’m healthy and for the most part, happy.
I still think too much. I still feel too much. But that’s part of who I am. It is part of what made me successful in my drinking, and what currently makes me successful in my sobriety.