My Recovery Journey: Relapse Is Not The End

Oh, where oh where to start?  The beginning would be the logical place, but that’s not really how I work.  Plus, I had a pretty great childhood.  There’s no deep trauma or unresolved issues other than my anxiety and shyness, which has always interfered with my daily life.  There’s no major turning point or event that lead to me turning to the bottle and pills.  It started out normally and just kind of gradually became a problem.
So, I’m going to start at the first time I decided to seek treatment.  It was back at the end of 2014.  I had a problem for several years before that, but that was the first time I seriously admitted that something needed to be done about my drinking.  I was especially out of control at that time and there was an episode I remember very vividly where I was staying at the house of a friend of mine by myself while it was being remodeled.  I was in town doing some work on a project for a friend and needed a place to stay, so my friend’s girlfriend let me stay at this house that she had just bought and was in process of fixing up before moving in.  Anyway, I was on one of my binges and made a complete fool out of myself one night getting completely trashed and calling people over and causing a big scene.  I was so belligerent that I somehow got red wine stains on the kitchen ceiling of this house that I was supposed to be helping to fix up, not destroy.  It was bad.
It’s not even by far the worst thing I’ve done drunk, I have a hundred war stories of shitty things I’ve done while drunk and high, but it sticks out for some reason.  I think it was the next day that I was talking about what happened with that buddy of mine and told him that I couldn’t stop drinking, I knew I needed help, and I thought the only way that it would work was if I went away to somewhere for a while.  Not long after that, he gave me a slip of paper with the number to a rehab facility he had found that had a grant program because I didn’t have insurance at the time.
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I kept that piece of paper in my wallet for a couple of months before I finally had enough of the misery one day and called it.  I got approved for the grant but the facility had a limited number of beds and there was a wait list to get in.  To stay on the list you had to call twice a week and leave a message saying that you were still interested.  I did that every week for seven weeks before I got a callback and received a date to admit myself.  I ended up being in that facility for 30 days, then going to a halfway house for 90 days and then making it to a little over 5 months total before I relapsed.  And it was a pretty epic relapse.  Within a couple of weeks, I found myself in the drunk tank of an Indianapolis jail because I had eaten at a restaurant and tried to leave, refusing to pay.  Yeah, definitely a lame story.  But there’s also another moment that happened there that has stuck in my mind to this day.
I think it was May 2015 when I was arrested and I remember I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and it was absolutely freezing inside the jail.  Freezing like I was shaking uncontrollably.  I remember asking the guard if I could get a blanket or sweatshirt or something and he just smirked and said sarcastically, “We don’t do blankets here.”  It’s funny now, but I was so pissed off that I was sitting locked in a cell absolutely freezing with the air conditioning blowing on me full blast and I couldn’t get a fucking blanket or sweatshirt.  That is what my life had come to at that point.  Getting pissed off because I couldn’t get a damn blanket.  And you would think maybe that would’ve been a rock bottom and motivation to turn my life around, but it wasn’t.  Quite the opposite actually.  I went into complete fuck it mode at that point and spent the next 2+ years living on my parents’ couch and drinking pretty much 24/7.  I’d try to get sober once every few months and end up in a detox center for a few days followed by a few days of misery from trying to ignore cravings and panic attacks before turning right back to the alcohol and benzos for relief.  Yeah, I forgot to mention that during all of this time I was also abusing benzos and mixing them with alcohol to try to combat my severe anxiety.
So, anxiety.  Fucking anxiety.  That leads us to this present time of sobriety, the end of last year, December 2017.  Anxiety is the root cause behind why I drank so much and pretty much every other problem I have in my life.  I have always had a really bad problem with anxiety.  I’ve always been shy and introverted, especially as a child.  When I became older I discovered alcohol took that edge off and loosened me up.  But since my anxiety was always present, I had to always be drinking and that turned into a problem in my 20’s.  Then, one day, I think it was back in 2011, I had my first full on panic attack that landed me in the emergency room.  That’s when I discovered Xanax and began seeing a doctor who prescribed it, and eventually other benzos, to me.  Not being fully honest about my drinking problem and adding benzos to the mix quickly became a full-blown addiction.  By December of 2017, my anxiety had become completely unmanageable because my tolerances to alcohol and benzos were so high.  I couldn’t even walk the half block across the street to my nightly bar without becoming a shaky mess that could barely walk and talk.  I was a complete and utter, hopeless mess.
At that point, I desperately called and made an appointment with a well-known Neurophysiologist in my area, but he was booked until the middle of the next month (January 2018).  So I just drank and did my best to survive until my appointment with him.  That appointment was January 15th, 2018 at which after a 2.5-hour evaluation they convinced me to go back to detox so the doctor could have a clean slate in which to establish a baseline for diagnosis.  My system was so messed up from the alcohol and pills that they couldn’t treat me as I was.  Two days later, on January 17th, 2018 I checked myself into an inpatient detox facility.  I was in there for eight days.  I was so fed up with my life and desperate to find a solution to my anxiety that I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to keep my addiction at bay so I could begin to truly recover.  Listen to all professional advice, take advantage of all programs and resources available, and learn everything I could about recovery from addiction.  And that’s what I have done since.
After detox, I did an intensive outpatient program – three nights a week, three hours per night, for seven weeks.  I started seeing and still see a therapist and a case manager weekly at my local treatment center.  I completed a relapse prevention group – once a week, an hour and a half per meeting for 16 weeks. I read the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.  I get a monthly Vivitrol injection to help with cravings.  I see a doctor regularly and we are still trying to dial in meds to help with my still severe anxiety and tremors.  I started a blog about my sobriety.  I’m part of several online recovery groups, I’m constantly reading and researching and learning about recovery.
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Through all of this, I’ve discovered that I have a true passion for understanding and figuring out how to overcome and manage addiction and mental health disorders.  So much in fact that I have decided to return to school and I am enrolled to start classes on October 2nd to pursue a degree in Addictions Counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Official acceptance letter from Indiana Wesleyan University

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I can say that now my life is 1,000 times better than it was just a little over seven months ago.  I have goals and dreams and motivation and see all sorts of opportunities ahead of me.  None of that existed for the past 2.5 years.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, some days it sucks.  But I’m mostly happy just being active in my life and challenging myself to overcome my anxiety and tremors in healthy ways.  I meditate, journal, exercise, use positive affirmations, practice gratitude, grounding, deep breathing, attend counseling, work from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) workbook and more for my anxiety.  I feel good now and have a sense of purpose.  I’m back to freelancing and working on side projects and business ideas.  Everything just feels different this time, I have the tools to do this and I feel very grounded in my sobriety.  I’m single and content and feel like life is an adventure right now.  I’m enjoying finding myself at 35 years old.  It’s hard to describe but I’m just happy despite not being even close to where I want to be.  I have comfort in the fact that I’ve found my calling through this journey and want to dedicate the rest of my time to helping others overcome their addiction and the root causes of it. I know that everything else will work out.

And this was supposed to be the short version.  Actually, it is.  I’ll share more details of the alcoholic days as needed to support my story of recovery as this blog grows.  But for now, have you shared your recovery story?  Feel free to share links or videos to your own story with the hashtag #ownsobriety.  Please help encourage engagement with this post by liking, sharing, commenting and subscribing.  September is Recovery Month and I’d love to share a collection of stories showing how all kinds of different people OWN SOBRIETY.

Love Y’all!