Life After Lakeview – by Thea B.

Life After Lakeview – by Thea B.

Promise #4: We will know peace.

I entered Lakeview Health trying to negotiate a shorter stay than what was recommended. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I needed it – I was scared my family would learn what a horrible person I was. I felt I had to get home and control the narrative. My narrative, though, wasn’t even mine to tell. It belonged entirely to my “ism” – I just didn’t know that yet!

When it was time for me to be discharged, I kept asking to stay longer. I was scared to death to leave because I finally understood that I was an alcoholic who could no longer drink, even socially. I knew the hardest obstacle was going to be healing the relationships that had been affected by my addiction, especially my marriage and my relationship with my three daughters. After Lakeview Health, I went to IOP and attended the occasional meeting. I was not too fond of the meetings, but I loved IOP. I was on the verge of being a “dry drunk,” so my therapist kept pushing me to try other meetings.

It was hard because my family was still not happy with me, and they were not too keen on the idea of me doing IOP plus AA. They felt I was being selfish. Finally, my husband came to family night at IOP, and the next day he told me to get a sponsor! I was overjoyed! It was the first glimmer of hope for my marriage. I attended a women’s meeting the following Saturday and found my home group in that meeting. Two weeks later, I had a sponsor. I called her every day, and I attended a meeting every day. I finished IOP a few weeks later. By the time I picked up my 90-day chip, I had led a meeting, was the home group secretary, and was well on my way in the twelve steps.

I remember when my husband had to go away for work. Everyone was nervous, but I stuck to my routine. While he was gone, he went out to dinner with his marketing group, including men and women, and had a few drinks. He is a “normie” and can responsibly drink; however, it was a trigger for me. My fears came out dressed in anger and jealousy, and the feeling of loneliness started to creep back in. My husband could drink with those women, but he couldn’t drink with me. It was a shot to my ego. Thankfully, my sponsor shared some of her experiences with me and talked me through how to overcome these feelings. She had me do an inventory of my fears, and we talked through them together. This helped me process what I was feeling and communicate openly with my husband. As a result, this challenging situation has allowed us to grow closer as husband and wife. We have our moments – there are still times when we get jealous of our time spent with others, for instance – but a simple reminder of the importance of community and that I need my “60 vita-minutes” a day has helped my husband become my biggest supporter.

While at Lakeview Health, it was suggested that after our time in treatment had ended, we continue to perform activities taught in our assertive community groups. This meant that every day I would write out three things I am grateful for, one strength, my agenda for the day, and a list of things to do. My list of things to do always included: 1. Stay sober, 2. Daily RIPS (reading, inventory, prayer, step work), 3. Meeting, and 4. Sponsor.

To have continuous communication with my daughters, I asked them to hold me accountable by doing it with me. Although they were reluctant at first, after a while they really got into it and started writing it down on their own. It was, again, a glimmer of hope for me, a small victory in my effort to heal our relationships. Eventually, my husband started doing it with us, and we prayed as a family every morning. When I got to steps 8 and 9, which were the steps I was most afraid of doing, I realized that my children had started to come around a little bit. My youngest slipped in that she was proud of me one day, and my oldest commended me on my hard work and the effort that I put into my recovery. However, my middle child was the one most like me and the one most angry with me. While I was sober, she had gone through some rough patches, so I was more attentive and able to help her the way she needed to be helped – the way I couldn’t have helped her when I was in the throes of my addiction.

As a family, we agreed to enter her into a program for teenagers, and one night after her group session, she got in the car and thanked us. She went on to thank us for being open and understanding and said that she considers ME a role model!! Me! Can you believe it?! I was overjoyed when I heard her say that – I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest. When it came time to make amends with my daughters, they no longer needed to hear the words “I’m sorry,” the words they demanded to hear the first night I was home. They could see it in my actions.

When I was almost six months sober, my obsession with alcohol had disappeared. I went on a trip with my family and my sister’s family for New Year’s Eve. Everyone decided they would not drink around me, and honestly, it made me angry. I had learned by now that when my anger is at its height, it’s usually covering something else, so I had to assess my part. I was fearful that I would be both excluded and simultaneously hinder their ability to celebrate the way they wanted to. It occurred to me that I wanted them to have a drink for New Year’s Eve. I had to sit them down and read them an excerpt from the Big Book that allowed me to explain that it was OK for them to drink – that I would be OK. When I picked up my six-month chip, not only was my obsession a thing of the past, but I had also started sharing my story. The feeling you get from sharing your experience, strength, and hope with others is exhilarating. My doctor requested lab work to check my liver enzymes. When I entered Lakeview, my liver enzymes were 666, and six months later, they were completely normal. It was a miracle!

I suffer from PTSD, which resulted from an attack I endured at gunpoint, and I see a therapist who utilizes EMDR to help me. Due to my attack, I fear being around people I do not know, especially men. This fed my need to isolate myself when I was actively drinking. However, just because I no longer drink doesn’t mean that trauma just disappears. In meetings, I have been able to practice being around strangers, including men, and as a result, I’ve seen a huge shift in my PTSD over time. I have been able to go to meetings alone and can sit with people – men in particular – in my blind spots and not experience anxiety. This is a huge accomplishment for me.

At nine months, I stopped taking Acamprosate, a medication that helps with cravings. My doctors were impressed with my progress, but to be honest, it scared me. I was afraid it was the medicine, not my program, that was keeping me sober. The first week I kept waiting for a sign that the obsession was back, but it never happened.

After I picked up my nine-month chip, I started as the district secretary and was sponsoring three women. I never felt more empowered. My family loved me again and wanted to spend time with me, and I was helping other women in the program and being of service. I experienced a major shift in mindset. To clarify, it wasn’t just that I was finally able to be of service to others. I was finally willing to be. Even at home, I thought, “I don’t HAVE to run the vacuum; I GET to run the vacuum. Today, I don’t HAVE to clean my house. I GET to.” It was a huge change in the way I look at responsibilities that used to weigh me down or seemed beneath me.

At around ten months, my husband and I shared our story at IOP on family night. I don’t want to brag, but we were awesome! My husband shared that I take my recovery very seriously and that he often thinks he should be doing more to help people the way that I do. My heart was so full that night, and it has been ever since.

In the days leading up to my one-year anniversary, I reread all the gratitudes I had collected over the previous year. I was amazed at my growth. I had transformed from a person who was grateful for my needs being met to a person who was grateful for the love of my family and the host of friends that I had in my life, as well as for God‘s grace and the grace that He wants us to have for others.

On the morning of my one-year anniversary, I opened my bedroom door and was met with a face full of streamers! My family had decorated the house and threw me a little “birthday” party! My youngest had her best friend over – her mother died from this disease a few years ago – and she gave me a card. In it, she thanked me for doing for my daughter what she wished her mom had been able to do for her. That hit me so hard it moved me to tears!

Today, I continue to write my gratitudes and strengths and share them with my family. I attend meetings every day, sponsor six women, and am the secretary for the district and my home group. I have had a spiritual awakening because of the steps; it was the realization that I am not only sober but also happy. I feel at peace knowing that no matter what challenges I may face, I don’t have to turn to alcohol to overcome them. And that’s an amazing feeling to have.

My life has improved so far beyond what I could have ever imagined after leaving Lakeview Health and Baptist Beaches on July 19, 2020, and I am grateful for my journey to recovery.