About 90 days ago, I would’ve been sitting here with a glass of wine trying to write something people would like to read. Instead, I’m drinking water and writing what I would like to write, my new journey I started in December. I checked into inpatient treatment two days before Christmas. Sobriety. At 31. Second time around, this time has been a touch over 90 days.

The Before

The weeks leading up to checking myself into inpatient treatment were miserable. I am no stranger to intense traumas, depression, anxiety, etc, but this was the worst I had ever felt. It was the first time I truly felt like I did not want to live anymore. I had given up. The past two and a half years had been difficult, but the months leading up to my breakdown had two really horrific events happen. In addition, I had gotten involved in a highly volatile relationship which was short-lived but didn’t help the situation whatsoever. I didn’t have a plan to take my life, but it felt like what was the point? What was the meaning of it? Of living? I didn’t want to do it anymore. The pain I had felt throughout life and the few months prior to checking in was too much to bear. I had lost faith that things would get any better. I didn’t feel like there was a point to living, and I didn’t have energy for life anymore. I didn’t just feel lonely; I felt alone. So I drank.

Two bottles of Prosecco a night. I’d skip a night or two every week, thinking it would help control my drinking. Towards the end, I barely went out anymore, but if I did, I’d drink my bottles at home and then drink whatever I ordered at the bar. Alcohol was helping me forget about the bad shit, I was basically just distracting myself with partying, drinking alone, and sex. I was falling apart, just like my life. It was my escape, and it was numbing me until it wasn’t.

The During

A few weeks continued like this: wake up feeling hungover and depressed, smoke, drink, anxiety, drink, cry, and lay around with more feelings of self-loathing. Then the actual mental breakdown happened. I woke up ready to burst at the seams. My skin was crawling, my eyes were burning, and I felt nothing but emptiness in me, a void that still somehow felt like a deep sorrow I had never experienced. I was in bed, still drunk from the night before, and it hit me in the face; I was done, done with all of it. I texted my sister and told her how badly I wanted to disappear, feel nothing, and end the cycle of sadness. I told her I wished I could go away and hide from the world because I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. A half-hour later, she was at my apartment, and we were calling treatment facilities nearby. Within an hour of my sister being there, we found a place close by that handled dual-diagnosis patients, my only hold up was my girls. Aside from not having the money to board them, Luna does not get along with other dogs, and who would be able to watch them on such short notice? I love my girls more than anything else on this planet. I’ve had Penny for six years and Luna for five. They are my life. Without them, I would not have made it through these past two years, especially the past few months. I live alone, but they were always by my side even when I was a shitty dog mom. Loyal and loving and they deserve the world. My sister called her landlord and got the approval to keep them for three weeks while I was away, so it was settled. I was going into treatment tomorrow, two days before Christmas.

The first time I got sober was because of a DUI I got on my 24th birthday. Two days after that, I decided to go to rehab in Florida, and here I am 7 years later.…. still as pale as I was when I got here, but that’s just my little resentment. I was sober for four years, even though I didn’t 100% believe I truly had a drinking problem. Along the way, a few people including my ex-fiance and two doctors told me they didn’t think I had a ‘real drinking problem.’ Once I heard that, a seed was most definitely planted. This time around, I drank for almost two and a half years, and now I can tell you, I 100% have a drinking problem. At treatment in December, I told myself I’d get my mental health under control and be able to drink again here and there, LOL. It took about a week to realize I was truly fooling myself. If I’m being honest, I started blacking out like three weeks after I started drinking again. If only I told you half of the shit I did, the messes I made, the money I wasted over the past two years, you wouldn’t doubt it. Ya, girl was a hot fucking mess. Quick shout out to the people in my life who dealt with hurricane Cat 5 for a while, and thank you for being patient with me while I’m finding my way back.

The After

I was discharged three weeks later and the real world hit hard. You see, when you stop drinking, a lot of other things come along with that. In addition to feeling the feelings I had been running from for the past two years, I also get to enjoy repairing relationships that Drunk Catherine fucked up for Sober Catherine, and Drunk Catherine can be a real messy bitch. When you have a problem with drinking, that’s how it is, it isn’t a drink here or there. You become someone else. At least I do. I did. Now that I’m older and have a few more years under my belt, I can clearly see that. I become selfish, aggressive, mean, defensive, and put myself in bad situations. It’s like being a Gremlin, a cute little creature that turns into an ugly, volatile monster once you add water. I’m a gremlin and alcohol is my water.

So one week of detox and two weeks of treatment is what you’d expect. I made a bunch of friends, some of whom I’m still in contact with, one of whose truck I’m driving but that’s another story. I definitely left in a much better emotional and mental state than when I had gotten there, but sadly I didn’t get the help I was looking for from the facility. The turnaround for me was from the community that supported me, cried with me, held me, heard me, and didn’t judge me. Addiction and mental illness are two specific and complex diagnoses to understand and work through in general. In treatment, you’re placed in a facility with people who are going through the same thing as you, dealing with the same thing as you, having the same thoughts and feelings. In treatment, you have no access to the outside. You can’t leave the facility, so even after hours of groups and therapy sessions, you spend time talking, learning, and understanding one another. Due to that, you develop a closeness in a short period that is hard to imagine. You sit in a room with people you’ve known less than two days and open up about your traumas, regrets, mistakes, etc, and there is no other place like it. Most of the people I have met in treatment have been some of the most caring, empathetic, considerate people I know. Yes, helped turn us into the people we become while using, we all had innocent hearts at one point. During the three weeks spent there with the community, I was reminded of who I really am deep down and raw. I had to reach that breaking point, that very bottom of emptiness to relearn and remember who I am, who I want to be, and most importantly, who I can become. I also wanted to be alive again, I didn’t want to disappear again, I left with a new lease on life.

After being discharged, I didn’t feel quite ready to go home yet. In my head, there was a big ass dark storm cloud in my apartment. The kind that turns the whole sky black and even though it isn’t silent, you feel a sense of stillness, the calm before the storm. That storm cloud, I believed, took up residence at my apartment. I felt the sadness had taken a home there. My sister graciously agreed to allow me to stay with her and her fiance for two weeks before I felt comfortable returning home.

In addition to staying with my sister, I enrolled in IOP-Intensive outPatient (therapy). Not because I thought I was going to relapse, but because I knew it wasn’t good to go from such a strict therapy regimen to a normal once-a-week therapy schedule. I got out of treatment on a Wednesday and started IOP the following Monday. IOP is meant to be a bridge from inpatient to living back on the outside. I went Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 6–8:30 pm for 8 weeks.

The Now

I’m done with IOP, I’m working normally and living life. Aside from spending the holidays on ‘the inside,’ I got out a month before my sister’s bridal shower, 3 months before her bachelorette party in Scottsdale, and 4 months before her wedding. I kind of picked the best/worst time to get my shit together, but it has been-and will continue to be-bumpy. Newly sober and surrounded by alcohol, I was buckled up.

I’d like to clear a few things up before we go any further: I don’t work a program (AA, NA, etc), but power to the people who do. I believe in a healthy lifestyle (which includes the people in your life), taking meds if needed, therapy (yes, you need it too), and self awareness. I also believe spirituality of any sort is important in doing what’s best for you and having healthy hobbies. I personally am always trying to work on myself and become a better person. That’s what’s working for me at the moment. And the love from and to my dogs, I’m not sure I could survive without them. Welcome to my life.

Now that I’m sober again I’ve realized my number one trigger is emotions…I’m thinking there may be one or two people out there who can relate. I drank to escape how I felt, to avoid pretty much everything. It’s painful to think about it sometimes…the things I did. I’m just glad I’m here, and I need to keep moving in the right direction. There are a lot of emotions coming up with the celebratory events and I must tread cautiously.

The Future

My sister is getting married in May in about 58 days. The Bachelorette party is two weeks from now and I haven’t felt weird about everyone drinking until today. We were talking about alcohol in the group chat, and I already had anxiety so that may be why it was a bit much. The Bachelorette is in AZ and there are 9 other women going aside from my sister and myself. There’s a really cute ‘casita’ in the back of the Airbnb; pretty much a finished pool house with all the needed amenities. Queen bed, counter space, deep sink, TV, and couches. If at any point I feel overwhelmed, I can retreat to my little alcohol-free zone. We also have a jam-packed weekend and rather than taking Ubers everywhere, I’ll be driving since I will most definitely be sober the whole time. It’ll be interesting, being around that many people drinking while I’m not. It can end up being really entertaining or aggravating. A bachelorette party 3 months out of treatment isn’t ideal, but I can’t not go. I have planned the whole thing from the events and transportation, to where the decorations are going in the house. So after thinking it all through, I still agreed to attend.

Check back in to see how the 4 day trip in the ‘Copper State’ went, alcohol free smack dab in the middle of a full fledged party weekend.


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