If someone were told to close his eyes and visualize what a stereotypical alcoholic or…
A High-Functioning Alcoholic Rediscovers Herself
Like many young people, Nicole liked to go out and party with her friends. But there was something different about the way Nicole partied–she didn’t just drink to have fun. She drank to get wasted. Soon, she reached a point where she’d decline invitations from her friends to go out so she could stay home and drink alone. “I craved connection, but didn’t want to do anything but get drunk. I fell into a cycle of working during the day, then drinking and blacking out at night, then doing it all again the next day,” Nicole says. “I was doing well at work, but I felt like crap and was covering up so much. I had so many secrets.”
Because Nicole was able to function at work and pay rent, she spent years in denial that she had a drinking problem. She hid her alcohol abuse from her friends and family. It wasn’t until her health started to suffer–she felt sick and shaky and had no appetite, even though she’d always loved food–that she decided she needed help. “I couldn’t miss work because I had to pay rent. I didn’t know how to manage it,” Nicole recalls. “I didn’t want to ask for help because that meant admitting I had a problem.”
Becoming Willing to Ask for Help
Not knowing where else to turn, Nicole started by talking to her manager at work. “I had to be humble and vulnerable and swallow my pride,” she says. She asked for a leave of absence from work and contacted her employee assistance program to help her into drug rehab treatment. Based on a recommendation from her cousin, she spoke with a Promises recovery specialist who helped her with the logistics. “He was so awesome. He stayed in touch with me all day and guided me through every step,” she says. “He coordinated detox and everything. It was so easy, I wish I would’ve done it sooner.”
Nicole completed detox in a hospital, which she described as “painless”, even though she was really scared at first, and then completed residential treatment at Promises, followed by four months in intensive outpatient treatment. “I had no idea what to expect, but I got there and saw it was just houses,” she says. “It felt homey, not like a hospital at all.”
Although she was used to not having rules, “It was nice to have structure–to get up at a certain time and go to the gym,” she says. “The food was amazing and the techs were super supportive.” One of her favorite parts of drug rehab treatment was the group sessions. “They all made you think in some way and contributed something,” she says. “It’s hard to walk into a meeting full of strangers. You don’t know what to do and you feel like an outsider, but Promises taught us everything so we knew what to do after treatment.”
Coping With Alcohol Cravings
Nicole now has six months of sobriety under her belt. But because of the nature of addiction, she still has to deal with alcohol cravings and triggers. Since alcohol is everywhere, it’s hard to avoid. For instance, some of her friends get drinks when they go out to dinner. “I remind myself they can handle it, but I can’t. Instead, I just enjoy being out,” she says. She avoids obvious triggers, like walking down the liquor aisle at the grocery store, and uses the skills she learned to deal with the triggers she can’t avoid.
Like many people, Nicole has dreams about relapsing; but in her case, they’re scary, not the type that make her miss her drinking days. “I’m mad at myself and feel guilty,” she says. “They remind me how precious my sobriety is to me.”
A Process of Self-Rediscovery
What’s the best part about being in recovery? “Clarity,” Nicole answers. “I still have issues to work through, but I feel like I’m rediscovering myself. I used to be creative, but there was no time for that when life revolved around alcohol. Now I’m figuring out what I like to do with my time.” She cooks a lot and is getting back to hobbies she used to enjoy.
Today, Nicole has a sponsor and is working on Step 4 of the 12 Steps, though she admits she’s “still working on the God thing.” Her finances are under control and her relationship with her mom has improved because there are no more secrets. She is in touch with a close group of girlfriends she has had for years who celebrate her recovery milestones with her and tell her how proud they are.
She’s also learning how to have fun sober. “Over the holidays I had a hot cocoa party,” she recalls. “I wondered if it would be lame since there was no alcohol, but it was really fun. When you’re with friends who care about you, you don’t need alcohol to have a good time.”
Overall, “I’m trying to be the best me that I can be,” she says. “I started going to the gym at Promises and am trying to keep that up. I’m looking better, which is helping me feel better about myself.”
Outpatient treatment and ongoing therapy have given Nicole an opportunity to dive deeper into the underlying issues that led to her alcohol abuse. She goes to Promises alumni meetings every week and shares her story with current clients. “The alumni support is hugely important,” she says. “I don’t miss any meetings. They make you feel important – like you belong – and they’re fun. There are cool events and we support residents and give them some hope.”
For those who are struggling with addiction, Nicole’s message is “Help is out there. There are so many places between detox, sober living and drug rehab. I never even knew it was there.”