I’m 23 and I’m in recovery. You might think it would be impossible for someone as young as me to live a sober life. But, I’m here to tell you that no matter what your age, a new life on the other side of alcohol and drugs is possible.
My parents are alcoholics and I didn’t have my first drink until age 20. My older sister passed away from an overdose of prescription drugs right before my 21st birthday. I was devastated and tired of being the responsible adult in my family. I wanted to act my age.
My part-time job as a bartender fit in perfectly with my rapidly growing addiction. My co-workers and I would drink at the end of every shift. The difference between me and them is that I drank enough to black out nearly every time. During this period in my life I was also having a lot of panic attacks. I didn’t have health insurance, so I went to the emergency room (ER) six different times for my anxiety and drinking.
I was referred to a primary care physician for an ER follow-up appointment. She connected me to an Arapahoe House counselor, who was available in the next room. I was willing to talk to her about my drinking, but I didn’t know if I could stop.
One night, I started having the shakes. The shakes turned into convulsions and hallucinations. Terrified, I called 9-1-1 and was back in the emergency room. I called the Arapahoe House counselor from the hospital and she made sure I was taken to an Arapahoe House detox location. Four days later, I started my 28-day treatment at Arapahoe House’s Healing First program.
All of the counselors at Healing First made a point to get to know me. They helped me understand the biology of addiction and explained that my family history put me at greater risk for alcoholism. I told them I didn’t know how I was going to handle saying “no” to alcohol after leaving treatment. It was pretty cheesy but, we practiced saying “no” over and over again. They also made sure I had a support system when I left. They introduced me to members of the local recovery community for continuing support.
At 23, I have my whole life in front of me. It’s a lot of work getting sober, and I don’t ever want to go through it again. I have too much pride to relapse. I have a full time job now and I pay my bills. I have money to spend on fun stuff instead of every dime going to alcohol. I never forget that I’m an alcoholic, but I don’t feel like a failure anymore. I’m back to being myself; the self I was before I started drinking.
Arapahoe House note: This client’s story is a perfect example of how integrated systems should work in healthcare. Most people initially seek help for substance abuse or mental health disorders from their primary care physician. In her case, there was an Arapahoe House counselor embedded in her doctor’s office ready to treat her.