From my first sip of alcohol, it didn’t take very long for me to completely self destruct. I didn’t have my first drink until I got to college at the Colorado School of Mines. As most students do, I checked out a party one Friday night. My first night of partying gave me new purpose and I knew that I needed to find another party the next week. Next week became every weekend, and then every day. I was typically commended on my drinking, how I could drink more than anyone else. In college, that’s something to be proud of. I spent more time making sure I had a party to go to than on classes and homework. I drank in the morning so I could get to class and in class so I could feel normal.
When I turned 21, I stopped going to parties. I didn’t need them anymore; I could buy alcohol myself. I could drink at home alone and not deal with others. There was no one to cut me off or tell me that I was drinking too much. I would dream about drinking and wake up with cravings that screamed at me until they were fulfilled. I secluded myself and typically went through two handles of vodka a week. I drank all day every day until I passed out, most of the time by 6:00 p.m. at the latest. When I came to Arapahoe House’s intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP), I was beyond ready for my life to be different and was willing to try just about anything. I white knuckled my way through the first 60 days of sobriety. I figured out how to quit drinking, but I had no idea how to live a sober life.
IOP was a tremendous life changer for me. For three hours a day, three days a week I learned coping skills like how to handle cravings, received education on how addiction works from a neuro-biological standpoint, and meditation (something I never thought I’d gravitate towards). The other clients I was in IOP with understood what I was going through. A room full of people all trying to conquer their addiction was a very supportive experience for me. I came to the realization that I couldn’t get sober by myself and learned to reach out and ask for help.
When I was five months sober, I bought a bottle of vodka and put it in my freezer for consumption after group therapy. I told the group what I had done. There was no shortage of help in the room from my counselor or other clients. That night, one of my peers followed me home and removed the bottle. That night, I didn’t relapse.
As with treatment for any illness or disease, it costs money. I’m so thankful I had health insurance because my plan with Blue Cross and Blue Shield paid for 75 percent of my services. I did have to write a letter to the insurance company half way through to ask that more services be covered, and they granted my request. I don’t even want to know how much it all would have cost if I had to pay it all on my own, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.
Now at 23 years old and 21 months sober I feel like the future is open with possibilities. I have more than a year left of school for my engineering degree and have found new purpose in LGBT advocacy efforts at my college. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started treatment but I found so much support at Arapahoe House and sobriety feels so good.