I like to think as “before” as the time encompassing my life prior to finally getting that kind of “AHA!” moment. It wasn’t really like a light bulb or anything like that, but more of a slight progression into surrender. However, me before treatment very much resembled someone with borderline personality disorder. I had this insane fear (whether real or imagined) of being abandoned (which I still struggle with), depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, volatile personal relationships, black and white thinking, constant anger, and my entire life revolved around getting and using inhalants. I would get up at 7 am, for this is when the store opened, get my inhalants for the evening, go to work from 10am-6pm, but at 4 pm I would start to get nauseous anxiety because I knew soon enough I would have those inhalants in my hand, and I would use the second I got in my car, even though my work was only a two minute drive from my house. I was truly addicted, addicted to not feeling like myself, addicted to not being anxious or depressed, or worrying about anorexia. I loved focusing on the feeling of being high instead of all that, although, to be honest, I’d experience that high for maybe a good ten minutes if I was lucky before passing out and then just waking up the next day on the floor, of usually the bathroom, with 12 empty cans surrounding me. So I would use all night while in a blackout. It was truly a glorious lifestyle of waking up next to the litter box in my apartment bathroom, sometimes having thrown up on myself, sometimes not. Eventually, that job melted away because inhalants became more important; I would leave in the morning, or sometimes the afternoon, and not make it back to my home until 8 hours later, for I could never last with the anxiety I felt to use for that entire 10-20 minute drive home. Sometimes the police would pull me over or find me parked in the middle of the street from passing out; one time I caused a five-car accident. I loved to make phone calls when I was partially lucid while using and cry and say I was ready to die. All these things are clearly negative, but all I continued to see was the positive side of using, I was SO incredibly addicted to the lifestyle of no longer feeling my feelings. And truthfully, I had no idea just how many feelings I had bottled up in there from having a childhood full of abuse, abandonment, anxiety, and fear. It’s not until I started to surrender to this process, which still continues on through this day, that I could even begin to see that I had all of these unresolved feelings that stemmed from so long ago. At this point, although he was lying and we were having problems, I used those problems as an excuse to get high, super angry (like I did when I got high), and threw my husband out, taking him for granted, however, he never did return. Both of my grandmothers saw me under the influence, which I feel is so shameful, I had repeatedly been sent to the hospital by everyone I knew, the police constantly did a wellness check on me in my apartment, and above all I even passed out while driving in a parking lot and thankfully hit a pole before I plowed my car through a store entrance or before hurting another person. I had bottomed out, and everyone’s bottom looks different. I still had money, a super nice apartment, a car (which was strangely looking more and more like it had been through a demolition derby that I have no recollection of), and I even had a boyfriend who loved me (sorry guys, although does Intervention say yes, I, in fact, did not have a sugar daddy lol). But despite the common thought that in order to bottom out you need to be left with nothing and are probably homeless, I had bottomed out when inhalants became my entire life, put the nail in my marriage coffin, distanced me from my family, made me endanger the life of others, and made me endanger the life of myself, for every time (even the first) that you use inhalants you are taking a gamble, because each time, and you never know which, can be your last. They are literally THAT deadly. I was just contacted the other day by someone who had relapsed, this time on inhalants, and unfortunately, she passed away within one week, for her disease of addiction prevented her from hearing my logical words that inhalants are deadly.
When Intervention was filming me, I had no idea what they were doing at my house, no idea what it was for, but since I got to still do whatever I wanted and I didn’t feel alone because the camera crew would talk to me when they weren’t filming, I just let everything happen. I didn’t even hear of the show Intervention until after I was admitted into rehab. So clearly I did not see the intervention coming. And unfortunately it took them much longer to catch me amongst my shenanigans, for after my 5 minute high, I would become myself again and do things like get my car back after they had confiscated it or step into a bank because I knew the camera crew couldn’t film in there, using an ex-boyfriend to let me out the back door of the hospital. It became a game towards the end; it did not go down as smoothly as the episode might imply. I did give up due to my hatred for my family however when they arranged for my cats to be taken. They were so innocent in my eyes, they had no idea what was going on, and they were punished, bounced from foster home to foster home and neither of them have ever been the same since. I did get both cats, Fiona and Lola, after about a year and a half, and flew them to Los Angeles, where I had gotten an apartment after treatment, and believe you me, I have so much guilt still, that they are now beyond spoiled. Believe it or not, when most people recognize me, something I feel 50/50 about, one of their first questions of me is “Oh my god! Honey, how’re your cats?!”
I fought the treatment system for quite a while; I was there for 4.5 months, but this is where the “after” begins. But once I finished my mandatory 30 days required by Intervention, I was told I was not welcome back home, which was a pretty big slap in the face, yet also, I found myself in fear of leaving. I had switched therapists and was the only client seeing the Clinical Director at the facility. This man changed my life. He opened my eyes to a whole different life that preceded my addiction and anorexia and was able to point out right when my anxiety and anorexia began, the events that caused them, and even the fact that we were able to determine that the anxiety showed up about 10 years prior to the depression was amazing to me. But I learned, and it actually truly made sense (!), that everything I did in my life was based around shame and fear, things that I learned about as a child. I grew up in a household of 3 sisters, with a verbally, physically, and sexually abusive father, and a mother who eventually had a meltdown and mentally checked out for 10 years. Through this I learned many things by looking at the anxious and disorganized attachment bonds I attempted to make to my parents: I learned (in my little child brain) that I was not worthy, that I would be abandoned, and that the world was unsafe, which became “blanket statements” that I applied to every scenario in my life. I carried all of these forms of shame with me from my childhood all the way through my adult life, and was truly unaware. I finally was receiving insight and I began making decisions, granted one by one, this is ALL a process, that were beneficial to me. I started to make totally different decisions based on my new perceptions and started creating new neuropathways towards being a different, better version of myself. I even managed to be depression and anxiety free for the first two years! I will say that my anxiety and depression have returned, but I can see plain as day how different my life is today compared to Allison 7.5 years ago. Today I see the gray areas, I do not have drama leading my life, I go to therapy, (Gestalt therapy specifically right now), to work on those false blanket statements I developed as a child. I never knew my life could be like this. I started all over again in Los Angeles, for I don’t know if you remember, but I will never forget the day I got dropped off at rehab in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and with a purse that had nothing in it. I now am graduating from graduate school at Pepperdine University in Psychology, after which I will be going for my doctorate in the same subject, I work for drug and alcohol treatment facilities, I have a beautiful apartment super close to the beach, I own my own brand new car, I have tons of great friends, great relationships again with all my family members (which did take a lot of time), and I have those two little cats back. But what is the most different is my level of insight, being able to identify which of my thoughts is irrational and which is rational, for my cognitive thinking is distorted, and with these identifications, I am able to make better choices that serve my life and bring me towards the right direction. Do I still get triggered? Sure, I still get anxiety when I pass a can of inhalants in a store, or a fan wants to take a picture, or major anxiety when my episode is on, but the difference is I reach out for support. I also get contacted to help so many people or people just sharing how my story has helped their lives (I save every one of those comments) that it helps manage that fear that lies behind that anxiety. Basically what I am here to tell you is that taking that first step is terrifying, but if you’re willing, once you begin that process and begin taking those baby steps in the right direction, your life will exceed your dreams, for I truly believe that every addict deserves a beautiful, meaningful life and that every single, solitary one is worth saving.
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