Recovery Spotlight: Anne K

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

I first read the serenity prayer, framed in my Mom’s office, after a bad breakup in high school. Seemed fitting at the time, but I never thought these words would guide me throughout my dally existence and give me strength to live freely without drugs or alcohol.

I took my first drink at age twelve out of pure curiosity. In that very moment all feelings of discontent disappeared, and I wanted more. Curiosity quickly turned to excuses like everyone is doing it, it’s fun, it makes me feel good, and I’m myself when I drink. Alcohol provided me an escape from life.

I felt invincible when I drank. During high school, alcohol gave me an excuse to act outside of my natural character. I could be as loud as I wanted, as promiscuous, and have the courage to speak whatever was on my mind. It served as an excuse for reckless behavior. I began drinking heavily on weekends and experimenting with any drug that was going around. I was extremely impressionable and would do anything to fit in. I would also do anything to ease the pressure and expectations I felt at home.

Life’s little problems got bigger. During my junior year I developed an eating disorder, nearly starving myself to death weighing less than 90lbs. My addictions provided me with control and a sense of purpose. My parents gave me an ultimatum: get better, or no college. I was desperate to move out, and had somehow gotten in to college, so I agreed to go to therapy. Having everyone convinced I was better, I juggled addictions, trading one for another during the next few years. In my family, if everything looks good on the outside then everything must be okay.

While in college my life really did look okay. I was finally at a healthy weight, my grades were good, and I had the approval I had so longed for from my family. In reality, I thought I looked terrible, would never be good enough, was abusing alcohol and Adderall, and had extreme social anxiety. When I drank, I would get wasted before every party, would attempt to drink more then everyone else, and then blackout. I hid all reasons why I drank so much, saying I only wanted to have fun. I was keeping many secretes and telling lie after lie; I lived as a good student by day and recluse by night.

I was raped my freshman year of college. I blacked out and was raped by someone who prided himself of being alcohol/drug free, violent, and his ability to take advantage of drunk college girls. I kept this hidden for five years, because I blamed myself. Throughout college I found myself in many dangerous situations directly related to alcohol. A few years later two men broke in to my house with guns, confused as to who they were looking for. I never asked for help regarding either situation.

I started experiencing flash backs and nightmares, so I drank to sleep. I quickly became dependent. I still managed almost perfect grades, had a job, and got in to graduate school. I was a really good actor and a great functioning addict.

I moved back in with my parents after I graduated to save money while going to school. I realize now that I moved mostly because it was easier then learning to be a real adult and I could keep my

alcoholism hidden or risk losing financial stability. I also knew that my Dad, who is an alcoholic, would distract my Mom from focusing on me.

I continued to drink everyday to mask unpleasant feelings, and was in denial of having a REAL drinking problem. I managed to keep a serious relationship, a full time job, and go to school. I had my routine: work, drink, school, drink, relationship, drink. I started taking xanax throughout the day to help with minor withdraws. At first, I would take only enough to get through the morning, telling myself I wouldn’t drink that night; however most nights ended in a blackout.

In 2014, my life drastically changed. My relationship ended, I graduated, and I stopped having interest in work. My routine changed, with alcohol being the only constant that remained. My life looked slightly less perfect, and all I knew was to drink over it. I threw myself into emotionless relationships and gave up on using my master’s degree to get a better job. I was constantly stealing money from my parents, opening credit cards, and neglecting student loans. My addiction was a full time job, an intimate relationship, and had complete power over my life.

This lifestyle caught up with me fast. Over two years I was hospitalized six times for injuries I endured while intoxicated or alcohol poisoning. I was in car accidents, each risking the lives of others, myself, or criminal charges. I quit my job because I knew I was of no service to them and it gave me more time to drink as I wanted to. I completely isolated myself, and spent most days alone avoiding life until I needed another drink or more pills.

In November 2016, I had a seizure due to withdraw. I admitted to my doctor that I MAY have a drinking problem, but wasn’t dependent on alcohol. I started outpatient treatment with little intention of staying sober. I never passed a urine test and once blew a .12 the morning of class. I stopped going after insurance ran out and used that as an excuse to keep drinking. My only purpose of getting out of bed was to drink, and then take pills which I thought made me seem less intoxicated. I always managed to get more of what I wanted, from the store, a doctor, the medicine cabinet, etc.

I remember thinking one afternoon, “This is it. I am an addict and I will keep using drugs and alcohol until it kills me or I kill myself.” In April 2017, on my birthday, I overdosed. I convinced everyone I was fine and could go home after a night in the hospital. Two days later, my mom found me on the bathroom floor during a grand mal seizure. At the hospital I was told I would not live to be thirty if I kept living the way I was.

I agreed to go in to detox. I honestly don’t remember much of detox, nor do I care to. After being there for a short time I was taken to the ICU where I remained for six days. I experienced delusions, hallucinations, and blackouts in which I became demanding, violent, and suicidal. I do remember wanting to die. I left detox with the desire to stop feeling so miserable about myself. I asked to go to rehab because I wanted to feel better and give my family some peace of mind. In rehab, I felt healthier and persevered on reservations I had to drink, while telling loved ones I was done.

I drank the day I got out. I knew where I had a bottle and pills stashed in my parents’ house. After four days of binge drinking, I hit my real bottom. I officially had inflicted too much pain on my family, and was

so tired of lying and feeling sick. This was the lowest point of my addiction and I contemplated suicide. The phone call informing me that a bed was available at a half way house saved my life, because it shed some very dim light on whatever future I might have and showed me that I must seek help from a higher power if I was to live another day.

I have always believed in a higher power, but never thought it could help when help was not wanted. At that point I had absolutely no faith in myself, but I did believe that something had been with me all along offering me protection and love. I was ready to give my will back and admit I cannot stay sober on my own. My omission and willingness was the difference within me when I moved to Frederick and began treatment through Gale Recovery. That was seven months ago. Today, I know that what I felt at the start of recovery, and the force that helps me live life now, is the essence, power, and grace of GOD.

I started as a blank slate. I embrace now, that I had the opportunity to recreate myself and learn who I am and who I want to be. Without the crutch of drugs and alcohol, all feelings of shame, insecurity, hurt, anger, and pain came at me like a wrecking ball. I knew I could not tackle all at once, so I started small and took simple suggestions. I got a sponsor, a home group and service position. I listened in the rooms of AA/NA and in IOP.

Now, I continue working my program and seek outside help in coping and exploring all areas of my life; this includes what led to my addiction, what maintained it, and how I can face my past. While in recovery, I started working again in a field related to my degree and something I love doing. I’m also rebuilding and creating bridges with good, trustworthy people, in order to establish healthy relationships.

I am far from “fixed”, nor do I ever want to be. Addiction, and all that comes with it, is not something to erase; it is something to remind you how far you have come, what not to fall back to, and that daily maintenance is essential. My addiction took over my mind, body, and spirit; so today, I treat my addiction accordingly, asking for help when help is needed and admitting that I’m not always okay. I had to humble myself in order to grow and change as a person. I now meet life at its own terms, rather than avoiding internal and external stress with drugs and alcohol. I do this with prayer, the fellowship of AA/NA, and the twelve steps.

This program saved my life and helps me look at life with an outlook of hope rather rejection. My hope is that someone will read and be inspired by my story. So many people die every minute from this disease; I am living proof that recovery works and it is possible to live freely without the monkey on your back. Pain does not have to be permanent, and we can live joyous and free when you believe you are worth living a better life.