Kristen’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery
When Kristen went to rehab, she had no intentions of giving up drinking. Her plan was to do a 90-day residential addiction treatment at the Hader Clinic Queensland, and then carry on drinking. She didn’t know any other way. It turned out Kristen can live without alcohol.
This is her story.
My name is Kristen. It’s been 4 years since I completed the 90-day residential rehab program and outpatient program for my alcohol addiction. I was in active addiction for over 25 years. I’m sober now.
I had a normal childhood. I had a Mum, Dad, nice home, and didn’t want anything else. My mother had a short temper. In those days, it was expected that children behave; if they didn’t, they were punished. My punishments usually involved high levels of violence from my mother.
My father was an alcoholic – though he was a kind, gentle man.
My parents gave me a lot of freedom when I was a teen, but not a lot of education around that freedom. I had my first son when I was very young, and I wouldn’t change it for the world now. Mum and Dad were very supportive, and now I have a beautiful grandson who’s 16. I finished school and completed an apprenticeship. I met my now ex-husband, got married, and had two more beautiful children.
My husband was very dominating and controlling – he never hit me, but he made me feel less-than, useless, stupid, and inadequate.
I couldn’t make decisions about anything…. ever!!!!
We were very social. We’d often go out or entertain at home; birthday parties, anniversaries, sporting events…. any excuse to celebrate.
Drinking enabled me to talk – I was quiet and had no self-confidence. I’ve realised since I’ve been sober that even back then, when I drank, I drank to get drunk. There were never 1 or 2 drinks – what’s the point? I always drank to get drunk. I never thought, even in the later years, that there was anything wrong with that.
We’d go to barbeques, and all the mothers would sit together with half a glass of wine that had long gone warm, and I’d be drinking with the men. I’d often think, “what’s wrong with you ladies?” not “what’s wrong with me?” Social events to me, were an excuse to drink, and to drink was to get drunk……every time.
My husband was always the one who would take the kids home after a night out. I would usually stay and party.
I could never guarantee my behaviour when I was drinking. I wanted attention – attention from other men mostly. It was inappropriate, and all as a result of drinking.
In the beginning, it was at events I’d be drinking – I didn’t really drink at home. In my 30s, I started drinking at home – just on weekends. But then it progressed and became every day.
At around age 40, my drinking really started to escalate. My ex-husband told me he wasn’t interested in me anymore, but he didn’t believe in divorce. He firmly believed marriage was “til death do us part” – even if you’re miserable. And I believed I wouldn’t be able to make a life for myself and the kids on my own.
For the last 10 years I was drinking daily, it was just me and alcohol. I isolated and withdrew from the world. I would black-out every time I drank. By the end of my drinking career, just a couple of drinks caused me to black out. What few memories I have of this time are not good ones.
I used to sit in my room in the evenings, alone, watching TV and drinking. I’d write myself notes about what I was doing; what I cooked for dinner, what time I went to bed etc. Just so I knew what happened each night.
In 2016, I had weight loss surgery, and things really became bad then. After that surgery, my tolerance for alcohol was greatly reduced. Though, that didn’t stop me from consuming the same quantities I always had.
Most nights, my ex-husband would find me in various places around the house, passed out.
One night, I fell passed out on a chair outside, and was leaning up against the doghouse. It compressed a nerve in my upper arm; this caused my hand to become paralysed for 7-8 months. I woke up and I couldn’t move my hand at all.
I was always covered in bruises and scratches. I had no idea how I got them. I’d long stopped going out anywhere drinking. I would go to work each day, finish at lunch time. Then I’d go home and drink for the rest of the day.
In 2017, I came to Brisbane to care for my mother after she had an operation. I lost my job at home, so decided to stay with my mother indefinitely…. my drinking progressed even more. I would take my first drink the moment I woke in the morning.
My feet and legs were turning purple. I was a mess. I was underweight too – 56 kgs, skin and bone.
Eventually, I was sat down by my ex-husband who said, once again, “You’ve got to stop.”
I wasn’t happy. I wouldn’t listen to anybody – especially him of all people.
He put me into the Damascus detox unit first. I had two stints there. Both times I left, my first stop was the pub, which is right next door.
They gave me a lot of education about what alcohol was doing to my body physically, but it didn’t take away the need to drink.
It was July of 2017 when my ex-husband said I had to go to the Hader Clinic Queensland. It was a family intervention, I guess. By that time, I had no fight left in me. I thought, I can’t live without alcohol, I’ll die if I can’t drink. I also knew if I continued down the path I was on, it would kill me.
It was the best thing he ever did for me, and I’ve thanked him for it.
I didn’t know what to expect at Hader. It saved my life. There were routines and rules, and I loved that. The routine I learnt in there, is one I still use today. We exercised daily. There were group classes, discussions, meetings, weekly rostered cleaning and cooking duties, weekly social trips out to various places, art classes, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness sessions.
Hader Clinic Queensland introduced me to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. We would go to meetings daily. It has saved my life. I used to think it had changed my life, but it has changed me. Taught me how to live.
At some point during rehab, things started clicking for me. I can’t remember the specific day. But going to those meetings, and just seeing people with happy smiling faces, that feeling of connection and belonging, and just realising that I wasn’t the only one, I wasn’t alone, really changed things for me. I learnt that I suffered from the disease of alcoholism. I wasn’t a bad person; I was a sick person.
I was lying in bed one night, doing my meditation. My eyes were closed, and I saw this white light. I don’t know if I was asleep and dreaming, or still awake, but I felt this sense of calm. I remember thinking, Jesus… there really must be something to all this.
When I left Hader I didn’t want or need to drink. That insanity was gone. I do remember thinking in the first few days though, this is all too hard, too much work (Alcoholics Anonymous has a few things they suggest we do to maintain our sobriety……and they aren’t hard, really). My next thought was, you know what, no one else is going to do it for you, so just get on with it. Now, what I thought was hard work, is my routine. And it is keeping me sober.
I did the Aftercare & Relapse Prevention program with the Hader Clinic Queensland. My ex-husband supported me financially. I travelled all over the place to different AA meetings.
When I was 6 months sober, I went back home to visit the kids, thinking I’d be fine. But I wasn’t.
I was in the same house; it was just the same. I had a drink. Then I came back to Brisbane.
That madness was back in my head.
I wanted to drink. Though I didn’t, I wanted to. I kept going to meetings, kept doing what I’d been doing since leaving Hader – I didn’t want to do rehab again.
I was white knuckling it.
On the 5th of June 2018, I said fuck it. I’m going to have a drink – a big drink. I can’t fight this anymore. But I’ll be civilised, and I won’t have it till 5pm. I went to an AA meeting, then caught the train home. I was trying to meditate but knew that I would be going to the bottle shop straight after doing a few other things. I heard a story during that meeting. He said, I’ve lost my home, lost my family, and all I’ve got left is myself. That just kept going round in my head. I’m the same. All I have left is myself. And if I drink today, I’ll lose that too.
By the time I’d done my errands, I realised I didn’t want that drink anymore. The thought, the urge, had gone. That voice telling me to drink was quiet. It had been about 5 weeks since that drink at home.
So, I didn’t drink that day. I cried. I sat down and cried, because I knew, if I had had a drink that day, I would have got 2 bottles of wine and a litre bottle of vodka and had a decent drink like the good old days. I would have drunk it all.
I then got myself a sponsor and continued to work the steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
This day was 5 June 2018, which just happens to be my late father’s birthday. I believe my dad and my higher power saved me that day.
Today, I’ve mended my relationships with my children and extended family. I’ve got a great job. I can live life. It’s just amazing.
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning to start my day, is to sit and read the Daily Reflections. I’ve always done that. I say a prayer. They’ve changed over time, but the main one is to thank God that I’ve woken up, thank God I’m sober, and thank God for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. ‘Please help me turn my fear into faith and show me where I can be of service to others’.
These are all things I’ve learned in the last 4 years.
After I’ve read and done my prayers, I exercise. I go to boot camp. That was another thing we did in Hader, the exercise – something I’ve always liked. They’re a great group of people. It’s called PEPT – positive existence personal training. It’s feel-good stuff. I’ve got some great friends out of that.
My partner and I enjoy going away and attending various social events. When I was drinking, I’d have a bottle of wine before I’d even left the house. In social situations now, the thought of a drink doesn’t even enter my mind. I don’t want it. I’m not looking for it. It’s just not a thing. It’s as though I was never a drinker. There’s no thought or effort on my part.
And guess what!!! I can go out and have a great time. I can go to pubs for a meal, go to an 80s night with a live band, dress up, have fun and dance. I can drive home and remember the great night.
I have an amazing partner. He loves the AA program too – he’s never been in addiction, though he has been to meetings with me. He gets so much out of them too.
He’s seen what AA has done for me; he saw me at my worst.
I’ve learned so much. It’s a real program for living.
I never thought life could be so good. My kids want to be a part of my life now. I don’t see my daughter all the time, due to distance. The last time I saw her, she was just watching me, and her jaw was pretty much on the floor. She said to me, “I’ve never seen you like this mum. You’re so happy.”
My youngest child was 25 when I got sober. My kids missed out on a lot because my drinking always came first. They have forgiven me. They are grateful I am well.
They want to be a part of my life now. They’ll stay with me. They’ll ring me. They’ll ask me for advice. They’ll leave my grandkids with me.
I’ve recently got my first “sponsee” (person I sponsor) and am enjoying taking her through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I’m also looking into doing H and I (Hospitals and Institutions, a committee of AA members that carry the message of AA to alcoholics in hospitals, prisons and other institutions).
I look forward to life every day. I love waking up in the morning and living life on life’s terms.
I just love what the Hader Clinic Queensland has done for me…. a second chance at life. Thank you.
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