Addiction ran in my family, but it wasn’t going to affect me. That's what I told myself. After growing up watching a father drink himself to sleep every night, I knew that I would never find myself living like him. When I was 18, I'd be out of the childhood home that felt like nothing more than prison, and I'd be free. My parents' own problems forced me to grow up faster than most children. As a result, I became a teenager who thought she had all the answers, so I thought I'd be able to handle drinking just like I'd handled everything else.
I refused to touch a sip of alcohol in high school; living under the same roof as an alcoholic, I couldn't imagine being anything like my father. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, about 4,358 young people under age 21 die each year from alcohol use, and I didn’t want to be part of that statistic. I spent all my time studying and working. Before I'd even gotten my diploma, I had been accepted into a great college on the other side of the state on a full-ride scholarship. Weekly college parties introduced me to alcohol but drinking quickly took over my social calendar. I knew things were getting out of hand in my sophomore year; I felt exhausted all the time, and the little money I had in my bank account always went straight to alcohol. I blacked out the night before finals and wound up flunking an entire semester, which only gave me more reason to drink.
The Road to Recovery
My college had a substance abuse support group, and it took me weeks to convince myself to go. I stumbled in on a Saturday morning, horribly hungover. They told me about local rehabs they worked with that offered discounted treatment programs for students and convinced me to give one a shot. They warned me detox would be hard. I had no idea. Experiencing the stages of withdrawal was taxing in every way. It’s a lot harder than people think it is. Like Transformations Treatment Center says, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include things like anxiety, insomnia, vomiting, and even seizures in rare cases. Thankfully, I turned out okay, but withdrawal was hell. It was only after I was finally sober for the first time in weeks that I realized how far I'd let myself fall and how badly I needed help from others.
Living as a Survivor
Staying sober isn't easy. I've slipped up a few times, but I've never relapsed enough to merit a return to rehab. I attend a weekly support group that helps, and I'm still close to some of the members of that first college group I attended. I've been alcohol-free for two years now, and every day is a challenge.
Some days are easier than others, and rehab taught me that we can't control our futures. We can only make positive choices today that give us a better shot at being sober tomorrow, too.
This story of being a survivor is just one in our “I AM” series of posts. Read more here about stories of other survivors!