Alumnus Celebrates A Decade of Recovery
My name is Judy P. and I was an inpatient at Edgewood during October, November and December, 2007. I also returned the following year for a week of Insite.
I am coming up on my 10-year anniversary of being clean and sober. At 62 years old, I am very happy about this and will mark the occasion in style, I am sure.
My path to become an Edgewood alumnus has been interesting to say the least. I owe much of it to a remarkable woman — my best friend.
In 2007, Kathe, who is now 38 years sober, took me out for dinner one evening and suggested, in a very kind way, that perhaps I was drinking too much. She pointed out that I had told her on a previous occasion I was probably drinking too much wine. It did not go over well. I sat in heated silence, seething with anger, basically wriggling in my seat with zero witty come backs. I went home. I did not speak to her for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, whether I agreed with her or not was not the point. The point was that I could not get her words out of my head.
Kathe truly wrecked drinking for me. I would pour myself a glass of wine in my crystal goblet, take a sip, and her words just kept echoing in my mind, my internal committee debating their merit.
“Do I drink too much?” Well, sure, but so what?
“If you had been through what I’ve been through, you would drink too.”
I even had a therapist and a GP that counseled me. I was told, “Your problem isn’t drinking, your problem is your relationship,” or, “You need to get rid of him.”
I am including this because well-meaning health professionals are not necessarily trained nor do they know a great deal about alcohol abuse. I was having a very hard time admitting I was an alcoholic. I went around and around with that but, in the end, I decided that I just wanted to stop drinking and if that made me an alcoholic, then, fine, I was an alcoholic.
Kathe gave me the Big Book to read. I phoned her one evening after drinking several glasses of wine. She asked me what I thought of the book. I told her I thought it was stupid and had nothing to do with me.
After waking up another morning, feeling hung over and absolutely wretched and driving my son to school, I finally decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I emailed Kathe and said I was ready. She was amazing! She booked me into Edgewood. She tried Betty Ford first, but when she told them it was for a friend, the receptionist kept telling her, “It’s alright dear, you can tell me it’s really for you. People do it all the time.” She hung up and called Edgewood. She offered to look after my son for the duration of my stay.
To me, Kathe is the embodiment of all that is good and wonderful about A.A., an amazing human being with whom I count myself extremely fortunate to be friends. She wasn’t just kind and caring. She was knowledgeable and effective. She went with me to see a counselor in another town, and she flew with me to Nanaimo. She brought my son out to visit me. I owe my sobriety, and much more, to her. I was a mess, and she picked me up and put me exactly in the right place to get the help I needed. It doesn’t get any better than that. I will always be grateful to her for having the courage to call me out.
I signed into Edgewood on October 17, 2007, which is my anniversary. I left on December 14.
My memories? Well, my counselor was Dale Burke, who, along with the other staff, was incredible. I can remember very clearly how confused and upset I was when I showed up. I was so bewildered that I had actually checked myself into rehab, and I questioned the wisdom of that decision daily for the first couple of weeks. I questioned Dale so much that she finally drew on a page in my binder for me to look at.
“Judy is an Alcoholic.”
I do remember having a hard time with all the rules. Not because I have authority issues, but because, as a mature business person with success under my belt, I was used to being the authority. I remember complaining to a friend on the phone during the second week, “They keep telling me what to do!”
She replied, “Why don’t you try doing what they tell you?”
Good grief. Apparently, not listening to what others tell me to do was not restricted to my drinking.
The Serenity Prayer also pissed me off immediately. My attitude was, well, maybe all you losers who have nothing better to do can be serene. This was said inside my head, but dripping with sarcasm. Seriously. Who has time for this stuff? I had places to go, people to see, and things to do – except I didn’t. I was stuck in that chair, in that auditorium, by my own admission.
Weeks later, while I was obsessing about my boyfriend, a peer said to me, “Oh, you have the codependent crazies.”
It stopped me dead in my tracks. There was a name for that? There was a condition that other people experience similar to the one I was feeling? That was my eureka moment. Far more than identifying with being like other alcoholics in treatment, it resonated, and I literally reverberated with that recognition. It was a huge turning point for me. The book Codependent No More and its sequel have both proven very influential.
I did not receive a chip when I left, as the counselors felt I still needed more time. However, I did attend aftercare groups for a year. I went to A.A. for 90 visits in 90 days and I got a sponsor. My aftercare plan suggestions continued for years, as did Big Book studies and my Insite stay at Edgewood.
Still, it was not a smooth transition. It was rough and bumpy, and I got in my own way at every conceivable step. Just trying to be honest with myself, let alone the rest of the world, was dicey. My mind was a whirling mass of anxiety spiked with rage, self-pity and blame. I was an equal-opportunity blamer, dumping as much on myself by excusing the bad behavior of others, and simultaneously spewing venom on the unchosen. Again, I was busy doing this inside my own head.
I clearly remember the first time I drowned out the raucous, nasty, noise in my head with gratitude. It seems the two are mutually exclusive. At least, for me they are. It gave me peace of mind. That was, and is, the most valuable thing I learned, or, at least, the one I came to rely on the most.
My biggest challenge in early recovery was an abusive relationship in which I was embroiled, of which I continued to reel in and out for my first few years before ending it for good seven years ago.
But, thanks to Edgewood, having another drink was not an issue. I stayed sober throughout it and have not had a drink since before checking into Edgewood. That relationship signified my rock bottom, and I needed to be living sober long enough to realize my self-worth. Once I got out of the relationship, I felt truly free.
Going to Edgewood and A.A. gave me the tools to do that.
These days, I am retired, happily remarried and living in Pennsylvania. My husband, an anesthesiologist, is a wonderful man — intelligent, kind-hearted and the owner of a great sense of humor. Living on 150 acres in the country with a flowing stream, we are about 90 miles from New York City. Our quiet life is punctuated with trips into the city to see a play or shop, and lots of travel. Life is very good.
I have one son. He came to visit me in Edgewood one family day. If you ask him about my drinking, he will tell you he only ever saw me drunk maybe twice. I simply did not drink around him. He did, however, suffer through the rollercoaster of emotional upheaval and the chaos of the effects of my drinking and being involved in an abusive relationship. We have talked about this many times and I have made amends; he assures me that all is well. Thank God. He is now 23 and has just graduated with his Masters Degree. He went through university at a prestigious post-graduate school on scholastic scholarships, and, if I was any prouder of him my head would explode. He is kind and big-hearted, and I love him to bits.
In closing, I hope my story can be of some use to our extended family of Edgewood alumni. Over the years, I have recommended Edgewood to several people. It was an amazing experience. Ten years later, I am still very grateful for having had the opportunity to get sober and turn my life around in such a supportive, caring place.
Creating Healthy Boundaries
Recovery from addiction involves the entire family. An important component to this involves defining and setting boundaries. Setting a boundary is a life skill, not a quick fix to a problem in a relationship. This life skill has been made popular by self-help and support groups. If you’ve ever experienced therapy, you’ll more than likely be familiar with the term “boundary.” It’s a concept widely used in the field of counselling.
A boundary can be described as what you believe you do or don’t deserve. It’s communicating personal values while protecting those values from being compromised or violated. Identifying your boundaries puts you in touch with who you really are. Essentially, it’s defining yourself in a healthy way.
Boundaries communicate self-worth – “I am worth it!” We teach people how to treat us. We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. But, if you don’t believe this, you’ll probably find yourself in unhealthy relationships with individuals who take advantage of you, and may even emotionally abuse you, versus relationships with people who respect you, your convictions and treat you in a loving manner. Boundaries are an effective skill to apply when you’re in a controlling relationship or in a relationship where the other person isn’t taking responsibility for their own life and it’s negatively impacting you and your life.
When setting a boundary, you define or establish your convictions, beliefs and/or values. In other words, clearly identify what your limit is with the other person. Only then can you assertively communicate what it is. Do this in a calm, clear, concise, firm, and respectful manner, without anger. Choose your words – do it in as few words as possible. Finally, have a plan of action that supports your boundary, in the event that the other person doesn’t respect your boundary and ends up violating it. Ask yourself, “What will I do if this person crosses my boundary?” It’s not about what you will do to that person, but rather what will you do for yourself. What will the consequence be? Keep in mind, the only thing we can control is ourselves – our actions and reactions.
Setting a boundary involves taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Only set a boundary that you are comfortable with. If you’re going to set a boundary, you have to be willing to follow through with the consequence (your plan of action). Otherwise, it no longer makes it a boundary, but instead, simply a threat. Recognize that you’re not trying to take care of the other person’s feelings because the reality may be that the person on the receiving end may not like what you are putting in place. But that being said, you need to protect yourself and your boundaries because no one else will!
There are different boundaries – emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical. An emotional boundary involves feelings. Feelings need to be respected and validated. An intellectual boundary includes thoughts and perceptions. Everyone is entitled to their own perceptions; just because someone’s perception is different to yours doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Thoughts and perceptions need to be heard, but not necessarily agreed with. Spiritual boundary is the right to one’s own belief system. This may or may not be religious. Physical boundaries refer to our own personal space and touch.
Our relationships are most healthy when emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical boundaries are defined and respected. Strong, healthy boundaries come from having a good sense of your own sense of self-worth. It’s a major step in taking control of how you will allow others to treat you. The benefit is self-empowerment!
Healthy Relationships: Keeping it Positive
When it comes to discussing healthy relationships, many articles focus on “what not to do” in a relationship. Since Valentine’s Day is a time when we celebrate the positive aspects of love, we decided to highlight “what to do” to keep the connection, and lightness alive in your relationship.
The couple that laughs together stays together
There is a time and a place for serious conversations, but if you can implement humour on a regular basis, this can be very therapeutic for you and your relationship. Watching a funny movie together or laughing together at a funny experience releases endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. This creates happy moments that your brain can associate to your relationship. Inside jokes can increase bonding between you and your partner, because it implies that you share something fun and secretive, that no one else is privy to. Taking things to a more serious note, the entrance of humour into a particularly difficult conversation can also be the difference of holding on to something, and learning when to let it go. We can all benefit from taking things a little less seriously.
Birds of a Similar Feather, Flock Together
You have probably heard the saying “opposites attract,” but too much opposition creates a divide in a relationship. If there is something that you and your partner genuinely enjoy, it can be something you look forward to doing together. Shared experiences are crucial in creating a solid foundation. With adult life being so busy, our responsibilities get in the way of sharing time with our partners. It is essential to carve out time to experience the things you enjoy most with your loved one. Furthermore, our interests speak to our character and our personalities, which is an important indicator of whether or not you and your partner will be compatible.
Individuation – Be Yourself
While it is important to share common interests, it is also very important to be your own person, with your own activities, and experiences. Someone with a strong sense of self is often happier in a relationship, because they are comfortable with themselves and at the same time can appreciate the uniqueness of their partner. Taking time out of the relationship to do something “just for you” maintains your independence, and allows you to appreciate the time you have together. While it is beneficial to have shared networks, it is also nice to have your own personal relationships.
It is generally more common to think about the things we love, however, we do not always express our feelings. Showing affection involves sharing thoughts, sharing the things that you are grateful for, and acknowledging what your partner brings to the relationship. Physical touch can also be a way to express your affection. When was the last time you hugged your partner when you got home? When was the last time you sat on the same couch to watch a movie? Life moves quickly, and it is easy to take these opportunities for granted. Physical touch fosters connectivity, and builds intimacy. Expressing affection, whether it is with words, or with touch, allows us to be vulnerable, which facilitates openness in a relationship.
Be Your Partner’s Cheerleader!
Consider your relationship as a team. In order to have a cohesive, and successful team, you need to have each other’s backs. Celebrate your partner’s wins, and support your partner during losses. Acknowledge each other’s strengths. This can be as simple as taking the time to listen to the events of their day, or as elaborate as setting up a party to congratulate them after a promotion at work. Taking time to “cheer on” your partner helps to strengthen the bond, and if the bond is strong, the relationship has a better chance of longevity.
Written by: Laura Politi & Larena Dowsett-Cooper