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Q & A

Why do you call your substance abuse a "shocking downfall"?

As a mother of four my life’s focus revolved solely around my children. With a schedule and a routine, I felt strong, organized and confident in my motherly role. As a creature of habit, I stayed committed and attuned to the needs of others. The essence of my character lay embedded in my role as a caregiver. My departure into daily drinking altered my personality and quality of life. I made detours while running errands and would find myself stopping at liquor stores, hiding my purchases, relying on nips of vodka to calm my nerves. My “shocking downfall” didn’t happen in one day. It slowly snuck up on me. Before I was able to absorb the depth of my departure from social drinking, I was dependent on alcohol. By that point I was too far gone and needed professional help.

What's the importance of your "toolbox" in creating a calm and serene environment for you and your mother?

I built a toolbox in rehab to help fend off triggers. Many of the skills are easily transferable and I apply them to my mother’s confusion, frustration and irritation, all the result of dementia. We weather our demons together. With a good sense of my mother’s discomfort level, I depend on my tools as an integral part of our daily routine. It’s critical I remain present, so I don’t miss out on this unique gift of time my mother and I share. Music, human contact, a warm blanket and my two dogs are part of our daily repertoire. I worry about what’s next even though it’s out of my control. If I choose to drink, I will become  unrecognizable. The side of me that’s dependable and reliable will evaporate. I work to stay the course; my mother needs me.

What's it like to make a life altering decision "in perpetuity"?

Honestly, the very first time I promised myself and my family I would stop drinking I had no clear understanding of the commitment I was making. I had every intention of following through but came to the table wildly unprepared. After three years and three rehabs I was exhausted. Defeat fell onto the top of my compost pile and mixed with shame and guilt. Despair evoked fear and entrapment. I’m a pen and paper gal and I used my desk calendar to set small, clear and achievable goals. “In perpetuity” is the definition for endlessly, forever and never-ending. I stopped saying, “I’ll never drink again,” because in perpetuity sets me up for failure.

How important is self-care in recovery?

When self care is first introduced to me the concept is foreign. To me self-care is simply selfish. While in rehab a daily schedule is prepared for each client. Facilities vary in the way they market themselves but share common threads; group and individual therapy. Scattered throughout are blocks of time dedicated to self-care. Yoga, music therapy, meditation and mindfulness. After my final stint in the spring of 2018, I returned home with a renewed sense of self, yet prioritizing my needs remained out of my comfort zone. Alcohol began to seep into my dreams and I’d wake up and consider having just one sip. A departure from the routine I had put in place would be catastrophic. I taught myself how to sit with discomfort, practicing patience using podcasts designed to regulate and release my anxiety.

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