Real Conversations with Alumni
At Caron, being Real About Recovery means sharing real stories of real alumni to help other people who need to hear it and find comfort in connecting.
Here's a glimpse of Amy's journey in an honest and insightful Q&A.
What was your life like before you decided to come to Caron?
The backstory is that for seven years, I didn't drink alcohol. I recognized earlier in my life that I had a problem and I just stopped cold turkey. During that time, I got married and I had my son and went to grad school.
It was stressful and I turned to alcohol, thinking, "I'll just do this as a social thing or maybe a way to cope a little bit." Then I had some miscarriages. My relationship was falling apart. There was a lot of grief and loss going on. Before I knew it, my drinking escalated to the point where I was drinking all day.
Did the pressure you were feeling contribute to your alcohol use?
I think the pressure of being a mom, a wife, and a daughter did. I was really good at all those things, but I didn't really know how to be me. The alcohol took that pressure away, and I relied on it to get me through everyday life. Then it just escalated to the point where my life basically revolved around the next drink.
No one told me that I had to go to college and grad school, get married, and have 2.5 kids. But that's what everyone in my family and community did, so I felt a lot of pressure to follow that path. I was going through the motions and doing what I thought everybody wanted me to do, as opposed to what I wanted to do.
Obviously, when you wake up and the first thing you do is take a drink, you recognize that there's a problem, but I didn't see a way out. I was afraid to ask for help. I didn't want to admit that I had a problem, because then my one crutch — the only coping skill I had — would be removed and I'd have nothing. It wasn't until I got to Caron and fully accepted the fact that I am an alcoholic that I had the support to do what I needed to do to get and, most importantly, stay sober.
How were you feeling before you decided to come to Caron?
I was defeated. I was miserable. I was lonely. I basically put myself in a situation I didn't think I could get out of. Hopeless and helpless definitely describe how I felt at the time.
After those seven years of not drinking, when I started drinking again, I totally kept it a secret. My husband at the time knew and maybe a handful of friends. My family had no idea. I definitely was not out in the open at restaurants or bars drinking. I drank at home or in the neighborhood. I tried to keep it as secretive as possible. There was a lot of pressure to be this perfect person, which now I realize doesn’t exist. I believed if I admitted that I was drinking again, it would be a weakness or looked upon negatively. So it was definitely a secret.
I came to Caron out of defeat, I would say. The year before, I had been to two treatment centers and a recovery house. I tried the whole sobriety thing. I'd get a couple months and I would relapse. Then I would get a couple months of sobriety and relapse again. So I was trying to get sober. I was getting divorced, trying to get custody of my son, all of these things at the same time, and there was just so much going on. I think finally, in a drunken stupor, I had a moment of clarity where I just said, "I can't do this anymore. This is going to be the rest of my life, unless I do something."
What was the experience at Caron like for you?
Caron definitely treated me differently than every other treatment center I'd been to. The staff looked at me as an individual. I had an individual counselor. I had a group that I participated in with a therapist. I participated in the grief and loss group. So they really looked at me as a whole person and said, "Okay, we need to address this, this and this," whereas the other places more or less said, "You need to go to meetings and get a sponsor and live happily ever after." They didn't go into all the underlying reasons why I drank in the first place.
Caron made me feel I deserved to be sober and that I could do it. They believed in me before I even believed in myself. They gave me the strength that I needed to say, "Okay, I can do this. I can overcome this." I was near death's door a couple times before getting to Caron. I thought I would die. But Caron showed me that I could rewrite my story, that it could be different. They gave me hope that I hadn't felt in a really long time.
How important was the community you were a part of at Caron?
Caron taught me that community is everything, that you can't fight addiction alone, that you need to rely on other people. Yeah, you need to rely on your therapist. You need to rely on your family, but really, people just like you who struggle with addiction, they are the ones who are going to help you through the hard times and really understand what you're going through. They have become like my family, for sure.
If it weren't for the people who were in treatment with me, I don't know if I'd be sober today. We spent all of our time together. We ate together. We had groups together. They're the people that I spent all of my downtime with, and we would share stories. They made me feel like I wasn't alone, that they understood my struggle and my pain. They had lived the same experience. I always say we had the exact same story, just different details.
To be surrounded by other people, other alcoholics and addicts that understood how I thought and what I felt got me through treatment. If it wasn't for them, I don't think I would've had the courage to keep going. The staff definitely played a huge role, but I think the peers in treatment with me and the other people at Caron at the same time were crucial for my recovery.
How did Caron's Family Program help improve your relationships?
The Family Program is amazing. My mom and dad participated in their five-day family education program. That helped them understand a little bit more. My son did not participate, but because Caron staff stressed that addiction is a genetic disease, they gave me the okay to have those hard conversations with him.
I took it upon myself to find the right language to use with him. I think having him come to Caron, even when he was younger and now at 13, and seeing that people from all different walks of life end up at Caron helps him to understand that there are people out there who will love you and help you to get better.
He's not a big talker, especially now at 13. Our time in the car is when we have our awkward conversations, because he's kind of held captive. He doesn't have to make eye contact, and he doesn't have to find all the right words. His responses let me know that he's listening. Every once in a while, he'll say things that make me realize he is paying attention, because he's recognizing that this parent is drinking too much at this family event, or other things like that.
He wrote in my Mother's Day card this year, "Thank you for changing your life for me."
He deserves a good mom, and I get to be that today because of Caron.