Survivor Spotlight: Overcoming Alcoholism

2014-02-19T03:00:00Z 2014-02-19T08:59:56Z Survivor Spotlight: Overcoming Alcoholism nwitimes.com
February 19, 2014 3:00 am

There comes a point in an alcoholic’s life when drinking takes over. When opportunities to self-medicate outweigh everything else.

For 60-year-old south suburban Stella, a nightly dose of alcohol helped dull the pain of her husband’s passing. Several days a week, she bought a pint and nursed it in front of the TV. Then she passed out.

For five years, this was Stella’s pattern. She drank alone, and when she ran out, she had a network of 20 liquor stores she bought from.

“I didn’t want them to know I had a drinking problem,” she said. “So I’d switch things up and go to different stores. As if someone who buys a pint of vodka at a time doesn’t have a problem!”

Like many alcoholics, Stella was a private drinker. On rare occasions when she ventured out with friends, she kept her addiction under control.

And unlike the stereotypes often associated with an alcoholic, Stella wasn’t a destitute drinker. On the contrary, she was a doctor’s wife.

“I just wasn’t dealing with life as it was coming at me, and I knew it,” she said. Eventually nighttime drinking became daytime drinking too.

Stella made appointments to see her doctor; she even attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. But it wasn’t until she got a DUI that Stella made the decision to get sober for good.

“It was the worst day of my life,” she says of her DUI arrest. “I had never felt so humiliated. Yet it was the best day of my life too. It forced me to do something about my problem. Thankfully, I didn’t hurt anyone else. I had such a sense of grace. Someone was looking out for me, and I wasn’t going to blow it.”

Urged by her doctor, psychiatrist and addictions specialist Joseph Beck, M.D., she voluntarily admitted herself to the four-week program at the Illinois Institute for Addictions Recovery at Ingalls (IIAR). The IIAR is a 16-bed adult addiction treatment facility providing care for a wide range of addictions, including alcohol and drugs; gambling; the internet; video-gaming; sex; spending/ shopping; food; and chronic pain with addiction.

Since her treatment four years ago, she’s never touched a drop of alcohol again.

“The first Saturday night that I was in treatment, a group of us were eating popcorn and watching a movie about addictions,” she recalls. “I was surrounded by people dealing with similar issues, some worse than mine, and it suddenly hit me that this was the best Saturday night I’d had in five years.”

Though she had to conquer the addiction herself, Stella says the IIAR counselors gave her the tools she needed to be successful.

“And for that,” she adds, “I’m forever grateful.”

“What many people don’t realize is that coming to treatment is the first step in a lifelong journey of recovery,” Dr. Beck explains. “Your life (the people, places, and things you’re associated with) has to dramatically change after treatment. That’s really where the rubber meets the road for so many of our clients.”

After her discharge, Stella reconnected with old friends and began volunteering in the community. She repaired fractured family relationships and rediscovered her love of traveling. She even hired a personal trainer and lost 83 pounds in the process.

With the help of the IIAR, Stella emerged from the darkness of her addiction and rebuilt a life that now brings her joy.

To others facing the uncomfortable truth of addiction, Stella advises, “The most important thing is to be honest with yourself. Are you the person you want to be? If the answer is no, you don’t have to do it alone. Help is closer than you think.”

If you or someone you love is ready to reach out for help, call 708.915.4090, available 24 hours a day.

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