July 6th 2015 is my clean date. On July 6th 2015, I walked into Linden Oaks Outpatient Center to start my partial hospitalization program. At this point all I remember is that I was beaten, broken and unsure exactly what “dual diagnosis” meant. I smoked my last bowl at 8AM in the parking lot, with the notion to save half of it for when I got outta my program for the drive home that evening. Within minutes I was rudely woken up to what exactly dual diagnosis was. I sat down in a chair, surrounded by a bunch of unfamiliar faces. To me, it was a great representation of white suburban Chicago. Immediately I felt out of place. There were people of all ages, and someone was being discharged. I wanted to die. This man was seriously smiling and thanking everyone for all they helped him to achieve. He was probably around 60, and after sharing his story I quickly realized that dual diagnosis included actually THREE things. Depression, anxiety, and SUBSTANCE ABUSE. Were you KIDDING me?? I felt like I just walked into a trap. A comedy perhaps, and the joke was seriously on me. The only thing I remember about that first day was this grateful man, (for what? SOBRIETY!?), having to pee in a cup, and something telling me to throw that bowl out the window. Never a guy to turn down a challenge, I looked at the opportunity in front of me to be just that. They told me the program was about three weeks and I decided that day to commit to a drug and alcohol free program until I was discharged. The rooms of Narcotics Anonymous changed all that.
The following daysa were agonizing for me. I couldn’t sleep because I only knew how to pass out. I could not eat because I needed to smoke weed to be hungry. This is how my body worked for 10+ years, and I thought I was going to pass out and die if I couldn’t escape my reality very soon. The program required that you attend three or more 12 step meetings a week. On or around day 3, I stumbled into an NA meeting in Downers Grove. What a mess I must have been when I walked in those doors. I picked up my white key tag for 0-29 days clean and all of a sudden was surrounded by a bunch of overly ecstatic people that wanted to hug me. One girl in particular stood out to me because of her personality. Everyone seemed to know her and she looked so happy! Sober, clean and happy?? Right then I decided in that room that I wanted to commit to this for life. I wanted what SHE had.
The 28 days that followed were nothing short of a miracle. I made friends, I learned about grief, acceptance and letting go. Living in the present was a daily reminder that needed to be drilled into this stubborn head of mine. Living in the past causes depression and living in the future produced its best friend, anxiety. Just for Today, an NA motto became a way of life. The rooms of NA and the walls that made up my outpatient center gave me tools to survive that I never got to learn as a child. I felt free to grow up for the first time ever. My last day at Linden Oaks was amazing. Not because I was excited to leave, but because I was ready to engage with the world again having all the new tools I picked up in order to be successful not only in keeping my sobriety, but also as becoming a productive human being.
Today I find myself getting ready to start school in a week. I’ll be going back to the beauty school to get my 600 hours in so I can get my educators license. I want to be a teacher. I want to give back to an industry that has given me so much. Nothing seems out of my reach anymore. I truly feel like the world is mine, and as long as I keep an open mind and don’t let the anxiety about the future govern my actions, all will be well. I try to live for the moment, the present moment and make the best of it. I am so much more productive at work then I have ever been before. My family and close friends a like have noticed a genuine change in my personality and physically have put on a few extra healthy pounds. I am open to the possibility that there just might be someone out there for me, as long as I don’t get into my own head, trust myself, and trust the man that I’m with. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days, but they are never as bad as the worst day and I feel free to be me for the first time in my life. I have faith that this new found freedom will lead me to a type of sanity I once thought was lost long ago. This is my first time trying to live a life abstinent from all substances. I’m not going to lie and say I’ll never drink again. I had a drug problem, not alcohol however I can see how drinking can lead me back to the insane path of life I was living. All I know is that I won’t be drinking today. Today is what matters. Today is all we have.