Words from an Avera Addiction Care Center Resident
This is a letter we received from a former resident of the Avera Addiction Care Center. The content has been edited for privacy.
In early 2018, I bought my headstone.
I’d never been sick before, but I was all over sick. My abdomen had grown overnight to the point that I couldn’t button my shirt. I went to my internal medicine doctor and they sent me to another physician. Scans were done and fluid was drained. The doctor pointed to sections of a plastic liver telling me that I had liver failure. It had a name: alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.
I didn’t think of myself as an alcoholic. My father was an alcoholic, but I didn’t think that would happen to me. I had always held a job. I completed six years of college. I was student senate president. I received service excellence and employee awards. I was active in my church. How could I be an alcoholic?
Still, alcohol sometimes came to stay for long periods of time. The hidden bottles of wine and vodka at home. The evenings in the lounge on business trips. Then, after a church split and some major life stressors, my then-wife and I reunited with old friends and went back to the bar every weekend.
I would drink during the week too, controlling the quantity I’d drink by how much I bought for the night. This, in retrospect, was no control at all. How much can I drink in the time I have tonight and still function tomorrow? When I bought more, I drank more.
When my daughter was going to be married, I stopped drinking, lost 30 pounds, and walked her down the aisle.
After a year of not drinking, a gut-wrenching letter in the mail led to a drink that led to nightly drinking. My health continued to decline: insomnia, vomiting, fevers, edema, pain, numbness and withdrawal from life and living. With a call to the suicide hotline and a counseling center, I found myself saying, “I’m an alcoholic and I need help.”
I surrendered and checked into the Avera Addiction Care Center. I invested in myself and my inpatient time. I decided that forward was the direction for my life. I did the work. I planned for not returning to my former ways, so I followed Avera’s plan.
Each member of the Avera Addiction Care Center staff gave me a reason to lift my head above the shame of my addiction. I walked out the door into an uncertain future with a certain conviction of intent.
I attended seven weeks of intensive outpatient therapy, saw a counselor regularly, went to AA meetings, maintained weekly contact with my mentor, spent time in the Bible every morning, set aside 10 minutes every morning for mindfulness, read from my father’s Twenty-Four Hours a Day book from one of his treatment stays, and other recommended activities.
The friendships that came through recovery are gold to me. There’s nothing I can say that shocks anyone and there’s a deep understanding among this group made up of people that also have the only disease that makes people hate you.
Most of my relationships are on the mend.
Cirrhosis is now an afterthought for me. It’s still here and I feel its effects, but it’s not a full-time distraction. It gives me a better focus on the value of each day. I had spent a long time preparing to die, but I now spend a lot more time preparing to live and then living, with one goal being to leave each day better than I found it.
If you are struggling with addiction, never feel like you’re alone. More people than you know have been in similar situations and professionals are also available to help. To learn more call 605-504-2222.