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In my early 20s I started having panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought I was going crazy. Since they happened in a particular restaurant, I thought I would avoid that restaurant. A simple solution. Then they started happening in other restaurants, and pretty soon it was other public places and finally it was everywhere.
Avoidance had stopped working and so I added alcohol to get some relief. That worked at first, but it didn’t last. It wasn’t long before I was a full blown agoraphobic and an alcoholic. My behavior worsened, my circle of friends shrank away and my ability to function deteriorated completely. I spent the next ten years only leaving the house to go to the liquor store. My world was tiny and desolate.
I was persuaded by some family members to go to my first treatment center. I stayed sober about eight months and then started drinking again. Things immediately went back to being worse than they had ever been. Two years later, I came into the Bryan Independence Center and I have been sober ever since.
When I went in that first time, I was in a hurry to get cured as fast as possible and get back to my “real life”. I don’t know why exactly, because my real life was pretty crappy, but I wanted to put the trouble behind me. I was trying to set my own terms for recovery, nothing changed for me because I didn’t change anything about myself.
When I came in to the Independence Center, I was done. I was done trying to hold on to my autonomy, I was done negotiating with my disease, I was done putting conditions on my recovery. I was willing to do whatever was suggested to me. For example, during my first treatment they offered to connect me with a sober living facility (half-way or three-quarter-way house) but I declined. Seems I was in a big hurry to get back to my own personal hell. The second time I actually moved out of my house into the Independence Center, leaving behind my possessions, but carrying with me the idea that I would go on to some sober living arrangement. When I told my counselor this idea she got me on the waiting lists right away. That may be the single best decision I have made in my entire life.
Before I had any experience with treatment or AA, I thought I was special; that my agoraphobia and other problems made me too complicated to get better. I thought I would shock people with how bad I had let things get. I thought I was in the running to be the worst composition of bad factors and bad choices ever to be written down in medical history. Reader, I am boring. My conceit of being “the worst ever” didn’t last more than a day or two. I am the same as any other addict. When I sat in those group sessions and heard my thoughts come out of other people’s mouths I was the one who was shocked, and then relieved.
At the Independence Center, the staff were kind and understanding. I felt a whole building full of people rooting for my success. The Independence Center gave me the opportunity to make the connections to other human beings and to the recovery community that have carried me through. They gave me that little bit of space I needed to let hope in, and they carried a message to me that we are not alone.
My life now is pretty great. I have friends, some of whom I met while I was at the Independence Center and some of whom I met through the Independence Center since. I’m a member of the recovery community with a connection to the world that I hadn’t felt, maybe ever. I’m an officer of the Independence Center Alumni Association, which is a responsibility I would have never have been able to bear before. My blood pressure is normal, I don’t remember the last time I had heartburn for no reason. I leave my house almost every day, without having anxiety so bad I throw up, as if it is no big deal.
I may not always manage to have a grateful attitude every moment of the day, but when I remember the hopelessness and despair of the trap I was in I am filled with gratitude for this second chance. I will always be thankful to the Independence Center, and to the staff and medical professionals there, for being the springboard into the new life I am living.