Thirty & Me: A Man’s Journey of Recovery from Alcoholism
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Choosing Recovery

By Colton Poplawski

Making the life-changing decision to pursue abstinence from all mind-altering substances is something to applaud. Recovery is work. Recovery is a daily struggle. But most of all, recovery is a big puzzle. Personally, this decision was essential, giving me a new sense of freedom and self-realization. But how does someone start this journey into the unfamiliar landscape of recovery?

The initial decision to get sober is a very intimate declaration of will. It may require a deep soul-searching. No one can be convinced of being diagnosed as an alcoholic, you must decide it for yourself. My little bubble of fun and carefree drinking was popped only after two years of college. “You’re not an alcoholic until you drop out,” is what my friends would say, laughing while sneaking alcohol on to our dry campus. I would deny and defend my alcoholism into the depths of insanity.

Around the start of my third semester, I was a full-blown functional alcoholic. At least, I was functional in my conscious mind. Heaven knows what I did during my nightly blackouts.

steps for recovery
Recovery is the answer to destroying the addiction that destroys your life.

It came quickly. It hurt, and it hit me hard. Pain? This is pain. It had only been a few hours since my last drink, but I woke up in a panic. Barely able to stand, I braced myself for what was coming next. I could feel every muscle aching, my heart was pounding, and I was covered in a cold sweat. Everything I felt too vividly. I made my way into the kitchen of my two-bedroom apartment, shaking. I flung open the freezer, grasping for anything that would put me back into a state of bliss. I had no intention of actually feeling my feelings. With hazy vision, I took a bottle of alcohol with me into the shower and finished it before even washing my hair. I struggled to dress myself.

Stumbling out of my house and wreaking of alcohol, my neighbors glare at me while I make my way into my car. The bottle I had just barely finished helps me with the constant shaking and cold sweat. Disoriented, I’m on my way to work. Drunk on the clock. I hid alcohol in my desk. Drunk off the clock. I hid alcohol in my car. This cycle was my daily routine. I had finally lived up to my friends jokes. However, it wasn’t funny anymore.

From Rock Bottom to Recovery

Everyone’s rock bottom looks different. Some keep going until the bottom is so deep it seems as if they’ll never recover. From this bleak point of view with myself and my life around me I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. Drinking wasn’t even fun anymore. It became daily maintenance that I had to continue doing in order to feel normal. College was a long ways behind me, and the days of going out with my friends were over. Alcohol had a grip on me. The only thing I wanted was to remain drunk constantly. I didn’t care if I was the only one at the party, at least there was booze. All I had was me, myself, and the bottle. My addiction took me to dark places I never want to return to, and that is what finally made me decide to seek help.

Treatment was an unknown concept for me. I thought rehab was only for celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Brandon Novak, and Robert Downey Jr. It was something I didn’t at first think I needed. Eventually, I got in contact with an interventionist and they were able to get me connected to a  treatment center. I was able to get into treatment on the same day that I met with an interventionist. From there, I had no idea what to expect. I went out of state to California, and arriving on that day began my venture into the world of recovery.

I arrived at LAX, picked up my bags from baggage claim, and awaited a driver from the treatment center to arrive. I was overcome with anxiety because I still wanted to drink, but I knew in my heart and soul that if I continued down this path, my life would be even worse than it was before. But even with that in mind, I was so troubled with the thought of drinking until I blacked out. It was all I could think of, only because alcohol has been my solution for every single inconvenience that I ever experienced.

drug abuse recovery
Recovery requires us to finally face the things we’ve avoided through our addictions.

What Happens During Rehab?

Upon entering treatment, I was brought into a medical detox where I stayed for seven days. The first few days were unbearable. I only weighed 125 pounds and I was drained of my health. I looked like a dead person walking. Falling asleep without a drink was a struggle. Even breathing without a drink became rather difficult. Also, the worst part is that I couldn’t even sit with my own thoughts. Day by day, however, I was regaining my strength. Slowly I began to break free from my addiction.

On the third day, I was shaking so badly I needed help eating. Being without alcohol for only a short period of time, I felt appalled at the damage alcohol had done to my body. It was unbelievable to see myself fall so quickly from my perceived perfect life. By day seven, I was well on my way to recuperation. I had gained back my strength to be a somewhat functional person. I struggled and I struggled, fighting my way back to good health, but then it hit me like a bus. It swept through my body– I could physically feel a wave of energy leaving my body. I was able to do things for myself such as get out of bed, get some sleep, eat, and shower. But I didn’t want to.

Coming Together through Depression in Recovery

I found myself in a deep depression. My life felt surreal, and I couldn’t take it. The wreckage I had caused in my addiction became staggering. These intense feelings, I thought, would never leave me. Without alcohol, I didn’t think I’d be able to go on.

The change occurred when I started a program at the treatment center, and I went into my first session of group therapy. I was wary at first of the other people around me because I felt so different and out of place. We all came from different backgrounds and were a very diverse group of people. At the meeting, I introduced myself and was welcomed by smiling faces. I opened up for the first time about how I was feeling, and I was shocked to see how many of these people relate to what I had to say!

Here I was surrounded by support, which was something I had not felt in such a long time. I still felt depressed but it wasn’t as intense as it used to be. The people and staff around me I felt genuinely cared for me. With this support, I started to grow from the dirt my addiction left me in. It started small, as I was feeling my feelings again and started to deal with life on life’s terms.

I was told addiction is easy. But recovery can be even easier if you’re willing to work for it. Treatment opened the door for me to get into recovery. Without receiving treatment for my alcoholism I don’t believe I would’ve ever gotten to the point I am at now in my life.

recovery from addiction
There is freedom through the work you put into your recovery

The therapy I received was intense. It broke me down. It was unbelievable. However, I was able to process everything from my childhood all the way to my present-day problems in treatment. No stone was left was unturned. An essential part of recovery is the ability to be open and honest Treatment gives you the initial opportunity to start being open with your personal issues. Once you take that step, it’s all up from there.

Especially for males, we’ve been told most of our lives that showing emotions is not “manly” or that sharing feelings is a sign of “weakness”. We believe a lie that it’s not “acceptable” to open up. But for the first time in my life, I was able to express many formerly hidden emotions. I finally felt like I was making a change for the better; as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders.

Success within Support Groups

Yes, this process is very uncomfortable at first, but the reward is worth every second of suffering I went through while at detox and shortly after. After spending some time with the other clients at the treatment center, I was welcomed to go along with them and some staff to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My previous thoughts of Alcoholics Anonymous were “Alcoholics Anonymous is for quitters.” Looks like I proved myself right: I have become a quitter. A quitter of alcoholism. I quit drinking.

I entered this meeting hall and was immediately greeted by other Alcoholics with a smile and a handshake. This was very foreign to me. I couldn’t understand how people who are sober still had the ability to have fun and socialize without being intoxicated. I sat down next to an older gentleman, he could tell that I was nervous. He looked over to me and introduced himself as John. Then I began to talk to him a little and told him this was my first meeting. He smiled and told me, “You’re in the right place.” I didn’t really know what to expect from this experience but I stayed through the meeting and listened to what everyone had to discuss. Everyone in the meeting was happy and shared a lot of comradery with each other. I was surprised when I was easily able to relate to a lot of what everyone was saying. I began to truly realize that in recovery we are all different individuals suffering in the same ways.

During my time in treatment, the staff and support really enforced the idea of continuing the growth you’ve made in treatment by working a program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I happily went to five meetings a week, and quickly found a sponsor who took me through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Grasping a solid foundation for recovery is what happened to me while in treatment. I’m very grateful for the opportunity treatment has given me. Maintaining a connection to Alcoholics Anonymous post-treatment is going to be essential for long-term sobriety. Treatment is a just an introduction to the amazing potential that’s inside all of us. If you struggle with alcoholism, then let me encourage you that Alcoholics Anonymous is the gateway to your amazing new life which is just ahead of you.

My time in treatment allowed for growth I couldn’t even imagine for myself. From the desolate place I began at to where I am now, I feel as if I have become a new person. The misery I dealt with on a daily basis, the need to be intoxicated all the time, the times I wished my addiction would take me out, and most of all just never seeing anything better for myself, are now replaced with hope. I feel I could finally breathe. I am so happy in my life today. I’m grateful to be surrounded by amazing friends who are all sober and supportive. I’m grateful for an amazing support group also known as my A-team. Most of all, I am grateful for my amazing new life through recovery.

How Can You Find Help for Addiction?

If you or someone you love seems to be struggling with a substance abuse problem or alcohol addiction, reach out to us. Our team of professionals are passionate about helping others just like me find the hope and strength you need to feel safe in your first steps towards successful recovery. Call our free Addiction Helpline today if you need to speak to someone about your questions or concerns. We partner with interventionists all around the United States who can encourage you or your family member to enter the right treatment center. Recovery is possible. My hope is that with every story of new life from overcoming substance abuse, more of us can see how transformational the other side of addiction can be.

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