There’s always hope after hitting rock bottom: a past client shares her story

By Dr. Adi Jaffe

Morgan came to us broken and confused. She was young but she was blacking out on a regular basis and was putting herself in dangerous situations that she didn’t understand, and didn’t want to be part of. But, no matter how hard she tried, she kept finding herself in the same predicament. When her parents brought her to Alternatives, she acted cordially but was clearly not happy about ending up in a treatment center. Nevertheless, Morgan knew she couldn’t keep going the way she had, so she agreed to attend. The following story, as told by her, details some of the struggles and many of the successes that Morgan experienced here at Alternatives. As is so often the case, Morgan’s story was not a perfect recovery tale of complete abstinence and renewed joy. Morgan struggled, then found her footing, and she’s lived a life that’s unlike anything she’s experienced before. It was a difficult process, but one that left her doing well and a tale that every struggling drinker should read. It can get really bad before it gets good, but it doesn’t have to. Here is her story:

I never thought my life could get better.  I never thought there could be a force so powerful that it could break an impossible addiction.  I was the girl who always took it too far, the girl who would wake up in the morning with her throat in her stomach and in tears remembering the mistakes she had made the night before, the girl who was hopeless. By the time I was eighteen I knew I had a drinking problem.  I partied hard in high school, but didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.  My drinking was a way to run away from my depression, which I later realized only doubled the sadness I felt.  I could not sleep without drinking two bottles of red wine before I went to bed, and ran away from the problematic addiction I knew I had.  Three years and a broken heart later, I went to college, still with no hope that I would get better.  My first quarter was where my drinking became almost deadly.  I had just had my heart broken by the love of my life, and I began to drink during the afternoon instead of night just to survive the day.  I became out of control.  Next thing I knew I was drinking in the morning because I would get the shakes if I didn’t take two shots of tequila.  I had lost every inch of hope that I once had, but little did I know that I was soon about to meet the most incredible miracle workers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing who gave me my hope back.  

 It was December 29, 2013 and my parents were throwing my brothers and I a birthday party.  I woke up at six in the morning and felt that same gut wrenching mortified feeling-so I went for the bottle.  I was close to drunk by the time I had arrived to my house, and let’s just say I took advantage of the open bar.  Before I knew it I was blacked out, slurring to all of my guests, and crying.  Everybody knew I needed help, but my sister in law was the one who took the initiative to lead one of the hardest conversations my family has ever had to have.  She wiped away my tears, sat down next to me, held my hands and started my intervention.  Slowly more of my family members gathered around us one by one and all began to hug me and tell me they love me no matter what and were nothing less that loving and supportive, especially my parents.  I remember dropping my head into my hands and crying so hard to the point where my brother had to take me upstairs so I could sleep it off.  

The next morning, my dad woke me up and told me he was taking me to a place called Alternatives.  I looked it up, still drunk, and immediately got scared.  I remembered the intervention but didn’t think it would happen that soon, or that seriously.  I grabbed my hidden bottle of wine and chugged.  During the entire car ride I was overcome with fear, I never thought this would happen to me.  I never in a million years thought at twenty two years old I would go to treatment.   I opened the door to Alternatives and was greeted by the person who ended up saving my life; Dr. Adi Jaffe.  He knew that I was drunk, but welcomed me with open arms anyway and asked to speak to me in his office.  As he was explaining the program, I asked him only one question, “Will I ever be able to drink again?”.  All I could think about was getting the program over with so I could drink again.  Dr. Jaffe responded, “That’s my favorite question! We require abstinence for a certain period of time and then see where the client is at that point.”  After we spoke, he gave me a tour of the facility and introduced me to the staff, also known as the people who gave me the life I have always dreamed of.  

During my first three months at Alternatives, I went kicking and screaming.  I wasn’t ready to stop drinking, I didn’t want to stop drinking, and I couldn’t go one month without relapsing.  I was so ashamed and so terrified of getting in trouble that I would miss appointments, ignore phone calls, text messages and voicemails.  However, every time I would step into the office the following day I was greeted with hugs and forgiveness with no judgements, only support and belief in me that I will get better.  Being in a non-judgmental environment became my safety zone.  I tried to do almost everything I possibly could to get the staff to give up on me, but they never did, and with that loyalty, eventually ended up saving my life before I took it from myself.

While Morgan talks about herself as having gone “kicking and screaming” she was actually a wonderful client throughout this time. She was surely having a hard time staying sober but, at Alternatives, we don’t see that as a failure of the client or the program. Instead, it is often simply part of the process. Morgan was trying her hardest and was continuously pulled back towards drinking by her social circle, anxiety and habits. Eventually though, and with the help of some medication, she was able to stop for an extended period of time. Still, she needed another reminder…

It was Tuesday, March 10, 2014 when I began to hit my rock bottom.  I had started a two day tequila, vodka and whisky drinking binge, and ignored every call that I got.  I will never forget the text message that my sister in law sent me that day; “911! You’re the emergency!”.  My roommate and best friends knew I was drunk for the next two days straight, and tried everything they could to get me to stop but I couldn’t.  Little did I know that this would be the last binge I would ever go on.  I don’t remember much, but I do remember being severely drunk and crying on my balcony at my apartment.  I had drunkenly called my mom, aunt, cousin, brother and his girlfriend and told them that I couldn’t do this anymore. I was going to give up; I had access to my roommate’s pain medication and the entire apartment to myself.  I called my mom for what I believed would be the last time and was crying so hard that she could hardly hear me-but she heard me wanting to take my own life.   In an absolute panic, my mom called the police.

Next thing I knew I woke up to my two resident advisors sitting on my bed waking me up.  I looked to the right and saw my roommate/best friend almost in tears.  I then turned my head backwards and saw two policemen standing in front of the door.  I remember telling them that I was twenty two and legally allowed to drink, however they firmly told me that they needed to take me to the station in order to keep me safe.  I was in a skimpy nightgown and the officers refused to let me cover up.  I started to cry and told them I can’t go to the station half naked, so my resident advisor put a robe around me anyway, however, that robe didn’t last long.

We got to the Downtown Los Angeles police station with my best friend and resident advisors who had followed the police and I there.  I never got to see them, however they waited the couple of hours that I was kept at the station before I was taken to a place I never in a million years thought I would have to be admitted to.  I was kept in the holding cell for five hours straight, right in front of almost every single officer at the station, which I soon found out wasn’t to keep an eye on me like they said; it was to take advantage of a drunk and scared pretty blonde girl who was out of the norm for the people that usually are taken to that particular station.  The robe that was essentially my body’s only cover was ripped off of me and I started putting my arms over myself to try and cover up.  I was screaming and crying, banging on the clear plastic window that faced the other officers yelling and pleading for help, but every time an officer got up from their desk I gained a little bit of hope in my terrified mind, only to find that they found pleasure in not only taking advantage of me, but opening the door to the cell and telling me I could come out, and then slamming it in my face as I was being harassed.  After the police got what they wanted, a man had opened the door and began to question me.  I was sobbing, terrified because I had lost all of my control, and realized that I had hit rock bottom.  

I remember the man taking notes and asking me if I was suicidal.  At this point I was so traumatized by the events that had just happened that my drunken mind had said yes, and about two minutes later I was strapped down onto a stretcher. The doctors pushed me through the double doors and I remember seeing my mom sobbing while she was on the phone with my psychiatrist, my dad’s face of terror and heartbreak as he wiped away his tears (I had only seen my dad cry a handful of times before), and my second mother, who had been with my family since I was five months old.  I was rolled onto the street and into an ambulance.

As the ambulance sirens went off and started to move, I felt my heartbeat slow down.  I didn’t know if it was the fear, anxiety, alcohol poisoning or shock, but next thing I knew the paramedic started putting an oxygen mask on me and pushing down on my chest to get my heart to beat at a faster pace.  I then fainted, and was woken up by being jolted by a machine to bring me back to reality.  We had arrived at a psychiatric ward, and I felt that same feeling that I used to get the morning after a drunken mess that I had made, except this was the worst possible drunken mess I had ever created for myself, over my DUI and totaled car from a drunk accident that I had just one year before.

Morgan ended up spending three days in a psychiatric ward under what’s known as a 5150 hold, which means she was deemed a danger to herself and others. We worked tirelessly with the doctors there to explain what Morgan had been going through, and that we knew this was only a temporary thing and that she could get better. Seventy-two hours later, she was released, and then came back to us:

I remember walking out of the double doors to my freedom and seeing my mom with my dog on her leash running up to me as my dad held my hand and walked me out.  I was so shaken, so scared, so out of reach from reality that I didn’t know what my new reality was now.  I knew I didn’t want to drink again, but I didn’t know how to prove it to the point where I could get only the good parts of my old life back.  I called every single person that I had called on March 12, 2014 (the final day of my binge), and told them that I was okay and on my way to Alternatives.

Nobody except for my favorite cousin and a select amount of friends knew that I was in treatment before the psych ward nightmare.  Some of them I told I had been in treatment the whole time, whereas others I told I had just started the program.  As my parents and I pulled up to the Alternatives office I was drenched in fear and shame.  I don’t remember going into the elevator to go up to the office, I don’t remember opening the familiar doors; but I do remember every single staff member waiting for me in the waiting room and one by one with open arms and long hugs.  I was sobbing and saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again and Dr. Jaffe just held me in his arms and kept repeating, “It’s okay Morgan, we forgive you.” My mom handed my dog’s leash over to one of my angels, Anna, who worked at Alternatives as well, and was one of the first people to give me a hug as soon as I walked through the doors.

The entire staff sat me down in the mindfulness office and we had a meeting about what steps we were going to take to protect me and prevent a nightmare like this from ever happening again.  An angel named Heather stayed with me for the following week and watched my every move.  I did not have any communication to the outer world; my phone and computer were both taken away, but I got to talk to my college family once a day. Having no connection to the outside world aside from my parents and the amazing Alternatives staff, I knew things would never be the same…and thank God for that.

It's never rock bottom

Morgan’s stay in the psychiatric hospital was traumatic for her. When she made it back to our offices, she was distraught and screaming at us. She hated anything that reminded her of the experience, which was completely understandable. Nevertheless, within a few hours she was able to regain her footing, but this time with a new clarity. Wanting to kill herself was not a good way to live the life she wanted. She recommitted to her path forward…

As I adjusted to my new reality, I slowly began to recognize myself in the mirror again. Alternatives had me on a new schedule that involved me going every day until we decided whether or not I would return back to college and back to the life I knew, but adjust to a new reality where alcohol was no longer a part of my life.  I was so traumatized by what had happened that I knew I did not want to ever pick up a drink again, however what I didn’t know was if I could redeem myself after what had happened on that fateful day.  After two weeks of begging, negotiating and fighting to have a little bit my freedom back by going to Alternatives almost every day, blowing into my Soberlink four times a day and attending SMART meetings four nights out of the week, I finally got to go back to the school, apartment (now dry of course) and friends that I was and am so in love with.  

It was a strange new reality was now in, however I almost immediately fell I over heels in love with sobriety and Alternatives. Between what I put my parents, best friend, ex-boyfriend, aunt, cousin and a number of other loved ones through, I had so many regrets for so long. However, with the help of Alternatives I learned how to slowly make peace with my past.  

After eight months of hard work, building trust, learning how to live responsibly, and accepting what happened on March 12, 2014, I had completed my program at Alternatives.  I have an extremely addictive personality which scares me at times.  I would be lying if I said I did not have an addiction today, however it’s one that I never want to get clean from: being sober.  

Morgan’s story is a reminder that drug and alcohol problems can hit at any age and affect any group. Young, affluent girls are as susceptible as middle-aged men and teenagers. Morgan’s story also shows us the complexity of alcohol problems: her past trauma, her struggles with anxiety and her environmental influences all contributed greatly to her drinking. At Alternatives, we believe in identifying each client’s unique mix of biology, environment and life-experience to come up with the perfect treatment approach.

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