MARC Alumni Guest Post
The following is a blog contribution from Liv Houser. Liv is an alumnus of Maryland Addiction Recovery Center who now is beginning her career in the field of mental health and addiction treatment outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She offered this information of her own personal recovery journey and treatment experience to help individuals, parents, and loved ones impacted by addiction find hope. These are her words:
“Acceptance, empowerment, motivation. Components necessary to commit to recovery from addiction and allow yourself the freedom to engage in healthy connections, communication, and emotional regulation. Often it so easy to deny, avoid, and use other defense mechanisms to downplay the severity of your using. I spent years of my life avoiding the reality of where my addiction had led me. From the ages of 15-24, I was lost in a downward spiral. My entire being revolved around the quiet that I felt drugs and alcohol provided for me. I didn’t have to think anymore. I didn’t have to feel the grief, recount the trauma, and deal with the repressed identity of who I really was. That statement in of itself is vague. Where is the context you may ask? I find it important to not so much focus on the dangerous situations I put myself in, the degrading acts I subjected myself to, and the complete lack of integrity and moral code I possessed. Instead, I like to focus on the parts of my addiction that led me to the place I am presently thriving in recovery. I never felt safe, I never felt comfortable in my own body, and I never felt normal (whatever that is.) I had a host of medical ailments from birth. I had to grow up extremely early. I felt it was my responsibility to hold my family together, to be strong, that crying was weakness, and that vulnerability was not acceptable. These notions that I generated were all based in fear.
Let’s talk about fear. Fear is a driving force in addiction. It’s the initial emotional response to any unwanted or unpleasant circumstance, event (past or future), and action. Often, you can ask an addict in recovery why did they use drugs and alcohol and part of their response is always fear based. I’m scared of what will happen without drugs and alcohol. I’m scared of withdrawal. I’m scared of finding out who I really am. For me, I didn’t know who I was. I don’t think I ever formed my own identity. I was playing a role, craving love and acceptance that I was missing in myself. Drugs and alcohol became my identity, my first true love.
Onto my story leading me to Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. I was lost, I was alone, and I had severed all connections to my family and parents. I didn’t fear death, because sometimes death felt calming, like the end to the chaos. I say that not to scare you, but to give you some insight into how the grips of addiction can completely take over someone’s life and existence. I had been hospitalized three times. My body was giving up. I felt hopeless and that I couldn’t do it anymore, but there was a small a part of me that was still holding on. I found strength to give myself another chance. I asked for help. I went to detox, then to rehab, and ended up at MARC in their extended care program.
What did MARC do for me you may ask? Well, it gave me my life back. The clinicians, the entire treatment team, the necessary structure, the connections to community, the family therapy. It was all integral in my recovery process. It taught me and gave me the ability to learn how to be an adult. How to take initiative, develop goals, understand financial independence, and find my voice. How to live a life free from the grips of the drugs and alcohol that chained me down for years. It wasn’t easy. An important aspect of my recovery process at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center was that it wasn’t linear. I didn’t go through the process and come out “cured.” My process was full of ups and downs, setbacks and struggles. However, the important part was that with the support of the therapists and psychiatrists and team there, I learned that I had the ability to deal with discomfort and overcome it. I was never alone. The team provided me with support, and they held me accountable when my actions were driven by the negative coping mechanisms and behaviors that were so ingrained in me. I had to change my thought patterns, learn new coping mechanisms, and find my purpose.
For the family seeking treatment for a loved one, please understand this is nothing else: this is a family disease. The disease of addiction impacts all aspects of the family unit. It steals from everyone involved. During my time at MARC, I learned the difference between codependency and support, empathy and enabling. My parents were given resources to do their own work, see their own counselors, and attend family support groups. They were encouraged to participate in family sessions, and truly this experience was the beginning of the shift in my family dynamic. My parents learned that they have to let go. They learned that they are not responsible for my recovery, and what they can do for themselves is hold true to their own integrity. My parents learned to be supportive, but not to control. Addiction takes control, and the only person that can make the change to find recovery is the addict. It’s the first step in the 12 Steps. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” The words that I am typing have been a process for me to learn. MARC gave me and my family the opportunity to develop a sense of stability and empowered us each to grow. Setting boundaries and learning healthy coping techniques. This is where my journey began, and I am lucky to have attended such a program that gave me the opportunity to achieve my goals.
Where I am now? Well, I am living the gifts of recovery. Currently, I am finishing up my master’s degree in mental health counseling from Immaculata University. I am doing my internship at ETHOS Treatment in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The program is an Intensive Outpatient (IOP)/outpatient treatment program. It offers a multitude of treatment options for every client, including family therapy, individual counseling, IOP/OP groups for adults and young adults, experiential groups, medication assisted therapy groups and referrals for community support (12 step support groups, sober houses, extended care facilities, medication management support.) Co-Founder Michael Blanche LCSW, brought me on to intern with their program and I began working with therapist Patrick Dowling LPC/intervention specialist, co-leading the family support group. It is a six-session intensive psycho educational program designed to provide support and education for clients, families, and loved ones alike. I have also worked with Lizzy Lopez, LPC, in the outpatient and intensive outpatient adult group, as well as Joe Woodbridge LSW, CRPS, in the young adult intensive outpatient and outpatient groups. I have been provided with amazing supervision, and support fostering my education and development in the mental health counseling field. I have received support from every member of the ETHOS team. I feel accepted and supported. ETHOS is truly an incredible program, and for me, everything has seemingly come full circle. Without the help of MARC, I would never be in the place that I am currently. And now I get to work at an incredible treatment program to help others in the way that I was helped at MARC. I have a strong foundation in my recovery. I can now give back and help clients and their families to experience the world of recovery. To find a life outside of the grips of addiction. To remember what smiling feels like.”
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.