My problem was never drugs, it was always alcohol, and in some ways maybe it’s harder to tell if you have a problem with alcohol because everybody drinks. And people my age tend to binge drink even though they aren’t alcoholics. So for a long time I was unsure if I had a problem. For a long time I just felt confused and as long as I was drinking I couldn’t manage my own life.
I think my parents were confused too, because in high school I didn’t drink very much. I was involved in dance and local theatre which didn’t leave me much time for a social life and I was really focused on having a future in performance arts. I moved to Toronto to study dance at university and that’s when I started drinking. Growing up I always had a lot of anxiety, and my mind was always racing with negative thoughts. Alcohol allowed me to have a break from my mind and feel comfortable in my own skin. I fell in love with it. I began binge drinking quite often in first year which made it difficult to get to class and keep up with school but I didn’t mind because alcohol made my priorities change and it made me care less about my goals. After first year I decided I wanted to drop out and just live in the city and work for a while. This allowed me to devote more time to drinking. This was when a huge part of my identity began to revolve around alcohol. The next three years I went through about 15 jobs and continued to drink most nights of the week. I began to feel very confused about my purpose in life and had very little drive to do anything but drink. I went out West thinking that would change things, but the same patterns re-emerged. I even moved to an ashram and learned how to teach yoga, but as soon as I got back I still couldn’t get my life on track. It went on for five years.
I’d stay out all night and was always the last person awake sometimes drinking alone. I often would drink when I first got up in the morning. I constantly got kicked out of bars. I’d borrow money like crazy without any intentions of returning it. I’d sleep all the time. I found it impossible to get out of bed and face the world most mornings. I wondered how other people lead normal functional lives. I really felt as though I had no future.
I blamed my problems on other things. I’d say I wouldn’t drink this much if I wasn’t’ so depressed. I never considered that the alcohol was the reason I was so depressed.
I hit bottom a couple of times after having some upsetting incidents while drinking. I would tell my parents I thought I may have a drinking problem but then quickly take my words back because I was too scared to stop drinking completely. I couldn’t imagine life without alcohol. It was too important to me.
I moved in with a friend who drank like I did and then things got really bad. I started to black out all the time. I had head injuries from falling. I couldn’t socialize at all without drinking and was spending all my money on alcohol. I would wake up and be shocked by the amounts I drank the night before. My actions during blackouts also become more disturbing, friends would tell me about the things I had said or done the night before, and I walked around feeling a lot of guilt and shame. I really began to hate myself.
By this point I had lost a lot of life skills. My Mom would have to come into Toronto to clean my apartment, or drive me around to deliver resumes because I couldn’t do things myself. I couldn’t take care of myself. I felt like a joke. A lot of friends had graduated university and had passions they were excited about. I felt really left behind.
This past summer I completely ran out of money and energy and moved home. I felt like a complete failure. That’s when my parents saw first hand what my drinking was like. They eventually told me if I didn’t go to rehab they would no longer support me in any way. It had been five years of confusion and chaos and I was just exhausted. So I went into a 21-day rehab program thinking “what do I have to lose?”
I really didn’t think rehab could fix me, and went through the first few weeks in a daze, but in my final week something clicked. I related to the other women I met, especially the way they felt about themselves and the world around them. I finally understood why I couldn’t cope. I realized I may have a disease and felt good to realize I wasn’t crazy, I was just sick. It felt like a weight was lifted.
When the rehab program ended, I really wanted to stay in Toronto because it’s an amazing city and I wanted to experience it sober. But I didn’t have any money and I couldn’t afford an apartment. I knew I wouldn’t last very long living on my own anyway. I didn’t want to fall back into old patterns.
A friend who was in rehab with me was going into Ingles House, so I applied too and got in pretty quickly.
It’s only been four months since I’ve moved in and I never expected to feel as good as I do. I’m working 3 jobs and all my employers actually like me. I’m waking up early, I’m doing yoga and I’m also taking acting lessons. I’m rediscovering the things that used to make me happy. I’m thinking about going back to school to take film production. I’m gaining back my confidence and I’m hopeful about my future again. The house is allowing me to find out who I am without alcohol.
Living with other girls is amazing. There’s this instant bond because we are all dealing with the same things. There’s always someone to talk to and you don’t have to hide the way you are feeling if you are upset about something. Everyone is really supportive and respectful. When you come out of rehab, there’s a lot of guilt over the things you did while drinking or using. At Ingles you can talk about it, and nobody will judge you. Someone will say “Oh yea, I did that, too.”
The house has also allowed me to see that I can enjoy life while being sober. We laugh all the time at the house, and I’ve realized that I don’t need to stay out all night and get obliterated to enjoy myself. I can appreciate other people’s company without alcohol. The house gave us tickets to the exhibition and to this haunted house around Halloween and we celebrate holidays together. I would have never considered doing stuff like that before or believe that I might actually enjoy myself.
In recovery, you really need to be able to change everything and throw yourself into a new life and Ingles allows you to do that. I’ve stayed connected with some of my old friends, but I realized I don’t even know those people because I was always drunk around them.
The house also supplies structure. I have realized that I thrive on structure and I didn’t have any structure in my life for five years. Simple things like cooking a meal and sitting down to eat together or keeping your room clean actually help, as much as I hate to admit it. The curfew at the house keeps you accountable. The house has made all the difference in my recovery. I really doubt I would have had the same success without it. Naturally I still think about alcohol a lot but when I consider drinking I think about all the things I would lose if I went back to it. The house means too much to me.
The best thing about Ingles House is that it’s not an institution. It’s a home. I feel so comfortable there. I go visit my parents, but for now the house really feels like my home.
I still have difficult days and I don’t know what the future holds but my outlook on life is completely different since I moved into the house. A year ago I would have never believed this is where I would be.
I am just really grateful that Ingles House exists and I feel so lucky that I get to live there. Thank you.