“I was burning the candle at both ends,” Carolyn recalls, “and I was so busy trying to achieve success in my career that I wasn’t paying attention to my mental health.”
Her drive to succeed was so strong, she says, that her sense of self-worth was “almost entirely” based on her rung on the corporate ladder. “But as my day-to-day workload increased,” Carolyn points out, “so did my use of alcohol. I was depressed, dealing with trauma, stressed out – and drinking.”
One morning, she says, “I woke up and I could no longer work. All I wanted to do was drink.”
Carolyn took time off and for a period drank daily. Even still, “something in me knew this wasn’t sustainable,” she admits. Over the ensuing months, she underwent two rounds of medical treatment to safely detoxify her blood, entered Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), sought in-person treatment, completed online programs and attended counselling.
“Then the holidays hit,” she says, “and I knew I would need extra support on my sobriety journey.”
Five months into recovery, Carolyn anticipated that her first alcohol-free Christmas season would pose new challenges. “Although I had stopped drinking, I come from a family of drinkers who didn’t understand why,” she explains. “And I knew I would be surrounded by people who continued to drink.”
Determined to maintain her new life, she contacted Renascent and joined a six-week Virtual Intensive Treatment Program. For two to three hours a day, five days a week, she benefitted from group sessions and one-on-one counselling that mirrored the 12 steps she had been studying through AA.
On Christmas Day, Carolyn focussed her energy on cooking, cleaning and serving others. “I tried to stay busy,” she explains. “It was tough, but it helped knowing Renascent was still holding sessions on Christmas and Boxing Day. If I needed it, help was just around the corner.” She followed up the virtual sessions with Renascent’s 20-week Continuing Care program and keeps in touch with others in recovery.
Going into treatment, “I really had the gift of desperation,” Carolyn reflects. “I’ve been proactive in accessing every support available – because I know for me, no substance at all is the only way. Community and connection have really been important to my recovery. Today, I have an AA home group where I chair meetings, act as secretary and frequently share my story.” After the group lost its meeting space due to the pandemic, Carolyn was instrumental in helping them find a church to lease.
Through it all, a key to her recovery has been learning to set healthy boundaries.
Indeed, if finding balance had been challenging before, Carolyn seems to have found her groove.
“It’s not always easy, but now I have a peace that allows me to move through life,” she muses. Learning to set boundaries has led her to prioritize her own mental health and wellbeing – a far cry from where her journey started.
“Life is different now,” Carolyn says. “In a few days, I’ll have been in recovery for exactly two years.
“I’m having dinner with friends and going to a meeting after.”