Sarah's Story -A story of redemption and recovery
Hello my name is Sarah. I am honored to be taking a few minutes to write this to share a portion of my recovery in hopes to inspire people anybody in their recovery that may need a boost or reason to keep on keeping on. This is my story that I hope will encourage, inspire and motivate people in their journey toward happiness, recovery, independence, and success.
I have a co-occurring disorder or “dual diagnosis” (mental illness and substance abuse problem) and have spent a lot of time in the rooms of Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Something you hear often when people speak at those meetings is the phrase “sharing your experience, strength and hope” and also what I took away from the Crestwood Bakersfield Bridge and how I am applying it in my daily life is what I hope to communicate to anybody who is reading this.
As in most cases, my road to recovery and rehabilitation was difficult and took a lot of time, effort, and understanding. Nothing worth having comes easy. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into my recovery, and it paid off! I’m no longer on Conservatorship. I am able to take the transit system to and from my appointments. I have better self-esteem and self-worth. I have to say the Crestwood Bakersfield Bridge program set me up on the platform that has shot me up into the atmosphere of recovery. I urge and encourage anybody that might have the opportunity to spend some time at the Crestwood Bakersfield Bridge to take advantage of that time; utilize it to mold and shape the person that you can become to emerge a successful graduate of the program.
Before I go any further, I would like to first comment on some of the groups and skills that I apply in my life to this day that help me cope with overwhelming emotions. I know some of the groups that they hold may seem redundant, repetitive, or boring, but the principles behind those groups will make an impression in your mind. The skills and tools you learn in those groups that you have once or twice, maybe even three times a week, leave a burning impression so that the things you learn become a reflex more than an afterthought. Some of my favorite groups are anger management, substance recovery groups, medication education, and, my favorite is DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Definitely if you’re in the Bridge program take advantage of the DBT. After having studied it and put a real effort into it, I found DBT was a fresh new perspective and outlook on life that helps you deal with situations and overwhelming, chaotic emotions.
As I told you in the beginning, I am dual diagnosed, meaning I have a mental illness as well a substance abuse problem. About five or six years ago, during a time when I was in the thick of my illness and the bottom of the bottle, I entered the Crestwood Bakersfield MHRC. To say the least, I was hostile, violent, destroyed property and had a really bad attitude. Eventually, Crestwood had no choice but to send me back to my home county of Riverside and I was sent to the state hospital for about two and a half years. At that time, the amphetamines were out of my system and I had gained some weight. When I was told that I was going to the Crestwood Bakersfield Bridge program, from an IMD much like the MHRC I was scared because of having a notorious reputation for being a “problem client.” I had gained some weight and was depressed. Then I got to the Bakersfield Bridge program and did not know most of the staff but knew several of the other staff from the MHRC. I felt that I was received well by the Bridge staff and the other staff from the MHRC was happy to see that I had gained some weight and I was healthy again.
I struggled the first few months with things like poor group attendance, anger management issues and anger outbursts, and as I said earlier, I had gained a lot of weight from quitting the crystal meth and had very low self-worth and self-esteem. I remember the things that turned my life and recovery at the Bridge around. First was the fact that I had a birthday pass coming up and I could not go if I did not improve my group attendance. So I improved my group attendance, got into less arguments and I got my pass.
Things started looking up from there. As I said before, my weight was a major area of concern for me. I found myself more and more in Brenda’s, (the Bridge director) office, talking to her about whether I was going to go on hunger strike that week or if I was just going to restrict my eating. Through my case manager and with a treatment plan, we came up with something that I’d like to call an “incentive”. We agreed that if I were to walk for twenty minutes a day, at the end of the week I would receive something like a Subway sandwich or sunflower seeds. About three months into what I like to call the “incentive,” walking was already a routine that I created and I did not need the incentive anymore. As time went on, I added twenty-five more minutes on to my walking routine. I began running three to four mile a day and also started lifting weights. Between the time I arrived at the Bridge and the time I left, I lost thirty pounds!
Eventually I became eligible for something at the Bridge called bus mobility. It is where you start off taking the bus to various locations in the community with staff members. After you have completed the phase with the staff joining you, you’re eligible to go on “buddy passes,” which is where you and a peer go out to different places. Then finally you’re eligible for solo bus mobility where you’re able to go out in the community independently wherever you like. A few months prior to my discharge, I had achieved solo bus mobility, and as a result, I was able to take the transit city bus to my doctor’s appointment all by myself.
Something that really helped me along at the Bridge was DBT. It opened my eyes to how the world works and ways to cope with my negative and destructive behaviors and tendencies. Through mindfulness, I’m able to be aware of my surroundings, how I’m feeling and also how to cope when I’m feeling down. Another one of my favorite DBT skills is opposite emotion. There are many days where I didn’t want to get out of bed and I’d rather sit and stare at the walls and sleep, but opposite emotions has helped me on countless occasions where I would have done exactly what I felt like and ended up feeling regretful about not accomplishing things that I needed to. Granted, every day is not rose petals and sunshine, even with the DBT, but it has given me strength to deal with life as it comes and to learn to react to conflict and disappointment differently.
Before long, a year and a half passed and I was ready for discharge. I had successfully completed the Crestwood Bakersfield Bridge Program! Granted, it was not easy. Again, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, arguments, blackouts (restrictions), confrontations and let-downs.
Something I learned from DBT is radical acceptance. Basically, what it is, is accepting things as they are, not judging the past, and staying focused in the present. Even though my recovery was hard and sometimes I didn’t feel like it was worth it, and felt like the arguments outweighed the successes, I wouldn’t change anything that happened at the Bridge for anything in the world. I am now off conservatorship! I continued to lose weight and have lost another fifteen pounds since I left the Bridge. I am responsible for taking my own medications. I take the transit system to all of my doctor’s appointments. I have a newfound satisfaction for life!
There are so many staff members who made such a deep impact on my life it would probably take a page and a half just to name them all. So, I’d like to leave all the staff (residential aids, therapist, program directors, case managers, dietary department, administrators, mental health workers) that have made my recovery possible, changed my life and molded me into the person I should have been a long time ago but am now, with this: “Dear friends, thanks for the best years of my life. I mean that you have been there with me for every step of the way and I’m so happy to have found people like you because, without you, I don’t know what I would do.”