Never too young for Chronic Alcoholism

A frequent participant in #AddictionChat., this week’s guest blogger is Jeanne Francis, MFA, LADC, CPP, of Creatives in Recovery,.

Chronic alcoholic at age 16 to recovered at age 51, an “old timers” journey

The first time I went to residential treatment, I was 16 years old. I said goodbye to my crying mother through the wired glass window on the 5th floor of the locked unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis. I was sickly, insecure, and no longer cared about anything. I was fearful and angry because all my friends partied like I did. Why me? These people had to be wrong about me.

There was not a lot of knowledge to help and support young people in recovery as there is now. I remember my first AA meeting after treatment a man said to me: “I’ve spilled more alcohol on my tie than you ever drank in your life”. He didn’t know me. That by 16, my tolerance was so high, I could drink almost an entire quart of whiskey during a night out.

I convinced people like him, and my parents agreed, that I was “going through a phase”. No one could have prevented me from advancing to the stage I had but me.

I did not stay sober back then. I went to two more treatments in the years ahead. I did not stay sober.

Being in treatment in the late 70’s/early 80″s was not very common for young people back then nor was family therapy. Family therapy was a life-saver for all 7 of us. The unhealthy patterns of dysfunction were revealed and started to untangle. My parents had the good sense to continue family therapy after treatment, exposing themselves to the vulnerability of being culpable for the way things had turned out. They were willing to keep trying.

When I was age 26, I woke up one afternoon but I shouldn’t have. It was only because my head was turned to the side as I lie on my back that I lived through one of my countless blackouts.  This time, I didn’t see it as an inconvenience. I lay on the cold bathroom floor in my Chicago apartment knowing that if I don’t stop drinking, I will die. Soon.

I reached out for help in 1991 and my journey from there to here has been a wild ride filled with joy and pain, ebbs and flows of opportunities and losses, but one thing has remained clear to me:

I did not not get sober alone.

With long-term treatment and an amazing staff, I am sober today by the grace of God, my sponsor Karen, and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In particular, my generous and patient parents who never gave up on me.

That, with a creative outlet, and a village of professional therapists and fellow sober friends, I am now 25 years sober.

Commitment to sobriety is not a struggle for me anymore, it is a given.

I know myself well enough now that with my pendulum-swinging moods, bouts of chronic depression, and over-producing creative ideas that if I were to try to control that or calm it with drugs or alcohol- I’d be helpless to not go for the gold, no-holds-barred, because that’s who I am as an alcoholic at my core.

I am humbled by the love and support from so many people in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping me to achieve sobriety.

Never Too Young For Chronic Alcoholism

Want to fit in

peer pressure: pot

have fun drinking

before school

during school

after school

everyday

1st treatment, age 16

too young to be alcoholic!

College out of state

parties, bars, music, fun

new friends/ new drugs

2nd treatment, age 20

New College out of state

parties, bars, music fun

death of friend

depression spiral

trauma

3rd treatment, age 24

Drop out, Move away

liver breaking down

green skin, yellow eyes

almost died

Therapist waiting

Hospital, last treatment, age 26

Detox 6 days sober

inpatient 38 days sober

women only

out patient 18 weeks

Sobriety 6 months, longest

AA sponsor

Psychotherapist

No more boyfriends

Sobriety 6 months, longest

AA Friends

Back to school

Full time job: recovery

Mental health diagnosis

12 steps, Fellowship

Depression, PTSD treatment

1 year sober

Graduate College

Father died, 2 years sober

Full time job and recovery

Brother died, 5 years sober

AA Friends surround me

Married, 8 years sober

Baby, 10 years sober

Divorce, 15 years sober

Became Counselor, 18 years sober

Recovery working, 25 years sober

I made it to 25 years sober, and I should not be alive right now. It is only because my head was turned to the side as I lie on my back, that I did not die that night.

Jeanne Francis, MFA, LADC
Twin Cities Metro Area, Minnesota
jeanne@creativesinrecovery.com

Empowering others to cultivate their inner artist is Jeanne’s greatest passion! After years of struggling with alcohol, I became sober at the age of 27. In recovery, I discovered the world of art and music; which felt like “home.” I immersed myself into creativity and recovery, and felt the peace of “fitting in.”

As a professional artist and addiction counselor, the creative arts inspired and sustained me, and they can inspire and sustain you, too! 

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