Transformations - Alumna tell their stories
Lizz B. came to Casa in 2012, experiencing seizures from epilepsy, depression and suicidal thoughts. She arrived for what she thought was a quick tour of the facility with her mother, which turned out to be an intervention that would arrest what had amounted to years of drinking and using and lead her toward her new journey in recovery.
“I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010 and I just gave up. I was tired of everything, so I started drinking because I felt worthless. After a couple of years of that, I was blacking out at home, drinking heavily on my medication and I was suicidal. I wasn't leaving my house for days. My life became very small. I was just drinking, smoking and sleeping. “My mother told me to look up Casa online because she thought I could benefit from going there, but I made excuses for not doing that. Then, she caught me on a day I hadn't been drinking and said ‘let's just go on a tour.’ I agreed to go. It was pouring down rain and I wasn't expecting to stay, but my mother had already arranged to admit me for 90 days. I cried for two weeks. I did not want to be here. I was in denial. I didn't think I had a problem. I thought maybe I just needed to rest for a while.
“Finally, after sitting in meetings and groups for a couple of weeks, I woke up one morning and realized that I was meant to be here and I finally admitted that I was an alcoholic. “Casa has opened up my world. I’m healthy now. I’m no longer having seizures. I’m working as a sober living manager here, and I've enrolled in school. My plans are to eventually get my degree in drug and alcohol counseling so that I can help other people who are struggling with alcohol and drugs just like I was.”
Peggy is the kind of woman you read about in books, but rarely meet. She is strong, responsible and quick with a laugh. She is what your grandmother would have called, "the salt of the earth." At 85, she has the keen mind and energy of someone decades younger. When others might be content to sit on their porch and watch the world go by, Peggy remains an active part of it-volunteering at several senior centers each week and singing in the choir.
In 1958, Peggy was 26 years old and newly married to her husband, Bob. Soon their family grew as they welcomed a baby boy. It should have been a picture-perfect Norman Rockwell moment-it wasn't. Within three years, she lost Bob to kidney disease and was left alone to care for her young son. Determined to make a better life for herself and her son, she found a job working at a bank. "When I came home, I would have a drink. I found that I was looking forward to that drink."
Soon her drinking began to spiral out of control forcing her to quit her job and move into her parents' home. While trying to keep it together during the day, at night Peggy would sneak out of the house and walk the streets in the dark and pray for a car to hit and kill her. She sought help to deal with her drinking from doctors, hospitals, and psychiatric hospitals, but nothing seemed to work. "I did take shock treatments. That is how desperate I was to stop drinking."
She moved to Southern California for a fresh start and began working for her brother-in-law, Tom, but her drinking continued to escalate. Tom suggested she give Casa a try. "I've made an appointment. Would you go with me?" he asked her. Her eyes still fill with tears when she remembers, "I said, 'Yes.' I remember this so clearly. I went into my room and knelt on the floor. I said, 'God, please. If you are not going to let me die, show me the way."'
Twenty-four hours later, she was staying at Casa and listening to a speaker. "Our speaker said that she had been sober for ten years. I thought 'ten years! I can't even get ten hours some days,"' Peggy continued. Then their speaker said something that changed Peggy's life. "She said it was a disease and I felt this weight come off me. I knew I was going to be okay. I said to myself, 'thank you, God."' Peggy remained at Casa for 30 days, but stayed connected to the people and programs for decades. "We went to meetings. Sometimes people would drop in and just talk. We talked about our emotions. Sometimes we talked privately or in a group. I didn't have anyone to talk to who could understand what I was going through before Casa.
That was 49 years ago, and Peggy is still going strong. She has a lovely home in San Gabriel and friends and family that love her. Of course, she will always be an important part of the Casa family. "Can you see what Casa did? Look at this house! I own it outright. I didn't have anything when I went to Casa. I can't believe these people came and they didn't want anything. They just wanted to help."
Katie, from all outward appearances, had the perfect life. She had a good and hard-working husband, a happy marriage and four wonderful children. Nothing meant more to her than her children and family, but she hid a dark secret – she was wracked with severe depression and was self-medicating with alcohol after suffering a still-birth in the spring of 2013.
Shortly after the loss, Katie was pregnant again and she focused on family and stayed far away from alcohol. After the birth of her fourth healthy baby, she just didn’t have the tools to deal with her grief and depression and soon as the new baby was weaned, she started drinking heavily. She knew she had to try to keep it a secret, but that turned out to be impossible. Her family immediately closed ranks and staged an intervention. Katie was so full of remorse, guilt and concern for her family that she agreed to enter treatment at Casa.
When Katie arrived at Casa she was terrified. “Initially, I just wanted to go home. Every waking moment I just cried and wanted to go home...The thing that made the difference is that I realized that these other women were like me. I thought I was the only person in the world like this…. Once I realized that these women were moms, they were professionals from all walks of life and that I had a commonality with them, it made me realize that I needed this. I needed recovery.”
Katie stayed in Residential Treatment at Casa for 30 days and spent another 60 days in Sober Living where she received daily therapy and counseling . “I’ve never been in therapy. Never dealt with my dad’s alcoholism (he has been in recovery for 11 years), but I came to realize that I had been depressed since I was a teenager. In my family mental illness was not something that was discussed. At Casa talking with professionals and dealing with my mental health was okay.” She and her husband attended Family Group therapy and he began to understand what she was going through.
While in Sober Living, Casa gave her a scholarship to attend Intensive Outpatient treatment. “We took advantage of what was offered to me. People would say, ‘if you have any questions or if there is a moment that you need someone to talk to just call.’ That was what I got in Sober Living. It was something I couldn’t have gotten at home – it was the access to all of this knowledge on campus that I was able to reach out to at any given moment. Everybody was so forthcoming with advice or just an ear. That was pivotal to me.”
It has been six months since Katie arrived at Casa for the first time and she doesn’t take her sobriety for granted. She still visits Casa five days a week and participates in the free group sessions, aftercare and volunteers with Casa’s alumnae program, Las Estrellitas. “When I come to Casa, I feel like I am coming home.”