Whether or not an addict enters recovery as a result of an intervention, a court mandate, or a personal choice, the important thing is that they get there, right? Actress Elizabeth M., one of the success stories on this website, is interesting for many reasons, but one is that she knew it was time. Granted, her talent agent had recently fired her, but her story is uplifting because of how she so willingly gave herself over to the program from the start. She drank on the ride there, but there was no denial. She had told herself, ‘This is it. I have to do it.”
You might argue that she had hit bottom when she found herself without a career, and because her marriage was on shaky ground because of her drinking. She’s quick to point out that she was afraid of what her drinking was doing to her son, too. He was 9 when she entered Malibu Beach Recovery Center.
But the self-realization she owns up to is inspiring. It’s common to find people in deep denial after years of hurting themselves and others. Recently I interviewed a man who said that even weeks into his stay at a Pennsylvania program he was still lying to everyone—and himself. It’s the nature of the disease. Elizabeth is also looking back from the perspective of a year’s sobriety, but if she’s to be believed (and there’s no reason not to) she desperately wanted her life back. Her mother had been an alcoholic and started drinking when Elizabeth was 9, the age her son was when she decided to get sober. The irony is striking. Or, as Elizabeth says about the coincidence, “the planets were aligned.”
When I asked Elizabeth to describe a little of what rehab was like, she said she doesn’t remember the first two days because she was detoxing. She remembers how frail she was when she started, and that the food was “the best she had ever eaten 28 days in a row.” She also recalls that she was determined to succeed, because she didn’t want to have to return.
Like most people I’ve talked to who are in recovery, Elizabeth has gained a truckload of wisdom about herself and about life since achieving sobriety at 46. She attends daily self-help meetings, and she still talks to her sponsor. Perhaps most important, she’s confident she’ll be around to see her son graduate from high school now, which a doctor had told her, before rehab, might not happen.
An addiction specialist I interviewed once told me that the hardest people to treat are those who are down and out financially and those who are successful. The first group figures they have nothing more to lose if they don’t stop drinking, and the second group figures they have enough financial resources that they can continue drinking for quite some time with few consequences.
Both groups are mistaken. Just ask Elizabeth.