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Voices for Recovery

Meghan Paul (09/23/2013)

In Spring of 2010, I was attending college at Saint Scholastica in Duluth, MN.  I had been struggling with drinking and drugs, but did not want to admit that I had a problem.  Although, deep down I knew this was not how I wanted to be living.  My drinking and using habits were getting the best of me and consuming my life.  I was barely going to classes, partying all the time, being high 24/7, and I had gotten into legal trouble. 

I had been going to a school counselor once a week and she had dropped a name of a guy who could help me figure out if I had a drinking problem, and if I did he could help me.  His name was Ben Bertsch. 

As I lay in bed one sunny spring afternoon, high as usual and most likely smoking at that moment, I remembered Bens' name and contact information.  I did not know what I wanted to say to him but eventually I sent an email asking if we could meet.  I even said “I don't know why I want to talk to you.”  Ben responded and we set up a time to meet in his office. 

When Ben and I met it was either a Thursday or Friday and I was far from sober.  Ben and I talked for an hour maybe, him telling me his story- what it was like, what happened, and what it was like now he was sober.  Then, I told him how much I drank, used drugs, etc.  Ben thought I had some issues controlling myself with chemicals and alcohol.   He said he was no professional, but that he had a friend who worked at Hazelden, the Youth and Family Center (HCYF) in Plymouth, MN, and his friend could let me know if I needed to get professional help.

So, Ben set me up with a phone call with Hazelden, and right away I was answering questions; an over-the-phone assessment.  This, I did not realize till 20 minutes later when the voice at the other end of the phone said, “Well, Meghan, we're only half way through the questions, but I definitely think you could use professional treatment, if you want it.” 

I was taken aback by his conclusion, but I asked him “If I want to when could I do all this?”  He responded with, “Well, actually we have a bed opening up early next week, say Monday?”

I thought, “Hell no!”

Looking back I realized that at that point, I was not necessarily in control of my actions.  Of course, I was not mentally in control because of all the substances in my body but, I was not in control in a sense that it was a spiritual/God-like experience.  At least, that's how I think of it today.  I wasn't fighting anyone about going to treatment.  I met with Ben, I talked to Hazelden, and Ben took me to my first AA meeting. That was on a Monday.

 On Tuesday, April 21, 2010, Ben drove me to my house in the Twin Cities, and from there my parents took me to HCYF.

I was at HCYF for 28-30 days.  I loved my time there.  I made new friends and when my time was up I didn't want to leave.  I was granted a Rule 25 from my county in order to go to Fellowship Club, a Hazelden halfway house in St. Paul, MN.  I was there from May until mid-July only because I was able to get my Rule 25 extended twice.  I am still very grateful to this day that I was fortunate enough to be given those opportunities. 

While I was at Fellowship Club, I worked a couple temporary jobs, went to meetings, had a temporary sponsor, met and maintained some friends.  There was a group of guys and girls that I went to treatment with that went to Fellowship too.  It was so much fun at Fellowship Club.  There were young people my age, it was in a town I knew, and it was close to my parents’ house.  I excelled while I was there.  I was able to get my car back, I became President of the house, and I was 3 months sober and counting. 

Ben came down and visited me a few times, and he helped me get back into school for the upcoming fall.  At my college, there was a recovery program called CLEAN.  Ben had founded it a year or two before I got sober.  The plan was for me to return that fall and be involved in the CLEAN program and live in sober housing as well.  Things were coming back into place.

By September, I was 5 months sober, living in a sober residence with fellow girls in the CLEAN program.  I was back in school, going to classes, going to meetings, I had a sponsor, and I was happy. 

My parents were proud of me again and I was proud of myself.  My friends who had known me before I was sober were proud of me too for changing my life around.  Things were good, I was good.  Life was actually FUN.

Of course, it doesn't stop there.  In January of 2011, I became very very ill with an auto-immune disease called Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.   I was plagued with psychosis, hallucinations, depression, catatonia, and loss in speech and cognitive thinking.  This lasted till about March or April of 2011, where in April I began to recover from that illness and by September of that year I was back in school.  That only lasted for a few weeks and I was sick again, back in the cities, in the hospital.  I believe that year I was out of school the whole year. 

So, I was back at home, and when I could, I was back at meetings, meeting with my old sponsor, and doing step work again. 

I never relapsed during the time I was sick, I was all the more determined to get back to school and have a 'normal' life. 

I have been sober for over 3 years now, still have never relapsed, and I have been to YPR conferences, and just recently the Summit in Bethesda, MD.  I plan on starting a YPR chapter in my community with the help of other YPR members. 

I am so thankful for each day I am sober and I would never take back anything that I have gone through.  I am the person I am today because of the things I have gone through.  I am not ashamed to say I am in recovery.  For life.


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