Stories of Transformation: Alison B.

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  • Sobriety Date: November 18, 2020
  • Mother of 2
  • Yoga Lover
  • Master’s Student

Alison B. struggled with substance abuse for most of her early life and ended up in the ICU after a heroin relapse during the COVID-19 lockdown. Her recovery journey starts off with her first trip to Mountainside.



Alison B. had a roller coaster of a childhood and started taking prescription painkillers at age 12 after a serious car accident. For 20 years, Alison covered up her anger and fear with substances. She went to AA meetings even though she wasn’t sober, and although she connected with the people there, it just wasn’t enough. When COVID-19 happened and left her nowhere to go, things began to change. Alison’s recovery journey starts off with her first visit to Mountainside.

I first went to Mountainside when I was eighteen. I mean, my childhood was wild, and my father is an alcoholic and an addict. Both of my parents have untreated mental illnesses. After the hospital, I just started acting out—crazy anxiety. You know, my mom took me to her doctor and put me on Klonopin when I was like 13 years old, and from there I was like, “This is it. This is my jam. This is my answer.” And then I moved, and after that move, I went crazy.

I did everything at 18. And my mother was like, “You gotta go to AA meetings; we think you’re a drug addict.” Like obviously, right? So I went to AA meetings and did what every 18-year-old girl does. I went to an AA meeting, and two days later, I met Prince Charming, and I’m smoking crack—and I’m not stopping. So they have this big intervention with my family and my cousin, Richie. Richie is in recovery, and I think he knew about Mountainside or went there. I’m not sure. They’re like, “You gotta go to Mountainside and I was like, fine, alright. So I went to Mountainside and got there. Immediately, I was like no, none of this. This is crazy. I was just so angry and so filled with fear, right? Because inevitably, that’s why drinking and drugging isn’t my problem. It’s my solution.

I’m afraid of everything. I’m scared of everything. Instead of dealing with my feelings, I wanted to run from all of them.

alison b with two daughtersYou know, I wasn’t ready. Didn’t listen to anything anyone said and then the two weeks were up. They’re like if you come back, we’ll give you a week for free. And I was like, I’m right on top of that. So I left, got high that night, and ended up in Silver Hill. Ended up in a bunch of IOPS. I just wasn’t going to stop using. Just kept the cycle going, but I always kept going to meetings, even if I wasn’t sober. I just knew these people get me in a strange way, like I don’t even get myself like these ******* crazy people. Like they’re my people, right? I just didn’t apply it yet.

My whole life, this goes on. And then COVID-19 happens, and you can’t run away from yourself when there’s nowhere to go, and I’m in a house with my kids, my mother, and my stepfather. And I’m like this is, you know, and of course not thinking how anyone else feels about it like, this is terrible for me. This is crazy.

And so I got back into heroin, and in November 2020, I overdosed and was in the hospital for three days. I was non-responsive. I was in the ICU. And nobody could even go there because of COVID cause I’m in the ICU, and

I woke up by the grace of God and I felt relieved. And I was like, the jig is up. I can’t lie my way out of this one. And what a freeing feeling.

I knew I had to go away. I’ve been around AA my entire life. I’ve seen this, I know what I have to do. Everybody I think knows. It’s just when Are you ready to start applying it? And you know, I feel like your secrets and all that **** keep you sick for so long, but at this point, after overdosing, I’m like, there’s no way, I can’t. I can’t do this anymore and I’m like I got to go away though. You know how many times I tried to detox at home every other week, so it doesn’t work my way. And I knew I have to go to Mountainside like I just knew I had to go to mountainside because all those people, like a lot of them from when I was 18, they’re still sober.

It’s like there’s something, and I, you know, I was angry at first and delusional. I detoxed for 17 days straight. 17 days and it was, it was scary. But you can’t. There was like, no, how do you stop? You can’t outrun that. My head was so foggy and I was horrified. Being at Mountainside, and the staff and the people, I’m going to cry—Ariana saved my life. She saved my life. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. For some reason, I trusted this woman. I’ve never trusted anyone in my life. I’ve never listened to what anyone ever had to say. I’ve never received anything anyone has ever had to say.

And she let me go on mindful walks because I just—I’m detoxing from 20 years of benzo abuse, and heroin and alcohol. Like not one day was I sober in 20 years. And it was tough. It was. It beat me into submission. So I’d go on these mindful walks. One day I was sitting by the benches with the dedications from The Beatles. It says to our son. What’s his name? Maybe Matthew found his peace here at Mountainside, and it’s like we all live in a yellow submarine. No, I love The Beatles and I love quotes by The Beatles. And it’s right here on this bench at the bottom of the waterfall. And I’m sitting there, and I’m like, God, if you just. OK, let’s talk about this. If you could just get me through this,

I know that my past doesn’t have to dictate my future.

alison b and two daughters smiling with peace signs And right now, in this moment. I can do it. I’ll do this. I’ll change everything. I have these two kids. They need me, my daughters, and I’ll do this. Anything that happened before is irrelevant. And all this, like 20 years of, shame and everything I had done just fell over me. It was heavy. That night, I remember. We read a story in the back. I remember this so vividly. It’s changed my life. But we read a story in the back, and for the first time in 34 years. I identified, but I didn’t compare. I didn’t say I’m not. Oh, cause you know, I go to AA; these people are sick. Not me. Like I just. I identified. I’m like, oh, my God, Oh my God. And that night after that, waterfall and Ariana and that walk in that meeting, I prayed.

I woke up the next morning, and I swear to God that the fog had lifted. I can’t. It was a power greater than myself. I couldn’t. I can’t do that. Mountainside guided me. It’s like, I don’t know how to do this. I can’t. You can, so help me out. How do you live life? Since I was thirteen, I’ve been on like I don’t know anything, like I don’t. And the humility and everything they teach you there. And what was weird was that everybody in the community was great too. Because before it was, everybody was just wonderful. It was the most wonderful feeling. If I could go back to Mountainside every weekend. People complain about being there. It’s a 5-star ******* resort. You spill something, they clean up after you. Do you think my kids are doing that now? I mean, it was just everything from that point. Just every single thing, every meeting that’s offered there.

Here, you don’t know how to live your life, you’re using drugs and alcohol or shopping or eating or sex as a form of, like, coping. Come here, and we’re going to teach you that you don’t have to do that. And then, not only we’re not just going to tell you we’re going to show you how to not do that. Also how to use coping skills and we’re going to teach you things. This one lady loves Melody Beattie, and she loves dear man, you know, DBT. But it was so helpful because Melody Beattie, she played a video. About differentiating shame from guilt and not with the shame. Oh my God, I overdosed. I got two kids at home, like the shame that I felt. What a ****** mother. I’m not supposed to be that way. How could I? And it’s I’m not a bad person. I’m a sick person. I’m not the things that I’ve done. It’s my disease, but I would have never been able to hear it or receive it if I wasn’t there in that moment.

That’s what they also teach you: How to be present in a moment. Everything I remember being in a yoga class, so calming and just laying there and then really for the first time, because I ran, I was crazy. Like I was breathing in the moment. Because not only does it say OK, yeah, you should probably go to AA, but let’s also individualize it more. Let’s show you that it’s health and wellness as well, and incorporate these things into your recovery. And I go to the gym still. If I don’t work out and do yoga, I’m crazy. I’m a crazy person. This helps me, like I think that the wellness and being able to meditate and breathe.

I have OCD and terrible anxiety. So to be able to breathe and learn to say, OK, these are just feelings. They’re not going to kill me.

And I could take a moment and breathe like that has helped me more than anything else with my mental health. Being in that room, it was so healing because you can’t really. I don’t think you could start to apply anything if you can’t be where you are, you know what I mean. If you can’t just breathe and be in the moment, so it’s like that really helped me to like ground myself. Another thing that I think is fantastic and I talked to a lot of people and they don’t know about it. Mountainside offers the PGBT test, where they swab your mouth to see what medications work for you and what milligrams and how. Like I was on the wrong meds for a very long time, and being on the right meds. It’s really life-changing.

I zoom to the Friday meeting when I can with all my friends cause can’t do it alone. You can’t do this alone, and I think the most amazing 2 words are “me too.” Because you think these crazy things in your head and it’s you’re like, Oh my God, it must be the craziest person. And then you call someone else who you met in recovery and they’re like, no, me too. Like what I got through this way. And you know, just the people that I met there – I text my friend joy every day. You know, I’m in a group text with a lot of other people. We did a zoom together for a while. I zoom to the Friday when I can. Another thing that mountainside did for me, which is huge is they set me up a treatment plan for when I leave. And I’ve followed through with that because never have I ever followed through and they got me into this great IOP and I don’t go to IOP, though I would have liked to still go sometimes; they said no, you can’t just come sometimes to IOP. And I was like, fine, you know.

Don’t quit until the miracle happens because it does. Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. I find myself every day as willing as I was that morning when that fog was lifting.

alison b with her two childrenI don’t stop being willing. I have commitments. I go to meetings. I have a sponsor, and I work the steps. I go to therapy. Showing up for life. I tell people how I feel. When I was 18 and I was in Mountainside, I’ll never forget this, because I say it all the time. I heard a craving shared is a craving cut in half. So I think you could apply that to anything. Any feeling that you’re having that’s hard or intense. If you tell someone else, it’s going to lighten the load. And I think that’s very important. Just so many things, I learned acceptance at Mountainside.

I can’t change anyone but myself. And change is hard, but it’s definitely worth it. I’m working on getting my master’s. I just take it one day at a time. I want to be a good mom and stay sober. Stay true to myself. I’m taking my kids on a Disney cruise next week. I’m showing up, and I just hope to continue this one day at a time.

So many people don’t make it, and it’s very scary out there now, and a lot of my friends are dead. I just think that the miracle is from even two years of working the program. When I am upset or I get really, you know, angry. Whatever it may be. My first thought isn’t to go pick up anymore. And that, I think, is a spiritual awakening of, like, working a program like, that’s not my first thought anymore.

If you would have told me that 2 1/2 years ago, I would say you’re lying, but really is true. Years ago, when people would talk like this, I’d be like, they’re drinking on the weekends or they’re crazy. But it really is the truth. And you know what? You’ll get it when you get it, and then it’s it’s a beautiful thing.

I define my recovery as freedom. Freedom from a hopeless state of mind.

As Mountainside celebrates 25 years in service to the recovery community, we will be highlighting stories from alumni, their family members, and Mountainside staff, whose own paths to recovery inform and inspire the work we do each day. Be sure to check our 25th Anniversary page for new stories every month.

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