The other day, as my daughters were getting ready to leave my house and return to their father’s, I tried to guilt them into doing their chores. “I did a lot for you this summer,” I said. “I took you to Kennywood and the church carnival, and I took you to the Three Rivers Arts Festival and family day at SouthSide Works Exposed.
“We volunteered at the zoo, and you helped me volunteer at Picklesburgh. We saw two movies in the theater, and you had three sleepovers and at least five playdates. I let you pick out a closet full of school clothes at the thrift store and got you school supplies at the dollar store, and we went to that backpack giveaway down on the Flats … I did all that for you. Now, can’t you just clean up the living room for me?”
Believe it or not, my girls went on to clean the room to my satisfaction – and I went on to think about what I’d said … and done.
Did I feel bad about guilting them into cleaning? A little bit. But that feeling was quickly overcome by another, more powerful one: pride.
I have joint custody of my two daughters, so I only get them for about half the summer; and I’m a commuter (no drivers’ license) on a limited income and tight budget. But still, I managed to do all of the above with them, as well as a few other things on my own.
I completed a half-dozen or so freelance writing assignments and signed on to a couple new projects. I donated blood at a blood drive; frequently helped an elderly neighbor with shopping and housework; and went to the pinball arcade with my boyfriend a few times. I also kept up on medical appointments, made good on personal commitments, and mostly paid my bills on time.
“For some people, these things might not be a big deal. They may be normal, part of ‘life as usual.’ But for me, they’re not. For me, they’re a huge accomplishment. They’re a sum of personal achievements that make me proud and give me hope, because they’re a sum of things I never dreamt possible.”
For the greater part of my life, and especially exacerbated in recent years, I’ve struggled with alcohol use and mental health disorders – and, for most of that time, I let these common “afflictions” get the better of me and convince me that the type of life I wanted was out of my reach.
But then, when enough was enough, I decided to reach anyway. I wanted more for myself and wanted to be able to give more to my children.
So, on January 30, 2017, I quit drinking and, approximately two weeks later, began Intensive Outpatient (IOP) treatment at Pittsburgh Mercy, where I came to better understand my addiction as a disease and learned the true meaning of recovery (which is “abstinence + change,” in case you’re wondering).
After graduating from IOP, I moved on to participate in relapse prevention group therapy and individual therapy to further address my alcohol use and other issues, and I worked closely with my psychiatrist and psych nurses to determine appropriate medications and other treatment options for my mental health concerns. At the same time, I also made – and kept – appointments with my primary care physician at Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center, to address my physical well-being as well.
A little more than a year after I quit drinking, my life began to change in noticeable, meaningful ways. I went from being a hopeless, blackout drunk who was afraid of the world around her to a sober, hopeful woman empowered with the tools and resources to face whatever comes next and get the most out of life.
And when ‘whatever comes next’ is something unexpected or unpleasant, I remind myself how much worse it would be if I reached for the bottle, and, instead, I reach out to my support network, both inside and outside of Pittsburgh Mercy, to help me through it.
I turned 40 in April of 2018. Some folks call that “midlife.” But I feel like my life’s just getting started.
“In the six months since my birthday, I’ve done more with, and for, my kids – and myself – than I’d done in the past few years combined. And I owe it all to the fact that I’m sober and taking charge of my mental and physical health and well-being.”
I hope that others who read my story will be inspired by how I’ve turned my life around, especially considering my age and the longevity of the issues I’ve faced.
“It’s never too late to reach out for help.”
Sarah Beth Martin is a freelance writer, journalist, author, and the proud parent of two daughters. She was born and raised in Pittsburgh. She currently resides in the South Pittsburgh community of Knoxville.
Learn more about Pittsburgh Mercy’s behavioral health services.
Lean more about our addiction recovery services.
Learn more about how Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center integrates physical and behavioral health.