‘You won’t be able to remember your address by the time you’re 40,’ the doctor told me. I still didn’t stop.’: Woman overcomes Xanax, alcohol addiction to be 9 months sober

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“It all started with a pill. A pill that I thought had the solution to all my problems. Little did I know when walking into the doctor’s office that day to find a ‘cure’ for my anxiety that my life would soon turn into a complete and total nightmare. When I got prescribed Xanax for my anxiety, I thought I had found the cure for all my pain and problems. Also, adding in lots of wine to wash it down seemed like a great idea at the time. I soon found out I had hardly found a cure, and my life would become a death wish waiting to happen.

girl and her sister smiling
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

I started taking Xanax to try to calm my nerves. My anxiety had been horrible for years, and it seemed only to be getting worse. When I first began taking Xanax, I followed the prescription and only took it two to three times a week. As time went on, my anxiety kept getting worse without it. My palms would sweat, my chest would break out in hives, and it was honestly hard to function. The physical symptoms were one of the worst parts of it. The worse my anxiety got, the more Xanax I started to take. I took it because it numbed all the anxious thoughts and nervousness that I felt. It was like all my worries disappeared, and I was the carefree person I always wanted to be. I felt fearless, and like I could finally be an adult without this awful anxiety hanging over me. It made me calm, more outgoing, and excited for the day. It made the day easier and numbed any emotions I didn’t want to feel.

I eventually started taking Xanax five or six times a week and would run out of pills before it was ready for a refill. I didn’t tell my doctor any of this and went through it alone. I remember sitting on my bed dumping the pills out, counting them, figuring out how many were left, and strategizing when I could take the next dose. Sometimes I would run out for days before getting a refill. The withdrawal symptoms were unbearable during this period. It was terrifying knowing I could die from Xanax withdrawal, but I was so addicted that I reasoned it was worth the risk. I would sweat, shake, feel nauseous, and have a massive headache. I would twitch and jolt so bad it would wake me up out of my sleep. I later learned this was because I was close to having a seizure. I knew I could have a seizure and die from the withdrawal symptoms. It was terrifying going to bed not knowing if I was going to wake up or what would happen, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Even though I knew things were bad, I would try to make everything seem perfect. I would make sure my hair, makeup, and outfits were all perfect. My social media was a highlight reel that was a completely false reality. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone outside of my close circle that I was struggling, let alone that I had a problem with Xanax and alcohol. I was too mortified to share with others that I had anxiety. So, I just kept pretending that everything was fine and that I had it all together.

woman smiling
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

In December of 2020, things began spiraling downhill. I knew I had a problem, but I always justified my behavior. I remember telling myself, ‘You have extreme anxiety, and it’s okay that you’re doing this to function,’ or ‘No one would want to sit in this anxiety all day if they knew what it was like. You have to take this to function like a normal person.’ I had convinced myself that I deserved to take Xanax, and I had a complete victim mentality.

In addition to the Xanax, I typically drank one to two bottles of wine most nights. I wouldn’t remember many of my conversations or actions until I was told the next day. I also found out I was erasing my memory from all the Xanax. The doctor said to me that if I didn’t stop taking it in the way that I was, I wouldn’t be able to remember my address by the time I was 40. I knew Xanax could cause memory loss the whole time, but I chose to block that out of my mind. Even after hearing that news from the doctor, I still didn’t stop taking it. I would blackout and do things I regretted, and I checked out from my life.

woman crying
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

Initially, Xanax gave me all the feelings I’d hoped for. I craved it and felt like I needed it. All I wanted was that feeling. It made me carefree and happy. As my body got more and more immune to it, I started to need more pills to get that same feeling. I had begun to rely on it to do EVERYTHING. If I didn’t feel like doing laundry, I’d take Xanax. If I didn’t feel like cleaning the house, I’d drink a bottle of wine and take Xanax. It eventually got to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed without taking it. My mood changed from being happy to being highly depressed and sometimes suicidal. I knew I would get nothing done if I didn’t have Xanax that day. Tears would come out of my eyes just trying to get out of bed. All my mind and body wanted was more. The pain and anxiety I felt without it were unbearable. I would count the days down to my refill, and my life felt out of control until I got it.

My family and friends started noticing how bad it was getting. They didn’t recognize the person I had become. In January of 2021, a few of my closest friends were so concerned that they called my parents to tell them how messed up I was. That night, my parents and sister came to the house. I had taken Xanax and also had been drinking a lot of wine. I will never forget the look of fear on my family’s face when they walked in. My dad said he thought he would walk in to see me dead on the floor. I’ll never forget that moment. My family said I needed to go to rehab and I needed help. I felt a bit of relief at that moment because I was so desperate in my current situation, and so I agreed to go.

I got on a plane the next day and went to a detox center near Hollywood, Florida. I stayed there for about 10 days to safely detox from Xanax and alcohol. After that, I moved up to their residential treatment facility and stayed there for another two weeks. I was sober the entire time I was there, but unfortunately, this didn’t work for me. I felt I was only trying to get clean for friends and family, but didn’t want it for myself. As soon as I got to the airport to go home, I ordered a glass of wine. I told myself I would only drink wine sometimes and not take Xanax. I don’t know why I thought this would work when I’ve never been able to have just one drink or drink responsibly.

woman 30 days sober wearing a mask
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

A week after getting back from rehab, I ended up refilling the Xanax prescription. I picked up right where I left off and ended up in an even worse place. I had hit complete rock bottom. That week, I experimented with other drugs on top of already having Xanax and lots of alcohol in my system. I keep thinking I must have a guardian angel because I have no idea how my body handled all of it. I know I was on the road to an early death. Luckily, I have an incredible, loving support system. My parents again stepped in and saved me before I ended or ruined my life completely. My dad told me I was going back to rehab, but this time the facility would be in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I knew I had no choice. I had gone through my Xanax in a matter of days this time. I knew I was screwed and about to go through extreme withdrawal, so I agreed to give recovery another go.

woman crying
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

In March 2021, I tried to get sober for the second time by moving into a recovery house here in Richmond. I lived with about 10 other women who were going through similar experiences. I remember the first night I was there; all the pain I had been feeling just hit me. I fell onto the ground sobbing, and one of the girls had to pick me up off the floor. Getting sober is hard at first because all the emotions you have been numbing for so long come flooding back in. You have to learn to sit in pain you’ve been avoiding, but soon you realize that’s the only way to get through it. The recovery program I was in took us to Narcotics Anonymous meetings every night to listen to stories of hope. Something stood out to me. Hearing other people’s stories of sobriety made me want what they had for the first time.

I thought, ‘What if I just tried this for the next few months and see what happens?’ I figured I could go back to my old life if I hated it. Once I completed my 28 days in the program, I felt motivated to stay sober. I wanted this new way of life for myself. I desired the blessings to come that everyone had talked about in meetings and groups. For the past nine months, I have been sober, and it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. When I was in my darkest moments, I never thought I’d be where I am today.

woman taking a mirror selfie
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

My life is filled with so much joy today. Getting sober and taking your life back is 100% worth it. I have gained so much from my sobriety. My family and friends know I’m safe and don’t constantly worry about me anymore. I took a leap of faith and started a new career path that I’ve enjoyed so much. I am in my first sober and healthy relationship with someone who treats me the way I’ve always prayed for. My anxiety went from being so high to very low after learning how to cope and be sober in difficult situations. 2021 started as a nightmare for me, but it’s turned into the best year of my life. I cannot wait to see where my sobriety journey will take me in the New Year!”

family photo outside
Courtesy of Kristen McAvoy

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristen McAvoy of Richmond, VA. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories from sober warriors:

‘Why do you drink wine every night?’ I shrugged it off. It was my nightly ritual. This was the beginning of the end.’: Sober warrior shares alcohol-free journey, ‘It’s an amazing freedom’

‘A guardian angel called 9-1-1 as I convulsed in a coffee shop parking lot. At 18, I’d lost 20 jobs and been arrested 14 times.’: Man 13-years sober after long battle with addiction, ‘We’re not meant to live in darkness’

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