How wellness led me to rehab and transformation

How Wellness Led Me to Rehab and Transformation

by Karin Burns

I took a less traditional path to rehab than most people and avoided the DUIs, legal issues and job losses we typically associate with alcohol addiction by embracing change early in the progression of the issue and healing myself proactively with wellness. Since 2015 I have been attending wellness festivals, practicing yoga and helping my younger brother recover from alcohol abuse.

Along the way, I learned a lot about addiction and the power to heal ourselves but thought the lessons of sobriety were only applicable to my brother because I didn’t have a drinking “problem.” As my brother recovered he rediscovered his artistic talent, we opened a small pet portrait business and soon found ourselves on The Today Show, being honored for our story!

Unfortunately, I felt unhealthy and unhappy with the appearance, and that fall committed to finally lose the weight I had gained since college. My brother who had lost 50 pounds easily when he got sober encouraged me to stop drinking to lose weight, but I refused, unwilling to give up my favorite vice.

It was easy for me to deny any issues, most people didn’t even know about my secret binge drinking. It was something I did alone and was manageable until it wasn’t. It was not manageable for a long time, but like many people, I was in denial of the issue. I was able to easily hide it with my flexible, work from home position and frequent travel and compared to my homeless and unemployed brother my drinking issues were nothing.

After a missed presentation at a conference after a night of drinking in fall 2016, I received a final written warning, and I knew something had to change. It was the second alcohol-related write-up and forced me to evaluate my drinking on a much deeper level.

I struggled with the decision to get help for months and eventually decided to walk the labyrinth at the Serra Retreat in Malibu for guidance and help. The night before was Thanksgiving, and I got into a huge fight with my family and felt lost, alone and scared. As I packed my suitcase, I found a small piece of paper with an image and the words “May the red thread of Ariadne guide you to your true path. May you be filled with purpose” and as I realized the image was labyrinth chills went down my spine. I wondered where it came from and what it meant. This written note made me take the meditative walk more seriously, and I pondered deeply what was wrong with me and if I would end up homeless like my brother. If I had another incident, I would be fired, and I didn’t want to risk everything, so I committed to a sober 2017 and planned to quit drinking on January 1 for one full year to determine if my drinking was a problem.

After relapsing twice in the first ten days, both times drinking alone till I blacked out and threw up, I checked myself into Passages determined to change once and for all. I had tried to do it alone many times, the last time with support from a therapist, lots of books, a solid plan and still I had failed twice. I had never failed at something I put all my effort into and felt lost and hopeless.

Always a high achiever I never expected to be in rehab and felt embarrassed, ashamed and confused but fearful of what would happen if I didn’t get help. I had seen how much alcohol had taken from my younger brother and was terrified the same would happen to me. I also saw my brother’s remarkable transformation, so I was intrigued by the potential of sobriety, inspired by my sibling and the celebrities who had used rehab to transform and propel them to their best lives, like Rob Lowe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elton John.

I researched the Passages website in detail and much to my surprise my fear slowly became excitement, and when I arrived in February 2017, I had reframed the experience in my mind as a “wellness retreat with a focus on addiction” rather than something to be ashamed or scared of. I wasn’t sure what to expect and spent most of the first days in detox alone, writing in my journal and keeping to myself. Eventually, I allowed myself to open up and relax and the next ninety days were the most important of my entire life.

I learned so much about how to find peace with the past, manage my anxiety about the future and uncover the issues that were driving my drinking in the first place. It truly was a wellness retreat with a focus on addiction. Every day I got to participate in various wellness activities like sound therapy or guided meditation and work on my issues in a peaceful and safe environment with people who shared the same struggle and talented and compassionate therapists.

Like myself, everyone in treatment had painful pasts that needed to be brought to light to heal. Ten years earlier I had gotten married right down the road at Our Lady of Malibu, but my marriage ended abruptly while I was pregnant after an incident of domestic violence.

Sadly I lost my baby ten days later and had to manage the loss of my home, marriage, husband, and baby all at the same time. I never had the time and place to heal from the losses and escaped over the years with alcohol, slowly needing more and more until it became unmanageable. Additionally, I had been a victim of a verbal, sexual and physical assault at earlier points in my life and had never had proper therapy to work through my pain. I had been escaping with alcohol since I was a teenager, but my work at Passages allowed me to let it go and taught me healthier coping skills to use in the future.

The most ironic thing about rehab is that it is full of life-changing ancient wisdom and healing rituals that would benefit everyone yet people refuse to go and would rather die than admit they need help. Instead, we spend our time and money at yoga, meditation, and retreats searching for wellness but then head to happy hour and numb ourselves with wine. Much to my surprise, I learned alcohol inhibits connection and destroys the mind, body and spirit connection we all are searching for.

For years I struggled to understand the place of alcohol in wellness and my yoga practice and Passages helped me understand the truth, that alcohol is toxic to the spirit and has no place in true wellness. This made so much more sense to me than the idea that I had some incurable invisible disease that can’t be tested for or cured. That story was just too hopeless for me.

We desperately need to change the way we treat addiction and substance abuse in our country so more people like myself get help early in the progression of the issue and no one has to suffer in silence while they continue a downward spiral deeper into addiction.

Life is inherently painful, and our world is getting more stressful every day, we are all trying to escape with something whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex or food. We all could benefit from learning healthier coping skills to manage stress and anxiety. We would all benefit from having a trusted therapist to help us come to peace with the past. At nineteen months sober I have no desire to drink and haven’t since the day I arrived in Malibu. There is no need to wait for a rock bottom or be ashamed to get help for addiction of any kind. There is hope.

How I Transformed My Body, Mind, and Spirit

After working on myself for three months, I returned home and set large goals for myself, as is my personality. I sell complex enterprise level software solutions and focus on transformational change so I am well versed in the steps of change and my years of technology implementation taught me how to implement change effectively for long-term success. I found the current process of addiction after-care to be inefficient so I set out to create a better system for myself.  What resulted is The Dry Diet – a daily wellness tool that can be used by anyone that wants to lose weight, save money and find true wellness with a more focused and effective approach than traditional diets. There is no need to declare yourself an alcoholic or feel that you will forever be an addict, we can all choose sobriety for wellness. I used it to lose 65 pounds, pay off 95K in debt, get promoted and become a yoga teacher in my first year of sobriety!

I love simplicity and minimalism as well as shapes and symbols. As you can see above the logo of The Dry Diet represents the plan. The 5 Core Pillars are all free, anyone can do them at any age, and they ensure that I am sober, well rested, hydrated and not abusing sugar as is common in recovery. The Three Extra Credits are individual and keep me balanced and connected as well as ensures that I only do things I enjoy for my sobriety. The inner triangle can be modified and used to achieve any goal – when I wanted to pay off debt an extra credit was not purchasing an expensive latte or selling an item to pay down debt.

Using this system helped me incorporate wellness into my daily life and make it as important as my job and not just something that I can do “when I have the time.” Without this system that ensures that I am taking care of my mind, body, and spirit on a daily basis I will find myself back in the addictive cycle, as we will always be drawn to what is familiar or the temptation of an easy escape. Change happens one day at a time so every day I keep myself focused on the future rather than stuck in the past.

I celebrated my first year of sobriety by having professional photographs taken so I could look back on them in years to come when I feel tempted to drink to remember how happy and healthy sobriety is for me. I also splurged on a week at the beach in a fancy hotel, spa treatments and a shopping spree for new clothes to mark the occasion as special and important; Having this celebration trip to look forward to kept me very motivated. My goal is to get back on The Today Show with my transformation body!

My brother and I on the Today Show! He looked healthy and sober and I looked heavy and unhealthy.
Before and after getting sober 
The photo to the left was taken the last night I binged drank at home, the after pic in Venice during my one-year sober celebration!

How to Contact Passages Addiction Treatment Centers:

Call Passages Addiction Treatment Centers today if you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our admissions department is available 24/7 and can be reached directly by calling our toll-free number at (888) 397-0112. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

Passages, Where Addiction Ends and Life Begins™

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