Donna, age 41
I knew I was too drunk to drive home and face my family. I steered
my car into the old graveyard and parked. I found a full bottle of
wine among all the “empties” on the front seat, grabbed it, slammed
the car door and slid to the ground. I was slumped by the car,
slugging wine and staring at the graves of my grandparents,
remembering the good times and wondering what happened to my
Not many people know the exact moment they hit bottom, but I do. It
was that night – March 24, 2006 – at the graveyard just down the
road from my parent’s house in Gulfport, Mississippi. My husband
and daughter and I were up from Jacksonville, visiting family, and
I had been shopping and drinking all day. When I finally dragged
myself up to drive home from the graveyard, I discovered that the
car door was locked. My husband came and took in the whole scene.
He’s a quiet man. He just said, “Look at you.” I knew at that
moment in the graveyard that I was hearing the death knell of
everything I hold dear.
After a completely silent 8-hour ride home to Jacksonville the next
day, I closed myself in the bedroom, picked up the yellow pages and
called Wekiva Springs Center for Women. It was Sunday night. The
lady at Wekiva suggested I come in the morning for an evaluation,
but I told her “If I don’t come tonight, I won’t come tomorrow.”
She said, “Come now. We’ll be waiting for you.” They unlocked the
door late that night and I walked down a dimly lighted hallway and
into a new life.
I never knew anyone in rehab and never thought I’d end up there. My
thing was pain pills and wine. You see, I’m a horse woman and I
have one leg that is shorter than the other due to a riding
accident when I was a teenager, so I’ve been taking pain pills
forever. The wine … well, it started out as just a social thing. I
owned an upscale boutique and wine was part of the ambience, you
know. I ran around with some of the most prominent women in
Jacksonville, but it was superficial. When you meet the girls out
for lunch, you certainly don’t chat about rehab.
Rehab was nothing like I expected. I was so incredibly fortunate
that I chose Wekiva. It’s not just about the drugs and cleaning out
your body – it’s about strengthening you as a woman. You think of
derelicts and uneducated people, but I was there with MIT graduates
and incredible women from all over the United States. Now, I shout
about rehab and my recovery to the world. I don’t care who knows
because I’ve got my life and my family back.
Family Week at Wekiva was the most powerful thing. To see my big,
strong husband crying like a baby and feel the hot tears of my
beautiful teenaged daughter on my cheek…you realize for the first
time how much pain you’ve inflicted on the people you love. It was
raw in that room. Today, if I think about a glass of wine, it makes
me sick to my stomach.
I owe my life to Wekiva. It’s a great place to heal and it will be
part of my life forever. I’m now a better mother, a better wife and
a more spiritual woman. Church is still not a thing for me, but I
have a lot of conversations with God. Recently, a dear friend
presented me with a beautiful paint horse. I call her “Ki,” which
is short for Wekiva. There was never a moment’s doubt about that
name. She represents all new beginnings to me.
I grew up knowing one thing for certain. I’d never get fat. No one
is overweight in my family and I remember my dad’s comments when he
spotted a fat person. “Gosh,” he’d say. “Look at that!” I’m 5’ tall
and have spent my life fighting my weight, secretly alternating
between binge-eating and fasting. When I was on a binge, I would
hide stashes of candy bars, cookies and snack cakes all over the
house. When I was fasting, I’d hide that too, but my 11-year old
son was starting to suspect something He’d say, “Mom, aren’t you
going to eat?” and I’d say, “Oh, I ate earlier,” or “I ate while I
was cooking.” I’d go for days on end with no food at all. By the
time I saw a television commercial about Wekiva, I was truly at the
end of my rope. I was in a state of deep depression. My body
chemistry was all out of whack and I was weak and sick from years
of abusing myself.
I spent 28 days in Wekiva and it was the best thing I could have
done for myself. The staff was fantastic. I connected with my main
therapist right away. She really knew how to listen. I realized
then that I’d never opened up to anyone or even to myself. My
family really didn’t want to hear me. My husband was always
supportive, but I had this secret life he didn’t know about. My
parents were very much against taking anti-depressants. They would
often say, “People should just lean more on God and pray more.” God
is a very big part of my life, but there comes a time when those
medications can really pull you out of a dark hole, and that’s
where I was.
The best part of Wekiva – especially for an eating disorder person
– was the three nutritious meals a day. We had menus we wrote down
to get prepared to go out in the real world – and they equipped us
with a really great set of tools to handle our eating
realistically. Yoga was another thing. I’ve never made time for
exercising. Yoga helped me meditate and come back to myself. I
still love it. And the art therapy was awesome! I’m not an artist
at all, in fact, I’d call myself “art-challenged,” but you wouldn’t
believe the difference in the art I created when I first got there
and what I was doing by the fourth week – it was like night and
Family week was really important for me. We were in a safe
environment with a mediator and I was able to share the real truth
with my parents, husband and kids for the first time. The mediator
helped explain how we could help each other as a family unit. We
talked about things we could all do to make things better.
I still have good days and bad days, but my biggest thing is I
immediately talk to someone. Wekiva taught me to reach out and I
don’t hesitate to do that now. When I let food distract me, I think
of the acronym I learned there – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired –
I had everybody fooled. In August of 2005, when I attempted to
commit suicide after the birth of my fourth child, everyone – even
the medical professionals – thought it was post-partum depression.
“I wasn’t honest about my drinking or my use of
I had my first two children by the time I was 21 and I think my
alcoholism started when I was about 22, but I didn’t really think I
had a problem. Most of my drinking was at night, after I took care
of the house and kids all day. My husband and I were social
drinkers and until my suicide attempt, I never tried to hide my
drinking. Even an attempted suicide didn’t stop me.
My family life got really bad after the suicide attempt. I was
paranoid, hot-headed, and blacking out when I drank. My husband and
kids didn’t know what to expect next. When I went to a family
funeral in Illinois, I left him with the kids. Because I was
without the responsibility of children, I stayed drunk the whole
week I was there. My family didn’t know whether I was coming home
or not, and my 12-year old son decided he couldn’t take it any
more. He called my parents and asked them to come pick him up. By
the time I got home from Illinois, I had lost my son and my husband
wanted a divorce. I realized I was losing everything because of my
alcoholism. That’s when I called Wekiva.
Today, my life is golden. I’ve always been told I was beautiful,
but I never felt like I was – it seemed I really didn’t fit in. I’m
learning to be beautiful on the inside now, and I’m so grateful for
the relationship-building tools that Wekiva has given me. I’ve
learned to set healthy boundaries with people and not to allow what
they say or do to affect me. My husband still drinks occasionally,
but he doesn’t incorporate it in his every day life. He’s not an
alcoholic. I am. And, I’m a grateful alcoholic because, through
Wekiva, I’ve become a member of a very large support group called
God knows where I would have ended up if I hadn’t called Wekiva. I
probably would have been on the streets with all my children, or
dead. Wekiva helped me learn to love myself. They loved me until I
could love me.
I’m a former heroine addict. What I didn’t realize is that when I
began drinking alcohol after I got off of heroine, I was just
switching addictions. It doesn’t work.
I’m not what you’d picture as a typical heroine addict or
alcoholic, whatever that is. I’ve got dual degrees in special
education, a 17 year old daughter, a 4 year old son and a
prosperous, loving husband. I live in a very upscale neighborhood.
In fact, I had everything a woman could want, but all I could think
about was my next drink. When you’re drowning in alcohol, material
things don’t matter a bit.
I was at Wekiva for 31 days and they treated the whole me – not
just my addiction. The place was beautiful, the staff was wonderful
and I had an individualized plan that gave me specific personal
goals to meet every day. I had neglected a lot of things while I
was looking for that next drink – but at Wekiva, whatever it is
you’ve neglected, they’ll take care of it.