Ivy’s recovery from addiction was a long journey that started when she first got hooked on alcohol at the age of sixteen. Her relationship with alcohol led to cocaine and an abusive boyfriend who got her pregnant with a son. Soon after, she developed breast cancer which gave her unlimited access to pain killers. She reached such a low point in her life where her only options became ending it or getting sober. She opted to join a sober living home where she got a lot of support from people who understand and have been through what she was going through. Ivy is clean and sober today and she shares her story to encourage people that nothing is ever hopeless and you can win and recover from addiction.
In this episode of Stories of Addiction, I will be talking to Ivy about her addiction and her recovery from addiction. Ivy is a client at the sober-living Gault House. Ivy is 39 years old and works at a health spa. Ivy was born and raised in Hawaii, started using drugs and alcohol at age fifteen. Ivy then went to The Camp. After The Camp, she went into an SLE in Monterey and decided she wanted to come to Santa Cruz where she resides as of now at the Gault House in Santa Cruz, California.
Listen to the podcast here:
Ivy’s Heavy Use of Alcohol and Pills
How did your addiction start?
I was born in Hawaii and raised there. At the age of about twelve, my parents moved me from Oahu to the big island. I had a pretty nice childhood and great parents that loved me. At the age of about fourteen, I took my first drink. I remember exactly where I was. I was with a couple friends and I was at a sleepover. One of my friends had an older sister and we got in the car with her and went to a party. I was offered a glass of white wine, which I took. I was a little nervous, I remember, but I drank it. I remember loving it. That’s what I knew I wanted to do. I wanted more. There wasn’t more and I was too shy to ask for more, but the feeling that I got was like no other. I’m taken out of my normal mental state.
After that I was about age fourteen, I started hanging out with probably the wrong crowd and drinking more. Then it became an obsession. At fifteen or sixteen, it was all about where I could find alcohol. Being too young to buy it, I was very creative and finding ways to get it, whether it was asking people in a parking lot how to get it or to buy for me and my friends or dressing up as an older person and going into a store and just hoping for the best that someone would sell me alcohol. I would also take it out of my parents’ cabinets. It became an obsession for me. I started doing cocaine around the age of sixteen. I had a cousin that I used to do it with. He was a little bit older than me. We would drink and do cocaine. He taught me how to get it. He would take me to this little corner in a little sleepy town in Hawaii called Hilo and he would say, “This is how you do it.” We would wait for some random person, people to walk by, a lot of people that sold drugs were around there. He would say, “Can we buy a bag from you?” That’s how we would get it.
I decided I wanted to do that on my own one night when he wasn’t there. I went to that corner and there was a bunch of people down there. I got out of the car and I asked a couple people and they were like, “What are you doing down here?” I was a sixteen-year old girl. I said, “I’m trying to buy a coke.” I had this guy that was dressed pretty nicely in a leather jacket. He walked up to me and he was like, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I’m looking to buy coke.” He goes, “I’m the dealer.” I said, “Can I get some?” He gave me a bag and he said, “Let’s hang out.” We hung out that night and for several nights after that. At this age, I’m probably around seventeen. We started dating. He was quite a bit older than me. He was probably like 26 or 27 at that time. I started dating him. He would take me to his house and I did a lot of cocaine with him. I was in and out of high school at this time, back and forth from my parents’ house and they were getting sick of me. I wasn’t going to school and all I wanted to do was hang out with this guy. Finally, I dropped out of high school and I told my parents goodbye and I left. They didn’t know where I was. This was a bit before cell phones.
I basically was living off the grid. I’m probably eight miles from the main road or any other person. I’m down this very a creepy dirt road. I lived there with him for probably four or five months. My parents didn’t know where I was. I did have a car that I had taken when I had left. He would take it from me and go and do his thing and he would be gone for days sometimes. I said, “The only thing that I want is to make sure that I have alcohol and drugs. You can use my car, just leave me some Top Ramen, cocaine and alcohol and I’ll be good.” I was basically stuck in this house and it under construction. It was weird. I’m in the middle of nowhere by myself for days on end. I’m doing my drugs waiting for him to come back to supply me, which he always would. It was never soon enough but he always would.
Finally, I got in touch with my parents because I was sick of living like that. I felt like I needed help. He was abusive and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was seventeen at this time, so I got in touch with my parents. They were happy to hear from me and they had told me that they were moving from the big island to Oahu and if I wanted to go back and try to finish my senior year at a high school on Oahu. I said I would if my boyfriend, who I’ll call Casey, could come with me. They agreed, so I moved into their home on Oahu and Casey came with me. He lived with me. He’s probably 28 and I’m seventeen. My parents are dealing with it because they were so freaked out that I had been gone for so long. He was abusive and would want to have sex with me and I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t even attracted to him. He grossed me out, but as long as he would give me my drugs, I would be okay. I got pregnant in November of 1995 by Casey and my dad was super pissed, but it was what it was. Casey went onto rob my parents’ tenant of $20,000 worth of jewelry and did all of these very bad things and got kicked out of my parents’ house. I’m pregnant. I ended up graduating high school, which was a big thing for me at that time. I had my son in July of ’96.
For the first six months, I didn’t drink, and I didn’t use. I knew that I was an alcoholic and an addict. I was scared to start again because I knew that once I did, I wouldn’t stop. I had this baby to raise but I didn’t. Slowly but surely I started drinking again, and Casey was out of the picture by this point. I was living with my parents and I started to get into the party scene with my friends. My parents would watch my son and I would go be gone for weeks on end. At that time in my life, I was into ecstasy. It was a big thing and I would do it many nights in a row along with drinking. I was a blackout drinker. I drink as much as I could all the time until I would pass out. I was embarrassed when I would wake up but kept doing it.
This cycle started and did not end until recently. I went through life drinking, drinking and drinking. My parents were helping me with my son and at the age of about 25, I met a man that I ended up marrying. Here I am, I’m like, “I’m finally getting it together. I’m finally figuring it out. I have a dad for my son.” He was a heavy drinker, so we drink together a lot. We both were in the restaurant business and wine and alcohol was very glorified. That’s what we did. We drink but I was very functioning. I always held down a job by this point. My son was about seven and I became a parent with my husband. We got married and we moved to Lake Tahoe. My addiction started getting heavier and heavier now that I was in a place I had never lived. I didn’t know anyone and I worked a lot. I would get off of work and start drinking until I passed out. I still was able to function.
In 2010, I got my first DUI. It was a day that my grandmother had died, and I felt like I was entitled to drink as much as I want. I got in the car to go buy a pack of cigarettes and I got a DUI. I spent the night in jail. That was my first run with jail. I got out and I was very traumatized. I couldn’t believe that that had happened. I was scared, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. That had passed, and my drinking continued to get heavier and heavier. My marriage was failing and a lot of that had to do with the drinking and being mean and waking up and having to apologize. In 2015, my son was going to graduate high school and me and my husband had decided that once he graduated we would separate and go our own ways.
I had met a man in February of 2015 that I had started seeing and I was still married. It was not the right thing to do, but I didn’t care at that point. The alcohol had taken over and it wasn’t an issue for me. A couple months later, I got diagnosed with breast cancer and I immediately freaked out. To me, it was almost like an invitation to keep drinking. It’s like, “Here I am. I’m the victim of cancer and I’m going to take this to another level.” I got my doctor prescribe me whatever I wanted because, “Poor me. Here I am. I’m 36 years old and I have breast cancer.” My doctors would give me what I wanted, which was mainly oxycodone.
I had ended up having a double mastectomy and drank through the whole thing. I had a friend bring me wine in the hospital. I was there for three days and I said, “Please bring me some wine,” and she did. I was on morphine, oxycodone, kept drinking, and taking pills throughout the whole thing. They had told me that I had to have chemotherapy. To me, that was a huge thing. I was very angry at everyone around me and at myself. Why was this happening to me? I started my chemotherapy and got drunk one night and shaved all of my hair off. I woke up in the morning and was bald. I knew it was going to fall out anyway, but it was a very traumatic experience to wake up with no hair. I continued to drink and use alcohol. I would go into these rages in a blackout and pull my wig off at dinner parties or in front of my parents’ friends and throw it across the room and say, “Look at me. I’m a cancer victim.” I played the cancer card. That’s why I deserve to drink and use these pills and do them together as much as I could.
After several months of that, the chemotherapy ended, and I had to start radiation. I started the radiation and kept drinking. All of that started going to my head. Between the drugs and the chemotherapy, the radiation, the alcohol, the pills, I started getting suicidal. My husband had left, but he was still around because he was trying to be the good guy. I started accusing him of cheating on me. It was an obsession. I would go to his work and sit outside drinking, popping my pills, and wait for him to come out with this imaginary girl. I was obsessed over it. When he would get home from work, it was always these huge blow outs of what he was doing and me throwing bottles across the room at him. How could he do this to me when I have cancer? One night, he had left, and I took a whole bottle of pills. I sent him a picture of the pills in my hand and I said, “Thanks a lot,” or something close that as I took the picture. I took the pills and drink a bottle of Tequila and passed out.
I woke up in the mental hospital. I’m trying to figure out what exactly happened. When he saw that picture, he had come, gotten me, and the ambulance had come. I got put into ER and then the mental hospital for about four days. I begged my way out of the mental hospital because I wanted more alcohol. They didn’t serve it there. I somehow convinced the doctors that I was fine, I needed more pills, and it was just because of the chemo brain. I kept saying, “I have chemo brain, so can I have more pills? I’ll be totally fine.” I remember the doctor saying, “Promise me,” and I said, “I promise I will be fine.” Within a week, I was back in the mental hospital. I’d done that whole thing over again, but I sent the picture to my best friend and said, “Thank you for being a best friend, but this is over.” I took a picture and she called my parents. The same situation happened.
I woke up again in the mental hospital the next day trying to figure out what the hell had happened. By this point, I was pretty brain gone. My brain was not functioning at all and I was extremely angry at the world and my family. We all tried to have like a counseling session and I remember walking in with no hair in a gown, in a mental hospital, just screaming at them, “Look at me. What do you guys want from me? Look at what has happened to me. Just leave me alone. I don’t want to have anything to do with you guys.” Looking at my mom crying and my sister crying and my husband that was beside himself. I got out of the hospital and literally packed my stuff up and left him for good. I moved into a little studio by myself and continued to drink, continued for the doctors to give me pills. I had had several complications with my surgery and the radiation and my skin being able to hold the implant that they were trying to get in there. One particular instance was I had a roommate for a little while and he was a big drinker. We got in a huge fight in the middle of the night just over drunk and whatever. I told him I was going to kill myself. I got up on the balcony and was going to jump. He grabbed me from behind and pulled me off of the balcony and squeezed my chest so hard that I passed out that night and I woke up in a pool of blood the next morning.
What had happened was he squeezed my chest so hard that the implant where the surgeon had sewed it up had popped up. The scar popped open and the implant was hanging out. I had to go to the doctor and he said, “What happened?” I said, “I don’t know. I woke up in the middle of the night and my implant was exposed.” He had to pull the implant out, so I was breast-less on one side for probably six months. During that six months, I was on and off of work between disability and not. I started randomly dating different guys. None of them were good guys. I always had the tendency to pick the ones that would drink with me and who could put up with me for at least a little while. Even ones that I didn’t like or didn’t like me or ones that I thought were the biggest alcoholics thought I was a bigger alcoholic and they couldn’t handle my drinking. I knew at some point I was going to have to stop drinking, but I thought that that was far away. I was like, “One day, I will stop drinking.” This was 2016 or 2017. I was still on pills. I had the cops at the house a couple times for threatening to kill myself and telling people what had happened was that my disease was getting so bad that I didn’t want to live. I was so depressed, and I had so much anxiety that the only thing that could mask it was the alcohol and the alcohol was also ruining my life.
I was starting to be able to not function. I wanted to die. My parents try to do a little intervention and I lost it. The thought of them trying to like control my life, that was too much for me and I cut them off. I wouldn’t talk to them because I felt like they were judging me. Did they know how much I had gone through? I ended up moving out of my place and into another little place. I started drinking more heavily than I had and it was always a blackout drunk. Everyone would bring these water bottles to work and I was working at a very high-end resort. In my water bottle would be vodka. I started drinking on the job. I started drinking during the day, putting Bailey’s in my coffee because that’s normal. I’m drinking mimosas at the beach. Everything was an occasion for drinking, whether I worked or not. I worked in the restaurant business, so that would be a good reason to drink. My new landlord and I became pretty close and she lived on the property. She kept saying to me, “Ivy, you have a very serious problem.” I said, “No, I don’t.” She goes, “Look at all these bottles.” I’m like, “I’ve had friends over.” I didn’t, but I didn’t like when people pointed that out to me. I had thought about possibly getting help, but I would have rather died. I figured I had three choices. One of my choices was dying. The second was getting sober, which was not an option. The third was living in existence that I was living in.
How did you pay for your alcohol and your drugs? How low did you have to go?
I never stole. I worked hard, and I used men. I would have boyfriends that I would say, “Let’s go get wine,” and they would usually pay for that. Towards the end, I had this jar full of quarters that I had been keeping forever. I started not calling in sick to work, not being able to work, and using these quarters to buy my alcohol. I remember the week before I went into treatment, I was down to the last little bit of quarters there. I put it in the machine and I had enough for maybe one more bottle of wine. I would go to friends’ houses. I would go to my sister’s house, she lived down the road, and grab a bottle of wine from her house; just any way that I could get it.
What was the big spark that caused you to look for help, to be clean and sober?
My last instance was I was dating this guy that I really liked. We had a lot of fun together and my son had come to visit me from California. I was in Hawaii, he was in college. He met the guy and I drank the whole entire time that he was there. I was wasted and both of them said something to me and I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” At this point, I was pretty far gone. I was drinking in the middle of the day in front of my son, which is something I hadn’t done before. When he was growing up, I always somehow made sure it was at night. My son left early because he couldn’t handle my drinking and this guy that I was dating, I got into a huge fight with him and screamed at him. I didn’t even remember any of this until the next morning and I woke up sleeping in my lawn, looking for my phone. I found my phone and saw the texts and he said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I’m sick of this. I’m blocking you.” He blocked me, which made me crazy. I tried to email him. I tried to do all these things and he wanted nothing to do with it. For me, I had to really look at myself and say, “My son left early. This guy who I really liked, but there had been a lot of them that I liked, had left, another person had left.” Something clicked in me and I was like, “I’m going to end up an old lonely woman that’s a drunk that no one wants to be around.” That was my first thought after drinking super heavily and using for 24 years that maybe it might be time.
What about your recovery? What is the real key to recovery for you?
For me, living here in this SLE has been huge. The support that I get here is amazing. As I walk in the door, there are always people that are like-minded. Everyone’s in the same boat trying to get sober and stay sober. Everyone’s supportive, so that has been really helpful. I have a sponsor. I’m on my fifth step right now and she’s been amazing. She’s helped me and talked me through all of this. I’m getting down to where this is all coming from. Also, I attend meetings. I did 90 meetings in 90 days. I’m now working two jobs, which I feel so fortunate to have. I’m trying to hit about five meetings per week.
What does your future look like?
I don’t know. I’m just really excited about it. I feel like there are so many things I want to do, so many things that I always wanted to do that I never felt like I could because I was so drunk all the time. How the heck would I be able to do those things? For me, I would love to get my yoga teacher training license. That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I would love to meet someone maybe in recovery, maybe not, but have a healthy relationship and have meaningful relationships with everyone that I encounter. To me and being clear-headed for these last months, it makes me realize how much time I have lost and how much I want to explore the world and books. I feel like I am a child that’s reopened up into this world and looking for as much guidance and information as I can.
How confident are you about not drinking or using again?
I take one day at a time every day and I do that. When I first was thinking about getting sober, one of my big things that I cried about, and I couldn’t wrap my head around was that I would never have fun again, that I was going to be this boring person and have to be in bed by 7:00 PM and never go to a restaurant again. All of that is not true, which is amazing to me. I do love to go to restaurants. There’s never enough time during the day for me to do everything that I want to do. As for confidence in not drinking, I take every day one step at a time. Sometimes it’s just moment by moment, but it gets me through it.
One thing that I’ve found helpful is planning my day out. Waking up and thinking, “I’m going to go to the gym, go to work,” and then I plan the meetings that I want to go to. To be honest, I love going to the meetings. I go there and I look around and I’m like, “All of these people could do this. I can do this.” I hear the stories and I feel not so alone. As for confidence, I pray every day and I believe in my heart that I am going to get this, but it definitely is going to be something that I’m going to have to work for and something that is going to be with me for the rest of my life. I am having so much more fun and enjoying my sober life so much that I don’t ever want to lose it.
Ivy, I want to thank you again for joining us here for the Stories of Addiction podcast. To all of you, a big hug and remember, today’s the first day of the rest of your life.
Ivy is a client at our Sober Living Home called Gault House. Ivy is 39 years old and works at a health Spa. Ivy was born and raised in Hawaii and started using alcohol and pills at age 15. After several relapses, Ivy when to a residential treatment program at The Camp and then came straight to the Gault House in Santa Cruz, California.
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