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Utah mother describes overcoming alcohol, pill addiction

Mar 27, 2020, 3:02 PM | Updated: 3:02 pm
Alcohol and pill addiction...
Amy McAllister joins the Project Recovery podcast to detail her experience with addiction. PHOTO: Amy McAllister, Dude...Its Fine

For many Utahns, the concept of getting married at 19 years old is the next step in life. But for Amy McAllister, director of nursing at Ardu Recovery Center in Provo, it was the start of a life-changing alcohol and pill addiction.

She recently joined the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast to tell her story of overcoming her addiction.

Married as a young adult

Amy’s story of addiction can be traced to her first marriage at 19 years old. The couple had their first child when she was only 21 and three more by the time she was 28. But by the time she turned 33, Amy and her then-husband decided to seek a divorce.

“Honestly, it was 15 years of both of us having problems that just fed off of each other,” she described.

A decade-and-a-half of problems ultimately laid the groundwork for Amy’s next marriage. Over the course of dating him for four years, Amy always knew it was going to be a struggle to stay happy. But she committed anyway.

“The second relationship was super-toxic, kind of abusive, narcissistic, type of thing,” she added. “So, then it did become, drink to blackout, drink to hide, drink to cover up everything.”

Amy’s alcohol and pill addiction begins to take hold

Amy’s commitment to her husband in the form of marriage was a last-ditch effort to create normalcy. She just wanted a life of happiness.

“It was never good. [The relationship] was toxic from the beginning and we knew it,” Amy described. “It literally was like, if we’re married and we have this commitment to each other, then maybe we’ll stop treating each other the way we do.”

Years of abuse from her previous marriage, thrown on top of a new marriage, started to take control of Amy’s mental health. She began to try and numb the pain in the form of alcohol and pill addiction.

“The alcohol was always out of control. The Adderall came in to keep me in control,” she said. “So, then I could drink more, still feel a little bit in control, feel like I was still able to accomplish things and get things done … have that drive again, where the alcohol would take that away.”

Creating the “perfect” cocktail

To combat the pain Amy felt, she took so much Adderall throughout the day that she was unable to sleep at night. To help with her insomnia, she began to take Ambien to sleep.

“It’s a vicious cycle. Then throw in a toxic relationship and it’s whatever at that moment, I can get my hands on to get through that day,” she described.

Amy began balancing so many different vices that she claims she made the “perfect” cocktail of alcohol and pills. Originally, her plan was to numb the pain. She was going to focus on overcoming each day while managing her alcohol and pill addiction. For years it worked for her until she hit her rock bottom.

“I went and bought a car, I took all four of my kids with me. My doctor had prescribed me Ativan to try and help me wean off. I bought a car I don’t remember buying. Drove all four of my kids home in this car and my son said I spent most of the time driving on the curb,” Amy remembered.

Overcome by her alcohol and pill addiction

Even in her darkest time, where she put her children at risk, Amy didn’t think she was an alcoholic. She never thought she had a problem. She just wondered if she needed a break from her vices. Her family even began to step in.

Amy would ultimately check herself into the Cirque Lodge, a for-profit drug addiction treatment facility located in Utah, for 30 days to try and get rid of her alcohol and pill addiction.

She found success in treatment but never really fixed the one thing that kept her down.

“The one detriment was, I didn’t get out of that toxic relationship,” she said.

Amy would experience sobriety for over a year. Until she had a slight relapse that sent her into a downward spiral into her addiction.

Struggling to stay sober

Her second relapse was by far the worst. It was a time of darkness and abuse that she barely came out of.

“In that second relapse, I spent a couple of months in bed drinking, I quit my job, I was suicidal. I could not get past that minute, let alone that day,” Amy explained.

She knew she had to get better. But for Amy, it wasn’t going to happen in Utah. She needed to leave the state for her own good. It was either try and find work out-of-state or stay in Utah with her alcohol and pill addiction until it killed her.

Finding sobriety in Hawaii

“I started applying for travel nursing jobs. I decided I needed to leave,” she said. “Knowing that staying the same environment, running into the same people, living in the same house, was all just triggering and just emotionally draining. I started applying, and in my head, I told myself Hawaii. I’ll go to Hawaii and that’s it.”

She began to apply for travel nursing jobs there and knew that a job in Hawaii could be just the next step she needed. Hawaii had always been her “runaway”. She had found peace there many times and after accepting a position there, she knew that Hawaii was going to be her “second chance at recovery”.

It was a daily decision that she didn’t need alcohol. Amy woke up every morning with the realization that her alcohol and pill addiction didn’t have any power over her. With the help of meditation and an “unconventional” rehabilitation, Amy was able to fight off her addiction in her “special place.” After four months, Amy ultimately decided to go back home to Utah.

“I was terrified to come back and I was sad at first,” she described. “I was happy to be with my kids but I wanted to go back so bad, just because, no noise, no drama”.

She found a new place to live and separated herself from the people she knew. It was time to continue working on herself.

Finally able to beat her alcohol and pill addiction

With the help of therapy and digging into the trauma that was causing her addiction, Amy was able to really find the stem of her addiction.

Years of mental abuse had caused Amy to lash out at herself and live in a world of substance abuse for so long. But now she was clean. She was sober and ready to give life another chance.

She started a blog called, Dude…It’s Fine, to detail her journey and some of the darkest moments she’s ever had during her addiction.

Amy also began giving back to those who are struggling with their own alcohol and pill addiction. She is now working as the director of nursing at Ardu Recovery Center in Provo, Utah, and wants those who are struggling to know, “It’s never over.”

“Sometimes you feel like you’re at the end of your road or you’ve hit rock bottom or you’ve embarrassed too many people or you’ve done too much damage,”she said. “It’s never over.”

Listen to the podcast

For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook and on KSL TV. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.

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Utah mother describes overcoming alcohol, pill addiction