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A New Life for Katie

Sitting in her basement alone on St. Patrick’s Day, she watched as her younger sister and friends drunkenly came into the house with beer, ready to celebrate the holiday. Seeing her sister drink in front of her with no regard for her made her upset. People were asking where she had been, why she doesn’t come out anymore. She knew it was time to leave, to move out into a sober house.

Katie's New Bedroom

One rule of alcoholics anonymous is no last names, so we’re identifying her by her first name, Katie.

A few months ago Katie made the decision to stop drinking and attend AA meetings and a rehab clinic in downtown Chicago.  Having a hard time with her sobriety and contemplating a sober house, watching her sister drink in front of her finalized the decision to move.

Katie is not a “typical” alcoholic, she did not drink every day and her drinking did not obviously interfere with her everyday life. In fact, she graduated from college with a degree in business and has a job. She would go out on the weekends and maybe once in a while during the week, as so many 23-year-olds do.

Going out and having a few more drinks than you should sounds like a situation that most 23-year-olds have been in at least once in their lives.

Even though going out on the weekends is normal to most, for Katie, it wasn’t.

“When I would go out, I would just drink until I blacked out,” Katie said. “I didn’t know how to control or pace my drinking. I didn’t know when to go home. I would stay out until like 6 a.m. and when I would wake up I wouldn’t remember the night at all. It was like I wasted an entire night in my life and wasted so much money on something I couldn’t remember.”

She said this would happen almost every time she went out, not just once in a while.

Katie started drinking at the age of 12. For more than 10 years, every time she went out with friends, they would drink. She did not know how to have fun without drinking. She could not just casually drink.

“I would constantly obsess about going out and wanted to drink all the time,” Katie said. “When I didn’t go out, I wanted to. I would always wonder what I was missing out on. I was always worried about not going out and not seeing my friends.  And if something happened in my life, my coping mechanism was drinking, to help me forget.”

Everyone Katie surrounded herself with drank and used drugs. None of them thought she has a problem, except for Katie.

Katie comes from a family that has suffered from alcoholism. Her father died in a drunk driving accident when she was 8. Her grandfather went to AA because drinking had completely overtaken his life. Her uncle died of liver failure because of his drinking problem.

Katie feared this was her future.

“Right before going to rehab, I missed a few days of work or was really late due to me drinking the night before. That’s when I knew it was worse than ever,” Katie said. “At the time drinking was my only priority. I had so many plans for myself that I never really followed through on. I knew I had to get help.”

By going to rehab, Katie did not make her life any easier. She has to juggle going to at least five AA meetings a week, mandated by her new sponsor, rehab in the mornings and her job, not to mention adjusting to living with three strangers in one bedroom in a brand-new environment.

“The hardest thing for me now isn’t staying sober, it’s getting my finances in order,” Katie said. “I have a lot to pay off on my credit card. There were times that I would spend upward of $200 when I would go out. I’m learning to control my impulses to buy anything and just spend my money and not use my mom’s. That has been really difficult for me.”

Katie believes good things will come out of this and does not regret her decision to go to rehab and move into a sober house. She has started to make new friends — sober friends — is applying to jobs and is learning to become independent.

Slowly but surely, Katie is taking control of her life and taking all the steps necessary to make it better.

She feels as long as she is happy with her life and doing well, she does not need to drink. But she knows it will be hard.

Katie’s decision does not affect just her, but her mom and younger sister too. They have had to watch their family member struggle with sobriety, change her entire life, which in fact changed theirs.

Katie’s mother, Patty, is very supportive of her daughter but was sad to see her move out of the house. But she knew if it would help Katie, she should do it.

Her sister, Mary, did not feel that such extreme measures, such as moving to a sober house, were necessary.

“I didn’t think her problem was bad enough for her to have to move out,” Mary said. “I thought she was just being drastic.”

Katie said her relationship with her sister hasn’t been the way it used to since she moved out. She doesn’t know if Mary is embarrassed of her or is just mad that she moved out.

But to Katie, regardless of how anyone feels, she thinks she made the right decision.

As optimistic as Katie — and every recovering alcoholic for that matter — is, she knows this will be a life-long, uphill battle.

“I know that I can’t go back home,” Katie said. “And I love my home, but there are so many things back home that can trigger and stress me out that can put the thought of drinking in my head. Living on my own now made me realize going back to my old neighbor is not an option. But I know I’ll be fine.”

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.