Yesterday afternoon I had my first sit down with the woman is going to by my therapist and counselor for PTSD treatment and substance abuse counseling. I had no idea what to expect. I kept thinking of all kinds of different reasons to cancel the appointment. But I didn’t. I did however stop by my house between class and the appointment to ‘get some stuff done around the house’. Which I did. While a drank a quick glass of wine. I was pouring the drink before I even thought about it. So, I drank wine right before going to a substance abuse counseling appointment. Go me.
Quick little blurb to bring you up to speed. I had one appointment 3 weeks ago with a counselor who does ‘intake’ for this office. This place I’m going to is primarily a reference center. You go in, they do a quick Q&A evaluation, figure out what general direction your treatment needs to be in, you have a few sessions with a counselor there, and if you need more treatment beyond that they refer you to a professional somewhere else. They handle all types of mental illness. The only exception to this system is substance abuse treatment. There is no limitation to how long you can be seen there for out patient substance abuse treatment. They don’t have any in-patient treatment. If you need that you get referred elsewhere.
So, I went in 3 weeks ago and met Jim, the intake guy. He’s a 60-ish year old, bespectacled, balding man. Nice in a dry, humorless kind of way. He looked sort of like Lewis Black. But with out the yelling, or wit. He identified that I need treatment for PTSD and alcohol abuse (Not a surprise, but it was very weird to hear someone say it out loud to me). He set me up with an appointment with Linda. She is there ‘PTSD and substance abuse specialist’. It took 3 weeks for me to get in with her. That’s because of my crazy work/school schedule, not any fault of theirs.
Fast forward to yesterday. (Is that like going back to the future?) I meet Linda. She’s probably about 50 years old. Thin, with short naturally greying hair. Well dressed in a sweater dress with a belt and boots. Trying to paint a little picture. Her office is small and cluttered, which makes it feel kind of cramped. Also, it felt like building’s furnace must dump directly into that tiny room. It must have been 80 degrees in there. There are a bunch of motivational pictures on the walls, and you can tell that she definitely has a thing for the old ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. She apologizes and tells me that she is having trouble with her computer (which appears to 5-10 years old). She says that normally she would be typing things in on this first session on her computer, but she’ll have to just take notes on paper. The whole appointment took about an hour. She spent some time reviewing the report that Jim had filled out. She asked a few more in depth questions. We talked about how much I drink. What happens when I drink. Why I think that I drink. We brushed very quickly over what my past trauma was (Which is actually two separate things, but we’ll get to that another time). We talked a bit about how alcohol is my coping mechanism. And we discussed what my current life and schedule look like.
The point of all of this was to put together a ‘treatment plan’. What we decided was this: Weekly one-on-one counseling sessions. She is counseling against a ‘cold turkey’ cut off on the booze. She wants me to start diving into dealing with my trauma and developing new coping tactics before I do that. She did say that it would be great if I start working on slowly cutting back on how much I’m drinking here and there.
It doesn’t feel like much of a plan. I’m not really sure what I expected though. A timeline maybe? A Doomsday clock ticking down to the moment when I have to give up alcohol forever? At the same time it feels overwhelming. I’m going to have to talk to this nearly perfect stranger about the worst moments of my life. Things that I’ve only ever told my husband, and it took him months and years to pry that shit out of me.