My Alcohol Evaluation Experience
My Alcohol Evaluation Experience
Today I’d like to share my alcohol evaluation experience in hopes that it helps you, or someone you know, start the process of reaching out for help. Please note that this is my experience, and may not reflect the way other treatment facilities conduct their alcohol evaluation process.
The pastor at my old church first suggested I get an alcohol evaluation when I confided in him that I might have a drinking problem. Before this suggestion, I had never heard of an alcohol evaluation. I knew nothing about treatment. I thought AA was the only way to get sober, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.
At the time, I knew my drinking scared me, and I had trouble quitting on my own, but I didn’t think I had a problem. It wasn’t until I tried quitting on my own that I realized I needed outside help.
It took a lot of courage to make the phone call to set up an appointment. I remember being scared to ask for help, because to me, asking for help showed weakness. I had to drink a couple of beers before I could make the call, and even then, I was still terrified.
When I first set up the appointment for my evaluation, I had to fill out a bunch of forms/ questionnaires. The forms had questions about my drinking history, family medical history, and questions about former trauma or abuse. I remember sitting there, filling out these forms, and feeling uncomfortable. A lot of the questions were difficult to answer because they stirred up many memories that I wanted to forget.
As I was sitting there, answering these questions, I had many fleeting thoughts. My brain kept telling me “You don’t have a problem. Why are you doing this? You should just scrap this treatment idea and leave. You don’t need this”. In that moment, the thought of a drink was stronger than ever before. Facing my fear, digging into uncomfortable memories, and telling complete strangers about my past was one of the most courageous things I could ever do for myself.
After I finished filling out the forms, I set my appointment. Due to high volume, I couldn’t get in right away, so my evaluation was set for a month away. I thought having my evaluation so far away would give me time to work on my drinking, but alas, no. The more I thought about my evaluation, the more nervous I became, and the more I drank.
When the time came for my evaluation, I sat down with a counselor who is licensed in drug and alcohol counseling. Again, uncomfortable time for me. My anxiety that day was through the roof. Whenever my anxiety gets bad, my skin feels itchy, and I scratch. Mostly my hands, or arms.
Instead of scratching myself until I bled, I found a new way to cope: a pen. I found that turning the pen around and around in my hand gave me something to focus on, and take my mind off my anxiety. I learned later that that was my first lesson in grounding techniques. (If you’d like to learn more about grounding techniques, you can find that here).
During my evaluation, the counselor asked me questions about my drinking:
In the past 30 days, how many drinks did you have? How many days did you drink?
In the past year, how many days did you drink?
He also asked about my drug use, if any.
There were also questions about my anxiety, and other information from the forms that I had filled out previously. The session lasted about an hour, which felt like an eternity at the time. Looking back now, I was so scared and anxious that I don’t recall much of anything from that day.
I do remember him telling me that he would call me once he was finished typing up my evaluation. About two weeks.
Waiting for the call in that period of two weeks was excruciating. What was he going to say? How bad was my drinking? Was he going to call and say “You don’t have a problem. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and quit on your own”? My thoughts were a constant ball of knots that I couldn’t untie.
During that period of two weeks my drinking escalated as well. The anxiety I was feeling became too much, and I drank more and more to cover it up. It was during this wait that I blacked out and lost my picture CD and flash drive.
At the end of my evaluation, the counselor had asked me if there was anyone he wanted me to call when my evaluation was finished. At the time, the only person I had allowed into my life was my pastor. So, I gave the counselor permission to call him when my evaluation was done. I fought the urge many times to call my pastor and ask if he had heard anything yet. A big lesson in patience that I desperately needed.
Finally, my pastor got the call. The counselor had called and said my evaluation was complete. In that moment I felt relief, and terror, all rolled into one. What did he say? Am I screwed? I didn’t know. I did know I couldn’t wait any longer. When I hadn’t heard from the counselor after a couple of days, I screwed up the courage to call him myself. Again, after drinking a couple of beers.
After a few phone calls, I finally got a call from the Peer Support Specialist at the treatment facility. He told me the counselor suggested IOP – Intensive Out Patient treatment. Upon hearing this I was floored. Even though my drinking scared me, I still didn’t think I had a problem. Or, at the very least, not a big enough problem with drinking that I needed treatment. That was the moment I realized just how far down the scale I had gone.
It didn’t matter that I still held a job. It didn’t matter that I still had a car, and a roof over my head. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been stopped, or gotten a DUI before. What mattered was the fact that my drinking was severe enough that I needed treatment.
Based on my evaluation, I was at the moderate to severe level for Alcohol Use Disorder. There are three levels to an Alcohol Use Disorder: Mild, Moderate, and Severe. Since I was at the moderate to severe level, I was at an elevated risk for relapse if I did not complete treatment.
If I had been at the mild level, they may have suggested Out Patient II treatment, which is less invasive. If I had been at the higher end of severe, they may have suggested In Patient treatment.
When I did my alcohol evaluation, I did not have insurance. Thankfully, the center that I went to worked on a sliding scale, based on my income. I will go more into detail about that next week. Because of the sliding scale for payments, my alcohol evaluation only cost $50. If it wasn’t for that sliding scale for payments, I wouldn’t have been able to afford treatment.
Remember, the experience I described above is just that, my experience. If you’ve gone through an alcohol evaluation before, your experience may have been different from mine. If you’re just beginning this process of getting sober, and thinking about going to treatment, your result may be different as well.
For those of you that are thinking about going to treatment, and doing an alcohol evaluation, don’t let the fear stop you. Getting sober can be scary. Talking to treatment professionals, or any professional in general, can be terrifying. But, the beauty here is, you’re not alone. Don’t let fear keep you from taking the step towards getting help. Don’t let that little voice in your head tell you that you don’t have a problem. If you feel in your gut you have a problem, then you might.
Reach out and talk to someone about it. If you need a helping hand to walk with you when you take that first step, email me, or message me on my Facebook page.
Let’s walk this journey, and face the fear, together.
Stay tuned next week when I will share my experience with IOP (Intensive Out Patient) and OP II (Out Patient II) treatment. Till then, be well.