Sara Kraus of Harpswell is just finishing work at a local bank. She says she’s nervous about sharing her story – “but if it can help even one other person find their way out of the darkness of alcoholism,” she’s willing.
Sara made numerous attempts at recovery before this last successful time. The physical withdrawal and sickness had kept her in a repetitive cycle of trying to control her alcohol consumption while also believing she was hiding internal dilemmas.
She recalls a time a few years back when she was so desperate – unable to control cravings and illness or get into a detox program – that she went to a hospital emergency room. But when she overheard an ER nurse commenting about her expensive purse and commenting about her children on Facebook, she immediately called a friend to pick her up.
Overwhelming life circumstances had piled up. And as she tried to manage outward appearances, alcohol seemed to fix the stuff on the inside, temporarily quelling her thoughts, worries and anxiety. Local resources unavailable at that time, she made a decision to look out of state. Sara realized that no matter how hard she worked and how ‘good’ she tried to be, hiding her problem had become impossible. She was overwhelmed, sick, and afraid that she’d lose everything if she didn’t get help.
Life is much different today. Sara lights up as she shares a series of “coincidences” and serendipity that began to happen in her life. With an inner surrender she became so determined that she was willing to travel to High Watch Recovery Center, in Kent, Conn., which was the country’s first 12-step treatment center in 1939. After 30 days, neither Sara nor her family were ready for her to come home. Her insurance permitted her to go on to a recovery facility for women for another month.
Sara knew that going home without a support system in place would risk all the work she had put into treatment. As fate would have it – or two coincidences – a new in-home treatment option called AWARE Recovery Care was moving to Maine at the time of her discharge, and her therapist was going to work there. Sara would become AWARE’s first patient in Maine: Patient Zero, as she fondly refers to herself.
The AWARE Recovery Team Care Collaborative Model was created in 2012 at Yale University. It uses a multidisciplinary team approach, including a psychiatrist, therapist, relationship and family therapist and a nutritionist. For 52 weeks, with a step-down schedule from five days to one, the AWARE team goes to a patient’s home.
Having treatment at home was most attractive to Sara. Her children and immediate family also received therapy and counseling to ensure that everyone’s needs were met.
She emphasizes how healing it was to see her children no longer confused and how esteeming it was to be treated with dignity by a team of caring professionals. The program is tailored to each individual and their specific triggers, nurses monitor medication, homes are assessed for potential risks, and there are lots of assessments to evaluate progress. The team focuses on daily practices, on language and affirmations, and helped Sara to establish a meditation and yoga routine. She explains that these professionals maintain a compassionate, respectful relationship.
Sara looks back over the past year with deep appreciation and is enjoying freedom from trying to hide her drinking and being perfect. She knows that she’s on her right path, maintaining her recovery with a combination of meditation, yoga and a 12-step program. She has a new way of looking at life: Her beagle Bodie died the day that she came home, but rather than seeing this as a crisis, she chose to view it as Bodie bringing unconditional love to her family until she was healthy enough to come home.
“Don’t give up, no matter what,” she says, when asked if she has advice for anyone struggling now. “Two years ago I was on a couch. Now, we’ve moved, I am successfully coparenting with my children’s father, have my career, and my husband. My family and I are involved in water sports, we sail, we’re very active. If you aren’t finding what you need, keep looking.”