Supporting your desire to live free from self-destructive behavior as you embark on a life long journey of recovery.

A letter of hope for freedom, from an anonymous former patient of Dr Kim Dennis

In hindsight, I’ve always hated my body. I took up too much space. I couldn’t be contained. Thus, it started with diet pills, the good kind. I stole them from my mom until she bought me my own which confirmed what I thought. I was too much.

I never could remember what life was like before we moved to Texas, just outside Dallas. I was 13, 12 maybe, going into the 7th grade. My dad, an alcoholic. My mother, a perfect Al-Anon. Life was tumultuous at best. Each day carried a singular, unspoken goal: ‘don’t upset your father.’ My sister (6 years my younger) and I tried our best. Inevitably we would fail and he would rage. Sis always took the brunt for some reason, despite my best efforts. He never actually put his hands at us (not at that time, anyway. maybe? it’s blurry), but there were many a hole in the wall and items being thrown.

My first drink was at 15? 16? I had ‘waited’ because I didn’t want to be like him. It was completely unremarkable, to be honest. I did feel a part of; the cooler varsity players let me hang. I was a baller too. But not like them. Remember, I was too much. Too much to move fast like coaches wanted.

The eating disorder was in full flight by my senior year of high school. And so was my dad’s drinking. Mom, the glue, had taken a job promotion in another state. And so went my sanity. I was my sister’s parent. It was dark. Little did I know college would be darker. Collegiate basketball and softball kept me straight for a while but I was still bankrupt inside. Out of control restricting-Bulimia, purging 10x a day, self-harm. Drinking became more than mere habit. More than anything I was plagued by depression and suicidality. This lead to the campus counselor, to the local psychiatrist, to the psychiatric hospital. From there I would be transferred to an ED facility near Houston. It was in this facility that I would be introduced to the world of drugs (and a relationship with a tech employed there). 104 days later I emerged, sicker than ever. I started Grad School – Psychology ironically. I began running back and forth from school to Houston to pick up drugs and to maintain the relationship. One fateful weekend we decided I should try my entrepreneurial hand at selling prescription pills back at school. I loaded up. And was subsequently arrested a little more than half way home. I would later be indicted with a felony possession charge that haunts me to this day.

At the time of the arrest, Mom decided ‘drug dealing’ was not the reason she was paying for room and board. So I came home to Dallas and started trying to get sober. Started. Trying. Five (ish? I lose track) psych hospitals later. Another ED facility later. A suicide attempt later. It’s June 17, 2006 and I am finished. I do the best I can – trust God, clean house, help others – but I can’t shake this deep deep shame and need to destroy myself. I know the previous vices don’t work anymore. I start to feel nothing short of completely f’ed.

I am at least 6 years sober when the flashbacks start. The first 13 years of my life, flooding back in and I begin to realize…there’s a reason it was blacked out. It was the babysitter. And her son. And her husband. It was horrific. It was daily. It was for 6 years. It was maybe my dad too.

I am 8 years sober when I land at Chicago O’Hare and I want to die. I am in ‘this place’ again, I am institutionalized again, I am hopeless again, I am wondering what the point is…again. I am sober. By some miracle of God (truly) I meet Kim – Pine Lodge, Group 2, Process Group. I am instantly hooked. I am baffled. She knows what she’s talking about. Not because she read it in a book…no, this woman has LIVED what I have lived. And she’s on the other side and incredibly successful. I want EVERYTHING she has. The success, sure, but mostly the peace. I am chasing the peace. I am forever changed by Timberline Knolls in Lemont, IL. I miss it every day.

I am 10 years sober as I approach the end of my M.A. in Professional Counseling. I am not fully healed; but I am on the path. A path that’s headed toward freedom, a freedom of MY choosing. I have moments of the elusive Kim-sized peace. I am certain I can help others. I am hopeful.

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