Recovering from addiction: “This disease isn’t going away”

Cynthia Thompson tried other recovery programs. She said they didn’t make as much of an impact as her participation in the Addiction Treatment Recovery Center at IU Hospital West.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

She’s an active mother and grandmother. She’s involved in the community. She is someone’s neighbor, someone’s friend. She is also a recovering alcoholic.

The first time Cynthia Thompson went through the Addiction Treatment Recovery Center at IU Health West was in July of 2019. She returned to the program the end of September.

“The second time I entered the program it was raw, emotional,” said Thompson. “I’ve always had a sense of humor but this was nothing to laugh about. I felt like I would be missing something in my life if I couldn’t get this right.”

In the past, she went into recovery knowing it was the right thing and eventually decided she didn’t need it anymore.

Now she wakes up each day and writes down at least one thing she is grateful for. She works out on a mini trampoline, participates in yoga exercises, designs clothing and makes jewelry. She also attends regular AA meetings.

“Sobriety and recovery are my number one focus because without it nothing else in my life will work out,” said Thompson.

What changed this time?

Thompson said she started binge drinking around the age of 48. She didn’t really think it was a problem until her 23-year marriage ended. The binge drinking continued – she faced legal issues; hospital stays; and court appearances. She had a sponsor for 15 years.

“There were so many times I thought ‘I’ve got this. I can do this on my own,’” said Thompson, 69. “It’s tough at my age to connect with younger people going through this. This time I realized this disease isn’t going away and there’s nothing glamorous about being an alcoholic.”

Through the Addiction Treatment Recovery Center at IU West Thompson said she began to see that her disease is physical, spiritual and emotional. “If I hadn’t accepted that this is a disease and it is all encompassing, I may never have found my road to recovery,” said Thompson.

She also found people in her group that held her accountable. She connected with those people on a deep level.

“I grew up in a household that forced me to be stoic, to hide my feelings. When I got into this group I had to dig deep. I had to open up and be honest and authentic and when I didn’t, there were people there who would call me out,” said Thompson, the mother of two adult children. For a long time, she used her family as an excuse to get sober. “Through this program I learned you don’t get sober for someone else; you do it for yourself,” said Thompson.

Through the IU Health Addiction Treatment Recovery Center physicians, nurse practitioners, therapists, peer recovery coaches and nurses work together to help break the cycle of addiction.

“The focus of treatment here is to let people know that they are important and welcome and that recovery is possible. We offer a joint medical and therapeutic approach that allows us to treat the whole person when they’re ready – even same day appointments,” said Trisha Palencer, a therapist and director of the program.

The program includes group psychotherapy and education, and individual and family therapy. The goal is to help individuals improve their relationships with others as they work toward recovery.

“I’ve tried to rewrite my past so many times,” said Thompson. “I’ve felt guilty for the relationships that I’ve damaged and yet I’ve learned that I can’t help anyone until I can say, ‘Cynthia, you’re OK.”