All patient services at Evergreen Health, Pride Center of WNY and Community Access Services buildings will close by 4pm today, May 16. For questions, please call 716-847-2441. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.
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Cyndie is pacing around her home, panicking, clothes and toiletries in a heap. Somehow, her belongings have to get in the suitcase and right now that seems impossible. Her chest is tight and she’s overwhelmed. She feels a panic attack coming on. This is the last hurtle, the final task she has to overcome. To most, packing a bag is irritating but not insurmountable. Cyndie’s mind is in a dozen other places. She’s going to rehab and this time is going to be different.
Three and a half weeks ago, Cyndie made the resolution to detox and enter a rehab facility. She was downing liters of vodka each day and had developed gastritis, her organs bleeding from the alcohol. She knew if she didn’t make a change, she would be dead.
Several factors had increased her use in the past few months. She lost her job when Coronavirus hit. It had been difficult for her to acquire and maintain a job to begin with, so losing it was a blow and left her with empty pockets of time. COVID further isolated her from her support. She wasn’t able to go to support groups or meet with her care coordinator at Evergreen face to face, instead relying on long phone calls. Despite her hardships, Cyndie didn’t believe her use of alcohol was dependent on these misfortunes. Either way, she is certain she would be where she is. A self-described chronic relapser, Cyndie takes more accountability that is probably necessary.
If she was going to get sober, Cyndie knew she would have to be smart about it. She would need medical help. She went to two local hospitals to get help to detox and neither would admit her because she didn’t have a high enough blood alcohol level. They sent her home. Discouraged, she drank more.
“I was trying to do the right thing,” said Cyndie. “I felt like my whole world was upside-down.”
What followed were calls with her care coordinator, Erika Szymanski, who mediated the situation between the hospitals, to no avail. Cyndie was too intoxicated to remember to fill out the medical record release forms so the hospitals could share her information. She felt like she couldn’t get anywhere and just wanted to get better. Ultimately, Cyndie, Erika and her primary doctor landed on an at-home detox. She would be prescribed medication to help her get through but she would be physically alone. Cyndie would have to do it herself.
Over the course of several weeks, Cyndie managed to detox. It was the most difficult thing she had ever done. Her withdrawal symptoms were a nightmare. What made it easier was having Erika’s support. They were in contact every day and Erika believed in her. Cyndie wasn’t even sure if she believed in herself. After a lifetime of ups and downs with alcohol use, she was alone. When you lose the support of family and friends, reaching out to anyone seems pointless. Believing that someone could care for her when she didn’t care for herself was a massive hurtle to overcome. But she did it. Cyndie continued her long talks with Erika. She didn’t shut her out and even started believing Erika when she told her that she truly cared and believed Cyndie could do this.
As the days to rehab drew closer, Cyndie’s anxiety escalated. She was so close to sobriety and this time felt different. She had support, someone who cared about what happened to her for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. That made the massive difference. And she knew the alternative. Drinking was going to kill her. Her body couldn’t handle it.
The day before she was to leave for rehab, Erika came by and they talked on her porch. They had to wear masks and keep six feet of distance but they were able to come up with a timeline for Cyndie’s departure. They booked the taxi ride to rehab and planned what she would need to bring with her. Once the day had come, Cyndie was overwhelmed. The work she had put into getting detoxed and going into rehab felt so fragile. What if she missed her cab? What if she couldn’t get everything packed?
Cyndie made the decision to call Erika again and ask for support she didn’t feel like she deserved. Erika had already spent so much time mediating her care with doctors and rehab facilities, not to mention the countless hours on the phone where Erika was more counselor than care coordinator. Cyndie explained that she felt on the verge of a panic attack and she just couldn’t get the clothes in her suitcase.
So often barriers for people in heightened states can be easily addressed, if only those people are strong enough to ask for help. Cyndie gathered her strength and asked for the help she needed. Erika came over and told Cyndie to toss her clothes, suitcase and toiletries onto the porch and she would pack her bags.
“What she did for me today, without her I’d be a complete mess,” said Cyndie. “Everything would be everywhere. I wouldn’t have anything packed. I don’t know how to express the gratitude I have for her. When someone fights that hard for you, you just can’t—there’s no way you can give up now.”
Cyndie’s story isn’t over, but at Evergreen we celebrate and acknowledge all stages of recovery. Gathering the strength to recognize what she needs to be healthy, asking for help and taking those difficult steps truly makes Cyndie a hero. When she tells Erika that she will never forget this day for as long as she lives, neither will Erika or the countless other people who will hear her story and think how strong she is for pulling herself out of what many would accept as defeat.
Evergreen Health substance use counseling offers individual and group counseling, psychiatry and medication assisted treatment for people who use drugs and other substances. We meet clients where they are at to let them decide the goal of treatment. Abstinence isn’t expected and we will never stop providing our services because of drug use. You can count on our team to be understanding and non-judgmental.
Evergreen’s care coordinators are here to help you find the services you need to live your healthiest life. Care coordinators help you create a care plan by reviewing your needs and health goals. They make sure that your doctors, specialists and providers are communicating with each other about your unique needs.
If you would like more information about care coordination or substance use counseling, call us at 716-847-2441.