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Lily’s Recovery Story: Young & In Love With Sobriety

Written by Samantha Carter

Lily was 20 years old and doing what many of her peers at the time might have found “normal.” Except for her, engaging in recreational drinking and partying seemed to reveal her deepest unhealed wounds. Before she could overcome toxic coping patterns, Lily would have some tough truths to face, an extremely brave thing to do when seemingly everyone around you is making different choices.

The result? Lily, still young, is now in love … with her sobriety. Learn more about Lily’s unique mental health journey and how she overcame addiction and trauma in her APN podcast episode, I Can Be Present In My Life Now: Recovery x Lily. Through her time spent at All Points North Lodge in Colorado to speaking up about her experiences with sexual assault and suicidality, Lily offers a raw glimpse into the world of what sobriety and intergenerational trauma healing look like at such a young age.

What Brought Lily to APN As a 20-Year-Old

As APN podcast co-hosts and Lily chatted about throughout the episode, it’s a completely unique experience stepping into sobriety at 20 years old. Lily opens up about what initially brought her to APN as a college student struggling with mental illness.

“I have an older brother, [Duncan], and he went to APN in the summer of 2020,” Lily said. “My mom has always kind of offered for us to go to rehab or inpatient, as we had a very traumatic and chaotic childhood growing up. She brought it up a few times [the summer Duncan went]. [I told her] it would be nice to have a break from life but … other than that [I wasn’t really interested]. Coincidentally, I started bottoming out pretty hardcore around that time.”

While Lily didn’t take it very seriously at first – stuck in a sort of numbed-out state to her feelings – she soon experienced a sort of wake-up-call.

“I had been having a hard year all of 2020 and my suicidal ideation was getting a lot worse,” Lily said. “I had just been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and one of the first things my doctor said to me was that I’m not allowed to drink because [it] messes with [the] stomach. [But], I was still drinking and smoking weed and was basically just by myself for an entire two or three months. My desire to live was dwindling and I tried to commit suicide four different times. After the third time, I was like, oh this might actually be an issue. So, I called my mom up and said I would like to go.”

At first, Lily’s mom didn’t believe her. Unaware of Lily’s substance abuse, sexual trauma, and suicidal ideation, she originally refused to help her with treatment as she believed Lily just wanted a get-out-of-life-free-card.

“You know, I had to like really push [to get this help],” Lily said. “I think that was my first instance of ever asking for help and it was really scary to get shut down the first time. I guess I’m just really grateful that something within me – I would call it a higher power now – was just like, no like I need to do this.”

Because her brother had such great things to say about APN Lodge in Colorado where Lily is originally from, she decided she wanted to give it a go.

“I had a very traumatic childhood growing up and was assaulted at 17. I went to UVA for like a year and a half was not doing well, came home winter of 2020, [and] knew that I was in a bad place. Donovan had said a few times that he thought I should go there. [Still], I was really debating on whether or not I should [go]. It kind of came to the fact that I if I had gone through with going [back] to college, I don’t think I would have survived that semester. It was definitely scary to interrupt my life [and not] stay on track with everyone my age. So, to make that decision and decide to go off track was definitely really scary.”

First Impression of APN

Even though Lily went into the experience feeling a little scared, her fears and worries would soon dissipate.

“My first thought [when I arrived at APN] was like, oh my God this is so nice,” Lily said. “I slept probably like 15 hours my first night there and they just let me sleep because I was so tired. To walk in and go outside and see this like insanely beautiful place and have a really nice bed and to just feel really comfortable and safe … was really nice.”

While this wasn’t Lily’s first time at a rehab facility, she immediately noticed a completely different vibe at APN compared to where she’d been before.

“I went to a different rehab in Arizona for about 30 days [that] wasn’t for me,” Lily said. ‘Especially coming from that other rehab where I just kind felt really on edge, [it felt so much better coming to APN]. It was surreal to just be with a group of people that I’d never met before and be expected to talk about things that were so vulnerable, that I’d never talked about before. I felt amazing and really grateful to be in Colorado and [in] the mountains … to just wake up with that view every single day.”

Not only could Lily count on a quality view during her stay at APN Lodge, but she was also pleasantly surprised by how much there was to get involved in outside of individual and group therapy.

“There was always something to do whether it was go[ing] outside on a hike, [doing art therapy], work[ing] out, go[ing] to a yoga class [or] go[ing] swimming,” Lily said.

APN’s holistic approach to mental healthcare allows participants to try out a number of different resources on their mental wellness journeys.

Lily Opens Up About Her APN Therapist

Not only did Lily quickly take to APN environment, but she also connected with her therapist in a way that would play a huge role in her recovery.

“Lana, [my therapist], … I mean she’s amazing,” Lily said. “Like she like truly saved my life.”

Even though Lily is incredibly grateful for the role that Lana played in her healing journey, that doesn’t always mean it was easy.

“I was super scared of Lana at first in the sense where I was just like, I know I’m gonna do some hardcore work,” Lily said. “But, I mean, she changed my life and I am so incredibly grateful for her to this day … something about her and like the way that she does therapy just made me feel so held. I guess it was the feeling that I was finally being taken care of.”

Throughout the course of her treatment and therapy sessions at APN, Lily began to learn more about herself.

“One of the first things I was told is that I was basically like a frozen block of ice,” Lily said. “So the assignments really helped me kind of start to break down some of the layers of trauma and just feelings in general.”

Because this wasn’t Lily’s first time in therapy, she had a sense of the different quality of work she was able to accomplish at APN than in her previous endeavors.

“I’ve been in therapy since I was nine [but it] never really made any impact,” Lily said. But [with] Lana [it] was the first time that I felt as if I was working through things.”

As Lily would come to find through her time spent at APN and since, healing was going to be a long-term undertaking.

“Lana [used to always say to me] that, ‘this is not going to be the end of your recovery but the beginning and it’s going to be an ongoing process.’”

Lily continues now to unpeel the multiple layers of trauma as she takes an active role in her recovery.

Group Therapies More Impactful Than Individual

One of the things that Lily’s learned along the way is how surprisingly impactful group therapy has been for her.

“The groups also were amazing,” Lily said. “I only had individual therapy once a week but we had group almost every single day and I feel that’s where a lot of the work got done. We would present assignments and give/[receive] feedback. Just [to] be in connection with someone like that and to hear their stuff and then have them hear my stuff … was genuinely the first time in my life that I had people listen to me and see me for who I was.”

Lily, like many people who are interested in inpatient programs, was initially more interested in individual therapy. Co-hosts Andy and Dan also related to this misconception about how impactful group therapy can be.

“I mean I also came in with that impression [of preferring individual therapy],” Lily said. “I was definitely a little bit apprehensive [when I found out they were mostly group sessions]. This is coming from someone who had never been vulnerable with another another individual in their life. It definitely took me a little bit to open up but by the end of it I was trying to lead sessions and just made sure that everyone was engaged. It was something that I almost always looked forward to.”

Dan piggybacked on this topic in the episode as well.

“Not only do you learn from your therapist here but you learn from other people’s stories,” Dan said. “Whether or not you’ve experienced [it] in your life you may experience it in the future or you may learn from their experiences and [it] overall makes you a better person.”

Lily continued to speak on how impactful group therapy was for her throughout her stay at APN.

“I love Lana and we did great work individually, Lily said. “But, I would say that I got more work done in group and feel like it benefited me more than individual therapy. Just to have people who fundamentally understand how I feel is so amazing and that was what I got in group.”

What It’s Like to Be Young & Sober

As Lily shared her story, it’s evident that APN made a huge impact on her wellness journey. Still, Lily wasn’t able to stay forever. Eventually, she’d have to return to the “real world” and she would be faced with some challenging realities as a newly sober young person, not yet 21.

“There are definitely times, especially with the drinking, I wish that I could have drank longer or you know didn’t get sober so young,” Lily said. “But, I also know – especially hearing from [older] people who got sober – that they always say they wish they had done this younger. I think it’s cool to kind of have the rest of my life [to just] be present and awake. I can’t imagine being like a zombie … longer than I had. I was just basically asleep at the wheel for like 20 years [which] is insane.”

Luckily, Lily has been able to forge some amazing relationships with some other young and sober people which helps keep her on the path.

“I have a 17-year-old sponsee and to see her getting sober is amazing,” Lily said. “I’m also friends with [another] 17-year-old [who] has over a year, which is crazy. [It’s] amazing to see people just surrender so early and to have the willingness to do it at such a young age.”

While getting sober as a young person comes with its fair share of difficulties, it also comes with some incredible benefits that Lily speaks up about, as well.

“I mean for me what was so incredible was just that sobriety and recovery gives me the ability to be present,” Lily said. “[Before], I had like all these expectations for myself that I was supposed to get a degree and get straight A’s and all these things – have my life figured out by the time it was like 23 or whatever. You know, I’m still in college now. I’m still getting my degree, and a lot of people that I started school with graduated last year. It was difficult to see them go on with their lives but I also know I [wouldn’t] be here … if I hadn’t taken that break.”

Though it’s tough to process the complex emotions when comparing ourselves to our peers, Lily now moves through life at her own speed and with her own set of rules.

“I just don’t enjoy a lot of the things that people my age do now,” Lily said. “I go to this meeting [at] midnight and it’s right next to a bar and you’ll have the alcoholics sitting talking outside and you’ll have like everyone [else] lining up [at the] bar and it’s all people my age. I just don’t have any envy for them anymore which is kind of cool.”

Even though Lily now marches to the beat of her own drum, it also helps that she’s built a community around her of other recovering addicts.

“I think that’s why like it’s been so fundamental for me to have friends in recovery because they understand,” Lily said. “Having friends in recovery … makes me feel so much less alone.”

Now, Lily has a much more balanced outlook on the differences between herself and her community of sober peers and everyone else.

“I do have some friends who still drink or even co-workers. I just have to be aware that my journey is very different than theirs. There’s nothing wrong with me [and] there’s nothing wrong with them. [Some people are] able to do it and that’s great. I’m not able to and that’s okay.”

Feeling the Feelings For the First Time

As Lily hinted at before, a lot of her healing work revolved around facing her emotions for the first time. She talks about how impactful it was for her to start this pivotal inner journey during her stay at APN Lodge.

“I never really felt my feelings before,” Lily said. “I remember that my [first APN] assignment was probably like five minutes long because I just didn’t remember anything. I was so disconnected from who I was as a person and who I was as a child that I just didn’t really know what to say. After hearing some other people’s [assignments where] they spent the entire session doing it – sometimes two sessions – I remember thinking, oh my God … I am just so disconnected from myself.

When Lily finally figured out how to tap into her emotional state, it was like a floodgate had been opened.

“[After I left APN], I cried out all the time, especially on the subway,” Lily said. “I don’t know what it is about the subway but it’s like once you turn it on [you can’t stop].”

How Sobriety & Therapy Improved Lily’s Relationships

While it might seem messy to ugly cry on the subway, Lily is living proof at what a difference doing this intense inner work can have on a person’s life and relationships.

“In preparation [of this podcast interview] I was reading through my journal from here and who I wanted to be,” Lily said. “[I wrote about wanting to be] empathetic, able to feel my emotions, [and] able to have relationships–like be there for people and just be more comfortable with myself. Now, I’m able to do [that] so easily, but back then [it] just seemed impossible.”

Once alone for nearly three months in suicidal ideation and active addiction, Lily now describes a community that helps her get through the hard times.

“I have really good friends my age and I’ve also started becoming friends with people who are older. They’re part of my support system and I talk to them almost every day. My best friend I met [at] one of my first meetings in sobriety. Just to be able to maintain relationships [is huge]. [Before], I always broke up with people and thought that they were the issue. To actually want that goal now to grow and develop these relationships has been amazing.”

Even though Lily has some incredible relationships now, it wasn’t always that way.

“I just attracted some people that are no longer in my life because I’ve grown and changed and want different things [now],” Lily said. “I also respect myself a lot more. Even in sobriety, I was attracting people who treated me like my dad did or treated me in not a great way. Now, I just have a lot of people in my life who support me and respect me and I don’t feel weird being myself anymore.”

Tuning Out Social Media & Tuning Into Healing

As a person born in the year 2000, Lily grew up with technology and social media. While the whole world seems to be busy on their phones, Lily has taken a different approach with social media and screen time that have greatly impacted her healing, as well.

“I actually currently don’t have Instagram or TikTok or Snapchat … because the constant comparing and just seeing what people are doing is so hard,” Lily said. “I think the more that I’ve grown and the longer I’ve been in my recovery, I value my peace and serenity a lot more. … I’m just at a point where going on Instagram makes me really anxious because I so quickly fall into that trap of like: this is what someone else is doing; I’m not doing it; why wasn’t I invited? That cycle or that spiral in my head can go really really quickly. I can just start to be mean to myself and a lot of [what] I work on is being really gentle and kind with myself.”

While it can seem difficult to avoid social media in this day and age, Lily is living proof that you can do so in a way that is beneficial to your mental health.

“I feels amazing to be off of it,” Lily said. “I don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. [Also], my phone’s actually in black and white now … It’s just really nice [to] be more present.”

From Emotionally Numb to Emotionally Thriving

As Lily wrapped up her APN podcast episode, she had a parting thought she wanted to leave listeners with.

“I was really looking forward to [coming on this podcast and] just like talking about all the tools that this place gave me,” Lily said. “You know, the 12-steps has given me so many tools but so has this place. [Now, I can] emotionally regulate and communicate [better] with people. Just [to] be more aware [and] be able to move through [life’s difficulties] and still be here has been amazing.”

A two-year APN alumni at the time this podcast aired, Lily certainly had a lot to share about her personal healing and sobriety journey that all started at APN. While there’s many lessons to be learned from her story, one thing is clear. Lily went from being emotionally numbed out and deep into addiction to finding a life of great purpose and meaning. Luckily for Lily, she has her whole life ahead of her to continue figuring it all out.

If you’re interested in learning more about All Points North and our addiction and mental health recovery programs, submit our confidential contact form or call us at 855.934.1178 today. You never know how good your life can get until you let yourself feel the things that are hard.

More From Lily

Listen and watch Lily’s episode of Recovery x APN below, and find more episodes on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.