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A father’s plea and a sign lead to sobriety

John M. Steiner / The Sun Amber Entzminger holds a holstein dairy calf and shows the animal’s heart-shaped marking on the side of its face.1 / 2
John M. Steiner / The Sun Amber Entzminger holds her pet kitten, Jerry. The heart-shaped marking on the side of the feline's face was read as a sign to seek help at Heartview Foundation in Bismarck for Amber's problem with alcohol.2 / 2

Amber Entzminger turns 30 next month and is 64 days sober after seeking treatment for her addiction to alcohol.

Entzminger said after years of drinking to the point of passing out, and pleading guilty to her fourth drunk driving charge in February, her father, Greg Entzminger, asked her around Father’s Day to seek treatment at Heartview Foundation in Bismarck.

“This wasn’t the first time he had asked me to seek help,” she said.

This time, though, he pointed out she had received a “sign” that Heartview is right for her. Around the beginning of June, Amber found a kitten in one of the barns of her family’s dairy operation.

“I went to put a pitchfork away, and I found him at the bottom of a barrel,” she said about Jerry, a shorthair domestic cat. The kitten’s mother had abandoned him, and Amber said she felt like she had to rescue him.

“No one else was helping him, and I like cats,” she said.

The gray and white kitten has a small, black, heart-shaped mark near its nose.

Not too long after finding the kitten, a calf was born on the dairy farm that was almost all white —except for a large, heart-shaped black mark on the side of its face.

Greg Entzminger said with his daughter finding the kitten and then with the calf being born, both with heart-shaped birth marks, he kind of felt like these were signs that it was time for Amber to seek help at Heartview Foundation.

“I had asked her to go (seek treatment) again as my Father’s Day present,” he said. “We talked about finding the kitten and then with the calf, I said, ‘maybe here is your sign for Heartview.’”

Amber said she was already trying to get sober on her own.

“I was seeing a therapist in Jamestown, but she wasn’t requiring any drug testing,” Amber said.

She said she knew she couldn’t do treatment on her own.

“I had to do the inpatient (treatment) thing. Doing it on my own wasn’t working,” Amber said.

Amber’s drinking

Amber started drinking alcohol a little bit when she was 16 years old.

“I would have a beer on weekends, did that throughout high school,” she said.

She said her drinking got bad when she was 22, going to college in Fargo and working at nightclubs and restaurants.

“I was always around alcohol,” Amber said. “I would start drinking and within an hour and a half I would black out.”

She said when she was at her worst she would finish a half-liter of liquor a night.

Amber said she started thinking she had a drinking problem when she was 24, but wasn’t ready to do anything about it until recently.

“That is the thing, you can try to get people to seek help, and they might go. Until they want to get help, they won’t,” she said.

Pleading guilty to her fourth drunk driving charge in February and losing her driving privileges for three years was part of Amber’s motivation to seek help. She also became a partner in her family’s dairy farm in February.

“I just started thinking about what I was doing and how this looked to other people,” she said. “I knew it was time when dad asked me in June.”

Getting better

At Heartview, Amber said going through the detoxification process wasn’t hard for her physically. She said there were only a couple of times she woke up shaking a little bit and feeling nauseous. The harder part was the mental side of detox.

“I would have dreams — I still have them now — where I would be drinking a beer and it felt good,” she said. “I would wake up and start crying, wondering if I would ever get past that feeling.”

Amber said the staff at Heartview held her to a schedule and forced her to be accountable for her actions while going through the program. She also started attending weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and continues to go to Bismarck for a meeting each week.

“One of the best things the staff did for me at Heartview was showing me how fun things could be sober,” she said.

Kurt Snyder, executive director of Heartview, said people come to Heartview with different levels of impairment.

“Everyone starts with an interview with me,” he said.

Based on the patient’s responses Snyder determines the best course of treatment, either inpatient or outpatient services.

“Many of the people who come here for treatment of alcohol addiction can be helped with outpatient services,” he said.

Snyder said for people who need a stable environment, inpatient is the best option.

“They may have other issues outside of their addiction and it takes a while for them to stabilize,” he said. “Those people could benefit from staying with us for up to 30 days in a structured setting.”

Snyder said Heartview continues working with people beyond the initial treatment phase. He said they try and stay involved with people for five to six months, meeting with them one or two times a week.

The most important part of any addiction treatment is the willingness of the person needing help.

“He or she has to want to do this,” Snyder said. “If a person doesn’t want to seek help, they won’t.”

Greg said he drives Amber to her weekly appointments, as she currently isn’t allowed to drive.

“I take her down there each week for support, take her out to eat or do something fun,” he said. “I want to make sure she stays on track.”

Amber said she receives a lot of support from family and friends. It is the positive support she receives, sometimes from strangers, that keeps her motivated to stay sober.

“Whenever I post something about my sobriety on Facebook, I always get tons of positive responses,” she said. “I posted lots of dumb stuff when I was drunk; those (posts) never got much of a response. I wish I hadn’t posted those things now.”

Amber said one of the reasons she wanted to talk publicly about her addiction was it will help her stay on track to stay sober.

“I’ve gotten to know so many people, and I just don’t want to let them down,” she said.

Greg said he is proud of his daughter.

“She has done so much over the last few months, it’s really remarkable,” he said. 

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at colson@jamestownsun.com

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454
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