Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. –Carl Jung
Okay, I just accidentally hit publish as I started typing this post. If you received something incomplete, disregard, I am starting over…
I had written that I wanted to give up on this process the past three days, because it is tough revisiting the past, tough trying to concisely sum it up, tough putting myself out there. But since I’ve started, I need to just get it done.
So now I’m trying to paint the picture of my experience in rehab. How to sum up 21 days of being in an alternate universe? The days leading up to admission were a time of complete detachment for me, it was the only way I could get through it. And while the ride down to the facility, the admission process, and the tour of the place is crystal clear in my mind, it was like some kind of out-of-body experience, that’s how surreal it felt.
The pro’s of my time there: since I am the type of person to thrive in any kind of educational setting, I was able to get a lot of good information from all the sessions I attended. I shared a lot in my group settings, I made some meaningful connections with my fellow “inmates,” and I was inspired by many of the professionals who worked there. As I became more comfortable and settled in, there was also a pleasant feeling of insulation… I felt protected, from my disease, from the absolute disaster of a life waiting for me when I got out, and from simple daily routine. As my time grew shorter there, the anxiety built, but still, I want to list the good stuff as well as the bad.
The con’s of my time there: probably the biggest detraction of rehab for me personally was a total lack of relatability. I can only say this now, after reflection. In the moment I bonded the best way I knew how, and I really did make connections. But in looking back, absolutely no one was like me, and that hurt my ability to process the information I received. Most of the people were much younger, it was far from their first experience (one friend I made was not yet 21, and this had been her 8th stay), and their stories with addiction were not anything that made sense to me in my frame of mind. Again, this is a 20/20 hindsight observation, at the time I was just trying to do the best I could with the hand I was dealt. Another major con: I made absolutely no plans to change anything in my life once I got out. I did not think about it, and therefore did not anticipate any issues I may encounter. All I knew was that I had an incredibly angry husband to deal with, kids who I had to put up a falsely positive front, and a group of friends and relatives who only found out about any of this mess once I went away (that’s right, most of the major people in my life knew nothing about these problems, at my insistence). So I chose not to make any post-rehab plans in my mind, because thinking about it was simply too painful.
I remember having a fleeting thought of being able to resume my addiction while I was in rehab. When I say fleeting, I mean it probably lasted all of 10 seconds… it popped into my head, and my response to that thought was, “don’t worry about it, you are safe.” I did not share the thought, and I did not revisit it for the remainder of the time I was there. That 10-second thought came back the very first day I was home, and now that I am “back to normal life,” it came back with a vengeance. I could not shake it, and very quickly it became an obsession that I could not ignore. Again, in retrospect, it is all so easy to see where I went wrong, but at that point in time, I simply could not connect the dots. And while I learned in a rhetorical way all of the tools I needed to stay sober, I had not practiced a single one, so when that obsession came over me, I did not have a choice… I had to act on it. And, well, addicts at this point know the rest… once you act once, once you take that first drink, first anything, you are right back where you started. And so the cycle continued, almost immediately after rehab.
Okay, deep breath, here’s the next bottom (as if resuming addiction post-rehab isn’t bad enough). As I have been told many times, the progression of addiction is undeniable, the lengths an addict will go to become more and more extreme, and I was no exception. In order to feed my particular addiction, I wrote yesterday that I had gotten creative, specifically with the medical profession. Eventually these lies caught up with me in a legal way, and in early December 2011 I received a phone call from the police… bottom line, they had me dead to rights, and now, in addition to the myriad of other consequences, I have legal ones. At this time (December) I don’t know what they are, only that they are a certainty.
Today’s story should stop there, right? No, it does not. In order to do this timeline justice, I need to write this next part, it should speak to the sensibilities of every addict reading this, while horrifying those who do not struggle with this disease. Early on in the process, I met with a lawyer to discuss the next steps. At this meeting the lawyer said something to the effect that once I am officially charged with an act, then I could never in my lifetime do it again without incredibly serious repercussions. Due to a weird set of circumstances that would take too long to explain, I had not yet been charged with anything, and so, with the addicted mind I had (have), I really, truly, consciously drew the following conclusion: if I could never do it again in my lifetime, then why not take advantage of the lag time between now (December) and the time I am charged? God help me, that is how my mind worked, and that I exactly how I proceeded, for the following month.
Tomorrow, praise God, will be the final chapter in this saga.
In this moment, the miracle is that tomorrow, praise God, is the final chapter, and I can then get back to happier posts.
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. –Aristotle Onassis
I have been back and forth about the following series of posts I am about to write (so obviously you know which way I decided). On the one hand, I believe describing the events that led me into recovery is helpful for me personally, so I will always remember from whence I came. Plus, as any recovery program will attest, sharing my experience, strength and hope will benefit the people around me as well (at least I hope it will).
On the other hand, and I cannot stress this part strongly enough, I have two different kinds of readers of this blog: the community I have come to know and love, and the readers who have known and have loved me my whole life. It is to this second group I am making the following statement: the next several posts will be rough reading for you. I am going to write candidly here about what is was like before I came into recovery. If you want to read on, please do so at your own risk.
I am going to start my series of bottoms when I first attempted recovery. By the end of this week, if you have read all of my posts, it will be as if you have come to an AA meeting where I was the guest speaker. I took the first step of my journey to recovery in the winter of 2011. I believe it was sometime in February when my husband sat me down and said he knew there was something wrong with me, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I believe at the time I blamed it on winter blues, mixed in with some sadness because it was around the anniversary of my Father’s death (of course, he had been dead for 19 years, but hey, I can still be sad, right?). The reality was that I was abusing prescription pills, basically, anything I could get my hands on. It had started with back problems, and a referral to a pain management specialist a few years before, but by this point had escalated… basically, if you told me it was addictive, I wanted to take it. At this point I had a vague sense that what I was doing was none too smart, but my rationalization was if it was legitimately prescribed for me, then how bad could it really be?
This particular bottom (and there will be more) culminated in April of 2011, when my husband got a more definitive grasp (though still not complete) of the nature of my problem; namely, prescription drugs. He insisted I get help, and so I sought out treatment in an outpatient rehab near my house. I actually completed that treatment, at least according to their paperwork, although I’m not sure how they could have, in good faith, let me “graduate.” Because I was nowhere near accepting my disease in any way, shape or form.
Here’s what I was able to accomplish during that 6-week period. Going into that treatment program, I was regularly abusing 3 different types of prescription drugs, in addition to drinking on a regular basis. So my thought process at that point was: okay, there is clearly a problem, and the problem is doing way too many different things. Why not control it by eliminating what is not necessary or fun? Alcohol, oddly enough, was the first to go, particularly because it caused me the most problems (if I had one glass of wine, the entire world knew it). Next in line were what I would consider “extraneous” prescription drugs… the drugs I took because I was told they were “relaxing,” when in fact they did absolutely nothing for me. That left what I have come to realize was my drug of choice, prescription pain pills. At this time I had a regular, legitimate prescription waiting for me each and every month, and the idea of giving that up was as foreign to me as the idea of giving up water… simply not an option. So I gave up everything else, but the one drug, and thought, alright, then, I am cured. I will just narrow it down to one vice, how bad could it get?
We can all see where this is going, too bad I didn’t… Stay tuned for the next bottom…
There are two: having the courage to write this down, and that someone has read far enough to get to this section!