In my latest blog post, I discussed how my life basically exploded as my lies went up in flames. Everything I was running from was staring at me straight in the face. I was attending an intervention I never thought would be for me. But there I was.
My sister, Michaela, and Dr. Eddy finally made me crack. But in a good way —the best. I finally broke down. I actually wanted the help I desperately needed —help that happened to be right in front of me.
And so, to detox, I went. I was freaked out, fucked up and alone. I had never been to a place like this before so I didn’t know what to expect. And wouldn’t you say, fear of the unknown is the worst kind? Because I would.
I was about to learn that inside the detox itself, there were about twenty-something boys (we were separated by sex) and twenty-something girls to a room —two rooms per gender, two bathrooms with two toilets and one shower in each. I remember only getting one roll of toilet paper per bathroom a day and if you asked for more, it was kind of a big deal.
I remember not being able to sleep.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night, multiple evenings wanting to rip my skin off. When I was at home, the only place I felt better was in the shower. So at like 3:00 am, basically every night, I’d take a shower, which the other ladies didn’t like nor appreciate.
I remember one of them complaining and then I got into trouble because I was keeping everyone awake. Really? I was just trying to feel semi-OK. But you get what you pay for, I suppose. At least I was safe.
It still pissed me off though. What the fuck did they want from me?
It was dark, small and dirty. It felt like a prison. In theory, this place rocked. I mean it was free. But it showed. One pillow per person and one outfit per week’s stay. You wear scrubs that they provide and per their request, you can only change them like once or twice a week. I will say, the nurses were the nicest. And thank GOD because I needed their help.
I was coming off about 900 milligrams of painkillers a day.
So I required a lot of meds to counter the effects of my impending withdrawal. I ended up making friends though. Luckily, it was co-ed and most of the kids were around my age addicted or trying to recover from the same drugs I was on.
We all instantly bonded. We actually bonded so much that by the end we felt like family. And with each day, I was feeling a little bit better. I was there for about two weeks. From my observation, most only stayed for a few days (normally five- seven). As a result, a lot of kids came and went throughout my experience but I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. I mean, my body was hating me, to say the least, so I couldn’t detox alone (that I can say for sure).
Show me a sign, sweep me away
And when I hurt really bad, I remember the other kids comforting me. I remember us all being there for each other in some way as we each battled our own withdrawal and inner demons. We obtained detox medication (like muscle relaxers and benzos to chill you out), but since this was a county ran facility, the drugs weren’t as strong as I needed them to be.
I remember selling one of my juicy zip-ups to a girl who cheeked her meds in exchange for my outfit. I did it because I literally felt like death. So I was prepared to do (and did) just about anything to not feel that awful. Even with those extra doses, I felt like shit. Heck, I was taking double from a few other people and still, I stung all over. I knew this was the karma I deserved, but man it was hard.
I remember being in that room with those twenty-something girls who were all as sick as me.
I remember smoking cigarettes in a small area where they were permitted out front. I remember seeing guys sneak drugs in and out —right in front of my eyes. Yeah, it was a bit triggering. But these were addicts. Most people here were homeless or on their way.
The pit had a pretty high fence, but if you stood on a bench, you could get high enough to grab something from the other side. And so, these fucking kids would arrange for a buddy of theirs to pick up whatever drug they needed, climb up on whatever was nearby and wait until he or she was outside smoking a cigarette. It was pretty interesting to watch.
Some people were caught and kicked out. Others weren’t. The unlucky ones were tasered and then arrested. I wasn’t about to get into trouble so I kept a low profile with my new friends. We’d smoke our cigs in the corner minding our damn business.
We talked about our lives and what let us to this point. I remember crying. I remember laughing. These people knew what was up. They were me, but different. It was comforting in a weird way to know that they felt the same hell I did. They understood exactly how I was feeling —not just physically but mentally too.
I actually cried a lot. I was always the baby of the group so it’s really no surprise.
I wasn’t alone here. Most of everyone had their moment. I mean these drugs numb you out. So when you’re off them, everything comes back tenfold. We hadn’t experienced these feelings in a long time so it was new and strange. But we had each other’s backs.
My main peeps included this amazing male hairdresser (he was my favorite), two cute blonde females, an even cuter brunette boy and a surfer kid from here in town. We were the six amigos. We’d sit together at all of our meals, which were disgusting. Most of the time, I wasn’t hungry anyway.
I remember towards the end when we were all feeling a little better, we decided to play a game of truth or dare.
I’m pretty sure I met the love of my life, Heath that night —or as they call it, “detox love.” This skater boy who moved here from Connecticut, addicted to heroin (who later relapsed and ended up returning to DAF for a second go), had just become a resident. I so wish he got there earlier because I was leaving in a few days. But at this very moment, I didn’t care. And so, I picked dare.
What do you think I was dared to do? Make out with Heith. The brunette boy in my group kind of figured I was crushing on him and set it up that way (they really did have my back). I remember being excited. I hadn’t had feelings of any kind for so long, let alone a crush.
So, it felt really nice and almost normal to have butterflies again.
And guess what happened next? He kissed me back, hard in front of everyone. After, we went into some closet and made out all night. I told you I was feeling better. It was the first moment I had actual hope for a real future —not with him though (just generally speaking). I guess feeling wanted by another person not high sparked something in me. I literally remember thinking, “I’m back bitches.”
We actually stayed in touch by writing letters after detox was over. I ended up in rehab down the street and he did the same but at another spot. And after treatment was over (more on that later), we ran into each other weeks later, which was when I found out he relapsed and was on the run.
The sad thing is, I never saw him or the others ever again.
Thinking about it now, it actually makes me sad because we had gotten so close. I tried to keep in touch, but I was all over the place (literally after detox I went straight to rehab than halfway), so it was hard to keep up with anything.
And then yesterday, I recovered some old letters that had Heath’s first and last name along with his phone number, home address, and email. I look him up online using those credentials (after not knowing his last name or anything about him since I left in 2011-2012). I discover that he passed away from a drug overdose last week. LAST WEEK. I can’t help but think, why didn’t I find this piece of paper two weeks ago? Could I have contacted him and saved his life? My mom says I wasn’t supposed too but it still hurts —a lot, more than I expected. Ugh.
Is it just smoke and mirrors?
As the days went by, I was getting stronger and stronger. It wasn’t because of the techs or therapy sessions once a day, it was the people and time.
A typical day at DAF started at 7:00 a.m. It was rough in the mornings. We were woken up by some bell over the loudspeaker. We had like 15 minutes to get dressed and ready for breakfast. If we weren’t ready, we didn’t eat. No one was allowed in the rooms during meal time so we didn’t really have a choice but to get up.
You didn’t want to stay in the rooms alone anyway.
We would gather, boys and girls, in the common room at 7:15 for a head count and meds. Pending everyone was accounted for (and usually we were), we’d make our way outside to the dining hall, which was in a separate building across the way. DAF’s property was actually set on a church so the exterior was rather pretty. I remember enjoying the walks.
We’d eat breakfast, which honestly, I can’t remember the specifics of what we ate. I can tell you it wasn’t good. I do recall corn dogs and corn flakes for some reason. After breakfast, we had about an hour to clean up our rooms for inspection. We were allowed to smoke cigarettes after every meal and before bed. Next, though, the techs would come in to make sure everything was up to code.
Then, for the rest of the day, we just kind of chilled and hung out in our designated spots.
We did have therapy with a certified counselor who was really nice but there was never any hope for a positive session. Not my friends, but the others, weren’t well behaved. In fact, they didn’t behave at all. They’d interrupt, laugh and be really counterproductive. The lady therapist was just trying to help and some days, she actually did.
After, we’d get more meds and head to the dining hall for lunch. Then hang out or sleep some more. Later in the day, before dinner, we’d get another round of meds. Some would get them earlier than others (me) and then again when everyone else did. After that, we’d have another head count and walk over for supper.
Everyone would leisurely walk back, have another cigarette or three and start winding down. Normally, this was when we got our sleep meds and last set of detox pills for the evening. And then, we’d hang out in the common room until lights out when we’d go to sleep and do it all over again.
I’m feeling far away, I’m feeling right there
So yeah, it was repetitive. If it wasn’t for my friends, I don’t know if I would have made it. Everyone else kind of sucked. I remember this new girl coming in high on Xanex like her eyes were rolling in the back of her head. We thought she was dead. I remember her passing out on an empty bed with snacks in her hand. She was so fucked up.
I think she said something like, “I’m going to finish eating these when I wake up. They get me.” —who gets you? I think she meant the food. Well, she then proceeds to pass out mid-chew. When she woke up, she saw that they were gone. She knew the others had eaten all of them. “I mean they didn’t grow legs and walk away themselves!!” Luckily, the nurses came in and broke it up before things escalated.
I remember another kid. He had basically just got there. Except, when the techs did a random inspection, they found a needle with fucking heroin. Needlesstosay, he got kicked out right away.
And then, day fourteen arrives.
I couldn’t believe it. I remember them calling me to the tech’s main office where I would have a final one-on-one therapy session. To my surprise, my mom had flown to Florida to be with my sister to help her with the rehab finding process. My sister was the one who had to tell my entire family where I was and why.
Legit, they were all so confused since I did a pretty good job of hiding it. They all suspected something was up but didn’t know how bad it actually was. So I enter the tech’s office and have a phone call waiting for me. It was my family, all together, at my sister’s condo.
They had been working day and night for the past two weeks in order to find the best one for me.
They finally determine what they thought was the perfect location. It was nearby and a good family friend recommended it to them. The only thing was, it cost a shit ton of money. And so, my aunt and uncle along with Reid’s family end up splitting it. Like they paid for the entire thing. Wow. Now that’s unconditional love. If any of you guys are reading this now, I am forever grateful for the lengths you went too on my behalf.
You guys loved me when I didn’t even love myself. And for that, I can’t say thank you enough. In fact, that doesn’t even come close to describe how I feel. Except, I wasn’t allowed to see them but it was great to hear their voices. I was going straight to treatment from detox. And so, I packed what shit I had, hugged everyone there goodbye and headed out the door.
The rehab they selected was so full service that they had a driver on their way to get me.
I still didn’t feel fully normal, but I could not be in this place any longer. I couldn’t believe I made it. I mean, normal detox for most like I said was about five to seven days. But because I had been using a lot for the past four years, it took my body a little longer to adjust. I had what’s called post-subacute withdrawal.
Take me away, dream maker
A stage that many people don’t talk about or even acknowledge is this post-acute withdrawal I was now experiencing. And most addicts in treatment for substance abuse don’t immediately feel better either. In a pattern unique to each person, these symptoms can be felt for weeks, months, and sometimes years.
Addicts may be affected by less intense versions of acute withdrawal as well as other conditions such as impulse control (or lack thereof), negative emotional states, sleep disturbances, and intense drug cravings. These symptoms can eventually lead us addicts to seek relief by returning to our substance of choice —feeding into the pattern of repeated relapse.
They do say that relapse is apart of recovery (and I too was about to learn that the hard way).
Except at this very moment, the driver (a tech at the rehab we were now on our way too) and I were having a moment. We chatted a bit about my story and I shared that I still felt weak, tired, had a permanent headache since I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in the past 14 days. On top of it all, I was battling restless leg syndrome and my every thought still reined upon getting high.
These symptoms along with anxiety and depression are all apart of the post-acute withdrawal I’m talking about. Other possible indications include fatigue, dysphoria (i.e., feeling down or emotionally blunted), and irritability. In short, I feared that I would never feel normal again.
Nevertheless, I remember finally arriving feeling nervously excited about what was to come.
I had made it through my intervention, detox and now this. I remember entering the main doors and being taken to the nurses’ quarters where my intake process would begin. I remember sloppily filling out the forms as I could barely hold a pen or even concentrate enough to do anything correctly.
They did make every effort to make my admission process as smooth as possible. The first step was an initial screening to gather relevant information to determine the appropriate level of care. I needed major help and at this point, I wasn’t afraid to ask.
I remember taking a photo for security purposes and then laughing with the techs when they showed me how glorious I looked (sarcasm people, I looked like shit).
I remember them searching me. For once, I had nothing to hide. I remember them finishing as we make our way to my new home away from home where I’d learn that I was my problem but I was also the solution. Because the worst part about anything, that’s self-destructive is that it’s so intimate.
You become so close with your addictions that leaving them behind is like killing the part of yourself that taught you how to survive. But there’s another side and that’s what I call a transformation.
Over the next 30 days, I worked hard and actually got it together (or at least for a little while I did). So if you want to learn a little bit more about my experience there, I suggest you take a look at, Because One is Too Many and a Thousand is Never Enough: Here’s What My First Day in Rehab Looked Like.
And remember —the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Until next time, guys.
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.