Home —what was that? I hadn’t had one in what felt like forever. The only thing I had was fear. Except, today, I was an official resident at my very first drug treatment center.
I made it through my rock bottom, the intervention, the detox —all of which I never thought would happen, and now this. I remember arriving in the druggy buggy (our way of saying a white van) directly from the county ran detox that I didn’t want to admit, saved my life.
Upon arrival, I was taken to the nurses’ quarters where my intake process began, protocol for all new clients. I remember sloppily filling out the forms because I could barely hold a pen or even concentrate long enough to do anything correctly. I persevered through the worst of my withdrawal symptoms but there’s something called post sub-acute withdrawal that can linger for months.
And I was feeling it —hard.
Alternatives in Treatment (we called it AIT) did make every effort to make my admission process as smooth as possible (all things considering, it wasn’t that bad). Their staff was well versed in determining what insurance benefits were available to prospective patients, which luckily, we got to skip over since I didn’t have to worry about that.
My entire family —mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, as well as my aunt, and uncle all pitched in. I was in Boca Raton, Florida after all, and these places are not cheap. My family spent part of their savings to send me here. Most of the other residents were only here through insurance and there was always an issue. I too was covered (up to a certain point), but like I said, rehab was expensive. I was lucky to have my family’s support because they had to make up the difference.
And it was a lot.
Dead on Arrival
Anyway, the first step in admissions is an initial screening so their technicians (techs a.k.a. our accountability mentors/ rehab employees, not doctors) can gather relevant info to better prepare my specific treatment plan. I remember having to take a photo for security purposes. I stood there waiting for it to be done and then laughing with the techs when they showed me how glorious I looked.
Sarcasm at its finest, people; I looked like shit. I remember them searching me. For once, I had nothing to hide. I remember them finishing up and walking me to my new home away from home. I was ready.
The tech’s finally left me alone in my new room.
It was pretty cool since the actual facility was across the street (where we had our all-day therapy sessions and step work). We all lived in these apartments (an actual apartment complex with real people) but we lived in our own little section of this closed community.
Each “villa” (it was literally called Boca Villa) had two bedrooms, which slept two to a room. Each had a bathroom and we all shared the kitchen, living room, and outside patio —we even had a television. My first day though, I unpacked as best as I could and then joined the rest of the residents for family dinner.
Every Sunday (the day of the week at that time), the boys and girls switched off cooking.
One week the guys would cook, and the next, us gals. Each week we went to Publix with a $90 gift card, which was included in our entry fee. Not only did we have to buy ourselves food for the days ahead, we also had to budget accordingly —if were cooking dinner, which I thought was pretty cool.
I know it may sound lame but grocery shopping like an almost normal person was comforting to me at the time. I hadn’t been a real one in years. We would get dropped off in those white vans and walk around the store like we were anybody else. A tech did have to check our receipts and shopping bags before the ride home to ensure everything we bought was rehab appropriate. I guess in my head, I thought it would be more like a prison but it wasn’t like that at all.
Homesick At Space Camp
Except that day, I was not ready to be social —to be with people who were already detoxed because I still felt gross. I wanted too but my body wasn’t having it. Little did I know, everyone here understood exactly where I was at on my journey, which I would later learn. We all got pretty damn close. It was an awesome experience, to say the least.
They said I could take my time settling in before dinner. I had roughly 20 minutes. So, I go into the bathroom and shut the door. I remember sitting my butt on the brown bathroom rug, making sure the door was locked so no one would hear me cry.
I needed a moment. I started to reminisce about everything all over again (and not in a good way). When you’re high all the time like I was, you forget how to feel. Honestly, you forget how to function like a normal member of society. Consequently, when you’re finally sober, it’s like everything you shoved down comes up tenfold. I was thinking about everything I had done and how awful of a person I had become.
I was worried about my worries and worried that I worried so much.
I was fearful of what lay ahead. I feared failure —like not being good enough (that was always in the back of my head). I feared that I wouldn’t live up to my full potential. I feared who I was would have a detrimental effect on who I could be. After crying for like 10 minutes, I stand up and try to reason with myself, “Why do I choose fear?”
And suddenly I remembered. I was scared I was going to let everyone down. I was just so broken at the time. I finally get my composer. Then, I wash my face and go back to my room to get changed. I still felt like shit, but I wanted to feel somewhat pretty. I forgot that my sister had packed my rehab clothes when I was at detox and I could not find anything I liked.
You see, my sister always thought I dressed a little provocatively and maybe she was right, but fashion —my clothes, they were a way for me to express myself without speaking.
So what if I liked tight shirts? I liked my sneakers too, which she didn’t hesitate to throw away (literally over $1,000 in Nike high tops sat in the waste bin at her Boca Raton condo). But I was saying goodbye to a lot and so, I eventually figure out what to wear. I settled on a tank top and jeans as I walk over to join the other residents. They all made me feel at home from the moment I walked in.
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, But I’m Gonna Give It My Best Shot
Most of the ladies were a little bit older than me except one —Molly (we later became BFFs). Most of the boys were my type. Some were young-ish and oddly from New Jersey. Others were older but everyone was so nice. They were all kind of doing their thing —walking around and talking to the other residents. It seemed as if they all were pretty close and had a good routine. I did feel a little out of it (and out of place) but I grab a diet coke and sit down.
Everyone was everywhere. I wanted to be everywhere too. But I couldn’t.
I slowly ease into a conversation anyway. Sunday dinners were normally set up in the common room, which was simply an empty villa. I sat on the couch as some of the ladies gathered around me. They loved when a new girl came so they wanted to know everything about me. I really wasn’t feeling well, but I did my best and they understood.
A few of them offer me some food. At first, I say no but then I change my mind. I hadn’t eaten hardly anything in the past two weeks. And yet, I still wasn’t hungry. I force feed myself a slice of lasagna (which was delicious btw) and some celery (definitely ranch too). We chat for a bit about where I’m from and my overall “deal.” Some of the guys came over too. But when we were allowed to leave, I went straight into my room.
My roommate (this amazing 30-something New Yorker) was on a weekend trip home (which you were allowed to do after a certain amount of time if the circumstances held up), so I had the room to myself —at least for another day. I wanted to be alone anyway. So much had just happened in the last 24 hours, I needed a second, or two. I opened my notebook that my family bought me for this exact purpose and started to write.
I put the pen down an hour or so later after writing a goodbye letter to my old self —something the other ladies suggested.
It was a weird feeling. I wasn’t going to see any of the people whom I had spent the last years of my life with. They weren’t the best influences, I knew that but I couldn’t help, but feel like I was missing out. I wasn’t. By now, it was about 10:20 p.m. I had no idea that a tech comes to everyone’s room at 10:30 to say lights out and ensure we were all there.
The Pros And Cons Of Breathing
Since I was new, the tech came in to ask how I was doing. We chat about my post-acute withdrawal a bit before lights out. She explained that we wake up bright and early at 7:00 so I should make sure to get a good night’s sleep. I tell her I was still feeling bad and because of that, I hadn’t slept well in weeks. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to sleep since it seemed to be a pattern. In early recovery, sleeping issues like insomnia are fairly common. So this wasn’t something new.
I’m so glad I told her.
She immediately brought me downstairs to the nurse’s area where they give out medication. Ironically, all the other residents were waiting in line like they did every night for the nurse to give them their sleeping meds. I was about to join them. It’s funny because as I’m writing this right now, I can remember the smell of that room (for some reason).
I remember walking down with a blanket over my arms like a cape and all the boys staring at me wondering who I was. I can’t lie, I kind of liked it. I had talked to a few at dinner and secretly had my eye on one or two. Like I said, they were all really nice and no one ever acted out inappropriately. We weren’t allowed to fraternize but we could still talk and be friends. They were cool about that —as long as you knew where the line was.
Luckily, I did.
Since this was a full-service rehab, they had doctors and nurses on standby 24.7. A doctor was able to prescribe me sleeping meds right then and there, which was awesome. I had never taken a real sleep aid before so I was excited to actually get some rest. I will say that we tried a bunch of meds until we found what worked for me.
I say that because I would later learn the hard way that this one, in particular, didn’t serve me well. It was some sleeping pill where once you take it, you have 15 minutes to get into bed. If you’re not in “relaxation mode” by then or aiming to fall asleep, it can actually have the opposite effect.
Meaning, it would act as a stimulant—almost like you took Adderall, which you don’t want if your goal is to snooze.
I remember not being able to fall asleep because I was so worried that would happen to me. Was I in the right position? Was I relaxed enough? Needless to say, my anxiety kept me up all night. I think being in a new bed in a brand new place sober didn’t help either. I had always struggled with sleep so why would tonight be any different?
The bed itself was comfortable even though it was a twin. I had just enough room, space-wise and luckily, we had a ceiling fan, which I loved. The white noise was (and still is) relaxing to me. I think I like that sound because when I was younger, I used to fall asleep to my sister drying her hair, which is similar in pitch to the fan (on full blast —you know you do it too, even in winter LOL). Eventually, I fall asleep —somewhere between one or two a.m.
It’s Hard To Say I Do When I Don’t
Waking up really is the hardest part. Except at this point, my mornings weren’t filled with fear. Or, at least not the type I had been running from —a.k.a. the dreaded withdrawals I tried so hard to avoid. During the height of my addiction, waking up meant I had to snort at least 60 milligrams before thinking about getting out of bed.
It had been almost three weeks since I got high. I really can’t put into words how amazing it is to wake up and not need a pill to function. Yeah, I was about to be put on mental health meds but that’s different.
The next morning, just as the tech promised, 7:00 a.m. rolls around and I’m politely woken up by that same friendly face.
I tell her how I’m feeling better today than yesterday. She was more than pleased. She gives me a rundown on what I can expect day-to-day as well as this particular morning. After she woke me up (she then went into the second bedroom of the villa to wake up the other ladies), we had about 30 minutes to get some coffee, make our beds and get dressed before our eight-hour therapy session across the street.
Each day, I was feeling a little bit stronger. Except, I didn’t just leave in better physical health (although that’s clearly true). I also learned a few things along the way that allowed me to grow somewhat mentally. I learned that I can walk away confidently knowing that difficult roads normally lead to beautiful destinations. I learned that fresh starts are often disguised as painful endings.
And every day is a new beginning —so let’s take a deep breath and begin again.
For a look at what the rest of rehab was like for me, check out: 28 Days Isn’t Just a Movie Starring Sandra Bullock, It Was My Life.