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.
During the height of my addiction, waking up meant I had to snort at least 60 milligrams before even thinking about getting out of bed.
If I didn’t, what would happen? I’d be sick —opioid withdrawal sick, the kind of sick you’d do anything to avoid. But that’s not me anymore. It had been almost three weeks since I got high. I was feeling a little better each day. I really can’t put into words just how special it feels to wake up and not need a pill to function. Yeah, I was about to be put on some mental health meds but that’s way different.
Since I was new, last night (not literally last night as in 4/30/18; last night as in the time this actually took place) one of the techs 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.
Just as she promised, 7:00 a.m. rolls around and I’m politely woken up by the same friendly face —ready to start my day just as I will continue to do for the next 28 days.
If you remember from my previous post, Because One is Too Many and a Thousand is Never Enough: Here’s What My First Day in Rehab Looked Like, I made it through my first, now second rock bottom, the intervention, the detox —all of which I never thought would happen —and now this (this being a Boca Raton drug treatment center). I had only been there for a day or so. It’s now Monday morning, my first official week.
I tell the tech that 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 my villa to wake up the other ladies), we had about 30 minutes to get some coffee, make our beds and get dressed.
And so, I get out of bed, brush my teeth and join my new suitemates in the kitchen for some coffee. They were so fucking nice. Since we hadn’t made our weekly trip to Publix yet, I didn’t have any food or caffeine. They gladly share. We sat at the rounded glass kitchen table as I put some Splenda into my cup of joe. We talked a bit more about where I was from and how I got here.
Ironically, we all had similar stories.
We eat some fruit and yogurt, I quickly shower, get dressed and we make our way out the door —we were on the second (top) floor. So once we leave our apartment, we’d walk down some steps to the front lawn. Directly below us was the nurses’ room I keep talking about. And if you were facing the villas, behind you was the parking lot, and in front of you would be the five sets of apartments that us residents lived in —just like any other condo complex.
To the left was a pool and to the right of that was a tennis court. We were able to use those amenities when time allowed. At this point though, we all meet in the nurse’s room for our morning meds. Each day, we had to fill out this specific form, which included our highs and lows of the day before, what we wanted to get out of this day as well as anyone who positively affected us in the last 24 hours. They def. gave credit where credit was due.
Then, we’d go around and share everything we wrote down with everyone, which was a great way to bond and get to know the other residents.
In the nurse’s room, there was a common area (living room) with couches and chairs. We could sit anywhere we wanted, next to whomever we wanted. I remember picking the couch, sitting on the end with my new friend, Molly. The other ladies (about 10, it was a fairly small group) sat nearby as we talked before it was time to begin. I was eager to get started.
I went more towards the end because I enjoyed hearing what everyone else had to say. On a regular day, we’d split up (mixed gender) and ride across the street in our druggy buggies to therapy. I remember looking forward to these rides. Each tech had a different personality, but they were all really likable. In fact, most of them had gone through this exact program (or something similar) so they knew what was up.
A few techs even put the radio on, which was always a good time. We’d sing and jam out altogether. It was cute and funny.
Reinventing The Wheel To Run Myself Over
At therapy, we’d start as one big group —having a talk session on whatever topic was assigned that week. We’d sit in any chair we wanted that were placed in a circle around the entire room. Then, as the day went on, we were split up into several smaller groups for a more hands-on approach. Sometimes, it would be only girls —other times, a few girls and a few guys.
The focus of these sessions varied from health and nutrition classes to alternative treatments such as music therapy, art therapy or yoga. On other occasions, these sessions were more intense. It just depended on the day and task at hand. Regardless though, everyone always kept it engaging.
And once a day, usually towards the end, we would all have a closed session with our personal therapist. They wanted us to build relationships with these counselors to help us develop effective coping strategies for living in the outside world, once we graduated the program. These clinicians may identify and treat co-occurring disorders —for me, it was OCD, anxiety, depression and my eating disorder along with my addiction shit (obviously).
So learning about everything was pretty inciteful and dare I say enjoyable?
We’d break for lunch, which meant those druggy buggies drove us back to our villas but not before multiple smoke breaks. I will say that smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee were my only relief (still are). But I was more than OK with that. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner usually lasted about an hour each. Inpatients (people like me) were expected to prepare our meals —either for ourselves or in turns for larger groups.
Side note, guys. There were clients who attended therapy with us all day but didn’t sleep there. Those were the IOP (intensive outpatient program) kids. There were about two girls and two boys in the outpatient plan at the time I was there. Normally, after you graduate rehab (28 days is standard), you start IOP, which is exactly what I did later on. Some of these IOP kids had graduated from the inpatient program while others only came for therapy.
Anyway, once morning classes were done, when we’d break for lunch, normally all of the girls (inpatient and outpatient) would gather in one of our suites to eat, chill, talk, smoke more cigs (on the back porch) then we’d all head out front when we were done (usually 90 minutes-ish). After lunch, we’d drive back over for a few more hours of therapy. When the day was done, we’d go back to our rooms and relax. Every other day though, at this time, we were driven to the gym, which was pretty damn awesome.
It was a random gym in Boca where we could use the steam room, sauna or whatever work out equipment we wanted. Regardless, if we went to the gym or not, we all had to be in our villas for dinner time. We were able to cook our own food on our own time. Normally, all of my suitemates and sometimes the other ladies too would eat all together.
We were like a family. It was a sisterhood.
After dinner, if we were given permission (normally after a certain amount of time), we were allowed to make some phone calls through these phone cards we’d buy from Publix. All phone calls had to be done using a certain landline from the nurse’s office.
Normally, I’d go outside (there were sliding glass doors in each room, including the nurses leading to a porch with chairs and a small table) where I’d smoke another cig and make a call or two. Since it was my first day, they actually allowed me to call my sister (who was with my mom and dad) for free. They were really happy to talk to me and it was really comforting to hear all of their voices.
I will say that you could only make calls to pre-approved people.
And you could only receive mail from that list as well. But I made due. It was pretty lax considering. Other than eating dinner, we would spend our early evenings resting or going to 12-step meetings/ other local support groups. I remember looking forward to those outings. Normally, they were at some community building and a lot of people came.
These people were either in rehab getting driven in their druggy buggies like us or recovering addicts who lived nearby. As the day draws to a close, we would work on our individual assignments, reflect on our therapy sessions, and participate in “wrap-up” activities with certain counselors. Mandatory lights-out was 10:30 p.m.
Then, we’d wake up and do it all over again.
Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying
Weekends were typically far more relaxed. We could sleep in, work on chores, and spend extra time at breakfast doing nothing. Saturday was usually the day for friends and relatives to visit, and some would also use this time for counselor-facilitated family therapy. I had a few of those and damn.
They were intense (more on the specifics later). On Sundays, some of us would go to church while others attended additional twelve-step meetings somewhere in town, which I found fun and helpful. We were right near the beach and isn’t there just something about the ocean’s scent?
To this day, I miss the Florida air.
Weekends were also the time for group excursions and special recreational activities. The techs would organize trips to the beach or have community barbeques somewhere cool. On certain evenings, we’d watch movies, or attend special meetings with our sponsors from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
I preferred NA simply because I identified more with drugs than alcohol.
In the rooms though, alcohol is considered a drug. I say this because for some reason, liquor never really did it for me. Like if I wasn’t allowed to ever drink again, I’d be more than fine with that. Today, I don’t necessarily follow this program strictly but I found what works for me. So if it’s Saturday night and I’m on a date with my boyfriend, I’ll have a glass of champagne if I’m in the mood. But for a while, even after I graduated, I didn’t drink anything.
It wasn’t until I healed a little more mentally and physically, that I decided it was now okay for me to have one drink.
This may work for some and maybe a trigger for others. I will say that the majority of people attending AA are far more serious about recovery than people in NA (since it’s been around longer). Now I’m generalizing here because there are certainly great people in NA but that was always a warning from the techs. That said, NA merely spoke to me stronger than AA meetings.
Each gathering was different depending on the topic and theme for that day. Some sessions, an addict (normally with at least a year of sobriety) would speak to the group about their experiences. Other times, we’d read from the big book and talk about how it applies to us in real life. My first one was pretty awesome. I had never been to a meeting before so it was really neat hearing their stories because I could relate to everything.
My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark
That initial Sunday (I got there late Saturday afternoon), we actually went to the beach, which I thought was an awesome activity for my first official day.
I remember posting up with a beach towel, some CVS sunscreen (because I’m allergic to all other kinds —yeah I know that sounds odd) and just hanging out with everyone. I felt comfortable with the others faster than I thought —things were actually looking up. I remember people watching on the beach. It was refreshingly normal.
I remember accompanying Molly (my new BFF) to the bathroom. We end up getting lost somewhere but in a good way. We end up talking, laughing and I may have even cried (hopefully from laughing too hard, who knows though). I hadn’t had an actual girlfriend in years. I couldn’t believe how much she understood me. I had pushed all of my old friends out of my life. I thought it was better that way since I was pretty toxic. But this was different.
We had gone through such similar experiences so we had a lot to talk about. We all did.
And then, 28 days later, I was out.
I plan on writing a few more articles covering rehab specific moments and noteworthy events but I wanted to first set the scene up so you could get a general idea of what treatment intimately looked like. Then I’ll dig a little deeper and detail what exactly happened during those 28 days.
Sophomore Slump Or Comeback Of The Year
I will say that when my last day-ish finally arrived, I honestly couldn’t believe it. We were having a girl’s only therapy session. I knew I was graduating the program in two short days and I had to show my doctors just how changed I was. One of my main problems was secrecy. They say secrets keep you sick and boy is that true. If you hold them in, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
By bringing them into the light, you may be able to let go of whatever it is you think has to stay in the dark.
I remember the girls all being in an intimate circle. The doctor leading the session was very impressed with how close we all were because it showed. When it was my turn to speak, I knew what I had to do. It was rather ironic because the topic of that day’s discussion happened to be about secrets. It was as if she was speaking directly to me.
A few of the ladies knew mine. We bonded previously and to my surprise, they had experienced the exact same thing, which was comforting in a strange way. In short, I wasn’t alone. But talking about everything in front of everyone —I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think it mattered but it did. It still does.
I think my greatest fear was being judged —that no one would look at me the same way, so I kept my mouth shut.
As soon as the doctor calls on me to speak next, I dive right in. Slowly, I start describing just how bad my rock bottom actually was but with caution. Then, I open the fuck up. I had talked about most of everything in group sessions but I could never find the right words to string together about this particular thing, let alone say them out loud. But there I was.
If you knew my story.
Every wound behind each scar,
Would I still have you?
If you knew who I used to be,
Would you still love the girl I have become?
If only you saw what I saw.
The scenes that cut before my eyes—
Would you still see me as you?
You look into my eyes.
I stare back.
I wonder what you see?
Or, a beautiful disaster?
They say the truth will set you free
But will it just be another excuse to let me go?
As I finish sharing, I look up. Everyone was crying. They had no idea (at least the ones I never told) about any of this. I was so fearful that they would either reject me or tell everyone how awful I was. But they didn’t do any of that. In fact, the opposite happened.
Hell, it inspired others to speak out about the very same issue. It was a breakthrough moment for us all.
I finish and pat my eyes with a nearby tissue. I was crying too. The doctor stands up and walks toward me. She embraces me with a hug and proceeds to recount that I even surprised her with my utter honesty. She was moved. Everyone was. I oddly felt better.
I had shared my truth and still had friends. I didn’t feel judged. I actually felt a weight off my shoulders —a physical weight. It was rather empowering. I think it was this session that my therapist and the others urged one another that I was, in fact, ready.
Before I go, I will say that most insurances only cover 28 days and since mine was up, it was time to go. My family could have gone out of pocket for me to stay another 15 days but that didn’t happen. Back then, like I said, everyone thought I was ready. Hell, I too felt slightly ready. Even Molly, my twin, had just graduated and was already set up in the halfway house that I would later join.
But back then, during those 28 days, I was tested and eventually, left well-rested.
It was hard. It wasn’t pretty but it was exactly what I needed. Except, I’d later learn that part of me was really only saying what I thought everyone wanted to hear. I did mean it but at the same time, I didn’t. You’ll also learn that relapse is apart of recovery and I was about to discover that first hand. I think it got worse again before it got better. But eventually, it did.
The dust always settles one way or another.
That’s the thing about life —eventually, somehow, someway, things will work out in the end. It may not be the version you had in your head. It may not be picture perfect either but that’s life. It’s all we got. So we have to make it count. When it’s all said and done, you have to want it bad enough.
Because sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking of what we want to become. And other times, we motivate ourselves by thinking about who we don’t ever want to be again. Ultimately, because of that, I found myself and a new home. It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same.
You realize what’s changed, is you.