Simply hearing the word “rehabilitation” can trigger a negative response for someone. In fact so much so, that it dooms many from seeking out it's benefits. People don't want to be thought of as broken to the point of needing help. People don't want to admit they have a problem– any problem, from drinking, drugs, depression, etc. When the desire to stop using your drug of choice isn’t 100% there, we may finally seek rehabilitation therapy, but only out of sheer desperation. A last grasp to hold onto reality. And of course, without the will to quit, we have to eventually repeat the process. I think maybe the first time around we’re not strong enough internally to grasp all that rehabilitation has to offer, and we’re quick to reject what we've learned about the influences our drug of choice has on our own behavior. It takes strength and willpower to really, truly reflect on what we’re learning. Until we realize that, we end up repeating the process– kind of like that movie, Groundhog Day.
For me it was a three-step (more like three-time) process of trial, error (a lot of error to be honest with you!), repetition, patience of others, a ton of humility, and finally acceptance. Now I want to tell you a not-so-short story... the reasons behind every 'event,’ leading to each rehab (and subsequent rehab) for me are as follows:
Six months. That's all it took... six fucking months! I'd just left my wife (and two children) only 6 months prior, and already I was a disgusting mess. I'd lost 30 pounds and looked like a skeleton (I remember thinking how great I looked!)... holy crap was I delusional. Along came a family intervention, and reluctantly, I ended up in rehab for the first time. I remember during that first visit (Tully Hill, Fall of '99, to be exact), that after only 10 days inside, my main councilor called me out during a group meeting. He told everyone in attendance “how full of shit I was,” that “I was only there to detox,” and that “I'd be using within a week of release.” Most importantly, he said that “I wasn't fooling anyone.” Of course, he'd seen my song and dance too many times before. I thought “Really? Seriously?!” I mean, he didn't know me. He didn't know what I'd been through (more like put myself through). I remember thinking, how could he be so smug? So intuitive? How could he be so right?! Only he was wrong on one thing: It wasn't a week I stayed clean, it was less than 48 hours. I certainly had shown him!
Now I’d gotten into trouble. My rental property had become a haven for users, prostitutes, what have you. It was like I was begging to get busted, and of course, I did! And in spectacular fashion, when several law enforcement officers busted down my back bedroom door. Neighbors were suspicious when a young lady was caught trying to turn tricks in front of my property. Someone had left my front door ajar, giving the cops, in their minds I guess, ample reason to investigate. My life had completely come crashing down in an instant. At this point for me, it was no longer a question that I had a problem. It was serious, and if I didn't get help it wasn't going away. Luckily I got off easy– I had to go back to rehab (Behavioral Healthcare, Summer '00) and I was sentenced to probation. I'd now learned that I could exceed what I thought was my “rock bottom.” That is, I could not help myself from crossing moral and ethical boundaries in the pursuit of getting fucked up. Eventually, I realized the only true rock bottom WAS achievable if I persisted. And that rock bottom, my friends, is 6 feet under with no chance of ever pulling your shit together. This time around, at least I’d learned a couple things... the truth is, what I’d learned wasn’t enough.
My third (and final) time around, I found myself in drug court. Although I wasn't currently using my drug of choice, I was using, by the letter of the law, by substituting alcohol for it. I thought to myself, okay... third time will be the charm! I knew I had a problem, so I did a lot of reflection, and the true realization came that if I didn’t commit to making a change, things wouldn’t change. By now, Spring '02, I'm feeling good about myself. I was off drugs and alcohol for 9 months, when out of the Rabbit Hole appeared my ex (fresh off 15 months in county jail for previous DWl's). While it wasn't a classic “rehab romance” (dude, those things are real... and generally not good), it was the classic situation of deciding what to do (or not do) when a rehabber returns to a toxic home environment. And it bit me, bad. But I had made a promise to myself to improve my life, and I had gained enough strength and willpower to make the right choice. The good news is I went to my final “correctional assignment” in good spirits, and more importantly with a different mindset. I had committed to slaying my personal dragon (drugs) because I actually WANTED to, and now needed only to shed the (cliché coming!) people, places and things that could possibly lead or tempt me back to a life of using. Avoiding them at all costs, and reminding myself that I had a problem I was dedicated to fixing, I steered clear from another relapse.
Now, I’m 18 years clean, and holy shit! I remember first returning to work... and how it felt like all eyes were on you! How about those first Thanksgivings or Christmases with family– it was like walking on eggshells wasn't it!? Once your mind and heart are clear, the world is a totally different, better, more vibrant place. Just looking at your spouse now, your significant other, your parents, your friends; all those people who supported you and helped you through it; the feeling is just indescribable! To see the look in your kids' eyes, is almost like the first time you saw them! You appreciate even the mundane. You seem to notice things that previously were right in front of you as if you'd never seen or experienced them before. You're clean! You're happy! You're alive!
The bottom line is this: you can go to rehab 1000 times with the same mindset. Until you adjust your way of thinking, come to terms with your powerlessness, and develop a willingness to make a change, it’s not going to work. But it’s not impossible– recovery does happen! You can do it! I did it! It can be done, and it has been done by people much weaker and more damaged than you. I don’t care if you twelve-step your way through it, or hide out in someone’s basement for six months until you get your shit together. Enter a facility to treat what ails you (once, twice, three times if necessary). Go to meetings if that’s what works for you. Hang out with supportive family or friends. Go to church if you believe. Maybe eventually, visit a sandy beach to watch a sunset, meditate, and celebrate the change you’ve made. But don’t forget what you learned, and remember that time doesn’t heal you... YOU, your choices every single day, and your persistence are what does!