Sitting in the dark basement of the rehab facility I have just checked myself into, quarantined only for the second sickest human beings on the planet next to those sick and dying of cancer and disease, I realize I too, am surrounded by sickness, disease and death. We have gathered in this building from the will of our own or the strong arm of the law to fight for our lives. We are all suffering from the same disease. We are addicts.
The decision to check myself into rehab was a decision I wrestled with for months. I knew damn well I wasn’t going to breakaway from the pull of opiates without professional help. I figured if I kept it under control enough I could just live with it forever. Funny thing about addicts and control…ha.
After weighing all my options I spent the better part of a week and a half trying to convince myself it would be ok to go to residential treatment. I worried my newfound friends would judge me, alienate me or even worse, walk on egg shells around me for the rest of eternity. But that tiny little voice that I had shoved so far down my throat (or up my ass I’m not sure where it had disappeared to at this point) was suddenly screaming like a siren. YOU NEED HELP. I made the call.
The intake process was rough but thorough. The last thing you want to do while you’re going through withdrawal is answer a million questions about that one time you smoked crack in college or the severity of your hemorrhoids. Once every inch and pocket was searched I was able to lay down, take a shower, or do as I pleased. We had a tv on a cart full of dvds and vhs tapes to distract us from our writhing minds and bowels. The opiate addicts started a 5 day subutex taper with support meds and everyone else just got support meds (anti-diarrheal, anti-seizure, anxiety etc.) It was time to do the damn thing.
I expected the lot opiate addicts, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of alcoholics. Did that many people really have a drinking problem? Turns out, yes. There was the mother of 3 on a low carb diet who started her morning with a few beers and ended her day with a few pints of vodka. There were the hard working men who soothed their pain with a case of beer every night. And there was the old man who used a walker to walk who really wasn’t that old but had so much brain damage he could no longer finish a train of thought. Sound familiar?
The alcoholics mixed with the crack heads who mingled with the heroin junkies who chatted with the meth addicts. We were all the same in rehab. It didn’t matter how much money we had on the outside, what kind of car we drove or what church we went to; we all lived in our pajamas for 2 weeks straight, took turns with our head in the toilet, and burst into tears or fits of rage involuntarily.
After detox we graduated to residential, which happened to be one short elevator ride to the top floor. We weren’t allowed to use the stairs because the employees of the other businesses in the building felt uncomfortable in a staircase with the clients. Yes, some of us look like death warmed up, but this seemed to add insult to our injury. We already had to be buzzed in and out of our floors by staff with key tags as if we were in an alzheimers or mental health unit. Ahh if only I could have put down that last natty lite.
My short time in rehab was spent in group therapy learning about coping skills, resources and support. We shared our stories over cold coffee we had hid in our rooms after breakfast and fought over whether we would watch teen mom or law and order on the tv in the living room. We laughed about the insanity of picking apart the carpet looking for crumbs to smoke and cried about all of the friends we’ve lost to this relentless disease. We dissected our own personal relationships. We pondered if life was worth living. We got the resources we needed to kick off our recovery or got the hell up out of there as soon as legally possible. But just like I had picked through piles of vhs tapes all the way to the back to dust off my mother’s favorite movie, the one I was born in the middle of, I shed a tear realizing that I too had to pick through my own piles of bullshit, dust myself off again and realize that even if sober, my life, it’s a wonderful life.