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What is rehab like?

This might sound funny to most but, I liken the day I went to rehab to Christmas morning.

I was broken, physically, mentally, and emotionally broken. I couldn’t do it any more: balancing work, family; in a nutshell: daily life.

Going to rehab was the first glimmer of hope in my bleak existence.

I was in and out of the hospital for drug-related reasons. My father had off-handedly mentioned that I should attend a “program.” I didn’t speak to him for about 5 months after that. But he had succeeded in planting a seed. That there was something for people like me: rehab.

I spent so much time on the back porch, nodding in and out of consciousness. During moments of clarity, I had thoughts like: how long I am comfortable being miserable? What will be my breaking point? And finally it came to one decisive moment: kill myself or go to treatment. I chose treatment.

I called a place that accepted my insurance. I chose the day I would go. I packed comfortable clothes. I showed up. I told them to take me, all of me, tell me what I need to do to never feel that way again. I had surrendered.

The first week was detox. Being opiate-dependent, I was given something to help me taper off my drug of choice. I was still experiencing withdrawals but nowhere near what I would have if I had gone cold turkey (and this I know from experience, having kicked methadone cold turkey several years prior). I was mostly experiencing a little achiness, night sweats, and some nausea. After the first week, I felt much better. I was now in the rehab portion of treatment.

Rehab involved group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and educational classes. By that, I mean I got to learn about the many aspects of addiction – physical, physiological, social, and so on. I also got to learn tools for attaining and maintaining sobriety. In rehab, I was exposed to the 12 Steps and fellowship meetings for the first time both within the facility as well as by going to outside meetings.

Rehab was comforting because it was the first time I was in the company of others like me: alcoholics and addicts. Before rehab, I had many friends, some very close but, I always felt somehow different from them. I used to think that I was from another planet and I was part of some kind of experiment; that I was sent to Earth to take notes and collect samples. I used to go outside at night and look up at the stars, wondering when the Mother Ship was coming back for me. Because I was over it. I had come to the conclusion that I sucked at life (on Earth) and that the only explanation was that I must be from another planet.

When I got to rehab, I heard the others share about similar thoughts and feelings. About an emptiness, or “void,” they had inside. I was well aware of this void. In fact, I had figured out quite some time ago what it was that was missing: inner peace. I began to realize that I turned to drugs as a way to fill that emptiness.

Being in rehab was exactly what I needed to turn my life around. I was in a safe place, tucked away from people, places, and things. See, I had not gone away for treatment like many people do. I got clean in the very spot that I used to get high.

So what is rehab like? It’s like getting away from the pressures of a daily life that is being held together with Elmer’s glue –fragile and doomed. Eventually it will collapse. I was not willing to let it get to that point; I was willing to try something different.

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