Choosing to recover from addiction is one of the biggest, most difficult, but best decisions you can ever make for yourself. After being on the receiving end of so much pain from your substance of choice, you know when you’ve reached your limit—when it’s time to heal and take the necessary steps to change. However, arriving at the truth does not make the process of recovery any easier. I should know—I drove myself to a rehab center 10 years ago when I finally reached my “done” point.
I had no idea what the next 30 days would look for me. Looking back, it was a process of getting to know myself. An intense look beneath the cloudy mind and the layers of protection I had cloaked so tightly around me. I began treatment feeling ashamed and unimportant in the world, but as the days passed I came to realize nothing mattered more than my happiness and well-being. When I left rehab, I knew my life had purpose and that I would make a difference in the lives around me.
On my first day in treatment for opiates, I was introduced to some of the nicest people I have ever met. The staff was amazing. I entered treatment feeling like a criminal, a junkie, a poor excuse for a wife and a mother and I was certain that was what they saw when they looked at me. But, they were supportive and strong and over time I came to see that they believed in my ability to overcome this addiction. It was their continued belief in me that gave me the courage to keep fighting. They believed in me until I could believe in myself.
The first week of treatment was uncomfortable. The world was cloudy, my body was weak, and even the slightest noise made me jump. I felt like I had been in a bubble that had suddenly burst open and all this noise and commotion surrounded me. I felt confused and thought maybe something was wrong with me because when I was using I felt mentally sharp and clear. This first week consisted of meds to ease withdrawal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, nighttime snack, and bed. When I wasn’t eating a meal, I was sleeping.
Week 2 came and it was time to meet the people. I was introduced to my roommates, counselors, therapists, and psychologists. As before, everyone was friendly and made me feel at home. However, that second week also brought out a whirlwind of emotions. I was happy, sad, angry, depressed, lonely and confused. I didn’t know what to do with these emotions. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt anything.
But not to worry, the team had a plan for that. After all, out-of-control emotions are expected this early on in recovery. Past trauma stabs you in the back again and anything you have never dealt with stands in line to take a turn at knocking you upside the head. Specific group therapy courses are designed to help conquer the fear and manage the pain. At the facility, I was taught how to bring it out and let it go. I found great satisfaction in doing so and it actually worked.
Another important part of week 2 was developing and practicing a daily schedule. I had a few years of drug abuse under my belt which left my body tired and unhealthy. Developing a regular schedule of eating, working, exercise and meditation made me stronger day by day. My skin regained its color, my eyes were brighter, my body was stronger and my mind was clearer.
Aside from the physical benefits, having a plan helped me focus on the moment. It provided mental and emotional stability. Before when I was using, I was used to thinking ahead. I always had to be planning how to get my next dose and when I got it, I was already trying to figure out how to get more. It was insanity. As the days went on, my routine became my safety net. It brought me peace of mind and I learned to enjoy the present moment.
By the end of week 3, I had been attending group sessions, doing homework, and participating in activities every day with newfound friends. Now, it was time to meet with a psychiatrist to evaluate my treatment plan. This meeting changed my life. At first I was hesitant to see a psych doctor. I was afraid there would be something wrong with me that was un-fixable. Turned out, there was something wrong, but there was also a fix for it. I was diagnosed with severe depression and agreed to try the medication he prescribed.
The last week in treatment was focused on relapse prevention and family time. Families were invited to attend family therapy sessions. The goal was to inform them of what we had learned in the program and how we planned to move forward as a whole.
The families had the opportunity to talk about what the addiction had done to them, how it made them feel and how it affected their lives. It was incredibly difficult to listen to, but there was no healing without it. It was a time for reconnecting, apologizing and tough love. It was made crystal clear to me how my family would support me, what behaviors they would accept, and how they would handle it if I decided against a life of sobriety. Ultimately, the choice was up to me.
On day 30 it was time to re-enter my life. I had to return to work, be a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister. I had to return to an environment that was exactly the same as I had left it, yet function differently within its walls. To say I wasn’t afraid would be a lie. But, I had just completed 30 days of learning how to manage this fear and the mantra “take it one minute, hour, day, at a time” repeated itself in my head. I felt that it was really going to be ok.
I will never forget the day I walked out of the treatment center. It was a warm fall day and the air smelled like leaves fallen fresh from a tree. The sun was shining and the sky was bluer than I had ever seen before. My family was waiting for me outside the entrance building in the courtyard. For a brief moment I was scared that they would reject me and the feeling of being unworthy sneaked back into my mind. I had felt that way for so long in my life that it was almost a habit.
But now, I had new habits to build. I remember looking at my husband, daughter and 8-year-old son at the time and seeing the hesitant smiles on their faces and eagerness in their eyes. They were genuinely happy to see me but I could tell that they were anxious. They wanted to know I was okay and that everything was going to be alright. Putting the pieces back together again would take work, I was sure of it, but I was firmly committed to putting in the effort.
It was a good day to the rest of my life. My new and sober life.