The uphill climb from the bottom
There I was, walking away from my family and towards the detox ward of the hospital. Overwhelming fear, coupled with a hangover and sense of humiliation, weighing on my thoughts and my body. So many questions running through my head: What is this going to be like? What are they going to do to me? How can I get out of this? Where would I go? What have I gotten myself into? I was walking into the complete unknown, and I was afraid.
I remember very clearly the first thing that took place. I was greeted by the doctor who ran the detox. His name was Dr. D’ Amico. He explained that I would be wearing the typical hospital gown; you know the one that is open in the back and ties around your waste. He gave his reason for this: “You are sick. You are suffering from a disease; therefore, you will be treated as any other person who is sick.” This was my first real introduction to addiction as a disease.
After changing into the hospital gown, the nurse took all of my possessions, shoes and socks, clothing, and cigarettes. There was no smoking in the hospital detox. I was led to my room, basically an open area where there were two beds sectioned off from the rest of the hospital by only a curtain. The curtain remained open all the time.
I was tired and worn down. Looking back, I felt relief to be out of the cycle of addiction and the pace of the life I had created. A nurse came to my bed, bringing medication. And I was told that because alcohol was one of the drugs I was withdrawing from, I had to take anti-seizure medicine. Alcohol withdrawal is the most dangerous drug to withdraw from.
My second day in detox was more challenging. I was already feeling much better after a good night’s sleep and nutritious meals. Feeling better sounds like a good thing, but for a person who is addicted, feeling good and healthy typically means that it is okay to start using again. And that is exactly what I was thinking: “I don’t need this. I can do it myself.” I don’t remember saying that, but I would not be surprised if I did, as I know I was thinking it!
My addictive behavior did not end in the detox. After the second day, when the nurse would deliver the anti-seizure medicine, I would store it under my tongue until she left the room. I would quickly remove it and hide it under my pillow for future use. I was saving it up so I could take more than one and hopefully get high. Looking back on this behavior reminds me that I was not just a “normal” kid who liked to party a little too much.
It was pre-arranged that I would go directly from detox to a 28-day inpatient treatment facility. This is a very common procedure, because by the seventh day of detox, I was feeling on top of the world physically and mentally. I was very resistant to going to a rehabilitation center. (Most of the people who do not go directly to rehab relapse and begin using again shortly after their release from the hospital.) After a brief intervention with my parents and the doctor, I agreed to proceed as planned.
It is my hope that in the telling of my personal story here someone reading this will have a greater understanding of how to navigate early recovery either for them or for a loved one. Alcoholics and drug addicts will convince themselves and everyone else that they just need to break the cycle of using and they will be fine. I am here to tell you it just isn’t so. Abstinence is not recovery! And except for extremely rare cases, abstinence does not maintain. For those who do simply abstain from using their drugs of choice without employing some form of self-improvement program, long-term recovery is much less likely to happen. It is the addictive behavior that must be addressed. The drugs are simply the symptom of a far greater issue. I was not plotting my next binge when I was saving up the medication for “one last high”; I was exhibiting the behavior of an addict.
Addictive personalities do not simply go away with time. It is debatable whether or not they ever go away. From my personal experience in recovery, irrational thinking, obsessions, desire for instant gratification do not disappear from the recovering addict’s life. What does go away is the obsession to use drugs and alcohol. It does dissolve immediately. For some, it can take years. But the transformation does take place.
The motto of the recovery community is “One day at a time.” Indeed, this is the basis for most programs that deal with addictions. And what a wonderful way to live life it is. When we seek to keep things simple and we stop projecting our thoughts into the future or wishing the past was different, we remember that all we have is the breath we are taking this very moment of now. We have the power to change who we are right now, but not by fretting over the past or fearing what may come next. When we live one moment at a time in the awareness that the past is the past and the future is unwritten, we find our peace. This is recovery.
(Kevin McCormack C.A.d Is a certified addictions professional, as well as a Conversations with God Life Coach. Kevin is a practicing Auriculotherapist, and a Spiritual helper on www.changingchange.net. Kevin will be presenting at the CwG Recovery Retreat in Medford Oregon June 23rd – June 26th. You can visit his website at www.Kevin-Spiritualmentor.com To connect with Kevin, please email him at Kevin@theglobalconversation.com)