I remember the absurdity I felt as I considered quitting drinking at eighteen. I can’t stop drinking! I’m not even legal drinking age yet. I’m in my Glory Days. I’ll wait ‘till I’m nineteen, or a little later. Maybe I won’t have to if I do enough counselling, I thought. 6 months after my nineteenth birthday, I couldn’t do it anymore. I may have been lost and confused, but six years ago, I was right about one thing…I was in my days of glory. I just had a different perception of what that meant. I had no idea the happiness and beauty of life I was about to be propelled into feeling.
I had decided I was not living the life I wanted to live. I was depressed, anxious, filled with fear and low self-esteem. I drank and smoked a lot to cover up all the feelings I didn’t fully understand, or know how to process. I was the pretty, happy, and popular girl on the outside, but on the inside, I just wanted to disappear. I often cried myself to sleep at night listening to Sias’ original tracks, Coldplay, or Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was desperate and looking for an escape. With a history of addiction in my family, whenever I saw someone “get better” they went to rehab to do that. I wanted the same – to feel better. So off to rehab I went.
I was optimistic about going. This was my decision. I wanted more from life. My mom, well connected in the recovery industry, sought out the best treatment and care. So off I went to the beautiful Salt Lake City. My mom accompanied me. We had a day filled of shopping, and good lunch, and then the time came… reality hit: I’m going to Rehab. I said to my mom, “We don’t need to go. Let’s just make this a girls weekend, and I’ll do more therapy when I get home.” Obviously, that didn’t fly, and my mom drove me forty-five minutes out of the city to farmland. That is where I was going. I cried the whole way there; anxious and fearful. She walked me inside the house where there were about fifteen or twenty other residents. She left me there crying. Now on the other end, I can imagine how hard that must’ve been for her. I’m sure she would’ve wanted to take me home, but she knew what was best for me. My mom knew what I needed. I needed my life.
I arrived around dinner time, where everyone eats around a large table like one big family. As the new girl, everyone is friendly, but also very inquisitive. They want to know all the bad things you’ve done. Before introducing themselves many would say, “What’s your drug of choice?” I responded, “weed…and alcohol I guess, but mainly weed.” I felt like I was a joke at first. Like Dave Chappelles, movie Half Baked, when the guy walks into a 12-step meeting for weed. A junkie responds, “You’re in here for WEED?! You ever sucked dick for weed?!” Here I am sitting in a house of heroine, coke, and pill popping addicts. This isn’t where I belong…or was it? I soon learned that it doesn’t matter what drugs you use, or even if you use at all. It’s the underlying emotions that cause us to act out. It is the emotions and behaviours that are getting treated.
I’ve realized that there’s a common misconception about rehab: people tend to think you go to rehab to learn how to be sober. That is very far from the truth. To be frank with you, I did have sobriety time, but I am not “sober” now. I drink occasionally but I do not drink for the same reasons I used to. I can hear the screams of disapproval and misunderstanding already. I accept that my way of doing things can be very confusing and quite preposterous to some. The general consensus is….you went to rehab, you’re an addict, you shouldn’t be drinking. And while this may be true for some, I found my story to be different.
That’s the point, recovery is different for everyone. It is not a one size fits all, and while sobriety is a component of it, it is not the end goal. The end goal is to become a more confident, happier, successful, and self-aware; a better version of yourself!
I remember when my thirty days was up, I had to evaluate whether I wanted to go home, or stay another thrity to complete the inner work that I had already started on myself. I was willing to stay sixty, but I was also terrified. My Grandmother was diagnosed with cancer prior to my departure and I was fearful that if I stay, I may never see her again. I remember discussing my options with the program director and he asked me, “Have you ever thought, that right now, in this exact moment in time, everything is as it should be?” There was a sudden sense of relief. I knew that from this point forward I don’t have to try to control everything. It is safe for me to stay another thrity days, and I can trust that the universe has my back. Whatever happens, happens, and it’s meant to be that way for a greater purpose that I may not understand at this moment in time. It is that understanding that lead me to write this blog. All my pain has led me to a greater purpose, which at the time, I could not foresee.
You see, when I was going into treatment, I didn’t understand the person I was going to become. The power that would be available to me. The happiness I would know, or the confidence that I would gain. People often say that their wedding day is the best day of their lives. And though I love my husband of three months, very much (to the deepest crevices of my heart and soul), my best day was the day I learned what it felt to be genuinely happy; the day I felt that it’s okay to be me, and I’m actually quite a cool girl! The day I learnt what it felt like to be free. Not free from addiction, but free from dis-ease; the underlying condition that drives us to use destructively in the first place.
Yesterday I boarded a flight from YYZ-SLC during a somewhat bittersweet time for me. I had the privilege of escorting a family friend of mine, my big sister to the same treatment centre that I had gone to, but I knew traveling home this time would not be as pleasurable. For one, I wasn’t going to have any time to see the people, places and things I love the most. My flight back was the very next morning. Secondly, my very best friend, could have had time to see me, but she has found herself in a lot of trouble with drugs, gangs and child custody, that she won’t even respond to my messages. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of addiction- not everybody gets an upgraded life. She has so much shame and guilt that she is unable to show her face in her current state. It’s hard for me to be in the same city as my best friend, knowing that I may never see her again. She is worse than she had ever been, and I honestly don’t think she will make it out alive.
Prior to my sister deciding to go, she asked me what my experience was, and if I felt it was worth it. I explained to her that it was by far the best thing I have ever done for myself. I enjoyed myself so much, that I want to go back! It’s like sleepover camp for adults. Yes, there are definitely some emotionally trying times, but if you go in with an open and willing heart, to be honest and really dig deep, to learn about your inner workings, and why you are the way you are, you are guaranteed to come out a different person, and for the better. I think rehab is something that everyone should have the opportunity to take the time to do. It’s not just for the strung-out heroin, addict. It can be for anyone who wants to upgrade their life and get to know how they work deep down.
Today, I feel extremely grateful to be put in a position where my painful past, can be of benefit to others. I was grateful in the first place, as my experience had changed my life. Actually, it allowed me to correct myself: it created my life! Prior to treatment I had no life. My self-esteem was so low, I genuinely thought that nobody would ever want to marry me. I have always been small and blessed with a good body. I felt guys were only interested in me for the way I look, rather than who I was. I longed for the feeling of knowing what true love was. Five years later, I’m married. I did not see that one coming! And though marriage isn’t the trophy of life, it is a testament to how drastic my thought process changed once I allowed myself to heal, grow and learn. I walked in to that house, and I made a conscious decision to claim my life. That things would be different from here on out, and they were!
So perhaps this was a long-winded blog, but it is a topic that is close to my heart. If you feel any sense of dis-ease; a lack of ease in your life, like something is missing, I encourage you to go and find out what that is. You’ll probably learn it’s something you can fill from within. And remember you don’t have to be so far gone in order to ask for help. Like myself, you don’t have to be a full-blown drug addict or alcoholic.
There are often four aggravations that cause us to act out in the first place: negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination, and resentment. These are thought addictions – I am a full blown thought addict, and I bet there are many out there who can relate to this. Recovery taught me how to take a step back, and realize when I am in an addictive thinking state. It taught me how to love myself, and love others even more. It taught me to trust the Universe, and go full force in the direction of my dreams and desires. It gave me life, for I was truly not living until I had learned what I did by checking myself into treatment for sixty days. Now it’s your turn. Do you choose to upgrade, or stay right where you are? The choice is yours. However, I encourage you to be brave and see what you can become.