Rehap (Part 1)

What can I tell you about rehab…?  I was voluntarily placed into a quasi-medical facility and slept in an all-female dorm.  It wasn’t one of those celebrity California rehabs you see ads for that offer horse therapy and yoga classes (I’d love to see any addict desperate enough for institutionalization who’d be interested in yoga), but it wasn’t Gospel Mission/Salvation Army austere, either.  It reminded me of an extremely clean college dorm that doubled a jail and a sanitarium.

You can trust me that it was clean, because when I wasn’t in six hours of group or individual therapy per day, I was cleaning the facilities myself with bleach-based products, hospital disinfectant, and a shit-ton of Lysol.  Everything in rehab smelled like artificial pine trees.  Apparently, like most rehabs, this one was big on discipline, so we all had chores daily chores.  Being new and relatively young, I got the “worst” ones: cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping the hardwood, and washing bed linens.

I did just fine with the chores, even though I didn’t enjoy doing them (especially starting at 5:30 AM). I was already doing them at home, unless I can afford to hire a professional cleaner for the week, and rehab was my “home” now, and SOMEBODY’S got to do it, so what is the problem…?  I also grew up in homes with control-freak parents, and my mother and downright obsessive about housekeeping.  The jobs I held in younger years, cleaning restaurants and the bathrooms.  Cleaning up in the dungeons multiple times daily, too…

Most of my roommates also executed their chores well and with a minimum of snark…but about a third of them found having to make their beds along with everyone else and take out the trash and dust the furniture to be some sort of personal insult, especially since they were “paying for it (rehab)” and “not children anymore.”

I bring this up not because I’m bragging about completing simple household chores.  I bring it up because it was one of the most prevalent personality traits I observed about the other patients in rehab: a resentment about being told to do anything and a neurotic worry that cooperation with rules was humiliating or some sort of threat to the image of themselves that they’d built up in their heads.

Another thing I noticed was the ability (or, worse, willingness) to sit still and concentrate.  We spent most of the day planted in desks in group therapy sessions and classes about addiction.  I’m not a professional educator anymore, except for freelance tutoring, but jeez, I couldn’t help but look at it through my teacher’s eye: so many of them (at least half of them were younger than me) couldn’t physically control themselves.   I don’t think they were being intentionally disrespectful…they just couldn’t stop crosstalking or fidgeting.

Many of the patients there were caught up in the court system: DUIs, were attending because they were in custody battles for their children, or were there to be in compliance for some legal evaluation to maintain their employment or parole/probation requirements.  What I would like to say is that I don’t think most of them would have committed their dumbass (mostly) petty crimes–theft, possession, public intoxication–if they hadn’t been under the influence of their drug of choice.

I was the only one who was not a parent.  I thought about this a lot.

The quality of the therapy was variable. I honestly don’t think that one shrink knew what he was doing, which scared me.  Another seemed to know what he was talking about and was trying to do his job.  The others were in between.  I cautiously ascribe this to professional burnout, which every staff member in the building seemed to be experiencing, to some extent or another…from the cafeteria cook to the techs who constantly took our blood pressure and urine samples.

After a week, a new psychiatrist talked to me for a few hours, and he asked me how I felt about psychotropic medication for anxiety or depression.

“Well, I’m not enthusiastic, but I’m not anti-drug at all.  I was on Paxil for a year and a half ten years ago, and I don’t think it did anything for me, one way or another.  The withdrawals when I quit it were awful for a month.  I had vertigo and brain zaps. But, I’d be open to trying something again, if you think it can help me.  If it doesn’t work, I could always just stop taking it after a decent trial run or two or three months, so no harm done.  Please don’t give me anything that will make me a sleepy fatass.  I don’t want any sexual side-effects either, though I’d be willing to put up with them for a little while until my body adjusted.  The Paxil made me inorgasmic for a month, and then I adjusted and everything worked again.”

I talked to the Collector on the phone immediately after I was taken off the several-day “blackout” period, and told him that I was doing well and going back on Naltrexone and trying out a psychotropic SSRI.

He demanded to talk with the physician who prescribed it.

“I don’t think he will, Collector.  I am pretty sure that’s illegal,” I said.

“You can listen in on speakerphone or I can come down there.  You’ll have some legal paperwork.  I can look at it.  I need to know what is going on!”

Other calls were made.  It was like the Inquisition in there.

I’m giving Citalopram a three-month shot.  Thus far, I feel nothing that I can discern.  If that doesn’t help, they recommend Wellbutrin.  If that doesn’t work, well, who knows.

More about Rehab–and the Holidays–later today or tomorrow, I hope


3 thoughts on “Rehap (Part 1)”

  1. This sounds like so many other rehab stories I have heard over the years. I hate to sound cynical but it is almost as if they are providing custodial care but need to fill up the time with activities that seem therapeutic. Maybe the real benefit is being away from the environment associated with the addiction in a place where you cannot get your substance of choice.

    I will never understand the military-style insistence on menial tasks and discipline in these places. Don’t they know that the military deliberately infantilizes recruits to better indoctrinate them with values directly contrary to those in which they have been raised? Oh wait . . . they are brainwashing you the same way they do in the military. Never mind.

    I knew one guy who swore by his 9 month rehab experience. He regaled us with stories of how out of it he was and the triumph of finally having the mental capacity to mop a floor.

    About the people there being fidgety, involved in the legal system, and whatnot, remember them and think to yourself that you do not belong with those people. You don’t. You never want to go back there. Only alcohol reduces you to that state.

    Stay sober, my friend. I truly believe that if you do not drink and go to meetings every else will fall into place. Life will not be easy, but you will get by. I started getting drunk when I was 13. When I was 25, I was sitting alone and drinking a quart of vodka every night. I shook so badly every day I could not hold a cup of coffee when I went to my 8AM classes in grad school. My last drink was in November, 1983.

    I have loved and lost, made careers and thrown them away, hated my parents and reconciled with them, buried a brother and a mother, and had more adventures than I can recount. Everything is possible if you are honest with yourself about what alcohol does to you. You cannot drink. Accept that and move on. The urge to drink will pass with time.

    I did the steps between 6 and 12 months of sobriety. I did not use the steps as instruments of self-torture. I did them quickly the way they were outlined in the Big Book. They are not a test or a way of life. They are a way to undo the effects of addiction on our personalities, crude but effective. I did them and forgot them. My desire to drink lessened around 12 months, was sporadic after 18 months, and was gone completely after 5 years. I was wretched that first year. Every week, I cried alone at least once and publicly at meetings at least twice. But I stayed sober, and so can you.

    Persevere. Stay strong.
    John

  2. Be kind to yourself, Miss Margo. We all have our demons to fight. Hang on in there. It may take a while, but things can only get better. Why? For one, because that’s what you want.

    Your blog has far more than 8 readers. Even I have 11. So give yourself a little boost – and some credit – and revive that number upwards in future posts.

    As for us strangers reading your blog: it doesn’t hurt (even if you want it to) to leave a comment. Come on, show some support. All it takes is one minute. After that you can return to the poison of your choice: SnapChat, Facebook or Twitter. Right now, you’re here for a reason. Most likely – you, my dear reader – are saddened by this unexpected turn of events. Tell Miss Margo she is far from alone!

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