In the last moments of my time at a place in Kerhonkson, New York, my bags were packed and the paperwork concerning my treatment over the last 28 days was in hand. My room was empty but yet filled with the energy of memory and the recollection of late night conversations with the revolving roommates that completed their stay in treatment.
My bed was made, my drawers were cleaned, and in moments, I was about to complete my discharge and return home. At this time, the other clients or residents were elsewhere —perhaps they were in morning group or going through the daily routine or maybe they were outside, enjoying a summer morning in the fresh Upstate, mountain air.
I thought of all the goodbyes I heard and all the offers I received of life-long friendship and brotherhood. I thought about all I had gone through and what it was like to walk through the doors on my first day and yes, admittedly, I was afraid and excited to leave this place behind.
I was afraid to leave because I was returning home to the old triggers of influence. I was afraid because in truth, —rehab time is easy time. There’s no outside pressure here, just rules, groups, meetings, and one on one counseling sessions.
The friendships here are unlike any I have ever encountered before. The bonds and stories shared are what linked me to those I cared so deeply for. In all, I never felt alone or judged or hated (for the most part) or as if I needed to fight back or protect myself. However, and at the same time, I was excited to leave and not have to wake up and plan my day according to the daily clinical schedule of groups and intense counseling sessions.
It’s a strange thing though. The change which happens in places like this is miraculous. I went in with a list of reservations and expectations, which none turned out to be accurate. I went in with a much different thought process. I was beaten into submission by my own hand. I fulfilled my own self-destructive prophecy and in my heart, I never believed I could grasp the concepts of a better life nor did I believe that I was capable of improving or seeing life from a different perspective. I went in empty and came out fulfilled as I like to see it.
Previously, I was stuck in my thought process and stuck in a pattern of living, which I couldn’t seem to shake. I had no coping skills. My focus was clouded by the mistakes and assumptions of my perception.
Plus, I knew that if I were to submit myself to this process —this would expose my truths which I tried to hide from. This would mean that I would have to do work; and mind you, by work, I don’t mean the physical kind.
No, the work I did in places like this was frightening and deep. This would mean I had to face my fears. This meant I would have to be honest about who I was and why I behaved as I did. This would also mean that I would have to give up my old pathways of protection. And even though I knew my lifestyle could kill me; sometimes, I felt most alive when I was closets to my own death.
If I were to submit, this meant that I would have to be honest about my past . This meant that I could not cheat anymore. This meant that I would have to face the things I ran from but could never quite get away.
All of this is true and all of this contributed to a long list of why I did not want to clean up or go away and submit myself to a treatment facility. That, plus the rules, and plus the selfish sexual needs that I couldn’t get laid (not that I was doing so well with this in the first place) and because of the no fraternization rules between men and women, there was no way to soften the sting of true, hard, and painful facts. I knew that if I went in, I would have to deal with who I am and what I had done. And that’s what I was afraid of. Otherwise, rehab is easy . . . .
However, this was not my first time in treatment nor was this my first time at the facility in Kerhonkson. In my previous episodes of drug treatment, I lived in three separate facilities, visiting two of them twice.
Each one changed me in different ways. Each trip came with its own lesson. I met different people from different parts of the world that I would have never ordinarily met otherwise. I met some of the most beautiful people while in treatment; some of which that to this day, decades later, I would hug and embrace them as family.
In my case, I was unsure how to live. And again, my coping skills were poor. I lacked the emotional tools to use in daily life settings. I also lacked the willingness to use the tools needed to live without cheating or taking a short cut. I lacked vision. I lacked faith and belief in myself —and even when I said, I knew what to do and how to stay clean; deep down, I know I didn’t.
But this was my out. This is how I cheated. My denial had a way of speaking out for me. My inner emotional gears cried out with pleas of laziness because therapy is work. Make no mistake about this.
Therefore; the reasons I did not want to go through with treatment or a treatment plan is because, in all honesty, I did not want to completely let go of my quick fixes and the “Go to” methods I used for self-preservation. In simple words, I did not want to give up entirely, but only partially.
Unfortunately, partial change in this regard is something that often leads to relapse or failure. No, the truth is I knew the only way I would ever improve is if I honestly submitted myself to a process of wellness. I was overwhelmed, yes, but this is what impatient treatment helps us with. I was given a step by step program and the support to complete it.
Although the work was intimidating at times and the memories were painful; I submitted to the process. And I was not completely willing, —at least not at first. In the beginning I was resistant. But most people resist in the beginning. And I can’t say that the counselors are the ones that were able to break me. I think the most helpful were the people I met and shared the versions of my truth with. We talked until the late hours of the night. We told war stories and then when the pride and comparisons stopped —the truth came out.
In one of my tours, I met a man who I will name as Mathias. He was a big man, strong, and tough. Mathias had seen terrible things in his life. At first, Mathias did not like me. He even told me so. But when I had a meltdown and when the news and the reasoning for my self-induced harm reached the other residents, Mathias came to my room to speak with me.
In my life, I have never met a man as strong and physically capable. Yet, at the same time, I have never been spoken to as lovingly and brotherly as I did this day. In full disclosure, I want to hang up but Mathias came in to sit with me. He understood. He understood without my explanation, in fact, and this was lifesaving to me. Mathias simplified all the things in my head that I never knew how to explain or discuss. I never forgot what this man did for me.
Sadly, however, the reason Mathias understood me so well is because he had the same feelings. After a week into my return in Kerhonkson, I learned that Mathias was found alone in his apartment, lifeless, with a noose around his neck. This man saved me from that very same task.
He was my friend . . .
I always wished I could have spoken with him before he made that choice. But yet, I understand what he did and why.
In my last hour before discharge, I looked around at my empty room. I thought about the conversation I overheard about me in the lunchroom. It was a group of four or maybe five men. They were discussing who would make it this time and stay sober and who would get high as soon as they could. I wasn’t really listening so much. At least, I wasn’t until I heard them laughing when they said my name.
“That kid is gonna be dead before he gets down to the end of the road!” is what I heard. And they laughed at this. They laughed as if this was funny.
No, not everyone was my friend. No, not every bond was good. But I thought about the people I knew at the time. I thought about the friends I made and the people who offered true advice and true kindness. I also thought about the statistic I was given. I was told that 1 out of 33 people will stay sober. I was told this while sitting in a room with 35 people and that’s when I made the decision that that 1 out of 33 was going to be me.
Had I never gone away, I would have never learned about me or my thought patterns. Had I never gone away I would have never dealt with the guilt and shame. I would have never dealt with certain aspects of abuse that I kept hidden beneath a layer of self-disgust. Had I never gone away, I would have never been able to meet the good people and bad people that inspired me to be well. Also, had I never gone away, I would have never been separated from the old me long enough to realize that a “New” me had the right to emerge.
Treatment is not a bad thing. No, it’s a brave thing. It’s a lifesaving thing and had I not gone through treatment, I don’t think I would be around to tell you about this. I don’t think I would be around to tell you about Mathias and the honor it was to know him. I wouldn’t be around to tell you about Dangerous Dan, the Marathon Man. He was the best. He was sick like the rest of us, but he was a brother to me. So was Turbo. So was a man named Noel. And so were my roommates and a long list of others.
I might not have known it then, but the people I met in treatment were the best I have ever seen. They endured the worst in life. They were my friends and again, if I were to see any of them now, decades later, I would embrace them like family.
God Bless them all