This will be my last day here at Mountainside Lakes. I had to stop counting my days because I found the numbers to be too distracting. I am leaving; however, this is not because I completed the program successfully. This just means that I am being discharged early because my roommate John went off into the woods to end his own life.
I am being treated differently now, better than ever before. I have been comforted like a man that lost a loved one or a relative. The others at Mountainside are comforting me, which is confusing because I am numb to the core. This is all too surreal and I am still trying to process the events, which took place over the last few days.
So much has happened in such a short time. I came here, defiant as ever, and stubborn like a punished kid refusing to go to his room without supper. I was angry and hateful. But today, I feel like cold, hard, facts of life have beaten me into submission. And as such, I feel as though I am lost in my own confusion.
In accordance with the court systems and the terms of this facility, I have been given a new treatment plan. My counselors here at Mountainside are helping me with navigation of care and setting up my aftercare program.
The courts are all on board with the plan. But again, I am numb to all of this. I feel beaten. I feel broken, But being broken might not be such a bad right now.
And yes, I am successfully completing treatment. Yes, I will be allowed to return home and receive the credit for my participation here.
But what does any of this mean?
When asked if I wanted to leave, I said I would rather stay. I didn’t want to start over someplace else. I was very clear that it took so much for me to come this far, and in all honesty, I couldn’t understand why they chose to discharge me and send me someplace else.
I suppose, this is because the pressure of a dying man’s words can be tough on the heart. Or maybe the facility is in fear for a lawsuit. Maybe this is Mountainside’s way of protecting their own ass. Or maybe they want to keep news like this from spreading. I can’t say I know the answer to these things. All I know is I’m leaving.
I remember back when I was a young man attending community college in Long Island. There was a story about a nearby university that echoed through the surrounding area.
Apparently, a student went up to the roof of his dorm to jump. As the story goes, the young man jumped from a height of more than six stories. He landed hard but the jump was not fatal.
The student lay on the ground with a broken leg. I was told a bone stuck out from his thigh. Somehow though, in his desperation to complete his mission, the student made his way back to the dorm.
Security stopped him at the main entrance. But regardless to the pain, the young man;s intention to die was unalterable. Despite his injury, the student had the wherewithal to explain that he had an accident and needed to go up to his room to get his identification. Security agreed.
He was bleeding and hurt badly. He went upstairs as promised. Only, he didn’t go to his room. Instead, he went out onto the roof to leap once more. This time, his attempt was successful.
What I recall most about this was the talk about the student’s roommate. It was said that his roommate would receive an A in all classes. It was said to me, but never confirmed that apparently, this is a thing, and that if your roommate commits suicide in college, you receive an A in all of your classes for the entire year.
I feel like this is what happened to me. I am like that student’s roommate, and somehow, I’m getting a passing grade for an exam I never had the chance to take. This doesn’t mean I received my education, This just means I have to go.
I am not sure why this has happened. Then again, I am not sure of anything at the moment. However, I am sure of this; the tragedy of knowing someone that committed suicide is a hard and painful thing. I did not room with Brian, but I was the last to speak with him before the troopers came to shackle and escort him off to jail.
John, on the other hand, he was my roommate. If this were college, I would receive an A in all my classes. But this isn’t college. This is not about a degree in education. This is my life (or the lack thereof) and because of my interaction with both Brian and John, I will be given an early completion, which means my 28 days has been reduced down to two weeks.
I am told I will have to sign up with an intensive outpatient program that will meet three times a week. I can either go in the evening or in the morning.
Either way, I am jobless at the moment with nothing else to do. I am out of work, but fortunately, I am financially sound due to my six months’ severance pay.
I have to attend private counseling and prove my attendance at 12-step meetings, which is fine. I am fine with all of these requests; however, my concerns have nothing to do with programs, A.A. meetings, or private counseling sessions.
The truth is I am afraid. The truth is I just want to be well again. I want to feel whole again. I don’t want to feel like I’m always missing something or empty with an unfillable void that cannot be fixed or satisfied.
They tell me I have a disease. They say alcoholism is a clinical disease. So is depression. I don’t want to have a disease. I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t want any of this. I just want to feel well again. They told me this is not a problem with my character. They explained it is a problem with my chemistry.
They tell me they can help me. They say that I have mood disorders. I heard one of the counselors explain that I have a reward deficiency syndrome. They said a lot of things to me but all I can say is damned this thing they call mental illness.
I think I understand why Brian chose to serve prison over spending time in treatment.
I understand why we run away from ourselves. But the effort to run away is pointless. No matter how fast we run, no matter where we hide, or where we go, we just can’t get away from ourselves. And for some people, treatment places like Mountainside or detox or anywhere they can’t run from; these places are like mental prisons in which there is no escape.
It’s not just the idea of them taking the drugs away that was hard for me to accept; it was the anticipation of what would come next. I saw the anticipation of withdrawal as incredible. This is why I was resistant. I didn’t want to kick. I didn’t want to go through the sickness. And after the sickness is the emotional withdrawal. After the sickness came the sleeplessness. I couldn’t stand my thoughts. I couldn’t stand the stillness of a single moment. My thoughts were all over the place and my fears and paranoia was incredible. The idea of all this was entirely too intimidating to me, which is why I stayed as I was.
I didn’t believe in sobriety. Even if there was such a thing, this would be something other people could do. But not me.
Then I came here to Mountainside and learned about the truth behind my lies. At least before, I was able to claim ignorance. But not anymore. I can only claim ignorance once.
I think this is why people run away from rehab. I think this is why I refused to open up or even try.
Deep down, I knew I would feel exposed. I knew the truth would come out, which is why I used denial as a valuable tool. I used my denial to cancel my thoughts and fears so that I could run instead of stop to face the pain.
One of the things they promise in rehabs or in 12-step groups is they won’t guarantee you’ll clean up. However, they do insist it will ruin your drinking or drug use. And I get that. I get it because now that I know, it’s not like I can’t go back to how I was before.
In all honesty, I could have gone the rest of my life and lived blindly. I could have resigned to my complacency and wandered around like a lost soul, painfully unaware of truth, and comfortable to believe this is the best I could ever be.
Had life not intervened, I would have remained as I was. I would have stayed exactly as I was and been sadly complacent with my internal lies.
But now I know.
I know all too well and no amount of running or denial will ever wipe this away.
I go back to that time when I saw my father hit the chisel with the hammer. I go back to this memory and recall the sight of him hitting his own hand and yet, he kept going. I go back to his reason why he kept going instead of stopping to deal with the pain
“It’s when you stop. That’s when the pain starts.”
I feel that now, tenfold.
This is what happens with addiction
It’s when you stop. That’ when the pain begins.
I want to feel better.
I want to be rid of the emptiness and rid of the void, and the sad, dreary loneliness I contend with on a daily basis.
I want to be rid of the aftermath that comes with my old behavior. I want to rid myself of this bottomless pit, which I feel within my heart and in my soul. Above all, I want to be free of this prison where I’ve kept myself for so long.
I have kept myself captive in my own mind. I want be able to see myself in the mirror and not hate the sight of my own reflection.
I don’t want to see my reflection as lost, fat or sad, alone, and always seeing myself as the one that has be on the outside looking in.
I have felt this way for too long. And more and more, my behavior reaches lower levels just to feel better. More and more the harder I try to find redemption, the lower I sink into the depths of personal degradation.
I want to find myself and be well again. I want to be able to breathe without the weight of the world burdened upon my chest.
I am angry now but angriest at myself. The last few days have been impactful and tragic but yet, I am more enlightened now than ever before.
I have been able to adhere myself to the fact that yes, I do need help. I have chosen to find inspiration in the sad moments like my last few days with John or Brian.
I don’t want to end up like them. I don’t want to die. I want to live.
I want to believe that I can find myself anywhere and with anybody and still feel comfortable just to be me.
I have surrendered myself to the painful truths that I am the one that put me here. I did this, not my father, not my mother, not the losses I’ve endured or the bad relationships I’ve kept. I put me here. It was me that did this.
Admittedly though, if I was given the option, I would have run away a long time ago. If given the chance, I would have swallowed a pill. I would have drank. I would have done anything to undermine this thing they call sobriety. Admittedly though, I had no idea what I was doing to myself.
I go back to one of the first conversations I had during a session with my counselor Jake. We talked about my age. Jake reminded me that should I choose to live.
“You still have a lot of life ahead of you,” Jake said, which is a strange thing to hear from someone approximately half my age.
Jake told me, “You’re too young to live this way for the rest of your life.”
I thought about this and came up with an undeniable fact. Jake is right. But it’s not that I’m too young. I am too old and I’ve lived this way for too long to go another day like this and contribute to the misery.
I am afraid though.
I am unsure what will come next. I have lived this way for so long.
My thoughts always travel along the same pathways. I am a creature of habit. So what do I do now? How do I change my thoughts to help me create a new way of thinking? How do I replace my behavior and how do I exchange bad thoughts for better decisions?
This is where the confusion sets in. See, if I was in school and took a test, I would fail.
But oh, wait, my roommate killed himself, so now I’m excused.
In all honesty, I’d have rather learned the lessons. Or maybe I did learn them. Maybe this internal monologue shows proof that I know more than I thought.
But does this mean I’m ready?
This is what scares me. This is also why people become institutionalized. Reentry back into the world is intimidating. Although I rejected my treatment in the beginning; I hated the walls, I hated the rooms, and the people. Somehow, this place has become a comfortable barrier between me and the rest of my life.
At first, I wanted nothing more than to go home. I wanted to sit in my chair, drink, or swallow a few pills. I wanted to let myself drift into what I called my own personal cocoon.
I wanted to stay exactly as I was because the idea of me different was inconceivable to me. And so long as change was inconceivable, the life I chose became permissible, or better yet, my way of thinking became acceptable so this way; my behaviors became excusable.
I am not sure how or when but something changed. Maybe my perception changed. Or maybe my intentions are different now. Either way, my vision is different. I don’t see things the same way anymore.
On my last morning here at Mountainside, I decided to take a walk like my roommate John used to do. The sun was just above the horizon and the residual colors of dawn still lingered in the patches of streaky clouds.
John used to tell me about a place where he used to sit. I was never sure if this is where they found him or not. But still, I had to try and find this place for reasons of my own. I wanted say goodbye to John. I had other things I needed to say too, which is why I wrote them down.
I walked passed the pond and along a small trail, which led up towards the blue trail that hikers take to make their way up the mountain. John talked about this large tree that he used to sit under. He spoke about a boulder that stood next to the tree. “This huge rock sits there like God, himself, placed a bench right there, just for me,” John explained.
In fairness to truth, I found a place that resembled John’s description, but I cannot say if this was definitely his spot.
I looked at the tree and imagined my friend John sitting there, smiling and happy, because his sorrow was gone.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to tell John everything I wanted to say. So I stuffed the letter I wrote between the huge boulder and the tree, just in case he comes back.
I can’t believe I am about to write this but part of me doesn’t want to leave. There are no people to contend with. There are no bosses to deal with either or deadlines at work. And deadlines are a bitch. All I have here is my little kitchen job, which I hated at first. But all of that ends today.
I have met so many people here. I heard stories of abuse. I have seen tragedy and watched people turn their life around. I have seen people leave Mountainside and then come back again. There are so many things I should have written about. There are so many things I’d love to tell you.
I am about to leave this place and I’m frightened. But this is not now. I’ve always been frightened. I’ve always been afraid of something. I’ve been this way since my childhood. I’ve always been angry. But at least now I know why. At least now I have the language to explain how I feel. At least I have the ability to communicate. And whether I succeed or fail, at least now I have a choice of which way I choose to go.
Maybe someday I will tell you more about my two weeks here at Mountainside. Maybe I will keep these journals going with hopes that my notes can act as a voice for people like John and Brian.
I go back to something the staff told me when I arrived here.
“Just bring the body,” I was told.
“Eventually, the mind will follow.”
I’m not sure how they did it, but somehow, they pulled off their trick