No Shoes

On June 15, 1998,  I entered a rehab facility. I was 18 years old, confused and abusing drugs.  Alcohol was my drug of choice but I smoked pot, popped pills, used acid, crack, cocaine--whatever I could get my hands on. It wasn’t about a particular drug. I just wanted to escape, get away from being me, so to speak. I started drinking when I was 14.

I agreed to 30 days of treatment, ended up staying for 16 months. Today, I remain employed at this same place. Back then, I had heard crazy things about this rehab and what they made you do. I was scared, desperate and broke. I needed something to turn my life around. Treatment was the only option I had left before I killed myself from using drugs. I used drugs from the time I got up in the morning until I fell asleep, whatever time that was.

Just before I finally walked into the rehab that would change my life, I was living in a motel room in Florida. It was a dark, lonely, seedy place. I lived with a guy I met in a treatment program we both fled. Two other guys I met on the beach shacked up in the same room.  Gross. The motel was disgusting. I could reach for the refrigerator from the bed, so I was drinking before I even put my feet on the floor. When I made it to the shower, I drank there. No money left, I had somehow managed to lose every pair of shoes I had. Burning my feet on the pavement and begging for coin on the dunes was taking a toll on me. I wanted to go home. I asked my Mom for help. She came down from New York and brought me back to rehab.

My first week at the treatment place my mother signed me into was a whirlwind and then I began to adjust. I was mesmerized and miserable at the same time. I was treated, truly, as an adult for the first time in my life. I was held accountable. I was confronted when I did the wrong thing. I was being taught. I was starting to get it. Learning. I hated it. I also loved it. I watched how the residents who had been around for several months did things. More learning. They really ran the facility and they were teaching me. People respected them and they were becoming my role models. I wanted to be like them. But despite my secret desire, I still acted out. I had to face the fact that I was a drug addict and an alcoholic and I didn’t know how to break my negative patterns. My behavior really sucked. I pushed and pushed to see how long I could push before someone pushed back. They never did. They pulled me up. This was the first place in my life that I went to where I wasn’t asked to leave.

Eventually I changed. My behavior no longer was bad. I was able to gain insight into my negative pathology, those unhealthy thought patterns which often crippled me. I started to understand why I did certain things and I gained greater insight into the reasons I drank or used drugs. I learned better coping skills, enabling me to deal with issues and problems as they came up without using drugs. My self-esteem was finally based on a realistic view of myself, no longer was I rating myself above or below other people. And, for the first time in my life, I had real friends who told me the truth. I found the courage to rebuild my relationship with my family -- how to get along with my father, mother, brother and sister. I allowed myself to grow up.

While in rehab, I was afforded the opportunity to go to college. On the first day I attended class, I was so nervous and almost backed out. My roommate had packed me a lunch. When I got to school, I was early, so I had time to look into the lunch bag. Besides an apple and a granola bar, there were many pieces of paper. I was curious and began to pick out each piece. I couldn’t believe it. On each piece of paper there was a note from every resident and staff member wishing me luck on my first day at school. I cried. People really cared about me. It was one of the best feelings I had ever experienced. When I walked into that classroom, I felt so confident. I was sober. I was free. I was heading in the right direction.

Two years later, I completed my studies and received an Associates Degree. Six years beyond this, while working two jobs, I received a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, Communications and Psychology. Just a few years ago I became a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).

My journey was filled with much doubt and despair. When I earned the title of graduate, from the rehab facility, it was arguably the proudest moment of my life. I was given this honor because I demonstrated that I could live a better life without drugs and that this accomplishment would lead to many more positive milestones in my life going forward if I remained sober. I found hope in sobriety.

Today, my work in the same rehab where I got sober, is very rewarding. By helping others seeking recovery, I strengthen my own recovery.  As well, I continue to go to therapy off and on to keep on track and I attend AA regularly. AA has helped me immeasurably on a spiritual level -- which has been wonderful and quite fulfilling. 

I am grateful that I have embraced the fruits of what it means to be accountable. I know what trust is now. There is nothing greater in my mind than the feeling of being believed in. This made a huge difference. Structure and consequence offered me the chance to find out what being responsible really meant. People told me the truth. These were really good people who I could recognize as being good because I was drug free. I found the friendships I made in treatment to be very special and so different from other relationships from my past.  I accepted these new friends because they accepted me.

I am living a substance free life one day at a time. I have a key to my parent’s house. I have a good and honest relationship with my siblings. I was lucky to meet a man, fall in love and marry. We have a healthy, intimate  partnership with an understanding that we must constantly work at communicating to make our bond stronger. What a gift he is. We love each other and I have the capacity to love. In those darkest times in that motel room where I had my last drink and joint, I wasn’t thinking about love. I certainly didn’t love myself.

Today, my husband and I have great friends. He is supportive of my ongoing educational goals. I’m currently working towards a Masters Degree in Social Work.

I love my job and I love my life. Most important, I love the rehab facility for helping me become the woman I am today.

 

-  Alison

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