I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a correlation between the increased amount of people asking me about rehab recently and Lockdown living that we have all had to experience over the last few months.
The word ‘Rehab’ can conjure up an image a 100 times over in someone’s mind and still not even be close to reality. In fact, take a quick image search and you’re faced with rose coloured spectacle images… someone on an exercise bike with a lady in a white coat holding a clipboard, countless images of staged ‘therapy sessions’, lavish hotel style dinners. You get the picture.
But my personal ‘favourite’ has to be the one where a guy is reaching out towards a whisky bottle and the ‘therapist’ is clenching his arm to stop him. Brilliant.
After my seizures, rehab was mentioned, as it was only then anyone knew the extent of my drinking, and truth be told, it was the only way I was going to stop.
And while yes, we’re all probably more realistic than to believe what we see on Google, when the “R word” was mentioned I certainly deferred away. I reeled off images of what I thought this place would be like, and then frantically searched to get any idea of what rehab would be like.
During those last few weeks I constantly thought “well I’m not going” but then my mind would always return to “what if?”
My mum had told me about a place in Nottingham and I can’t tell you how many times I watched the “Intro / welcome” video.
I scrutinised the “room tours” to ensure that this was going to be a good facility for my alcoholic self. I imagined having dinner at the table they showed. Examined the outside space. It was never ending.
Looking back now and I realise this was most likely my subconscious knowing that rehab was indeed the only way out for me.
I’ve talked before about my rock bottom and the time leading up to my stay, but not about what people seem to find intriguing and ask questions about – the first week.
Maybe it’s because they’re worried about withdrawals, not fitting in, or just plain giving up the booze, I know I was…
We got in the car as early as I could stomach it. To be fair I’d been up and down in the night as it was, not because of worry, but I’d get the shakes in the middle of the night, and “medicate” back to sleep.
Finally, we got off at about 11am. I had packed a rucksack for the journey – 4 cans of beer, two bottles of wine.
I genuinely felt like my life was about to end but I knew it was the right choice. I called family members from the car telling them that I was on my way to rehab. Perhaps it was a distraction, or maybe me reaching out for confirmation that what I was doing was right.
We reached the driveway and I remained inside the car. I’d distracted myself so much that when reality hit that this was not just a boozy car ride, I suddenly broke down. Streams of tears rolled down my face as I realised this was the start of me giving up what I believed made me, me.
I never said “I’m not going” or “I don’t want to go”, although I did control when I would go inside. I knew I had to, in fact I knew I wanted to, but the fear was massively real. My parents, also highly emotional, got out of the car, I didn’t.
I can’t imagine to this day what it was like for them, a mix of relief that I had finally agreed and disbelief that this is what it had come to. Dropping their 27 year old son off at rehab.
I was eventually coaxed inside by a staff member, left in a conservatory with my parents and waited for my admission. After a matter of five minutes, which seemed like hours, a wonderful lady came in, chatted to me about the process and asked me a bunch of questions. One being “how would you describe yourself”? To which I responded “just write fit”.
During my admission, I’d almost say I was humorous. But the wave of emotions was insane, I’d go from high to low like I was on a bungee jump of emotions.
Once that was over I was shown to my room. My home for the next two months. I was pleasantly surprised, it lived up to the pictures. As I gazed around, I remember my mind saying “this will work, this is your space” essentially convincing myself not to run out the door, which believe me, was every other thought.
If I’m honest, this whole process was easier than I thought, but then I was wasted.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to imagine yourself doing it, as I tried to 100’s of times, but take my word for it, the hardest part of it all was staggering up that drive and going through the door.
Once you’re through, it’s almost like logic takes over. You know where you’re meant to be, that this will give you your life back, and that you have no choice.
It brings a sense of calm. Your mind can wonder, wander, manipulate, convince, want, need alcohol, but in this bubble, it’s just not going to happen.
So there I was, checked in. My parents left, arguably the hardest goodbye of all our lives. I stood in my room, staring at the wall. I can’t even tell you what was going through my mind, I just know it was running at about 1,000 thoughts a minute.
I was petrified of seizing again, so I was desperate to get my hands on some meds. I left my room, seeking out these magical pills which would ensure I got better and didn’t seize.
However, unfortunately due to my previous antics of drinking my ‘car ride refreshments’ I blew a 0.32 on the breathalyser, which meant I couldn’t take meds until my blood alcohol level reduced.
I was both annoyed but also oddly comforted. I thought “well my BAC level is high, so that’s good, I’ll be alright for a while”… But as soon as I took two steps with a smug look on my face, I was handed a smoothie – banana and honey.
To this day I have remembered the words I was told “bananas help you sober up, then we can give you medication to help”. But do they?
I’m not so sure but I realise now it was probably a good way to get nutrients into my body, seeing as I hadn’t exactly eaten for quite a while… anyway.
A big thing for me, and probably for most people, was the other clients that I was in the centre with. You have no idea who you are confined with for 2 months, sharing your deepest feelings, with no escape.
But let me set the record straight. The fact of the matter is, you will never find a group of people that you instantly gel with more. Why? Because you’re all addicts. You all have, or had the same mindset when you walked in that door. You’ve shed the same tears. Caused the same pain. And whatever else you’ve done has resulted in making you walk through those doors.
I cherished every single one of the people I was with. Although some of us have lost touch, there is no doubt that some became friends for life in those two months. You share something more than common interests, you now share a way of life.
Eventually I was medicated. I could feel something changing inside me. I could feel my head becoming heavier, like my mind was hurtling towards reality again. My mood changed. I became unanimated, went to my room, and spent most of the day here until dinner time.
Later I came out of my room for dinner, by this time I could hardly talk. I sat at the table, but did not eat a bite. I remember thinking at that moment “fuck, here come the withdrawals”.
Surprisingly, that night my head hit the pillow and I was out cold. I slept right through. Maybe my body was exhausted from the years of abuse. Maybe I was just so mentally drained and I knew I was in a safe environment, that my mind took over and shut me down. Whatever the reason, nothing could prepare me for the next 48 hours.
I woke up and what I felt was indescribable. Not because what I felt was painful, it was just more extreme than I have ever felt before.
My whole body ached like I’d been doing yoga for 10 hours straight the day before. My head was fuzzy, like someone had put it in a microwave.
My hand fell over the side of the bed as I stared at the ceiling. My extended arm swept to the side of the bed reaching out for the bottle that wasn’t there. Previously I always had a bottle beside my bed for when I woke up withdrawing in the night.
I guess the way I felt at this point was comparable to my night time withdrawal feelings, but 20x worse.
It was now around 25 hours since my last drink.
I got myself up and thought “if I can just get moving, this will get better”, I was wrong. I staggered over to the bathroom (yes, we had en-suites) and stared at myself in the mirror. I hadn’t even noticed that sweat was pouring from every pore. My bloodshot eyes started back at me. But instead of thinking “fuck this I need a drink”, which was good because I don’t think I’d have actually physically made it out the door, I remember thinking “you got this, stay strong”. My determination to make a change hadn’t left me and it didn’t leave me while in that place, nor to this day.
This was the situation for the next 48 hours. People have asked me ‘yeah but what did you do during that time?’ Honestly, nothing. As little as you can possibly do. I made about 4 quests a day to the meds room where the nurse had to hold my water cup due to my shaking. I tried as hard as I could to ensure the pills she gave me actually ended up in my mouth but still needed her help
I didn’t try to eat, socialise, smoke, call or text people… nothing. For hours on end I laid in bed rolling around, trying to sleep, trying to stay still but in the end you just give up. You let your body do its work. You have to keep the mindset that this leads to a better life, and that’s the truth.
I could go on and give you a day by day account, but from talking to people they have the most questions about the actual process on arrival, and the first few days.
Every rehab program is different, so it wouldn’t serve much to break down my timetable for you here. But to give an insight – we had structured therapy sessions, were allowed our phones during down time, went to AA & CA meetings in the evenings, talked to other alcoholics, could watch TV, go to the shop (under supervision), and hell, I even had a top Christmas Dinner!
The reality was that once I was past all the withdrawals and the ill feelings had subsided, the truth is, I lived my best life in that treatment centre. You start to discover everything you used to love before you were hopelessly controlled by alcohol.
You learn how to eat, sleep, socialise, laugh, love, appreciate and be honest. You feel healthy, you wake up fresh, something which I never thought was possible again. You discover yourself, you go through pain, you gain understanding, you learn what makes you, you.
I will always cherish those days and the memories they bring.
If you’re considering rehab or it has been mentioned to you, believe me it’s not what they show in films, tv shows, or on Google. All you need to remember is that it’s a place that will help you get your life back. A place that will enable you to live the best life you can. The price of living through those initial first days is nothing compared to the reward.
And if there is someone you know who needs rehab, remember that the plush rooms and comfy couches are just superficial benefits. The step they are taking is not a break from reality, it’s’ the rewriting of their life.