This post was originally published on July 28, 2016.
If you had told me, in the heavy doldrums of my alcoholism, that I should go to rehab, I would have laughed. I would have probably cackled too loudly, then sloshed wine all over as I adamantly slurred that no, I did not need to go to rehab. And then I would have resented the hell out of you. Cue the Amy Winehouse song.
But now, I have some sobriety under my belt, and there are times that I wonder if my recovery would have been smoother if I had packed my bags, however unwillingly, and left home for some faraway therapy. Instead, I got a counselor, attended meetings in the evenings, took care of my babies during the day and just went about life to the best of my ability. The best of my ability was, at times, really wonky.
Addiction is no joke. Dealing with it alone is impossible, in my opinion. A revolution cannot be won with a one-woman army, even equipped with a pile of recovery literature and lots of good intentions. I needed help—from other humans. That’s why I went to the meetings, and made all those appointments with the counselor. But as I look back on it, I recognize some flaws in my early recovery.
I never really wanted to get sober. I had been slowly sliding into full throttle alcoholism for over three years, and my final months were soaked in cheap wine and despair. But still, I did not want to give up my wine. I think this is pretty common for addicts. We are miserable drinking, but if someone says, “Well, just stop then. Go to rehab. Get some help. Quit!” we are filled with horror. What would we fill our days with? How would we stay balanced without a glass firmly wedged into our hand? I felt that quitting drinking would be impossible.
But then, I did the impossible. I did stop. One Friday evening, I found myself pouring my first glass of wine and then, with just one sip, I collapsed to the floor. This happened because my Higher Power was fed up, I guess, and had decided to get involved. Sitting there, on my ugly linoleum, I realized this was my last hurrah with drinking. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare involved, but I knew it was over. I did not feel peaceful about this at all. In fact, there was quite a bit of sobbing and solid panic, especially at the idea of attending any sort of meetings to get help.
And yet, I did manage it. The next day, keys ended up in my hand, and I drove to a noon meeting at the local fire station. I was dealing with a killer hangover, from my one glass of wine incidentally, that was competing with a sour knot of fear in my stomach.
I had, it seemed, quit drinking.
But I had not gone to rehab. I never even considered it. I was a mom of two small boys, so I figured I couldn’t just up and leave. I also assumed our finances couldn’t take it because rehab was so expensive. As I was freaking out now on a daily, newly sober basis, I figured adding financial stress would only make it worse. Rehab would surely mean sudden poverty and motherless children. Impossible!
Addicts always have a million reasons why sobriety might not be feasible, when, in fact, drinking with abandon is actually the impossible way to live. And as time passed and I kept attending meetings and finding my days adding up, I found sobriety to be not impossible at all. However, since had I managed to get sober on my own, without rehab, I had formulated two thoughts in error:
- I did this “all on my own.”
- So, maybe, I wasn’t so bad, after all.
Yes. Both thoughts are completely wrong and self-centered and, thus, relapse happened. I am grateful for all of this, however, because it broke apart some faulty wiring I had in place in my recovery, which allowed for more learning, more working, and a ton of much needed re-wiring. But yet, I still didn’t go to rehab.
After the relapse, I viewed rehab differently. Getting sober while trying to rear little children is kind of like undergoing SWAT training while you have the flu. So I now saw rehab as a place to rest and recover and work on myself, with no toddler responsibilities running underfoot needing things from me, like food, water and the occasional bath. Honestly, rehab sounded like, well, a vacation. And I had screwed up and relapsed, so I certainly didn’t deserve one.
It would seem some faulty wiring was still in place. You know when you take your car in for a tune up, and they find a problem and fix it, and then you drive out of there and immediately, something else starts rattling even more expensively? This has happened to me twice, by the way. I seem to be very unlucky with my auto mechanics, but it was a great object lesson. My recovery shook me up, showed me faulty wiring, and as a result I got to work. But then, other issues started to flash their “check engine” lights, and I had even more re-wiring to do.
What can I say? Recovery is freaking hard.
Perhaps rehab would have been the best option from the beginning. Perhaps a more intense, concentrated, away from my daily distractions kind of experience would have been best. Maybe, if I had gone to rehab, I would have solid no-relapse recovery. I really don’t know.
What I do know is that rehab would have been another tool I could have utilized for my recovery. I know that the regimen, the rules, and the consistency would have been a great change from my rather noisy, chaotic, child-filled life. And, I had a friend tell me once, “Rehab is like the most concentrated form of recovery you can ask for. And who doesn’t need that? In fact, I think everyone would benefit from some sort of rehab in their life. We should all be so lucky, to go away, once a year, to really work on ourselves.”
I know. I think I am making rehab sound like a spa vacation. I know it’s not that simple. Very little in life is, actually. But recovery can be simple, if we let it. So many parents, I think, avoid the rehab option because of our children, thinking to leave them would make things worse. But as my days sober fill up the calendar I know better. It is no spa vacation. It’s rehab. And it might just be the best thing to happen for some of us.