Often it takes more than one trip to rehab to stay clean. We recently spoke to Mack, who attended treatment at Lakeview Health in Jacksonville, Florida—twice. On his first visit, the program was co-ed and, when he returned, Lakeview had transitioned to having gender-responsive facilities. In late 2016, he enrolled in the men’s addiction treatment facility, The Star of Lakeview. This is his story of recovery:
My clean date is December 16, 2016. It was the day I lost my job and checked into Lakeview the second time. It felt like an awful day when it was happening, but now I think of it as a major turning point in my life. I was in bad shape. I had been using for about three months straight. It was rough; way worse than it had been before my first attempt at rehab. That day, I was pretty sure I was going to lose my relationship, my job and everything. I drove around, trying to decide if there was a way I could kill myself that wouldn’t be too messy.
I was so ashamed of myself for relapsing. I felt like I had thrown away all my second chances. The first time I went to treatment, everybody in my life was incredibly supportive. When I screwed it up, the guilt was unbearable. That last day, I finally went home and sat down with my partner. We made the decision that I needed treatment and there was no question in my mind that I wanted to go back to Lakeview. I knew I was done.
When I arrived at Lakeview the second time, I still knew a lot of the staff because I hadn’t been gone that long. They were very warm and welcoming. Everybody kept telling me they were glad I made it back. I hated them saying that. In my state of mind, having to come back felt like a failure. It took me a couple days to realize they meant they were glad I made it back alive.
Since I’d been gone, they had transitioned to having a completely separate men’s facility, The Star. Being in a program with just men made a difference. I had developed great relationships with both men and women the first time at Lakeview, but gender-specific sessions allowed for stronger connections in the primary group sooner. The guys were willing to be more honest in the group and the atmosphere outside of therapy was more focused on recovery and free of distractions. It was just what I needed.
When I got back to rehab, I knew I had to do things differently. The staff was extremely helpful and supportive. One of the techs shared his experience and it really resonated with me. He told me how he had tried five or six times to get clean before it finally stuck. He gave me hope. Hearing how he finally stayed clean and having a few of the guys in my group share their own stories made the first few days less miserable. I finally started to feel like I belonged and it may be possible for me to recover.
In addition to the camaraderie of the men’s program, I loved the family program and the 12-step support at Lakeview. They brought meetings to us in the beginning while we were living on campus at the facility. Later, we got to attend AA and NA meetings in the community with a chaperone. I met my sponsor while I was at Lakeview and started to make connections with other people in local meetings. I’m lucky to live close enough to Lakeview that I still go to some of the same meetings that I started attending while in rehab.
The therapist who runs the family program is wonderful. My partner and I were able to pretty much pick up where we left off during my first stay and that made a huge difference for me. We had some things that needed to be addressed and having a structured environment to work through our issues was important. We addressed our styles of communication and expectations in the relationship and it has helped us move forward in a healthy way.
Facing the Past
My time at Lakeview Health helped me put my life in perspective. I started drinking heavily in college and, by the time I got clean, more than 30 years had passed. I was a bit of a nerdy kid; I had maybe had three beers in my entire life before college. I went to a big party school and back then the drinking age was 18, so I just went wild. I lost a full academic scholarship because I was too busy drinking, but I did end up graduating after five years. Looking back, I realized that my drinking was out of control for a long time, I just had ways of justifying it.
When I got out of college, I started working in the insurance claims industry. Insurance people are heavy drinkers—at least the ones I was around. I excelled in my career quickly and was surrounded by people who drank just as much as me, so that normalized my hard-drinking, hard-working behavior. I got a big promotion and was preparing to move out of state for a new job when I got a DUI. It didn’t feel like a consequence of drinking too much—it just seemed like bad luck. It wasn’t until after I started doing drugs, in my late 40s, that I started to think for the first time I might be an addict.
Today, with over a year clean, my life is unrecognizable. I have a great support group and have built many new, positive habits in recovery. I attend meetings every day and work with a sponsor. I’m incredibly productive at work and just went through a really busy period where I was working 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week, but I never missed a meeting. I stay closely connected to the fellowship. My sponsor has helped me learn to make consistently healthy decisions about my life since leaving treatment. I actually take a 12-step meeting into one of the Lakeview facilities every month. I remember how important those meetings were for me in the beginning, so I’m grateful to be of service in this way.
This time, when I left treatment I got involved with the Lakeview alumni program. They meet monthly for a meeting and dinner on-site at the facility and every other month for an activity night. We go to Top Golf and Dave and Buster’s—things like that. I even met up with the South Florida Lakeview alumni group when I was visiting down there. It’s good to stay connected and have a broad circle of safe people to hang out with. My time at Lakeview Health taught me about the disease of addiction so I could restructure my life in a way that would allow me to be successful in recovery. The two most important things I learned from my stay at Lakeview were that I could recover and that I deserve it. Today, thanks to the help I got there, I believe it.