How Did I Decide to Go to Rehab?

By The Fix staff 12/12/17

I poured every insecurity into another shot glass until I became an endless supply of secrets, lies, and excuses.

A couple sitting on a couch, fighting.

I knew that things were bad. I also knew they were getting worse. But it took a really long time to confront the truth. Admitting that you're an alcoholic isn't something you just decide to do one morning. For me, it was wave after wave of denial. It was years of me making jokes, deflecting issues, and avoiding the worried glances and hushed rumors. My neighbors were commenting on just how many liquor bottles they’d see in our recycling bins out front when they took their dogs for a walk. I poured every insecurity into another shot glass until I became an endless supply of secrets, lies, and excuses.

But soon, there were way too many of them.

Ultimately, I couldn’t keep my addiction hidden. My wife saw the liquor store charges on the credit card bill. She found empty bottles under my seat. She smelled the booze, heard the slurs, and saw the guilt in my glassy eyes when I came home each night. She confronted me and, very rarely, I’d apologize. But nothing really changed. If anything, I got better at lying to her. I started using cash. I kept a flask in my work briefcase, zippered away from prying eyes. I got drinks on my lunch break instead of during happy hour. It even worked for a while, or maybe we were both just lying to ourselves; she kept thinking that I would stop, while I told myself I was hiding it better.

Then came the night that I didn't come home because I was passed out in my car. I didn't answer my phone, and I can't really remember how or when I finally got home the next day. It was her breaking point and she told me that she couldn't do this anymore. I felt the panic inside me because deep down, I knew that she was right, but all I wanted was for her to stop. I wanted to push pause and get a drink, so I could handle this, but I couldn't. So, I begged, made promises, and agreed to go to therapy.

My therapist told me that I was sinking. She said it was like I was standing on a damaged ship and instead of calling for help, I was filling the boat with more water, but I knew what she was really saying. I was the boat and the water was liquor. I was drowning myself in my addiction. Really though, it didn't make sense. How could something that used to be so casual and easy become a wrecking ball crashing through my life? How did reality become so skewed from what it used to be? I had been so successful and happy, just to end up a sad alcoholic, sitting with a therapist and discussing boat metaphors.

It was becoming clear that I really was sinking, just as she said. I mean, it's not like it's normal for someone to keep half empty bottles in closets or cars. Most people don't take a swig before brushing their teeth in the morning. Friday happy hours weren't supposed to turn into weekend benders. I understood all of that. I just didn't know how to stop.

She kept recommending rehab, an alcohol inpatient treatment program, and I could feel every fiber of my being resist. What was I supposed to do, leave my home and my job to live with a bunch of strangers and discuss how we all messed up? I wish I could say that I put my ego aside and called a treatment facility... but I didn't. I didn’t even browse so much as a website. At least, not right away.

It took another three months. It took three months of trying to go cold turkey and failing over and over again before finally admitting that something had to give. So, after asking myself over and over “Am I really an alcoholic?”, I went to rehab. My wife drove me, and it was a long drive that I can barely remember because I couldn't escape the thoughts roaring through my head. What had I gotten myself into? Was rehab what I really needed? My therapist had recommended an out of state treatment facility because it was away from my daily, familiar environment. It would allow me to focus on recovery and it reduced my risk of relapse, but all I felt was anger, anxiety and resentment.

When we finally made it, my wife and I said our goodbyes, and I forced myself not to promise her that I'd be fixed when I got back. I had broken too many promises for her to believe me anyway. I was too afraid to break another.

The car door closed and the facility's doors opened. I watched her drive away. From there, I walked into four weeks of routine. It was a daily cycle of therapy, meditation, medication, and a lot of time on my hands. I listened to stories in group therapy that I wish I couldn't relate to, and during individual therapy, I struggled between silence and shameful honesty.

But the routine grew on me with each day. What I struggled initially to say, I would write, which later made sharing easier. I went to morning yoga, which seemed to help soothe the chaos in my mind. I learned the steps. And I met people—people who had relinquished their secrets, admitted their addictions, and worked towards recovery. I became one of those people and came to understand what “recovery” actually meant. I went from wondering about how soon I could leave to how could I leave? I was finally in a safe place, in a sober state, and I was no longer sinking. I was barely put back together, and I was getting thrown back to reality. I was just as terrified leaving as I was coming in.

Still, the day came, my wife picked me up and we went home. She helped me build a new routine. I took my days one at a time—and I still do. I regularly go to meetings, I practice yoga, and I use repair boat metaphors with my therapist. Some days are harder than others, and occasionally I worry that I could fall apart all over again, but I'm still moving forward, one sober step at a time.

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