My First Day in Rehab: Why Am I Here?
I woke up at 6 a.m. in a room with two twin beds, and someone I had never met was snoring loudly. My hands shook with such ferocity I could feel it in my toenails. This is not my life, I thought. I could not possibly be in rehab. Rehab was for celebrities and drug addicts, not 23-year-olds barely out of college. Aside from the fact that I needed to consume large quantities of liquor morning, noon, and night, and the fact that my life was falling apart, I thought I was fine.
I walked into the cafeteria the first morning, jittery and awake, before the sun had found its way through the fog. The tables were empty save for one or two old men with their heads buried in newspaper pages. Excellent, I thought. If I could avoid talking to people, I could pretend I was somewhere else.
They looked shocked. “But you’re so young!” they exclaimed. I perked up, thinking they understood. I wasn’t supposed to be here after all.
Slowly, the tables began to fill up, and I found myself drinking coffee with two men and a woman, all of whom seemed to be in their 40s. I had yet to see anyone remotely close to my age. This was more proof that I didn’t belong.
My coffee companions asked me what I was “in for” and I said alcohol. They looked shocked. “But you’re so young!” they exclaimed. I perked up, thinking they understood. I wasn’t supposed to be here after all. “Most of the under-30 crowd are either here for OCs (oxycontin) or meth.” I nodded and sipped my coffee, thinking these are their lives, not mine.
They started telling their respective stories. Sam* talked about hiding bottles in his garage and all the lies he would tell to keep his drinking a secret. Janet talked about waking up to find her car parked on her front lawn, with no idea of how it got there. Chris told me about all the times he tried to control his drinking by claiming he would only drink beer or vowing to drink only on weekends, but how he would always end up drinking “whatever was available” and on “days ending in Y.” He told me about looking in the mirror every night and asking himself, “How did I get here, again?” They all mentioned blackouts and morning shakes. Standard stuff.
I realized they were telling my story. I didn’t want this to be my story, just like I didn’t want the next month of my life to be defined by sitting in hard plastic chairs and talking to strangers over coffee. But I looked down at my own trembling hands and realized I was in the right place.
I didn’t want this to be my story, just like I didn’t want the next month of my life to be defined by sitting in hard plastic chairs and talking to strangers over coffee.
After breakfast was “learn about your disease” class. I don’t remember a thing that was said during those two hours. But I do remember that I was happy. This might sound strange, since we were talking about a “progressive, chronic, fatal disease”–as it was described to me in the class. A disease that every single person in the room apparently had. I could see myself in the description of the alcoholic. This was terrifying, but it also filled me with relief. I couldn’t deny the similarities between myself and the descriptions of addicts in the class. I couldn’t deny that strangers had been telling my own story at breakfast that morning.
I had tried to convince myself I was different from these people. But when I was around them, I no longer felt alone.
By the end of my first day in rehab, I no longer felt like I had been dropped off there by some freak mistake. I still wasn’t sure that I could do it, or that I even wanted to. But I had a feeling that the journey ahead was going to be painful in ways I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Spoiler alert: it was.
What I also couldn’t have imagined, but what I am happy to report now, is that I still frequently stop and think, this is not my life. And then I realize being a person in recovery is my life. But instead of fear, I feel grateful and proud.
Learn more about treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction.
*Names have been changed.
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