What strikes me the most, working in a rehab as I now do (well, by gently volunteering my way in), is something I have thought about so often – how I consider myself so lucky to have had the luxury of reaching my turning point myself. That’s not to say I’m cleverer than the next drunk because I’m not, but I wonder what it’d take to get and stay sober for any other reason than truly wanting to. It’d require strength and determination far beyond what I could ever muster, that’s for sure. I’m sure there are those who get themselves straight because there was a big, fat OR ELSE and hats off to them, but thank God I was one of those of us who got sober because there was nothing I wanted more desperately. No one forced me, no ultimatums were put to me, there was no OR ELSE. In that moment I’d had enough and I wanted to be free.
Watching other people’s journeys up close as working in a rehab has you doing, I often wonder what might have happened if this had been mine too. Witnessing someone, who so clearly needs help, discharge themselves from treatment makes you feel hopeless. How much more do you have to lose before you finally accept that something must give? Clients may find a zillion reasons to leave, excuses to point to in order to illustrate why treatment isn’t for them: don’t like my room, don’t like the food, don’t like the therapy, the common room sofas aren’t to my liking, please make the rain stop and so on. But it’s just bullshit all of it – it’s not about how there isn’t a fish option every day and it’s not the size of her room or where in the building it is, nor is it the therapists or the routines. The only reason is how the desire to drink or use is greater than the desire to stop. Simple as that.
So many people enter rehab that way, because of OR ELSE. Perhaps all one can hope for is that once they’ve gone through the detox and feel better physically and mentally, they are there long enough for something to click and that desire to stay clean and sober springs to life. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m very, very fortunate to have got sober the way I did – because I wanted to, not because of OR ELSE. It’s a bleak and often hopeless looking world, this world of addiction in which I currently find myself on the other side of the fence. There are happy endings, sure, but so much heartbreak too. Another guy in there is being discharged in a couple of days after staying the full duration of his treatment. When he shared in group he was practically smacking his lips as he spoke of using. It’s hard to feel hope at times like that, when someone so obviously romanticises the very thing that put them there. Maybe it’s a front, he does come across a bit peacocky and perhaps he thought it was funny. Who knows.
Yes, it seems hopeless in many ways, but for each hour I spend there I’m more certain this is where I need to be and what I want to do. I just know in my heart I will do a good job and no matter how many sad stories I will witness unfold, I will leave at the end of each day knowing it’s all worth it. Patsy Stone’s little winks and smiles made me genuinely happy today, but then I did like her from her admission on my first day. I guess it’s natural, that part – some people we instinctively like, others we don’t. That’s just life. Just need to be careful with how I invest my emotions.
Today I’m not going to drink.