What Long-Term Treatment Feels Like

2234352462_cd33a442a5_zI have been reading Art Mowle for awhile now and his experience with long-term treatment. I believe his story can help others who have experienced relapses and/or several treatment experiences.

From Art Mowle’s blog, Drinking for a Lifetime: “Surviving, the Early Days“:

In my treatment center (3D), there were no cameras hidden in the trees. The bushes were just bushes. There were no armed guards. Mother Liz (Ret) did watch us from the nurses’ station and no one was allowed to go anywhere alone. There were no steel doors that led in and out of the place that required remote sensors to open. And there were no 30-foot walls surrounding the smoking porch. Yet, my first week there, I was planning my escape. I told my daughter I’d be out in 2-3 days. I was there two years.

In truth it wouldn’t have been all that hard to escape. No one would stop you. Staying was up to you. The nurses weren’t that great at keeping track of where everyone was all the time and the burliest security guards was Mother Liz (Ret) whom would ensure you signed out, but never restricted me from leaving. As I said, there were no locks.

No, it was clear from the beginning that we were not held in by guards or by fences, really, but by our own alcohol soaked minds.

Most of the time, of course, we didn’t think about any of this. We were busy. We were awakened before 6:00 AM for morning vital signs. No one ever figured out why they banged on our doors so early, it wasn’t like we had anywhere to go and our final group ended at dinner. In between, there was reading and journal writing and doctors’ rounds and classes to teach us good sober habits. Rarely, a few times a week maybe, we were taken outside in the free world, for a miserable walk in the “crack” neighborhood and the blazing Florida sun, all against our wishes. Sometimes on Saturday nights we ordered in pizza, if any of us had money. So was early life at 3D.

Turns out “feelings” can keep you pretty occupied, too. Physically each of us was feeling either lousy or terrific, depending on the stage of detoxification we were experiencing. In addition to that kind of feeling we were dealing with emotions: dark, scary ones that hid around corners and under beds, teeth bared and claws unsheathed. Our counselors cheerfully nodded, pleased with our “progress,” while we shook and moaned and raged and sobbed.

The last thing any of us felt was grateful to be sober. We might experience a twinge of gladness here and there because someone smiled at us for the first time in forever or because we had “three hots and a cot,” as they say, but by and large we were so ambushed by “feelings” that the last thing anyone could imagine was staying that way. People do this, “feel”, on purpose?

Someone get me a drink.

Because that, having a drink, would do the trick, this much we each knew full well. We’d each lived forever; it felt like, in our own airless prisons, trapped inside our heads with those dedicated jailers, Mr. Pain and Sgt. Fear. Never mind that we’d built the prisons ourselves, they’d been constructed under duress, like the guy in the movie who is forced to dig his own grave. Don’t bother asking why he does that if they’re going to kill him anyway; in that kind of situation you don’t think rationally.

So that, in case you were curious, is really the hardest first step toward sobriety. Not putting down the drink or asking for help or admitting you have a problem. After all, haven’t we all done those things, over and over and over, perhaps? No, the hardest first step is to stare down those prison walls, the ones you’ve built yourself, and knowing, accepting really, because that’s all that will do it. It is accepting that no one can destroy these walls but their architect, namely you.

It is knowing that you’re going to have to dig your way out with your bare hands, facing whatever demons your newly exposed brain wants to throw at you. And it is knowing that in doing so you’ll bleed and weep and stumble for quite a long time.

And it is accepting that you can do this because if you do not, if you cannot do this, there is no escape, no pardon, no other way out.

Such is life for an addict.

God Bless,  Art

Photo credit.

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