Thursday, February 20, 2014

REHAB #3, and some other thoughts

Picking up from where I left off, the story of Jail #2, which led me to Rehab #3.
So after I got out of jail, in December 2005, and lost my security clearance, which means I was suspended from my job (with full pay though), I ended up in Rehab #3.

This was at the urging of one of my attorneys, which my main attorney for the 2 felonies thought was a great idea to help me get the charges dropped, as I was under the influence of alcohol when I threatened (allegedly) to shoot the 2 cops banging on my door.

So it's March 2, 2006, and I'm checking into Ridgeview Institute, in a suburb of Atlanta called Smyrna.  It's a nationally known center, especially for treating professionals such as doctors and nurses who are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.  Greg Allman, of the Allman Brothers, was one of their famous patients, as were a few NFL players, I don't know which ones, I met one though.

And one thing about alcohol/drug rehab, most of them anyway, is that they also have patients there for psychiatric problems.  And my first night there, there were no beds in the chemical dependence detox facility there, so I had to stay with the psych ward patients.  Wow!  They are really some messed up people, but who am I to judge, I was pretty messed up too.   They really do have padded rooms, where the wilder patients are put.  Most of the psych patients are heavily medicated.  And maybe once or twice a week, one of them goes berserk and tries to escape by breaking out the windows or similar acts.  So over the course of my in-patient month long stay, we'd periodically see an ambulance from another hospital at the doors of the psych ward, and someone strapped in a gurney on their way to a more serious psych ward.  Scary stuff.  I had a few conversations with some psych patients though, and maybe due to their meds they actually could converse quite well, seemingly normal except for when they'd explain what they did to get them admitted, some bizarre stuff.  Again, who am I to judge?  Threatening cops with an AK-47 is kinda 'out there' too.

And then after one night in the psych ward I'm moved over to the detox unit, a kinder and gentler area.  Mostly, alcohol detox patients are given a mild tranquilizer called 'Atavan' to ward off the shakes.  I went through the usual sweats and chills as the poisons left my body.  Every 2 hours we have our blood pressures and temperatures checked.  We're encouraged to drink lots of Gatorade and fruit juices, as our bodies were used to getting lots of carbs from the beer and wine.  Hard liquor has no carbs by the way.  I mostly drank beer but often drank bourbon with it.  I drank a lot leading up to Rehab #3, as I was home all day and not working and still getting paid.  But I felt like my life was ruined.  Suicide was an option in my mind.  I was gonna go hiking way way out into some woods and shoot myself in the chest, hoping no one would ever find me.  Just an option though, always in the back of my mind.  I never told anyone at Rehab #3 about this option.

My attorney in fact told me to say very little in the event he couldn't get the charges dropped and my Rehab hospital records were subpoenaed for a potential trial.  Fortunately he got the charges dropped with no trial, but my records were obtained by the government security clearance department.  They were fairly innocuous records, but the clearance 'experts' made a big deal of anything not positive, which in reality there are always non-positive things in a Rehab patient's records or we wouldn't have to be in Rehab.

But I was only in detox for 3 days.  I had a really good doctor, a psychiatrist who specialized in addiction, he seemed very impressed that I was a scientist and we got along well.  He was my doctor also in Rehabs #4 and #5.  And my counselor was very good too, a former addict.  So, after detox, I'm still on Ridgeview's grounds in the Men's Residence.  There were about 30 guys in there.  A few doctors, lawyers, some black guys recovering from crack, a dentist, and just a slice across the spectrum of society.  My roommate was a fireman who was a pot-head.  I never thought pot was addicted, and in 26 years only saw one other person claim to be addicted to pot.  But if he said so, and his doctor agreed, and rehab helped him, then more power to him.  His wife and kids would visit, they seemed like a very ordinary nice family.  He was a successful 'graduate' from the program. 

And for my first 2 weeks, I was on the 'buddy' system.  This meant anytime I left the Men's Residence I had to be paired up with someone else.  Even for the 3 minute walk down to the Day Hospital.  Every morning by 8 am we had to be out of the Residence, and our bed's had to be made.  This was enforced fairly strictly, the Residence had these Counselors who'd police the bedrooms after we left, and if we got too many 'strikes' against us for unmade beds, or walking across campus without a 'buddy', etc., we'd lose some privilege.  Cell phones were forbidden, but each of the dorm rooms had its own land-line phone.

Each day, we'd go to the dining hall for breakfast, and the food was really good.  All 3 meals were really good, I gained a few pounds in Rehab.  Remember, this is Ridgeview, one of the nations best Rehab Facilities, it was somewhat like a country club, with a pool, tennis courts, a gym with a basketball court and Cybex workout equipment, Stairmasters, exercise bikes, nice locker rooms, even a softball field.

After breakfast, we'd have a morning 'spiritual' service at 9:00.  Rehab philosophy is that addicts are spiritually bankrupt in addition to being physically dependent, and thus try to infuse some non-denominational spirituality into the programs.  I personally liked this, most patients did.  And at 9:15 some lectures about the nature or physiology of addiction or similar topics.  Addiction by the way is a physical affliction.

As for the psychology of addiction, there is not much really that one's psychological makeup adds to the picture.  One exception is that most addicts have some form of abuse during childhood.  Either physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  My dad brutalized the hell out of me both physically and emotionally, I was bound to be fucked up.  I have been all my life.

But the root of addiction, plain and simple is that addicts' brains react differently than normal peoples' to alcohol or drugs.  We just get our synapses flooded with mood and pleasure regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA and some others, when alcohol or drugs enter our systems.  Normal people just get a small increase of these and feel just a little pleasure from a couple of drinks or a hit of coke, and they can walk away after the weekend parties with no cravings, living a normal life.  About 90% of the population is normal, which puts me in the 10% minority of addicts.  It's a genetically transmitted disease also, and all of my male relatives are/were addicted, mostly to alcohol.

I say 'addict' instead of 'alcoholic' in that I think that's a more accurate way to explain the disease.  If I couldn't get alcohol for whatever reason, well I'd abuse the hell out of Zanax or Klonopin, or Adderall.  In Georgia, they don't sell alcohol on Sunday.  So, one Sunday I instead took so 10 hits of Adderall, so much that I started hallucinating.  I didn't hear anything but I was driving around and the fire hydrants were 'waving' at me.  10 hits of Adderall could have caused my heart to overspeed until I had a heart attack.  Just an example of why I call myself an 'addict', if I can't get booze then I'll still find a way to get a chemically altered state of mind.  I'd use Zanax and Klonopin to come down from Adderall, and sometimes for days at a time I wouldn't drink alcohol but do Adderall and Zanax.  Just a fucked up way to live.  I'd always go back to the alcohol though, I loved that feeling.  Sometimes, on these Sunday  'no alcohol sales' days in Georgia, I'd drink a couple of bottles of Nyquil, it has 10% alcohol and also a drug called dextromethorphan, which I eventually grew to dislike, the DXM made me feel too weird.

Stocking up with extra alcohol on Saturdays never worked, it would be gone by 6 am Sunday.

Anyway, despite my main attorney's advice to say as little as possible, I did get a lot out of Rehab, especially the daily group sessions.  The patients are divided up into groups of about 10 patients each, both men and women, and we just share our 'issues' in a group setting.  But to be honest, I mostly used these sessions to tell jokes and make funny comments.  I was kinda serious about Rehab, grateful for the opportunity to help me stop drinking, but kinda thought it was too much fun at times, like a frat house without booze, probably the country club atmosphere.  But maybe it was good we can laugh again despite the circumstances?

One thing that helped was that the patients all sort of bonded.  There were some really awesome people in Rehab.  My favorite was this woman named Magdalena.  She was 38, had a husband and 2 kids, and was really funny, and very pretty.  She liked me a lot, thought I was too hilarious.  She was in Rehab for an addiction to Adderall, and was in some pretty serious legal trouble for forging prescriptions for it.  As for myself and Adderall, I can take it or leave it.  But Magdalena was hooked.  I never saw her again after that and I always worried she was gonna do some jail time, she was just a typical suburban mom, very sweet.  She was really cool too.  I wished I had a wife like her.

As for my own wife, she was supportive.  Every Sunday was family visiting day from 10 am until 3 pm.  My son was 2 years and 10 months old.  He would run to me every Sunday and jump on me, we'd just hug each other, then play some games or ball for 3 hours.  He never cried when he left at 3 pm, but he looked very sad and asked me why I wasn't coming home.  A big reason I try to stay away these days from alcohol and drugs is for my son.  It's for myself too, but he's my main inspiration.  I cannot say how many times I haven't been there for him, even when I was there, due to being intoxicated.  He's 10 now, he's very smart, and over the years he'd find a hidden bottle and take it to my wife, he knows alcohol is what killed my youngest brother and it's in his mind that drinking alcohol is inherently fatal.  Once I ordered a beer in a restaurant when he was with me, and my father-in-law.  He almost cried to see me drink one beer.  So I have this powerful motivation to stay 'clean'.

In the medical checkup at Ridgeview, on my 1st night in they took blood samples and did the usual tests, I was told I had liver damage, the related enzymes were 10 times the normal levels which indicated some damage.  Curiously, I went to my family doctor 3 weeks later for a physical, and these enzymes were at normal levels.  I always thought that there was something special about my physical makeup, because I was able to play full court basketball during Rehab #3 against the 20-somethings and did very well.  I played soccer and track in college, I'm just lucky to have played sports and worked out most of my life.  This was when I was 42 years old, now I'm 50, I don't know what kind of shape I'm in now, and surely I've damaged my body as I've since gone out and drank after Rehab #3, as recently as last month.

I was in the hospital 3 weeks ago, I just almost collapsed at the health club.  After being totally abstinent for 47 weeks, I went on a 10 day binge and drank really a lot those 10 days to the point I could not get out of bed on day 10.  That's how my binges end, I'm so poisoned I cannot walk or function.  But 4 days of sobriety and I'm overdoing it at the gym and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, my blood pressure was 70 over 30.  I was exhaustion, dehydration, detoxing, and diabetes.  I was in from Sunday night until Thursday afternoon.  On Tuesday, the doctors looked at my blood test results and from some chemical imbalance, they figured out I was detoxing from alcohol.  So they started giving me Atavan every 3 hours.

Even just a 10 day binge after 47 weeks clean, and then 4 days sober after the binge, my body was really screwed up to the point my blood tests told the truth: I was poisoned.  And so when I'm at the store and see a display of beer or wine, I look away.  I just see it as poison.  I cannot say for certain I'll never drink again, it's a very very tricky addiction.  But in 2012 I only drank on a 4 day binge in February then an 8 day binge in March, then no more until February of 2013, a six day binge and that was it until January 19th 2014.

Honestly I can say I'd rather drink cyanide, and I'm being honest here, than drink one beer.  It's just that I know one drink is too much while 1000 isn't enough.  And to have hurt my friend is all the more painful emotionally, she was my favorite person after my son, and now who knows.  I just pray each day she'll understand what happens to me when I'm under the influence, a lot of alcohol, and when this happens I'm just not myself and do & say (& text) things that way out of character.  I'm just not myself when intoxicated.  I hope my friends understand.

I hope one very special and dear friend in particular understands and she forgives me, and we can be friends again.  I pray for this everyday, down on my knees. 

So Rehab #3, after 30 days in the Residence I could go home, but had to come back for 3 more weeks of outpatient group sessions and lectures.  I paid for this, plus part of the in-patient, out of my own money, about $20K.  It was worth it.  And I actually 'graduated', they have a little ceremony for those completing the program, we get a 'coin' with the Serenity Prayer on it:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I say this prayer at least once a day.  

And I was sober for 13 months after completing Rehab #3.  One thing which important to recovering from addiction is family support.  My wife supported me pretty well through this, she was really happy to have the 'normal' me back in her life.  But my parents, brothers, sister, etc., not really.  And on my first visit to my hometown, 13 months later at Easter 2007, well just the way they treated me like a dog, and the feeling of discomfort to be around them, I couldn't take it and relapsed.  I don't blame them for the relapse since I poured that first drink down my throat, no one else.  But they're very dysfunctional and since then, for the past 3 years we've just had zero contact, no phone calls, mail, email, or visits.  I just cannot be related to them, especially my parents.

So when my dad died 2 months ago right before Christmas, I felt no sadness whatsoever, and didn't go to his funeral.  In a way I'm glad he's gone, he mostly brutalized me when I was growing up, always referred to me when talking to my mom as "Your son."  She's not much better, and no love lost between she and I.  But I miss my 5 nieces and 2 nephews and my Godson who's also my cousin's son, he's named after me.  In fact my brother and brother-in-law had me put in jail the last time I visited, which was Jail #3.  So the verdict from the judge was to ban me from my Kentucky for 5 years and ban any contact between me and my family with the exception of something unusual like a funeral.  So rather than beg my brother-in-law, the county's prosecutor for permission to come back for my dad's funeral I just didn't go back.  But even without all that, I probably wouldn't have anyway.  I just didn't care that he died.

What's bad though is there is a toxic resentment I've been carrying around since that last vist to my (former) family.  And this resentment, plus some other issues, kinda led me to my relapse last month.  I was really treated like crap by the whole bunch, and the reason to visit was to get a break from my wife, who bitched all summer of 2011 about minor things, like the dog I got for my son.  It was really threatening my abstinence, and so going back home these people treated me like an outcast, a loser.  All of them, my dad and mom included.  And I realized, this is how they treated my youngest brother, Chris, when he went home to try to recover from his alcohol problem.  They treated him like a loser and outcast.

Chris actually spent a few years there, I had to go to San Francisco to persuade him to come home, he was in kinda bad shape there after losing his job in 2001.  I thought if he was around his 'family' he'd bounce back.  Wrong.  Chris came home to some seriously dysfunctional surroundings, he had never failed in his life, was always the favorite kid in our family, and suddenly he's treated like some lowlife outcast.   He also was put in jail by my brother and brother-in-law.  They actually told my mom to get him out of town, when they should have put him in a rehab.  So with her 'help' he ends up in Lexington in some dingy apartment way out on the outskirts of the city, with no car.  He had to sell his car and he at least had the common sense not to drive, he had gotten so many DUI's that if he would have gotten 1 more it would have been a felony with a year in prison.   But, to me he was always the same kid and I treated him that way, unlike the others.   And he really appreciated this, I'd go visit him when I'd travel through Kentucky.  I regret not doing more, we always regret not doing more when someone dies tragically.  I should have had him live with me.  I should have paid for him to go to Ridgeview.  I've been a lot less selfish since he died, largely due to some guilt over not doing more for him.  I knew he was gonna die young, he was only 33 when they found him drowned in the river, not far from my (former) parents' house.  And he'd suffered through this bullshit for nearly 6 years.  Which is why we still don't know if he jumped off the bridge to kill himself, or fell in the river by accident, or someone killed him and threw him in.  The autopsy showed a very high blood-alcohol content, and the last person to see him alive was a bartender who refused to serve him and said he just staggered out the door. 

I don't know where Chris got his money, I suspect my (former) mom enabled him.  During his last days he'd go down to a local convenient store and buy some beer or wine and just stay in the basement drinking until he passed out.  Then repeat it, day after day.  My (former) parents just ignored this, they're that dysfunctional.  They simply just let it go on as if it were nothing.  To my credit I warned them to do something a few times up until he died, I told them that something bad was gonna happen.

And I'm happy in a way that he doesn't have to suffer anymore.  I can only imagine the hell of being treated like he was, my (former) family is cruelly dysfunctional.  I even think that some of them are glad he's dead so they can party without guilt.  Seriously, they're that bad.
And getting this terrible resentment out of my consciousness is gonna take some work, it's almost as toxic as the alcohol.

I can only pray the Serenity Prayer and hope that God gives more serenity, courage, and wisdom...

No comments:

Post a Comment