I've been in rehab 6 times. That's one more time than Charlie Sheen. Unlike Charlie, I don't like to brag about it like it's some badge of honor for hard partiers. I'm kinda embarrassed in a way, in that going to rehab is an admission of weakness, although in the back of my mind I know it takes some courage to ask for help. So I'll write about these experiences. I think most people who know me have some inkling I've been in a rehab. I doubt they know it's been 6 times. I didn't even realize it was 6 times myself until I decided to count them up last month. My problem? Alcohol, pure and simple. Fortunately, I don't really like drugs, and then for 20 years I was in a job that required random drug testing.
It's interesting, I cannot take a sip of wine without going on a binge, but I can take a Vicodin, or a Zanax, and it's no big deal. Others who were in rehab couldn't live without those drugs, but could take it or leave it when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol just does something different in my body, compared to others. It makes all my problems go away, and I feel this huge pleasure rush. Biologically, what it does in my system, as with others like me, is cause this huge rush of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. I think GABA and epinephrine are also involved, but scientifically it's largely a mystery how alcohol is addictive to some people but not others.
Genetically I'm a victim of my genes, Irish and Scottish ancestry. All 4 of my great-grandfathers, both of my grandfathers, and my father, have all died from some or other cause due to alcohol. It's a huge part of the Irish-Catholic culture I grew up in. So, in a sense going to rehab made me an outcast from most of my family. Ever since I was 24 I was considered suspect at the family parties. I have a big family and they love to party. So when I showed up drinking Diet Pepsi or non-alcoholic beer, I think I made the rest feel a bit uncomfortable. The reality was I didn't care what anyone else drank, it never bothered me to drink non-alcoholic drinks while everyone else was drinking beers or mint juleps or whatever.
That's where I think it takes some courage to go to rehab. You have to be ready to become a social pariah in many cases, such as in my family. My family is very dysfunctional, by the way. What hurt the worst was my mom's attitude, she considered it a weakness. Ever since I was 24, after rehab #1 in 1988, she seemed to resent me. What's bad about that is she sat on her hands and watched my superstar little brother waste away and die at 34 of alcoholism. And, for 20 years she never tried to stop my dad from overdoing it, she just sat and watched nightly as my dad drank himself into a severe case of liver disease, which killed him. But those are other stories to tell later.
Why 6 times in rehab? Well, mostly I could never complete the whole treatment. Here's a summary:
Rehab #1, September 1988, Bellefonte Hospital, Ashland, KY: Kicked out after 2 weeks for not following the program. I told them how to run THEIR progam everyday. Didn't work.
Rehab #2, August 1989, St. Joseph Hospital, Lexington, KY: Checked in on Monday, left on Friday after I learned it wasn't covered by insurance. What's interesting about this is that afterwards I didn't drink for 4 years, just from the 'shock' value of being in there.
Rehab #3, March 2006, Ridgeview Hospital, Smyrna, GA: I actually completed 30 days in-patient and came back voluntarily for 3 weeks outpatient, and 'graduated'. It was a huge milestone in my life, although I only stayed sober for 13 months afterwards, when I got drunk at the 2007 family Easter party. But the lessons somehow sank in, and helped me in later struggles.
Rehab #4, October 2010, Ridgeview again: After staying sober on and off for 3 month spells since the 2007 relapse, eventually I just lost the battle. One day in October after the equivalent of 35 drinks, I barely made it downstairs to the kitchen and scribbled, "I need help" on a post-it note, which is how I told my wife. I went in and after a couple of weeks my ego, or 'attitude', kicked in after my mind cleared up. Anyway, there was this really pretty female patient who I started flirting with. This is a major rules violation. When the counselors got on my case about it I said, "Fuck this," and walked out. I was in there about 18 or 20 days, I forget. I stayed sober throughout November and December. On January 7, 2011 when I was taking down the Christmas tree I got depressed and got drunk. Three weeks later...
Rehab #5, January 31, 2011, Ridgeview again: My wife was furious after the relapse and left with my son. So I really drank a lot from January 7 to January 31. For some reason, she came back on that day, which was a Saturday, just to pack me up and take me back to Ridgeview. The staff in the detox unit who saw me just 3 months earlier were literally shocked to see me, especially the wasted condition I was in. There was a nurse from the previous visit who really liked me, she was horrified. I feel sorry for the staff at these places, they get attached to people like me, and see us at first succeed, only to come back again and again, looking worse each time. However, my usual doctor since 2006 summed it up, as he saw I was looking defeated at having failed. He said to me, "Don't feel bad. It's the really smart, successful people like you who sometimes have to come back 10, 11, 12 times. You scientists, lawyers, doctors can fix all these problems of the world, but you're the last to realize you can't fix yourselves. You have to admit, alcohol is more powerful, and surrender to the disease." Very wise and true words. Yeah, I finally learned, outside of rehab as I'll tell in another post, that I cannot fix myself. Anyway, I really tried hard in this stint. However, ego and attitude kicked in. Every day in group therapy, I argued with the counselor and other patients. I thought I knew better. I made it for 30 days inpatient, and then after 2 weeks outpatient, I took some Adderall which showed up on the routine drug tests we have to take in rehab. The Adderall was prescribed and I didn't think this was my addiction, I was in for alcohol. So I argued, "Hey, I need this stuff so I can pay attention in the group therapy sessions and classes." They said, "No deal, you can't take Adderall, so you have to go back to square 1, back to 30 days inpatient." I said, "Adios, amigos," and left. I stayed sober for 4 months.
Rehab #6, August 15, 2011 Some rehab place in Atlanta: I don't even remember the name of this place, it was in South Atlanta. How I got there? I visited my family and got put in jail by my brother and brother-in-law. The judge's verdict was to let me out of jail, provided I get directly out of Kentucky and into rehab in another state. The judge also said I was banned from Kentucky for 5 years. No, I didn't do anything violent other than break a window. But my brother pressed charges for threatening him and he made them stick. He's an asshole lawyer by the way. There's a long-running feud between us, which is another story. As for Rehab # 6, it was some inner-city place in Atlanta. I don't even remember the name. Most of the other patients were Blacks, and were addicted to crack. They thought I was cool though, for a rich white yuppie... Not to make light of crack addiction, but some of my best rehab buddies were Black crack addicts. A feature of rehab is they make you play sports each day, and we'd have these fun times on the basketball courts or softball fields, trash-talking each other and laughing. I was there for 2 weeks and insurance wouldn't pay for more. Bear in mind, this was the 3rd time in rehab within a year, and I think the insurance companies realize a hopeless case. But, there's always hope...
Enough for now, this is just an overview. So, I'll stop here, and tell the details in future posts.
Thank God, I am still alive, and yes there are guardian angels...