I went to rehab and this is what it’s really like

I went to rehab and this is what it’s really like

Trigger warning: mentions of suicide  I found myself at a dangerous point in my life (a suicide plan was in place) where it was life or death that got me to go to rehab. Although I went willingly- it took a lot of effort behind-the-scenes to actually walk through those doors. I was so terrified of going that the night before I found myself paralysed with fear and unable to pack my bags. I wound up sitting in bed while my (lifesaver of a) fiancé held up items one-by-one and packed for me.

What rehab is really like

The treatment centre I chose is based in Tucson, Arizona so I was only flying a short distance from Los Angeles. I was so fearful I’d flake on showing up that I asked my mother to meet me in Arizona. The idea was even tossed around for her to fly with me from LA. I knew I wanted the help, but I had such a hard time accepting that my way was no longer working. In order to truly beat my demons I’d have to surrender to the care of others that had my best interest in hand. My diagnosis includes trauma, secondary PTSD, grief repression, depression, anxiety and substance abuse of alcohol. I gave myself one last evening of ‘freedom’ and stayed at a hotel with my mother where we napped, talked, hung out and ordered room service. I remember my last beer- it was daunting to know that would be my last drink. I was proud however that I didn’t get rip roaring drunk (although I wanted to). I was grateful to blow a zero when breathalysed the next day. It’s not uncommon for people to get to rehab intoxicated or high. It happens often. Upon arriving at the facility I was checked in by various staff including verbal questionnaires, examinations (they do a skin check which at the time I didn’t understand, but its to look for track and needle markings) and admittance protocol. I was given three different bracelets- one had a tracking device on it, another for my food allergies and the other was a solid color (yellow in my case) regarding resident levels. Levels were on a three-tier scale and included high-risk, some risk (me) and no-risk. I wasn’t allowed to utilize the swimming pool and was restricted from a few other activities due to dizziness and the possibility of collapse from withdrawals. That made me feel like I had a Scarlett letter branded on me, showcasing how pitiful I was. Luckily no one asked me why my bracelet was yellow, but I still did my best to keep it hidden under my layers of clothing. All my possessions were taken and I was given a travel size case of essentials like soap, tooth paste, deodorant, etc to get by while my bags were checked for contraband (this takes several hours- sometimes overnight). If bags were still not checked by the evening you were permitted, with staff assistance, to retrieve pyjamas/select personal items in the interim. The first part of rehab starts inside a hospital section of the treatment center separate from ‘campus’ where the bulk majority of residents are located. They like to use the term ‘resident’ versus ‘patient’ in a bid to give us a bit more dignity I believe. Each individuals’ symptoms dictates how long they stay in the hospital ward. I was there 4 days (a good amount of time) detoxing. Although I didn’t get most symptoms, I had uncontrollable shaking that needed to be monitored. I was allowed leisure time to adjust to my surroundings and meet other residents. There’s a light schedule of group and one-on-one therapies throughout the day. It’s highly encouraged to attend, but if you’re unable (for whatever reason), one just needed to let a staff member know where they’d be. Hang out choices were mostly either a large lounge area or our assigned bedroom (residents aren’t allowed in one another’s rooms). It sounds claustrophobic, but the facility did a great job of providing lots of room to breathe. I compared it to a Westin. Upon being discharged from the medical centre, I was given a room assignment, another bracelet (a Fitbit) and my first official schedule. I liken the experience to college wherein every day is full of lectures and different sessions and workshops. Days were a mixture of group and private therapy, recreational activities, massages (yes, you read that right- this facility practiced a holistic approach to mental health) and speaker engagements. There was a wake up call (6:45am) and lights out (10pm) regimen. We received three meals a day with room for snacks in between. The cafeteria is open from 7am-9:30pm for residents to refill drinks and take to-go type snacks whenever. The lectures were great. Topics ranged from DBT to understanding the scientific part of mental illness. I also enjoyed the group therapy sessions. Each resident is assigned to a specific group of about 10-12 people and we met three times a week for 2.5 hour periods. There’s assignments and we were given homework (not a huge load, but enough to keep us on our toes) like timelines that were presented each meeting. One day whilst on a walk with my EMDR therapist I realized I was healing. With the sun on my face and (finally) getting my body moving, a major shift occurred. The cave I was in started to look more like a tunnel that had an exit I could actually see. It was far away, but I could see it. That realization is when I truly started to feel safe in my own body. It’ll sound cliche, but colours were brighter, sounds were sharper, my senses alert… I felt present. I’d been absent so long and in a state of freeze from my traumas that I didn’t realize how little I’d been living. I went through self-pity episodes when I’d wake up and ask myself ‘How did you end up here?’ ‘When did things get so bad?’ Some days I’d feel recharged and energized and others I could feel the darkness closing in on me again. I worked with the staff and didn’t fight against medicine changes or adjustments. I had been fearful of feeling like a petri dish, but I actually wound up feeling the difference in my demeanour with meds and early-on decided to not fuss over medicine. For me, I need to be on a regimen to help keep things in balance. If someday I want to go off my meds I would do so with the aide of a professional. It’s hard to describe what leaving rehab is like. After 40 days I went from a strict schedule that’s planned out hour by hour to total freedom. I walked around the airport and looked at the bar- knowing that my former self would have been downing vodka sodas in a bid to calm my nerves over flying. Instead, I went to a gift shop and bought some candy and magazines to occupy my time during the flight. I walked around feeling like I had some secret- a new way of living that I was so very proud of. The temptations are always there- I don’t think they’ll ever fully go away, but each day I remain sober I think back to the staff at Sierra Tucson and count myself lucky. They saved my life. I was so close to almost not making it back and by the grace of the universe found the strength to ask for help. Although it felt like throwing a grenade into my life, it’s hands down the best decision I’ve ever made. If you’re struggling I beg of you- dig deep, be brave and ask for help knowing it’ll be there waiting for you. Written by Audrey Brianne Audrey is an LA-based wardrobe stylist. Her clientele includes a who’s-who of captivating talent including a wide-range of ‘young hollywood,’ tv & film actors and musicians. For over a decade, audrey has been styling with an emphasis on celeb red carpet appearances and editorial. You can view her work at audreybrianne.com,
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