This post is one of a series of occasional installments describing my early recovery and treatment for alcoholism. The most recent prior post is Alcoholism Rehab Part III: Not a Club Med. Others may be found in the “My Links” section on the left side of my blog.
Every time I post one of these stories I hear from a number of people struggling with alcoholism/addiction – either theirs or someone in their family, or a friend. I am grateful for that as my primary purpose in telling my story is to help another alcoholic. It also makes me humble and grateful for my sober life and recovery program. I mention AA periodically, as that is what works for me. I am neither a spokesperson nor do I represent AA in any manner. There are many ways to get clean and sober and it doesn’t matter to me how one achieves this.
I entered this rehab facility on September 8, 2000 and it is now November 24, 2000, the day after Thanksgiving. I have been here about ten weeks and I’m riding the Amtrak train home for my first visit since being admitted. I have several solitary hours to think and reflect.
I spent Thanksgiving Day with twenty other people still in the rehab center. Many are home on passes. I chair the morning community meeting (seniority you know) and play a lullaby on a CD and almost everyone in the room is in tears. Strangely comforting and releasing. Went to an “Alco-thon” sponsored by a local group and to the Miracle Temple Church in the evening for an annual celebration dinner and meeting. Over 600 addicts/alcoholics and their families and friends, were there. Two hundred stayed afterwards for the biggest combined NA/AA meeting I had ever been at. This meeting was a profound and life altering experience (in a good way), and I’ll leave it at that for now.
I am thinking of Lee who relapsed on her first visit home two weeks ago. She returned very drunk and is back to ground zero in so many ways. She just discharged herself to return home. Very shaky idea. All I know to do at this point is say a prayer.
My best rehab friend and roommate left after staying three months. He did such good work and will try to resume his life and career in medicine. My wife has made it clear that she does not feel “safe” with me coming home after my three months is up, and I am struggling with this. Sadness…loneliness…the culmination of years of fears for me. The Carolinian pulls into the Rocky Mount station. I am aware at how hard I’ve worked to learn to better express my feelings, and yet I feel so alone. Haven’t received much mail, and very few phone calls. No letters from my two children (ages nine and fourteen) and that hurts. I guess I’ll just trust my counselor and higher power and this thing called “the process.”
Thinking of my other “best rehab friends” who have been discharged. Lance to the west coast (he would call me two weeks later drunk). Others to Dallas, Charleston (SC), Roanoke (VA). I want to stay in touch with them, but will I?
I have called several Oxford Houses and most are full. I do have an interview at one in a nearby town. I really have no idea what this all means. Getting around with no driver’s license or car is hard, and it takes a lot of time and energy and planning. “One day at a time” plays in my head. I am looking forward to seeing the kids – not so certain about my wife. I don’t really know what all this means except that it’s frightening, and it has been going on for years. “First Things First” is now playing.
I arrive in Raleigh at 4:30 pm. It is wet and mild for late November. I wander around the mostly deserted downtown square area with my bag. I learn that there is no inter-city bus service today (I am 25 miles from home). Damn. Finally negotiate an affordable cab ride. They are desperate too.
Arrive home sober for first time in months. Clean, quiet and sad. Wife and daughter arrive home at 9:30pm from Thanksgiving out of town visit with relatives. A cool but polite reception.
Next morning I am out early to an AA meeting at a nearby church. Fifty people and the chairperson picks me second to “share.” I introduce myself and blabber something about it being my first visit home and I am in rehab and I have no real idea what I am doing and I am grateful to be sober and this is my first AA meeting here and I better shut up now and so I do. Afterwards I am greeted and welcomed by many, and one guy comes over and says he was in the same rehab five years ago and tells me to say "hi" to so and so.
One woman approaches me as I’m ready to leave. She and I were antagonists nine years ago when I was a PTA president and she was a new to the area parent who I thought was an angry, bitchy, unhappy whiner and complainer. I couldn’t tell who was more surprised; the whiner, or the loser. She said “Does anyone know?” I have no response. She then offers to have her daughter help my kids learn to live with an alcoholic parent. Hoo boy, this is going to be fun. Spent the rest of the day stacking firewood at home and doing little fix-its. Out in the evening to “The Grinch” and a Chinese dinner. Next day just hung out, went ice skating with my son, and a rehab friend picked me up in the evening to go for an Oxford House interview.
The interview went well and I was “accepted” and then a few minutes later I am told that the guy who is leaving has decided to stay. I will get the next available slot, but not in time for my planned discharge in a week. On the ride home my friend said all he knew to say was that there must be a reason. I agreed with him. I had no idea what I meant. We drove by another Oxford House that I would later be admitted to.
I went to another AA meeting that night and met four or five old timers. One wants me to call him as soon as I return for good. After the meeting I am waiting outside for a ride when I hear a voice calling “Dr. G.” I turn to see that it is Sarah, a former high school student of mine (I had been fired from this school the previous year). She introduced herself, reminded me that she had graduated in ’99 and was now living in a nearby town. I quickly explained that I was in treatment in a nearby state, that I was an alcoholic, that I was on my first visit home, and that I was glad to see her. She responded “You were the best principal I ever had.”
“Remember that day when I came in your office and cried and cried and I had left home?” I was now recalling that moment.
“I wanted to finish school, and to enroll in the community college, and I couldn’t go home. You let me finish the one course I needed even though it was against the district policy because I didn’t live there anymore.” I was now remembering it all.
“And the day I graduated you handed me my diploma and shook my hand and patted me on the back. I will never forget that.” I am now stunned, and teary-eyed.
“I’m here today with my roommate supporting her. This is the first time I’ve ever been here.”Note: This installment is long enough. It has been awhile since I wrote about this time in my life. I am going to post these regularly in the coming weeks as I work through my early sobriety. Thanks for reading.