First, Court For the DUI (Again): Then Rehab (Again)
I have previously been posting some about my struggle with alcoholism. Please see the left margin under Links for previous posts if you are interested. I am now writing a series of what it was like in rehab, and my early days in sobriety. My purpose in writing is to get the story out of my head (it’s time), and possibly to help another who may be struggling with alcoholism/addiction issues. I mention AA as it is a significant part of my story. I do not represent AA nor speak for it in any manner. I do not promote it. There are many ways to achieve sobriety, and I respect them all. This is just my experience, strength and hope story. I am the beneficiary of grace. I am truly grateful to be alive today. This is Part 1 of several posts coming up.
REHAB (Part 1)
I am nervously eating lunch in a café two blocks from the courthouse. I sit down and eat, but I feel like pacing (which I have been doing now for the previous three hours). Court restarts at 1:00pm and my case is on the docket. I have been afraid of this day for four months. The judge that my attorney “selected” didn’t show today, and my attorney hasn’t shown yet either. A quick phone call and he says he is on his way and “will take care of things.” As I nervously wait, about every fifth “case” is walked out in handcuffs to go straight to jail. Every now and then someone is brought in wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and cuffs. They couldn’t raise the bail money. Mine was $800.00 and I could. The charge was DUI #2 (second in 16 months, 0.30 on Intoxylizer) and DWLR (Driving While Licensed Revoked).
My case is called and I approach the bench. I have done this twice before; once when I was 20 years old and spent a night in the London, KY jail. The other time was when I was 30 years old and was testifying to have wife #1 legally committed to a psychiatric facility. Now I am 50 years old. This was not the life I had planned. My attorney makes a few remarks and the judge asks me to step forward. I do not remember what he said, but I blurted out how sorry I was, and how I was planning to go to a rehab facility the next day if he gave me the opportunity to do so. I was sober that day (had not had a drink in 12 days) and wearing a nice looking suit and tie. I was polite. I was white. Years later I wrote an Op-Ed piece on white male privilege that was widely received – and also widely reviled. The judge opined that he had seen some people “like me (meaning alcoholics) turn their lives around with a second chance.” I had a glimmer of hope. He then read the sentence “30 days in jail SUSPENDED if you complete treatment starting tomorrow, 17 months in prison SUSPENDED – any violation of supervised probation will result in automatic activation of 17 month sentence, $500.00 fine, $20.00/month probation fee for two years, $90.00 court costs, forfeiture of car to the state for auction (proceeds to benefit public schools). I am teary eyed, and thank him in a low voice, and walk to the lobby.
I spend that night again in a local hotel in my hometown. My wife does not want me staying in the house. I don’t like it, but I accept it. The next day I am driven four hours to a drug/alcohol rehabilitation center in Virginia. It didn’t look anything like what I pictured. I waited numbly in the lobby of the old house that was the main building of the center. My diary notes say “…sad and confused. Admitted at 3:00pm. Hugged my father goodbye (first hug I ever had from him). A patient named Mike showed me around, and my room. They made me go to an AA meeting that night. Everything was a blur.”
The next day I “feel better.” It‘s Saturday. I go to several group discussions. I am allowed to call home. My wife is angry (“all business”); She asks “do you have enough structure there?” I shoot back “This is no picnic” and hang-up. That afternoon the group goes to an NA picnic in a nearby park. I am angry, but went anyway and tried to make the best of it. I have no idea what I am doing, or why. On Sunday I go to some more groups, and the afternoon is free for visitors to come. I have none, of course. Feeling very lonely. Did I say I have no idea of what I’m doing or why?
Monday is my first full day. I saw the doc and told everything I could and met my case manger. Great, I am now a case to be managed. This is not the life I had planned. The next day I learn that I will be moving from the detox inpatient rooms in the old house to the apartments where the patients (residents) stay. I have no linens and no ride there, but someone finally drives me over. I arrive at 5:00pm and am met on the steps by one of my roommates who says matter of factly: “We’re going to an AA meeting, now. Come on.” I drop my bag and go with them. At 7:30 pm I find a frozen noodle dinner in the freezer and nuke it. This is all new and scary and I am lonely. I meet my four roommates. Friendly enough.
The next morning I meet with my case manger for a “psychosocial.” Lots of tears. She concludes with “You’re in the right place.” I have no idea what she means. Years later I would learn. I join my “group” at 11:00am. Seven people. Margaret is crying. I think she reminds me of a “suburban housewife.” That quick judgment and stereotyping thing is alive and well in me. I later learn she is a respected physician in her community and a drug addict, and she becomes one of my closest friends. Months later after discharge we would meet in Las Vegas for another new friend’s wedding. This turned out to be the first female friendship I ever had without sex involved. That’s a big deal for me.
In the afternoon Robert is “doing his 1st step.” I have no idea what that
means. Incredibly, he describes a near-death experience from his alcoholism that brought him here, and yet is in total denial about his situation. And this is his 89th and final day in treatment. He is going home tomorrow-to my home state too. The next day the group gives him "feedback” – it sounded pretty harsh to me – and he is discharged. I heard that he died sometime within that next year. The next several days involve groups, a meditation class, some light outdoor activities. That weekend my new buddy Larry and I walk to a shopping center across the street and wander around a Target for an hour or so. I had never been in a Target before. Reminded me of Wal-Mart for people with OCD. Still does. I am still confused, lonely, sad and have no real idea what I am doing. I am 50 years old, married with two children (ages 8 and 14), have a Ph.D. and a resume that shouts “very successful professional person.” I have no job (fired). This is my second inpatient rehab in five months (plus a week long residential therapy program, plus a three month day treatment program). I am feeling a little better physically; however, I am very aware that this is not the life I planned.
To be continued soon…