I realize that I’ve spent a good deal of time describing my life in active addiction. In order to fully understand how my life was transformed by Greenbriar and my commitment to recovery, I need to make it clear just how bad things got.
Prior to my life in active addiction, I had never taken a single thing that did not belong to me and was generally an upstanding citizen. My substance use caused me to throw most of my prior beliefs out the window in an effort to support my habit. There I was stealing drugs and money to sustain my use. I would find myself crawling around on the basement floor, just hoping and praying I’d find something on the ground that would make me feel better for a short time. I would berate myself, looking in a mirror, cursing myself for becoming the very thing I had sworn to fight against so many years before. I was a complete mess, but looking back I realize that this bottom was necessary for me to become who I am today.
Luckily for me, my family chose to support me through this crisis. I specifically remember telling my fiancé that I wouldn’t blame her for moving on – this was not the life she signed up for. However, she chose to stay. My father, fiancé, aunts, and uncles never gave up on me. They were understandably disappointed and concerned, but vowed to help me return to the Jeff they had known and loved for 45 years.
With the help of my aunt, I made one of the most difficult phone calls of my life on Friday October 14. While I can’t remember the name of the woman who did my phone intake at Greenbriar Treatment Center, I do remember her compassion. When I detailed my history of use (I had last used on 10/13/16) and explained my current predicament, she simply asked me “Jeff, how do feel and how are you doing?” At the time I remember being surprised at how easy it was to talk about my situation, especially because it felt like someone was actually interested in helping me. I now know that she was the first of many people at Greenbriar that would show they actually cared about my recovery and whether I lived or died.
I checked in to inpatient on Monday, October 17, 2016 with no idea what to expect. From the moment I entered the facility everyone made me feel at ease. Each staff member I encountered was kind and respectful, from the front desk receptionist to the nurse checking my vitals. I quickly realized that the people who worked here were something special and genuinely cared about my well- being.
Initially, I was also surprised by how much I had in common with the other patients. Not the same background or profession, but the same experiences in addiction. I sat in my first few groups and by the time they were over I realized that I was surrounded by a group of very diverse people who all shared one thing – we were all addicts trying to recover.
I tried to enter treatment with an open mind. I realized that my success was going to be determined by my willingness to take suggestions and follow through with them. I also had significant external motivators urging me forward. I wanted to complete treatment to show the court system (which I was sure I would be entering and this time not as a prosecutor) that I was serious committed to changing my life. I wanted to make my family proud and I wanted to prove to my fiancé that I her decision to stick with me was worth it.
During my time in treatment something “clicked” and I realized that all the outside forces could get me into treatment but couldn’t make me stay if didn’t find the strength and motivation internally to complete it and remain clean in the future. In an effort to show my commitment, I immediately signed up to receive Vivitrol and began journaling. Journaling was completely out of character, but I figured I’d be interested in looking back at my time in treatment one day in the future.
Overall, inpatient went by pretty quickly. I played a lot of volleyball, ran laps in the morning and evenings, and was even chosen to be mayor of the community. I remember my fiancé (who is now my wife) joking with me that now that I was unemployed I should add my tenure as mayor to my resume. Along the way I learned a lot about the disease of addiction and how it worked. Up until that point in time, I was still operating under the assumption that I was weak minded and made some really poor decisions.
Throughout my stay, so many deeply impactful things were said that I carry with me today. During one group, the counselor likened addiction to an allergy that develops later in life. This comparison hit home for me and helped me gain a better perspective on how my disease progressed. There was plenty of discussion regarding the curability of addiction. A lot of time was spent relaying the message that addiction is a treatable disease that can be managed, but never cured. Much of this was followed up by scientific evidence and research proving the disease concept of addiction. Learning these concepts helped to ease my shame. I finally began to understand that addiction is not a matter of will power and it has nothing to do with someone’s character, contrary to what I had previously believed.
Finally, there were the slogans. “Fake it til you make it,” “stinking thinking,” “nothing changes if nothing changes”, “one day at a time” and my personal favorite: “The monkey is off my back, but the circus is still in town”. I didn’t realize it then, but those simple slogans would help me navigate recovery time and time again.
Prior to my successfully discharge from inpatient, I had another life changing moment that I still think about frequently. I was with the nurse waiting to get my first Vivitrol shot. I talking with her about my legal situation and I was berating myself for the things I had done and for who I had become during my active use. Instead of joining my pity party, she told me that I wasn’t a bad person, but was a good person who made bad choices while in active addiction. I don’t think I really believed her at the time, but I do know that it sounded better than what I was saying to myself.
I discharged from inpatient on November 9, 2016. I was scheduled to begin outpatient the next day, but had to call and start on the following Monday due to the fact that I had to be arraigned on criminal charges stemming from all of my escapades in the evidence room. I was really nervous about what was to come but I was committed to getting through all of it while staying clean. I immediately threw myself into 12-step recovery and began my 90 meetings in 90 days.
Stay tuned for part three…