What can I say! I was not even closely prepared for what I was about to experience. I assume others might have been better prepared; but I had to just run into this head first, so that I wouldn’t change my mind. It was shocking to me at the beginning, and such a blessing to me at the end.
6:00am – My friend and coworker picked me up to make the 3.5 hour drive to the hospital. Fortunately, we had an office nearby the hospital and he had some work to do there, so it worked out well. It was an uneventful drive.
10:45am – We arrived at the hospital. People from work had gotten me 2 bags full of things like games, puzzles, toys, food, etc to help me get through the days. I was told I’d be at a hospital for 5 days detoxing and basically sitting in a room with nothing to do, so they tried to help me through that time with tons of things to pass my time. Needless to say, I never even opened the bags and I was so wrong on what I was about to go through. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone.
My friend left and I was in a small entryway and told them I was there for detox. They took all my bags through a small window. They then told me to give them my wallet, phone and anything else in my pockets. They then let me into the lobby to fill out the paperwork. I then asked for my phone back and they said I wouldn’t get it back until I left the facility. Wait, what? No phone, no laptop, nothing.
What have I gotten myself into?
The next six hours were spent sitting in a 6 x 6 room with three chairs. From time to time people came in. Once to do a Breathalyzer, once to give me lunch, once to interview me and then to deal with insurance. Finally at around 4:00, I get to go to my unit.
What came next rocked my world. I was brought onto the unit and asked to sit while they brought my bags from the front. Then they had me give them my belt. Then the strip search. Once again, what was happening? I’m not a thief. Am I in prison? Then it came to me, I’m in a mental hospital! Next they went through every item of my suitcase and removed everything I couldn’t have. Nothing with a rope or string. No shoe laces (fortunately I had on sandals). My razor, gone. My pillow, gone. My Mom’s cross neckless that I’ve worn since she died, gone. No phone, no watch no laptop, no iPad. My room had no shower curtain, no door for the toilet. It had two beds, two shelves and a sink.
My life was about to change dramatically and I knew it.
My day started at 6:00am the next morning. I got up off of my 2″ thick mattress on a wooden bed and a 2″ pillow and got my toiletries from the nurses station along with towels. Showers, morning meds distributed by a nurse, then breakfast. Doors locked to the rooms at 7:45am and didn’t open until 8:00pm. They had us line up and did a roll call. “Here” each person yelled when their name was called out. We then went single file to the cafeteria with a tech in the front and in the back of the line. The cafeteria was at 60 degrees. The food was very good, and then back to the unit – single file. Four outdoor breaks a day. Group meetings with lunch and more meetings, dinner, showers, meds, and finally bed at 10:00pm. Darkness. No TV, no media, no phone. Just alone with my thoughts. Would I fall asleep or just lay there in the dark? A woman there told me of 8x4x8. Count up to 8 breathing in, count to 4 and then count to 8 as you exhale. It is an amazing way to fall asleep.
The first 24 hours were shock. Going from full freedom to prison was a very difficult experience. However, after I got with the routine and expectations, things went much smoother. There was a nurse there, I’ll call her Meg. She was awesome. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it through. She was kind but stern at the same time. She really seemed to trust me and I trusted her. Have you ever seen someone for the first time and felt like you knew them forever? That was Meg. She worked the evenings and that was when I needed help most, especially at the beginning. I was lost and she knew it. She got me an extra blanket that no one else would approve. Why was this so important to me? My pillow was 2″ thick and basically non-existent once I laid my head on it. I took the second blanket and put it under my pillow to raise my head (I have a pinched nerve in my neck). It was hard, but at least I had my head raised. One day they were calling names for evening meds. It was late and I was tired. I mentioned to someone that I wish they would start with the “T’s” rather than the A’s. A few minutes later, Meg called out the people to get meds, and she started with the T’s (it’s the small things).
The people I met were just normal people. From a grandmotherly woman to a woman who looked like she was 15, but was 24. Black, white, and people with 2 legs, 1 leg and no legs. From very shy to VERY extroverted. Few men and many women. Smokers, non-smokers. Happy, sad, and vacant and everything in-between. I really liked everyone there. They were real and just like me, had issues with alcohol and or depression.
I came in scared, I left confident and happy. I detoxed from alcohol. I had been drinking about 13 drinks a day and other than my hands shaking, I had no symptoms of detoxing the whole time. I also detoxed from my phone and computer. I detoxed from the news. I detoxed from having to have the TV on to go to sleep.
I’ve been home 2 days now. Interestingly enough, everyday at 4:00, even without looking at the clock, I hit a wall. I get depressed and anxious. I figure that is because I would drink my first drink around then each day. Yesterday my Lovely Wife said, let’s listen to Christian music and you do your Sudoku and read your Bible and relax. Next things I knew it was 6pm and I was past the difficulty.
My life with my Lovely Wife has gotten so much better. We talk and laugh and enjoy each other. Last night we stayed up till midnight talking (not a great idea as I had an 8:00 meeting this morning, but TOTALLY worth it).
Shock and awe. Awe stands for Awesome, which is what God is. He can turn the worst circumstances into the best life, if we let Him.
He is Awesome!