I entered the hospital on July 27th, 2015. My symptoms included violent tremors, sky-high blood pressure, and white spots dancing wildly around the periphery of my vision. I’d been suicidal just days earlier, going so far as to fill a bathtub with warm water before deciding that such a method was far too cliché. My family was terrified and hopeless, hostage yet again to my baffling decision to give into my addiction. Over a decade of hard evidence that drugs and alcohol would undoubtedly kill me and cause immeasurable harm to the people I loved the most was apparently not enough to assuage my overwhelming urges. I was in a state of absolute despair. Despite prior years of productive sobriety and multiple treatment facilities, I was missing something. I hated the idea of returning to rehab – a word I’d come to associate with locked doors, sterile white walls, hard-backed chairs, and relentlessly toxic community living. I wanted to die, but I didn’t want my family to have to endure my death. I wanted to stop drinking, but I had no ability whatsoever to comprehend it – I was incapable of even imagining recovery as a concept. I wanted to be happy, but I hadn’t the slightest inkling of what happiness was. This maddening rhetoric of spiritual destitution had shrunk my entire world to the size of a coffin – I couldn’t move in any direction. And then I stumbled ass-backwards into a series of miracles for which I can’t even try to claim credit.
I agreed to get medical attention – hey, at least I could lie down in the ER. I surrendered more than I realized with that thought. I was too drained to care anymore, to the point where I was out of ideas. “Take me,” I supposed, apathetic and exhausted, “Do whatever you want with me.” I didn’t even realize I had finally gotten out of my own way.
I left a message with a clinical coordinator from a previous rehab. I expressed that I knew I needed help, but that I was completely out of faith in institutions. She listened kindly, and admitted that it had become extremely difficult to help individuals with so many 3rd and 4th generation addicts filtering through the legal system and overcrowding the already under-funded facilities. Such a system lends itself to overworked and underappreciated staff, disingenuous and dangerous patients, and very little room left to provide help to those who truly want it. But, she stressed, there was always hope. And she proceeded to get me in touch with a representative from Sunrise Detox who assured me that he would find me a place where I could actually get the kind of treatment I deserved. At the time I didn’t feel as though I even deserved the air I was breathing, but I believed him. I really appreciated being treated that way – as an adult with legitimate concerns, and not a noncompliant junkie. I decided then that I was indeed worth it, and that I did deserve a chance. I was still skeptical that inpatient treatment would be anything other than four walls and crappy food as usual, but, again, I was done fighting. If I was going to go out, at least I’d go out trying.
This is where Liberation Way comes in. I cannot overemphasize the power of the impact it has had on my life. I knew coming in that I was starting over in every possible sense of the idea. Without a home, money, or friends, I came in quite literally as a blank slate. And to my own astonishment, I was given every possible means of creating a life. I was treated like a human being from the first moment. All of the staff had their own story of how addiction had touched their life, and showed genuine interest in helping me find my path. The program was designed to provide the tools and support I’d need to be the architect of my own recovery. My comfort and security was the number one priority. I don’t want to sound like a newsletter here, but after years of institutions and hospitals, I cannot stress enough how different this approach is to what I’d come to expect. By treating me like a worthy person, they strengthened my self-worth. By trusting me, they motivated me to be trustworthy. By expecting me to be responsible and useful, they made me so. They knew I had these qualities; they knew I had potential, and they showed me that I knew it too. The program fosters a community based on shared experience, caring for others, and exercising patience and respect. Whereas in other places the community would thrive on negativity and gaming the system, this community exposed those individuals who would put other clients at risk. They provide activities, progress through phases, and exponential freedoms for those who earn it. They gave us the rope, as it were, and guided us through not hanging ourselves.
The phases gently guided me along a path of progress, slowly lifting away enforced structure so that I could learn to provide my own. My hobbies and talents were enthusiastically supported and encouraged, and if anyone lacked the means of exploring their own interests, it was provided for them. We were regularly treated to fun activities and trips, including ones that we suggested. In fact, more often than not our suggestions were welcomed and followed through with. And the staff remained attentive even after I moved on from the everyday community. They treat clients as peers, not patients. Any authority they exercised was always in the name of integrity, and in the interest of the program as a whole. Defiant and resistant clients were treated with respect and given ample opportunities to change their behavior, as well as the chance to explore what was emotionally or psychologically contributing to it. I saw a lot of people I might have deemed completely hopeless turn into leaders among their peers.
I entered the program empty, and came out overflowing. I was given opportunities to help other people, to become an example, and to allow the best parts of me to thrive. And the relationship did not end with my completion of the phases. For as long as I want to be a part of it, I can. Despite the fact that it is of course a business, I’ve never felt like a dollar sign or a bed to fill. I’ve never seen a clinical team that so personally invested so much in the success of its clients.
Liberation Way is a place that wants to help people. I can’t put it more simply than that. Addiction and recovery are incredibly complex, abstract issues, and in a cultural climate where advocacy, understanding, and options are desperately necessary, this program is a model that deserves attention. The days of the one-size-fits-all, lock-em-up and forget about them “treatment” mode are over, and I am grateful to be a part of a program that is on the front lines in the revolution of addiction awareness.
There is always hope.