Well, I've been at Axis a little more than a week now and am happy to report it's not the prison or grim hospital-like institution I feared. I've even started heading out on a few "field trips." Yesterday we went to the driving range, which I've always liked to do. After making it through detox and then settling into the structured routine here, it can feel a bit odd stepping out into the "real" world. It's like I'm exposed and everyone knows my secret: I'm a hopeless alcoholic and drug addict who's been rejected by society. In reality, I'm sure no one is even paying attention to me; they're all just trying to cure their slices. But I still feel self-conscious and embarrassed about being here, and also like I don't even deserve to have fun. Dillon assures me these are all normal feelings. He suggests I "act as if" for a while—act as if I deserved to enjoy myself…as if I felt better…as if I belonged. It is taking some getting used to, but each outing—be it hiking, going to the driving range, or getting a latte at the mall—is getting easier and easier. Doing little things like that, I'm slowly beginning to suspect that I will be able to manage on my own…if I continue to use the skills Axis is teaching me.
One interesting thing happened at the driving range. It is pretty common to drink at places like this. In fact, I used to do that all the time—hit some balls with a few buddies while we downed beers. Anyway, I noticed a few guys were pretty drunk and started getting a little belligerent and loud—probably not intentionally (your hearing is impaired when under the influence). Clearly, they thought they were being hilarious, but the truth is, they were obnoxious and I actually was embarrassed for them. It made me think about when I was drunk in public. I'm sure I behaved the same way, if not worse. And, trust me, my slice wasn't getting any better either!
One of the things I like most about getting out is staying engaged with the outside world. Going to 12-step meetings is a big help in this regard, even though I dreaded them at first. I thought I'd find a bunch of gutter-drunk pub crawlers spouting off about how their "Higher Power" had saved them from a life of sleeping in alleys and washing windows on exit ramps. Boy, was I wrong! Just as my preconceptions about the people I'd find in rehab were completely off base, so too was my prejudice about AA. Everyone was there, all types, from businessmen and housewives to carpenters and tattooed bikers (and, by the way, a few "gutter drunks" as well whose insights about the nature of their disease were as profound as anything else I hear at these meetings). I shared for the first time the other day and, though I was nervous at first, I wound up feeling a great sense of relief and connection when I was done. These meetings have become a big part of my recovery, and I hope they will continue to be for a long time to come—if I'm smart enough to keep putting my sobriety first.
I feel like I need to develop these real-world muscles to be ready for when I am back out there on my own. But for now, I find comfort in being here. Although I really miss Jenny and Ryder, I'm actually grateful for the break from life. My job is so stressful and time consuming that I never have time to relax and do things I enjoy like swimming and golf. And who knew I would like yoga and guided meditation? My East Coast pals are gonna make jokes about me turning into a California cliché, but I don't care. I'd rather be a happy cliché than a miserable renegade. Like everyone here—like everyone everywhere, even the healthiest, most evolved people I know—I have bad days and sometimes don't want to do anything. But that's ok too; the staff at Axis encourages participation, but they never force the issue.
My personal time continues to be limited. I only have two hours a day, sometimes more during the weekend, for free time. Having alone time is awesome but it leaves me with my own dark thoughts. My "ruminations," Jenny used to say. What am I doing with my life? How did I get here? Am I ever going to get better? Thank God whenever I have mental setbacks and contemplate how great it would be to have a drink, there is always someone close by I can speak with. Talking to Jenny and Ryder every day and being able to see them regularly also keeps me focused and motivated. My wife told me she is proud of what I have accomplished so far and can hear the change in me over the phone. Hearing the hope in her voice gives me hope of my own: for my sobriety, for my family, and for our future (and even for my golf game)!
Follow us on twitter for updates.
Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient's experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.