Gail recalls her experience at the treatment center where she began her recovery from alcoholism.
When I got to treatment I was petrified. I didn’t know what that feeling was at the time because I didn’t know how to recognize it, but I know now that it was fear.
They take you in. They go through all your stuff. They take what they think you need. They throw away what they think you don’t need.
It’s a very vigorous, strong schedule they put you on. You eat when breakfast, lunch and dinner is ready. You do share groups.
In the treatment center that I went to we had morning group and then we would read and then we would have lunch and then we would do classes and then they would teach us to meditate or they would teach us how to communicate.
And they were teaching us life skills again because when I got there I didn’t have any life skills. I knew how to drink. I knew how to get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, put whiskey in my coffee and I knew, and that was my day.
The treatment center taught, the schedule was rigorous, I mean it was from 7 a.m. you had to be up, showered, ready to go for the day.
We had certain times where you could shower, certain times for evening and they had like Friday nights and the weekends were great. We had park days on Saturday, and family visits on Sunday.
But the first two weeks you don’t get family visits. You can get a phone call from your family, and that’s a good thing because I think if we get in there and we start worrying about what’s my daughter doing or what are my kids doing or are they eating or, then you are not focusing on your recovery.
And I think that that’s got to be number one for us. For me it did. I had to put my recovery first like I said I always do to this day.
They taught us how to read again. We had crafts. We had different projects where we would pick out things out of a magazine, words that would, for us what do you consider serenity to be, and you could use any magazine.
It could have been from Oprah magazine, to Home and Garden, to a People magazine.
I mean any little bit, any picture, any phrase, any saying and you made this collage about what you through serenity would be for you.
And everybody’s idea or serenity is different. But you learn from that and that’s what part of the recovery is, is learning and being teachable.
For me they re-enacted what I thought got me drunk, what I thought the things, the feelings I was pushing down, and I have a really odd story about that.
It was like role playing and you pick a person in your group that you want to play your mother or that you want to play your father or somebody that you want to play your God, who you are angry at, or your mother who you are angry at or the role playing of the people that you are feeling for.
Before I went into treatment a girlfriend of mine gave me her rosary beads and I said I would take them with me and I took them into treatment.
Well, when it was my turn to role play I took those rosary beads with me because I knew that my God was a huge thing for me and I had leaned on him a lot.
And through my role playing and using those rosary beads the counselor came up to me that evening and said that it was powerful and that she was wondering if we could borrow my rosary beads to help two other people in our group help with their role playing, that they had asked her if they could use those.
And I said, “Of course they can. If they would like to use those, they can.” But I know what they did was they dug deep.
They dug deep and I found out that when my stepfather had committed suicide, and I was the only one he told that he was going to do it, and I was going to college at the time.
I was working full time and he got sick with cancer and this was back in 86 or 87, I want to say, and we would have to drive to Phoenix to get the radiation and stuff.
And he told me outside of the doctor’s office one time, he said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t put your mother through it. I can’t put you through it. I am just going to kill myself.”
And I was like, “Oh dad, stop talking like that. You are not going to do that.” You know, this was the man who raised me since I was three, fed me, clothed me, taught me my morals and my values.
But then he said it again and I took it seriously, and so when I got home that night and I called my brothers and my sister and I said, “Listen dad’s serious. Get the gun out of the house and you don’t let mom go home alone.”
And a week later I got the phone call that he had shot himself. Nobody listened to me.
And through that treatment center they taught me that I had been carrying that burden the whole time and that it wasn’t the burden for me to carry. It was his burden. He put that burden on me by telling just me and I know that today.
So they broke me down and they built me up. They taught me how to live again. They taught me how to love again. They taught me patience. They taught me tolerance. They taught me unity. They taught me friendship. They taught me to be a mom.
They taught me to journal. They taught me to pray. And I met some really great people in there. I would say there was probably maybe 33 of us total – 12 men, the rest women.
And I don’t really know but to my knowledge out of all of those I am the only one who continued with my sobriety. And I don’t know that for a fact, but one of the ladies was a roommate of mine and she was an older lady.
And she just dropped dead of a heart attack two months ago and she didn’t die sober. This disease kills a lot of women.
I was in recovery for 28 days and as soon as I got out of recovery they said, “Here’s a list of phone numbers and call another alcoholic when you get there.”
And I did that, and today I am involved, I am on the crisis line to help other women. I get other women from out of treatment and then they get my number so that they can call me first when they get home from where they were at, so that I can get them connected and grounded where they need to be.
That’s what my recovery is today is to reach out and to stay sober, to work, you know, simple principles in my life and be a productive member of the society and go through the goods and the bads.
It’s tough when you lose somebody that you love that you would normally do a toast and go, you know, we are going to miss you or things like that. I know my brother died and we passed around a rum and Coke, and that was who my brother was.
Interview Scheduled By In The Rooms®: A Global Recovery Community.