Repeat Offender: Navigating My Way through Multiple Treatments Centers

By: Chris Collins, Transformations alumnus and Alumni Coordinator

I was fourteen years old when I landed in my first treatment center. The line between recreational and habitual drug use was crossed very early in my story. I remember my mom telling me about her experience at the center’s first family weekend. She told me they had all the parents in one room and they said “since you’re sitting here today, your child has four options. They will either end up in jail, become institutionalized, die, or recover.” This prognosis was lost on my mom that day. How do I know this? For one, the doom and gloom of it all seemed excessive to her. And then there was the three-word refutation that I think all parents mutter to themselves during a harsh and unfamiliar realities – “not my child.”

That treatment center would be the first of 14 inpatient rehabs I would find myself checked into over the next 12 years. When added up, I have spent more than a year-and-a-half of my life in those facilities. I can tell you that as the letters from home lessened, money for cigarettes no longer a priority and any hope or optimism people once had replaced by fear and suspicion, I found myself becoming more and more manipulative in order to get what I wanted.  My home was a battle field where everyone was walking on egg shells. My family never wanted to believe I was really going back to drugs.  It was too painful for them.  They wanted to believe my lies.

This is a family disease that affects everyone. My dad became co-dependent. He was terrified that I was going to die.  He wanted to try anything, no matter how irrational it might have been, to keep me alive. My mother became tired, jaded, and angry.  She was still there to make the phone calls to rehabs and the insurance companies, but she had become suspicious of my motives and began to suspect that ending my drug addiction wasn’t something I really wanted.  She wanted to protect my father from the anxiety attacks he suffered.  She wanted to protect me from those who would hurt me.  But as time went by, she began to realize that her need to protect me had become a tool in my arsenal of drug addictive behaviors.  I used their love for me against them to get what I wanted.  Then there’s my sister.  She was a victim of my drug addiction too.  She was a good kid that sometimes got overlooked, her accomplishments in life taking a backseat to my addiction.  My family surviving all of this is a truly a testament to their love and my recovery.

So why did I end up in so many rehabs? It’s because they became a welcomed refuge from all the chaos in my life. Sometimes it was a pit stop to feel human again. A couple times it was literally a get out of jail free card. Other times it was just to get my family off my back, and then there were the sincere rock-bottom attempts where I really did give it my all. The problem with all the rehabs, regardless of their origin, was that I really did believe I could fix my life on my own. Eventually I would stop going to therapy, stop answering the calls of my sober support, stop going to meetings and start making my way down the road of least resistance. Using was easy, comfortable, and fit like an old glove just waiting to be put back on. Staying clean is hard. The hole I dug in active addiction was so deep that going back to drugs seemed easier than trying to climb out – until it wasn’t.

Another reason was my inability to be honest.  Lying, whether intentional or not, was a way of survival for myself and my addiction.  There is a Facebook meme that I love and it goes like this. “When you wear a lot of armor, everything looks like a knife.” I did not have the life experience needed to let my guard down and get vulnerable with other human beings.

It was until my last treatment experience, back in November of 2014, where my journey in recovery really started. Trauma-based therapy changed everything. I began to learn why I did the things I did and how the traumatic events from my past were wreaking havoc on my present therefore destroying my future. Life beat me into honesty. The fear of never being heard, or never being known gave me the strength to let people in. Piece by piece I took the armor off.

My mom told me that when I got on that plane to come to south Florida that she thought she would never see me again. The truth is that she was right. That scared, broken boy no longer exists. I stayed in halfway for over a year, went through IOP with Transformations, and finally started to support myself financially. My family didn’t need to bail me out or worry about enabling me anymore. I remember telling my mom I wanted to come home after three months sober and she sent me a list of homeless shelters in Florida. Thank god right?

I want you to know that if you have been in and out of rehabs – there is still hope. I don’t care how many detox’s, halfway houses, IOP’s or whatever you have been to, as long as you are breathing, there is still hope. Treatment removes a layer off the onion. Some addicts just have more layers than others. Seeds are being planted in us all the time that just need experience to grow. I had to touch the stove to find out it was hot. And then I had to touch again over and over just to make sure.  If you’re like me and you have burned your hand – know that it can heal, and you can get better.

To learn more about Chris and the rest of the Alumni team, click HERE

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