I think the title of this sums up my active addiction pretty well, so I’m going to fast forward right into my treatment experiences. Plus, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Cops, you pretty much know how that whole forward goes anyway.

I was sent to a drug and alcohol treatment center for the first time when I was 15. I had been drinking for six years already by that time and had no intention of stopping. The program was five days a week of IOP mixed in with school curriculum. I drank afterwards every day and mixed some drugs in as well. This was almost 20 years ago, so beating a drug test wasn’t very hard for a crafty teenager. I kept my head down and completed the program after about four months.

I entered treatment for the next time at the age of 20. This time I was going because I thought they were going to teach me how to drink like a normal person. The treatment center didn’t have an answer for that and was only selling me this “abstinence model.”  Since there was no way I would ever stop drinking, I knew this was not for me. I completed the program but followed absolutely none of the aftercare recommendations. Upon leaving, the staff told me things would get exponentially worse if I did not follow their recommendations. I heard the statement but couldn’t understand it.

I quickly drank and drugged myself into quite a mess very shortly after leaving treatment. I remember thinking, “Maybe those Freudian weirdos were right.”  They predicted this. I was facing some serious consequences and going back to treatment seemed like a good plan; so I went. This time I had a better understanding that all this stuff they were saying actually applied to me. The more I learned and the more I identified, the more frightened I became. No matter where I turned, everyone seemed to tell me that “talking about it” was the only way through this. I had a bit of a problem here because I lived my life by a pretty simple rule: Don’t talk about anything! Before this, I had lived most of my life with a mask on, an invisible armor that would shield me from anything. This new setting of vulnerability, emotions, and talking brought on a new façade, a new level of keeping my distance from everyone.

I spent the next three years in and out of treatment, among a few other places. Let’s just say I became a bit “treatment savvy” and was not exactly the model client. I could not admit it to myself at the time but with each new admission I became more and more frightened. I was scared out of my mind and I had only two coping skills in my life: substances and anger. No booze in treatment meant bring on the rage.

I cursed at staff. I played games with doctors and therapists. I started lots of trouble with other clients. I was too scared of what my addiction was doing to me to stay in the outside world, and too scared of what treatment wanted from me to do anything to help myself. This was who I became; I was the problem client.

I walked around like I thought I was on a prison yard. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I think I went three days without saying a single word once, only to break my silence by threatening to throw a chair through a window. Hood up, chain smoking, and pacing was all I did.

I knew how everyone looked at me. I knew many were thinking, “Why does he bother even being here? There’s no way this kid can get sober.”  I knew not too many people were expecting very much from me. I heard the whispers of “he’ll never change” from friends and family before I even went in. I was definitely the guy everyone expected to be a casualty of this disease.

I wish I could explain some magic moment when the scale started to tip in the other direction. I don’t think there was a moment like that. I think I just couldn’t hide the fear any longer, like it had just become too heavy and I had to drop the façade.

Some really amazing and patient people stuck with me and helped me along the way. I will forever be grateful to these people. God knows I gave them absolutely no reason to help me. I started to listen. I started to follow suggestions. It took some prying but eventually I started to finally talk about it.

Things got better, so I kept following suggestions. I’ve been doing that for ten and a half years now. I went from scared little boy pretending to be the toughest guy on the block to a father of two, husband, and holding down a great job. I hope someone reads this and it can help them drop that heavy façade. I really hope someone reads this and looks at the guy or girl they know who they think will never get “it” and sees someone just waiting to get sober.

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