The day I decided to seek treatment was a day I will always remember. I was home visiting my family from college and sitting at a diner with my sister and her husband. I was telling them that I was losing my financial aid because I dropped all of my classes, and was planning on going back to school to “pretend” that I was going to graduate soon so my parents wouldn’t think there was anything wrong. I actually thought this was a great idea at the time and was convinced that it would work out. I also was terrified of getting what they call “dope sick” and had to drive back to school immediately. They tried to tell me what a horrible idea it was without being too confrontational because they knew how defensive I would get if they tried too hard. I would lie straight to their faces to protect my addiction. I took their advice with a grain of salt and started to walk to the car.
The car wouldn’t start. That was a “God moment” for me right there, even though I didn’t know it at the time. We all sat on the bench outside of the diner and waited for the tow truck to arrive. My sister looked at me with such concern and desperation as she asked “Megan, do you need help… all you have to do is ask”. I looked down, my eyes filled with tears as I stated defensively “help with what?” Deep down I knew what she was alluding to, but I couldn’t bring myself to lower my defenses or my ego long enough to cave in. My heart finally took control and I broke down right there in front of that family diner.
I agreed to get help and the process started from there. I don’t even know how it all worked out, but I do remember that I was sick on my parent’s couch for a week before I went into treatment. My sister made me snicker doodles as I laid there motionless filled with anxiety as I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I guess the snickerdoodles took the edge off a little bit. All I remember is thinking “I can’t do this”.
How does anybody live sober? I just didn’t get it. I have heard that addicts have always felt less than or inferior to the world at large, and I can absolutely connect with that cognitive distortion, that of course was addressed in therapy for the years to follow. My parents finally packed me in the car and drove me to treatment 8 hours away.
One of the most disturbing things about that trip was the conversation with my dad. He did not understand addiction and just thought that I had turned into a self absorbed person who did not care about her family. That is what the drugs did to me. I think that’s what it eventually does to all of us. I have memories of my brother begging and pleading with me to “come back”. “I just want my little sister back”. My sister would fear that phone call that I had overdosed and died. My mom would cry to me about why I never call anymore. All of this because of fear of living and functioning without the use of a substance.
How did my thinking become so distorted? How did I end up so far gone? I felt as if all of my dreams were stories I told myself to keep myself going. People in treatment would tell me, “Fake it till you make it”. I didn’t get it at the time, but now looking back I realize that I was pretending to be the person who I wanted to be, which ended up working for me in the end.
I do want to make something clear. I had no idea that I would become a therapist and work in the field of addiction. I learned this as my passion grew through my own personal journey. I realized that treatment really does work if you want it to. Therapy really does work if you choose for it to. My life trajectory changed tremendously through the years. I had always felt that I wasted so much time active in my addiction that I could never be where I was “supposed to be”. Through the years, I realized that I have always been right where I need to be, and when I was ready to move, I did.
I find that with my clients today. Many of them struggle to individuate themselves from their families and to trust the process of recovery. I find that most of the young men and women I work with have very low self esteem because they have based their self worth on their lives while active in addiction and cannot even imagine that they would like themselves sober. That is, until they do. I have seen the change in my clients coming into treatment feeling terrified, lost, depressed and sick to confident, healthy, and excited for the future. It sounds simple, and I know that sometimes negative feelings feel as if they will last forever. The good news is that nothing lasts forever. Not the Megan I was years ago feeling as though I would crawl out of my skin, or the Megan I am today.
I now have a Master’s Degree in Social Work, and truly believe in a client’s ability to stay sober. I am married and nine months pregnant building the family I have always wanted. I guess my message to the world would be; trust the process. It worked for me.
Education and passion plus personal experience equals miracles. I know I generally tell my clients not to use the word” always”, but I am prepared to make an exception this one time. I always believe in my clients, even when they don’t believe in themselves.
Anonymous is a therapist at Transformations Treatment Center in Delray Beach, Florida.