As they say, hindsight is a great thing. When I look back on all the times I spent in rehab from the age of 18, there is so much I wish I had known - or rather taken seriously and actually listened to. I believe addicts are often members of the 'it won't happen to me club' and I certainly was a fully paid-up member. I used to roll my eyes when statistics were quoted at us with regards to deaths and other consequences from addiction; I always thought they were just scare tactics. Sadly, many years on, I realise they were all true.
Entering rehab for the first time
I have lost count of the funerals I have attended. Shamefully, I now realise just what a gift the opportunity of going to rehab was and is. When my parents gave me the option of rehab or being cut off I resentfully went. What makes me feel this shame now is the fact that the government funding for rehabs has all but ceased; I have known people dying on waiting lists desperate for help. It is an absolute privilege to get an opportunity to attend rehab and I only realised this many years later.
At 18, after my first detox when I had started to feel a little better physically, we complied with the program on offer. Soon, though, things became more like flirting, breaking rules, having a giggle basically - literally reverting to being a teenager. I had decided that somehow I was special and different and that various things did not apply to me; I was a heroin addict, for instance, so of course I didn't have a problem with alcohol! Fast forward to two weeks later after leaving rehab and meeting up with my mates for that drink. Six hours later I was slumped in bed with heroin in front of me and a bottle of vodka under the bed. Maybe, just maybe they had been correct!
I believe my drug of choice is escape, and I did that from as far back as I can remember according to what was available to me. I did not know how to face or live life without some sort of anaesthetic. Rehab essentially equipped me with the tools to live in the world drug and alcohol-free - tools that I continue to use to this day. Rehab also introduced me to the 12 step programs and meetings, upon which I base my recovery to this day.
The power of groups
I also realise now that I took for granted the power of groups. I was very fortunate to experience the help of some incredible therapists whose wisdom and lessons still stay with me today. As well as therapy from these great teams of professionals I also now look back and see that there was great power and healing within my group of peers. For someone who had basically ended up using and drinking, shut in a room and trusting no one, to suddenly come into a group of people and be encouraged to 'trust, risk, & share’ seemed alien to me and incredibly daunting.
However, over the time we all spent together, I found myself doing just that and realised the natural relief that comes with human connection and the healing that came from identifying with my feelings and those of my peers. I had a lot of shame I had kept shut away, and I believed I would never share it with anybody. Incredibly, I was able to share this and got such huge relief from lack of judgement. I realised in rehab that I really did not know how to live.
Looking back at life before recovery
Today, I am so immensely grateful for the time I was able to have in rehab. I admire people who manage to find recovery by themselves, but I know they are in the minority. I had tried so many times to stop myself but just found it impossible, so I am forever grateful I was able to build my recovery foundation in a rehab.
It gave me the much-needed space to get physically detoxed, be in a safe space, and to start to clear my head and repair damaged relationships. I found connection in my life for the first time in a long time, creating bonds and above all giving me hope and freedom from the hell I had been trapped in. My illness of addiction basically wants me dead. It will tell me that I am okay and that I don't have a problem when I have been in active addiction, it will try and put any block in place against me getting well.
I am so very grateful I listened to the professionals around me. I admitted defeat, surrendered and acted on advice from those who had been there previously. I entered rehab and started my recovery journey that has led me to truly living a life I could only have ever dreamed of when I was using and felt that recovery was impossible for me.
If you are struggling and have the option of rehab, I implore you to grab it with both hands and give yourself and your family the best gift ever: recovery.
Reaching out to Help Me Stop
The Help Me Stop team, of which Lucy is a member, is right here to support you and give guidance on drug and alcohol addiction. Our newly launched Digital Dayhab model is available online and provides an intensive four-week course that can be conducted from your own home.
If you’d like to speak to a member of the team directly, you can call us on 0208 191 8920. You can also use our contact form or speak to Lucy herself directly by using our chat tool you’ll see in the corner of every page of our website.