My Seven Weeks in an Irish Rehab

15.03.2016

Slept badly last night. Was woken a few times by heavy snoring from one of the lads in the room. “Stop snoring!” I’d shout, “Lie on your side!” “I am on my side,” came the reply, then the snoring would start again five minutes later.

That morning we had meditation at 8. Sleep to sleepiness to sleepy wakefulness. Breakfast, usual porridge, 3 slices of toast and a cup of tea. Starting to feel awake. Cleaned the room and swept and mopped the floor then read for an hour.

snail

In the group therapy meeting we spoke about discipline. Recovering addicts need to be vigilant everyday, he was saying. Each day they are always recovering. The process is constant until we die. It is a slow process. He drew a picture of a snail on the board. Underneath he wrote, “Did you ever meet me before? They call me a snail. It takes me a long time to get from A to B. If you are moving any faster than me, you are moving too fast. There is no rush. There is no rush. there is no rush.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that snail, the smell of the old upholstery in that dusty room with the big windows, as the cold March sun shone in, reflecting off the snail on the whiteboard in the middle of the room. Everyone giggled like kids in a classroom. “Ah the snail,” one of the lads said. He’d been here a few times and had seen the snail.

Break. Mass. Lunch. 2nd meeting a continuation of this morning’s. The counsellor is wise. I feel that if I listen to what he says, I will get it. He will give me the tools I need, some of them anyway. Just from listening to him speak, I know he knows the score.

After dinner i went to get more cough medicine. No more librium. My head is starting to feel clear. I called my mother and it was great to hear her voice. She will come to see me next Saturday. Looking forward to it like a six yr old looks forward to Christmas. I called Siyana. We are making progress with these conversations. Me being in here is restoring that fraction of trust, day by day inch by inch.

“So, so you like the new flatmate? I asked. Some student girl had moved in with her since I left the flat.

“She’s o-k.”

“And…”

“Well…she’s a bit bossy.”

Trouble already

“I was thinking,” she said. “When you get out, we could go to Bulgaria for the summer…”

After all the shit, everything that happened. This meant she had definite intentions of us getting back together. Yesss! I screamed inwardly.

“Better if we live separate when you get out. Take things slowly,” she said.

“Yeah, that sound like a good idea.”

It was music to my little crazy beating heart.

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My Seven Weeks in an Irish Rehab

14.03.2016

Monday. I had to get up at 7.30 today, and not 6.30 as I had thought. The proper work didn’t begin until week 3 when we would be assigned roles. For week 2 we were given simple cleaning jobs in the morning.

There’s a whiff of prison about this place with the timetables, mess halls, payphones and the stream of shape throwing men that prowl or stalk about the place at any given time. After meditation we had our breakfast then it was onto the cleaning duties. Myself and another lad from my room, Jim, who was only in his early twenties, got the pick of the jobs – sweeping the cigarette butts around the smoking areas. It took about ten minutes and we were done. Happy days, we grinned as we scooped the butts into the bag.

We went back to lay on the beds for the 50 minutes we had before our group therapy session. The counsellor’s name was William, and he looked a lot like the main character in Family Guy, Peter, so me and lads ended up calling him Peter Griffin. We got a got laugh out of it, and whenever I was stuck for something to say, i would always turn around to the lads and ask, who does that guy remind you of? It immediately brought a smile to everyone’s face.

The first meeting was sort of introductory stuff, and as it turned out, Peter Griffin was an interesting man to listen to. He gave us around pads and paper and he wrote down the important points on a whiteboard for us to take notes. Half the guys weren’t really listening to him. Then he asked afew questions, but most of us were shy to talk at first. We had a break and did another session. The counsellor talked about when he drank, saying he would always be an alcoholic but he now had the tools to manage his life, and that’s what we would learn if we did the programme to the best of our ability.

After lunch we had mass, then a small break followed by dinner. I rang Siyana after 6. It was lovely to hear her again. I had been waiting to talk with her all day. But there was some kind of meeting going on next to the phone and someone came out and said I would have to hang up, so much to my disappointment our talk was cut short. The rest of the evening I spent in bed reading. One of the lads i got on well with, Neil, popped into the room to ask was I coming in to watch the football. Since we moved up to the rooms, we were now allowed in the TV and games room, which wasn’t so bad I guess.

My Seven Weeks in an Irish Rehab

13.03.2016

Sunday

Today was my fifth day in the treatment centre. I have been in the detox ward since Wednesday, the day I arrived here. The detox is a sort of hospital, a sick ward, with twelve trolley beds – the kind you see in hospital corridors. Since I arrived I have been in pajamas, my clothes and stuff searched and taken away for the week. In detox we are confined to a few rooms, basically a communal living room with no TV, a dining room and the ward itself with the 12 trolley beds. If you’ve seen that movie One flew over the cuckoos’s nest, the picture it brings to your mind…well, you wouldn’t be a million miles away let’s say. We are given medication – four times a day – and you don’t do much apart from eat, sleep and sit in the living room for rosary every evening. You are allowed to go out to a smoking area if you smoke. I don’t but find myself going out with the other smokers just to get outside in the fresh smoky air for awhile at least. Occasionally, I go into the living room to chat with the other men in my ward – we are all in the same group – but not very often. I rather sit in bed with my book, the librium making me feel lethargic all the time. And that’s not going into the general depression my mind and body feel. Thankfully the librium numbs me.

So this morning, Sunday morning, I was very happy to receive my clothes and bag back. We were all moved from the detox (all 12 of us) and into our rooms up in the house. I am allowed to wear my own clothes again! Thank God for small mercies! Me and the group were all split up into smaller groups of four and given different rooms – 4 beds to a room. Well it was like the Ritz Carlton compared to the ward! And we were allowed to go where we liked, walk I mean, well within reason of course. You had to stay in the grounds…and you couldn’t go over to the side of the house where the women were – the place was run by nuns in case you didn’t know. It was actually run by the religious order – the nuns. And they were very strict about everything. There was a rote for absolutely everything. Everyone up at 6.30 am, prayer, meditation, work, therapy, prayer, meetings, recreation, prayer, bed. That was roughly your day. To give you an idea of the place: there were about 400 residents and about 60 rooms. Every resident had to work in the mornings after prayer and meetings until about 2 or 3pm. You started work in week 2. We would be given our jobs tomorrow. There was a heavy sense of depression by virtue of the fact of just being here – but it was alleviated in that you were kept busy, there was a schedule everyday.

But to get back to the room, I was moved into with the other 3 guys…There was plenty of space, it was ensuite and the bed was much more comfortable. Much better altogether. Saturday and Sundays, residents are allowed guests. So it was really a double happy for me today as my Mam, Dad, Sister and girlfriend were coming to visit me!

Things are slightly different in here at the weekends. Well there’s visitors for a start and most of the residents don’t work. Medication and mass are at different times as well.

After I put my bag down in my room and changed the sheets, I took a walk around the grounds as I hadn’t been outside in five days. I was keen to explore just what the surroundings were like. From the window it looked serene, pastoral even, like some old church grounds with the religious effigies of Mary and Jesus around the place, trees, a calming stream running through a forested area with bushes and hedges. A retreat, I guess.

 

I had a pleasant walk around and came back to the room. I sat around on the bed waiting for my name to be called, waiting for my visitors. I just about hear the speaker through the door as the receptionist called out a constant stream of names, letting them know their visitors had arrived. I dared not go to use the bathroom in case I couldn’t hear if my name got called out. The air conditioner came on when I switched on the bathroom light and even with the door open, I still wouldn’t be able to hear the receptionist on the intercom. Finally my name was called down to reception and I jumped off the bed and fairly ran down there.

My mother’s smiling face was the first one I saw through the glass panel door of the reception. Then I seen them all, my sister, my dad and my girlfriend. Smiles on all their faces, happy to see me as I hugged them all. And my girlfriend Siyana…the girl I had hurt so much, that kind loving sweet girl who had still come down to see me despite all the hurt and pain and the horrible breakup we had been through. She was dressed in the smart grey coat I had bought for her the week before we split up, before I left our apartment to stay in a hostel as a result of my crazy drinking and behavior. It had only been six days since I seen my mother and sister, but it felt as though it had been six months.

A family meeting was scheduled in the main hall for one hour for all the families. More of a presentation on alcoholism and how to deal with having someone with addiction in the family. After that finished we went over to the restaurant for a lunch. They all had fish and chips and I went for the lamb shank. It was certainly much better tasting food than I had been getting over in the house. I was already looking forward to eating here again next Sunday!

It was great to see everybody here together. It really gave me a boost. I wasn’t sure if they’d want to come to see me. And it was a few hours drive away too. Siyana was very affectionate to me in that touch feel-y way of hers and it really surprised me after everything that had happened. Would she get back with me if I did the rehab? The hope of this would me it all so much easier for me. But I wasn’t sure if she did want to get back together. She said on the phone that it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe she was just putting on this show because my mother had asked her. Maybe everyone was just pretending because they were guessing it must be difficult for me down here.

We had a nice walk around and Siyana gave me a watch she bought for me – an old fashioned pocket watch thing. It was beautiful. My mother sort of looked at her and me in an odd way. Maybe as if to say “don’t play games”. I had to go by a strict timetable in here, so the watch would be very useful. We strolled around together talking, cracking jokes – well my sister tried to anyway to raise the spirits. She was great to have in a group, because she’s a chatterbox, but not just a chatterbox, she always has funny anecdotes at the ready. And that always puts everyone else at ease.

Mam said I should do the twelve weeks. I had just done my first week so that sounded a bit…Yes of course I wanted to do the twelve weeks. But it wouldn’t be easy. I might end up going mad before then, I joked. Everyone gave me a serious sort of look.  Siyana put her arm around me, her smiling eyes and lips shining in my face. My light. We all hugged and said our goodbyes. It was hard to watch the car drive away with them all inside, going away from me, leaving me here again. You’ll have to get used to this I told myself as I cleared my throat and walked back to the room.

Later that evening when medication was due I asked the nurse to take me off the librium, it was making me too drowsy. I still had the bad cough from the day I came in so I asked for cough medicine and paracetamol. No cough medicine unfortunately. I would have to order that on Monday when someone would go to the town for it.

At around 10pm someone knocked on the door and said there was a phonecall for me. It was the one person I would most have wanted to hear in the world.

“Hey,” she said.

“Was nice to see you today. Thanks so much for coming.” I said.

“It was good to see you in there. I hope you stay the 12 weeks and get better.”

“I will.”

“Maybe we start a different chapter when you get better.”

If you would have put your head into my chest just then, you would have heard the most beautiful sounding bells chiming in my heart. I went to bed for the first time in weeks holding onto hope, as if I were a child holding onto a precious balloon.

 

Staying dry in July

Staying dry in Dublin is not easy. Far from it. With so many pubs, the party culture and hard drink just the social norm, how can it be easy not to drink. There’s a kind of stigma attached to it. Drink is part of what it is to be Irish. In this blog I will recount the last four months of my sobriety. I will publish up each day a page from my diary which I have kept while I was in a rehab centre in Ireland for 7 weeks. I still write in the diary today. I hope it helps people understand more about alcoholism and what it is like to be alcoholic, and more than this I hope it can help someone deal with their own struggle better as a result of reading.