Welcome to the eighth episode of Don’t lose your balance. In today’s episode, I’m sharing my experience in rehab, the one and only place I found myself almost two decades ago, literally across the country for 30 days. This is the same place that they filmed the movie 28 days with Sandra Bullock, an alcoholic woman who found herself in need of help and recovery. The only two things she and I share are our birthdays and the fact that we walked in that very same building. Her life was a movie, mine was reality.
If you listened to the earlier episodes of Don’t lose your balance, you know that I was addicted to prescription pain medication Vicodin, for the better part of four years. This was an addiction I carefully hid from my family for a very long time. Although they believed there was something wrong with me, they only believed that the doctors that I was seeing, the psychiatrist, wasn’t doing her job. In actuality she wasn’t but you can’t lie to your doctor and then hold them accountable for not treating you well. You have to not only be honest with them, but you also have to be really honest with yourself. Interestingly, my mother, whom I talk about very frequently in these episodes, believed that it actually was the doctor’s job and responsibility to see through my bullshit, but I would ask the same question of my parents and even more importantly, my husband. How do you live with someone for four years, not see something is wrong with your partner or your spouse and let it go on for so long? You know, you can’t and I’m not angry with him or even hold him responsible either. I’m not actually angry with anyone and I am no longer even angry with myself. I took the drugs. I knew it was wrong. But I was so far gone into the addiction. I figured the day would eventually come when someone called me out on it. I just didn’t think or believe it would take as long as four years.
Until a bunch of kids, my family cousins saw me in a bathroom with a bottle of pills and a handful of water before they ran out to say to my mother something is wrong with Aunt Mallory. She’s taking a lot of pills. So at the dinner table the next day with my family while I was on vacation in Florida, the very same state that I had made so many online purchases for those pills, my mother said Mallory, you need help. I said yes, yes, I do. But you don’t know why which I told you earlier, and I confessed. I am addicted to painkillers. They had no idea. They only believed that I was on so much medication prescribed by my psychiatrists that it messed me up. But I wasn’t taking that medication. I was filling the prescriptions, but it was only taking the Vicodin I purchased and had delivered daily to my home. At least I had to say to her, you know, no, Mom, I’ve been buying painkillers Vicodin to be exact on the Internet. Oh my god, the truth was out. But you want to know the truth? I needed help. And I knew I needed help. And I was glad the truth was out. What do they say the truth will set you free? It does. But sometimes it doesn’t. Or it takes a while. You don’t confess to something so horrific and then it’s sunshine and rainbows. Nope, this recovery would take the better part of two decades, to really feel free to really feel ahead of it and most importantly, to finally feel balance.
After the confession, I visited with a psychiatrist. I told her my truth and she recommended two different rehabs. I only remember the one and I went to Tucson Arizona, Sierra Tucson. It’s an expensive facility close to $40,000 for 30 days. It’s a comfortable facility, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s still rehab. Please listen to Episode Three of Don’t lose your balance entitled addiction and you’ll get a bit more insight but I think it bears repeating here anyway. On my first day I was put into a space where you’re more or less protected. They are taking tests. They’re drawing blood, they’re prescribing medication to keep you from withdraw, and then after a few days or so you would go into what’s called the dorms or, that’s a better word I guess I can think of. They’re not really dorms, they’re just buildings with bedrooms and bathrooms that are private. And you know, it’s not like horrible stone walls and jail cells. But it’s still rehab and women were in one section, men were in the other. And you would only have one roommate, you couldn’t come and go as you pleased. I mean, during the day, you could, but there was a schedule of constant therapy, morning therapy, followed by your personal counseling group, where you were in a room with five or six women for hours on end. And the amount of work involved was a lot, but listening to other people’s stories and being forced to share your own. There were self help books and there was equine therapy with horses and an evening sessions of therapy before you close out for the evening. There was a constant writing in journals. It was all consuming and all addso exhausting. It was only on Sunday, did they actually let you go to the pool and relax. They even had a salon, like a hair salon, but I never went. In fact, I never went to the pool. I had spent the first two weeks in that hospital like setting, I wasn’t ready to go into the dorms. I was scared. And I was alone. I didn’t feel welcomed by other people or even the other addicts. Roommates came and went and the interaction I had with others was during smoking breaks. Yep, I was also smoking cigarettes, the conversations about who did more drugs or which doctor was an asshole or which nurse would let you get away with grabbing a snack or, or which one was always watching your every move. I was feeling and thinking all the time. Please God, please let me get out of here.
Since I spent the first two weeks doing little group work. I knew I had to move into the dorms. So I eventually did and that’s when the real alienation happened. They took me off of the Suboxone and I went into full blown withdrawal. For those unfamiliar, Suboxone is also something called buprenorphine. And it’s a medication that stops cravings and prevents withdrawal. I have no idea why they took me off of it. And all the opioid addicts that I met there, were going through just as much pain that I was in. Some I had spoken to had even snuck Vicodin into the facility knowing that they could have it even though they were supposed to get off of it. They still had it there. And they were equally terrified of the pain of withdrawal. But somehow when the doctor saw me, he knew I needed it. It was never enough, though, but I was thankful that he provided some relief, because it helped to stop the shaking. And I needed to get home to the kids and I had a limited amount of time to be in that facility. I had to be healthy enough to go home.
You know, I think there was a lot of judgment put on the opiate addicts. There were others there that had alcoholism, cocaine addiction, eating disorders, and equally difficult traumas and addictions. And I recognize all of them. Certainly, we had our vices and for reasons being there, and I can’t speak for any other person but myself. In fact, I remember not one name of the people there. They flew in from all over the world. CEOs of major companies, the rich and the famous, the friends of the celebrities, the celebrities themselves. I don’t recall anyone. I only recall how horrible I felt that summer and had to get home to the kids in September to start school. I kept thinking about the kids. There might have been some breakthroughs along the way. And I can tell you one thing I do remember despite having not one friend and all the cliques and the incredible disdain they had for me, I didn’t care. I had one mission and one mission only. I was getting the fuck out of there and never returning. I was given one shot at recovery, and I was taking it. I was not going to glorify how much drug use I had managed to survive before my family forced me. Yes, for some, they were forced into rehab. I was getting out. I was going to recover. I was determined to survive, and I was not forced into rehab. But I was alone. And once again, incredibly lonely.
Over those 30 days I had lost 10 pounds. I stopped smoking. I ran a fever of 101 for the entire month. I journaled every day morning, noon and night. I attended every session I could I climbed a rock wall, I pet a horse, I pretended that I was okay. And I stepped up but I wasn’t okay. My family wanted me to continue in some Jewish facility for recovering addicts somewhere in Northern California after my 30 days in Tucson. And my counselor had told them that I wasn’t ready to go home. But since I had signed myself in, they had no control over what I would do after that. They begged me, I refused. I said, I have two children that are starting school in the fall, I have to get home.
Like I’ve said before, when I put my mind to something, I won’t stop at anything to get it. And that included the drugs. But that also included the recovery. I was going to stop the Vicodin forever. So at the 29 day mark, I was to leave the next day. They stopped the Suboxone and I knew I was going to go into withdrawal. They said, we can’t help you. We can’t prescribe the medication if you’re not here. So I was basically fucked. I flew from Tucson to Dallas connecting flight home and I passed out on the floor of the gate. I remember being awoken by strangers. Are you okay? They said, I said, No. I had no money in my pocket, not $1. I told them, I just left rehab, and I’m not okay, but I will be I was shaking. I was in first class. I took some medicine that didn’t really help. I accidentally spilled water all over the lap of the man to my right. I said, sorry, I just left rehab, there was something interesting about telling complete strangers about me leaving rehab. I didn’t care what they thought.
I got home, I kissed my kids, and I could barely make it up a flight of steps. So what is withdrawal feel like? Okay, imagine having the flu and then multiply that by 100. The very next day, I went to my psychiatrist who said you need addiction counseling, I was no longer able to see her. I lied to her. And she was no longer a good fit for me. She couldn’t treat me anymore. I made the call to the person she gave me and I was there that afternoon and he gave me the Suboxone. But I had to take it as prescribed and be in his group counseling every week. I agreed. And thank God for that Suboxone. I learned that the doctors in Arizona should never have taken me off of it. They should have made sure that I had a place to go once I got home. You know, you won’t die from opioid withdrawal. You want to die, but you won’t. It’s not like benzos you can die from withdrawal of that you can have seizures. If this was different. opioid withdrawal is doable. It’s very, very painful, but it’s doable. But to feel less pain, you have to do it slowly, meaning withdrawal slowly, wean slowly, and with the Suboxone, I was able to do that slowly. However, I would stay on that medicine for the better part of 10 years. I started at 24 milligrams, which is the maximum you are allowed to take. And at year three, I had weaned myself down to two milligrams a day, one milligram in the morning, and one at night to stop the shaking legs during the time I was sleeping. I was moving in a good direction. But I hated the idea that I was married to that medication. Divorcing my husband and married to a new drug, a better drug. But I later learned an equally difficult one and an expensive one to get rid of from your life. I had stopped the therapy around year two when both the addiction doctor and I felt that I was in a good place and I was. It was only at your 10 I decided I really wanted out. So it took four months to wean with 30 strips which is one month supply. And I would cut those strips in little slices taking the minimum of what I could to stop any possible withdrawal. Imagine a little Listerine lozenge strip that you put under your tongue or on top of your tongue. Well you would put this under your tongue. If I felt it withdrawal that is I somehow moved past it. I was at the last sliver. I called him I’m scared I said. He said, Mallory. You’re 95% there, take the last bit you have and you’ll be great. I’m here if you’re not. He was right. I was done. I no longer needed Suboxone. I saved that wrapper and I still have it to this day. It’s taped to the only picture I have of my beautiful dog that passed away in 2011. And I was done while in my last semester of Culinary school. I know right? Culinary school. Yes culinary school. I’d like to say I’ve lived a lot of lives but nope, just this one. And I guess a pretty exciting one.
Join me next week. I have no idea yet what I’ll be talking about but I will tell you this. Every choice every decision every step you take will likely throw you off balance. Maybe it will maybe it won’t lucky you If it doesn’t But I can promise you that I did find my way back to balance during all of that chaos. Somehow I found my way back. Finally.
Okay, so see you next week and remember, you’re doing great even if you don’t always feel that way. If you found value in this or any other episode of Don’t lose your balance, why not follow me here or on Facebook. Don’t lose your balance and on Instagram which is don’t lose your balance M as in Mary, S as in Sam, D as in David, Don’t lose your balance m s d my initials. I also have a website which you can go to which dontloseyourbalance.com, and you can read the transcripts and learn more about me and find resources for getting help along your journey of life. Thanks so much and I’ll see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai