So to start out, I suppose I could give you all my real name, and that is Stephen; although according to AA tradition, I suppose rather than my maiden name being used during this abnormal little chronicle for myself, lets just say that my full name is Stephen AlAnon, as it so appears in my meeting’s standards during this long journey to everlasting sobriety.
These past 77 days (sobriety date is April 15th, 2017) have been something of an interesting experience to say the least, and although I should verify that I would never throw a con to the program that helped me reach my goals of alcoholic abstinence, the events that had unfolded during my road to clarity ranged from strange, to sad, to happy, to weird, then ecstatic followed by anger and frustration.
On that day, 4-15-2017, I had just gotten out of the hospital for what was a terrifying diagnosis of Acute Pancreatitis. I was shocked, not so much that I have an organ failing due to my chronic drinking and bad choices, but for the fact that me, a 23 year old kid from a little town called Prairie Grove, Arkansas, had just gotten smacked right dead in the face with the reality at hand. I knew enough was enough, I wanted it to end: the long, harrowing nights that seemed to sink and drown in the bellowing world of inebriation and self-denial.
Enough was enough. I didn’t have to be living with my 88 year old grandfather anymore because my parents no longer wanted anything to do with me. I didn’t have to continuously lose these amazing jobs that I, for a short time, saw as expanding career opportunities that gave me a sense of professionalism. I no longer had to want to die just so that I didn’t have to deal with the pain and repercussions left behind from all those bridges I burned to the ground. And god, most of all, I didn’t have to be alone anymore.
I called them, the heroes of this story that would show me the way to a better life, and there they sent me without so much as a dime in my back pocket encompassed in lent and the single cap of a pen. It was my first time flying, and other than the overbearing waves of sweat running down my neck and chin, I didn’t feel a thing. I wasn’t afraid at all. Just waiting impatiently for the plane to reverberate the sounds of certainty that I had made it to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Shortly after I found my bag at the pickup ring I searched for a man wearing a Banyan Treatment Center t-shirt and black shorts with a lighter leash attached to his belt loop. I was a little in shock, I suppose I didn’t really know what to expect from my transporter, but I certainly didn’t expect him to look so normal and like a genuinely laid-back human being. I remember the tattoos the most as they seemed to be crawling from his legs to the cheekbones on his face. My first thought was how badly I wanted my first tattoo, followed by my second thought being an overall feeling of relief. I was so far from home, and for the first time ever, I was happy for that.
After introducing myself to Robbie, we got into his car and headed our way to a place called Stuart Banyan Detox Center, and I was a little perplexed at the sound of that. “Detox?” I rattled in my brain at the sound of it, “But I already detoxed myself at home?” And it was then that I realized why they were rushing me so quickly to detox. My heart rate was so high by the time they checked it, they thought I was five minutes away from a seizure followed by my heart exploding (that last part was more what I thought was going to happen, it actually felt like it was going to punch its way out of my chest).
After a generous amount of Ativan and Clonidine, I was able to find a means of peace and rest. That is, until I had to wake up for relapse prevention groups three fuxxxxG HOURS LATER I’m sorry, moving on. During these particular groups, I was unsure as to whether I was supposed to take them seriously. Frankly, I enjoyed them, but I unfortunately have the kind of personality that shifts to fit my ever-changing environment like that of a chameleon, hiding from the potential danger surrounding. This, for those that are unable to follow, meant that regardless of my own thoughts and opinions, my mind would be quick to disregard such feelings of individuality and follow suit to the blending crowd around me; meaning that I really had nothing unique of my own thought perception at all most of the time. So when someone in the group room says they don’t need any program to keep them sober, my brain tells me i’m on the same level as that guy.
Luckily for me, though, I then soon thereafter met my new roommate who would, for a time, become a bit of a life-coach. This particular gentleman’s name was William, and he was quite the character. I should let the reader be aware, that when I say “life-coach,” that I was being a tad sarcastic, and although this guy turned my views towards my addiction around and cut the chameleon circuit in my brain, he was and is to this day, as he puts it, a dirty scumbag human being. His words, not mine. Understandably, you the reader may be thinking “what the fxxk is this,” but I can assure you more than anything that his self-proclaimed title of dirty dirtbag was something that actually awoke some sense of reality within me. It made me realize that I wasn’t any better, and in some strange way, that actually helped me understand that I didn’t have to constantly try to blend in with what the crowd’s opinions are, simply because we’re all already the same when it comes to us alcoholics and drug addicts here in rehab. We’ve all done something that stresses the fact that we are certainly not saints.
After a few days of playing Halo 3: ODST in the recreational room with William, I get a notification from my clinical director that I am to promptly leave for Pompano Beach for what is known as PHP (partial hospitalization); which by Banyan’s standards, is really just a series of apartment complexes down a street near the treatment center. PHP was a little more open, but still held the structure and security that a rehabilitation program entails, such as: you go shopping once a week with 75 dollars taken out of your insurance for food but the Techs (clinical technicians, they were more like security guards) had to take us to and from the store with constant supervision, one outing a week with either a movie or bowling, and if you are caught walking off of property outside of these designated events, you will be put in what is commonly known as “isolation.” All this sounds like a heavy set of rules for most people, but to me it sounded like the perfect amount of structure. I felt like a child under surveillance, and for some strange reason, I actually enjoyed it. For the first time in a long time, I felt safe from my own addiction.
PHP was a little eventful here and there, but I always felt that was the product of Banyan making their decision to put six guys in each apartment to room with each other, and in a three bedroom apartment, it can feel a little tight and tense with the levels of testosterone in the air. I actually had to move out of my original apartment after my first week due to a bit of an altercation between my roommate and I, and by “altercation,” I mean that he was scary looking and just did twenty years in prison and I may have cried a little as he yelled at me for eating what was apparently his tuna. In a way, though, this was just about the best thing that happened to me in PHP, because the one guy I would come to meet that same day that I moved from apartment A to apartment B later became one that I still, to this day, refer to as my best friend, Zachary.
This guy and I hit it off right off the bat, due to our common interest in comics, art, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and overall humor. Our ridiculous antics would occasionally flood my mind at all the wrong moments, such as job interviews and AA Speaker Meetings, causing inappropriate laughter to burst through my tightly held together mouth and nostrils; and as you the reader may have already assumed, this unfortunately allowed an unsavory amount of awkward moments with my previous potential employers and AA enthusiasts.
I’ll give the reader an example, and please pardon the crude, boyish humor that follows: I would be sitting on the porcelain god, Toiletus as Zach and I properly referred to him, and just barely in the middle of carrying out my duty as an American citizen with the right to bear brown, I would hear the faint sound of flat, bare-naked feet slapping the tile floor, progressing toward the bathroom’s closed entry. As the madman reached the handle of the locked knob on the door, I would see the key hole slowly turn horizontally to allow whatever awaited me beyond my wooden barricade to creep its flat-footed way in. As the door opened, the creature and I would lock eyes, my expression caught in a paralyzed gaze of fear as I made peace with my Gods.
As PHP came to a close, I said goodbye to all the friends I had made through the good times and the bad, and made my way to the conscious decision to follow up my release with IOP (intensive outpatient) with the same program, Banyan. As it was revealed before after my transition from Detox to PHP, IOP was another slow push to the realities of the outside world. More freedom ensued, with the exception of a Urine Analysis every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a curfew enforced for 10 P.M., and the requirement of paying rent for the house you now live in with four other male clients.
And that brings me to today, where I am and who I make the everyday choice to be. Zach wound up being my roommate again, here in IOP, and that makes everyday a good one. I would like to conclude this little life update with the reader that I hope is still present and say that if you are struggling with an addiction, you canget help. Not just with Banyan, there are so many other Treatment Programs out there, and I promise you, it is worth it to put that life in the rear view mirror. Everyday I wake up sober is a day worth living, that-so being in contrast to the life I was living for myself not even 3 months ago. I hope if you read through all of this and if you are going through something where you think you might need help, its a great feeling to know that there is help out there. You just need to know where to look.
Banyan Contact Info: (888-781-9297)
Suicide Hotline: (1-800-273-8255)
Until next time,