During my two weeks in Detox, I carefully looked over the list of local rehabilitation centers, spoke to the counselors about each place, and chose one that felt right. It was a Behavior Modification program and therapeutic community located in the Berkeley Hills. I have been on a lovely path of reconnecting to my intuition ever since. Six months of my life was spent in this sacred space of getting to know myself. It was rigorous, raw, challenging and refining. I was brought face to face with myself on a daily basis. There were many tears, much laughter, frustration galore, moments of gratitude, and days of monotony. Time went by very slowly and time went by fairly fast. I was surrounded by many people just like me. I related with them and I segregated myself, until I realized that I am no better than anyone. I am exactly equal to every human being on this planet, no matter how rich, how poor, how smart or challenged; we are all equal, and this was an important lesson for me to learn, because I was under the belief that I was something special. We are all incredibly special. We are all gifted and universally valued. We are all unique, and we all have the ability to overcome our obstacles.
I believed because I had an eighteen year career, naturally red hair, a published poetry book and a manuscript written, that I was somehow above most of my recovery peers. I even thought that I had all of the answers at times. I believed that I was incredibly unique compared to everyone else. The truth was very clear, however. When it came down to it, I was an addict and an alcoholic. I was self-destructive and I was a liar. None of my features, accomplishments or experiences made me anything more than an addict and an alcoholic.
I recall one of the counsellors looking me at the face one afternoon and saying, “Clearly, intelligence has gotten you nowhere,” leaving me standing there alone in shock. She was on to me! But here I was in rehab because I could not keep a liquor bottle out of my mouth. She was absolutely right.
During the last month of my rehabilitation, I was moving fast, and feeling incredibly strong. I was quickly approaching the end of my treatment, and would soon be “crossing over” into the real world. Every other day I left the facility on my own to go on job search, and everything was going according to my plan.
In this program, each one of us in treatment were given temporary job functions, which could change from week to week. Somehow I kept the same job function for three and a half months. I was a “Greeter.” I loved being a Greeter because I had a lot of privileges and much more free time than most of my other peers. As a Greeter, I “supported” the thirty day clients in the rehabilitation facility next door to ours. All I had to do was be friendly, get people to groups, keep up on the house cleaning, sit through a few extra groups, and set up meals. There was space for me to do my assignments, along with extra time to read. Taking care of people filled my maternal void, which alleviated some of my discomfort from being away from my children.
I followed the rules of the program, and stayed out of trouble, for the most part. I was on-time to everything and completed my assignments effectively. I followed the program the way I was supposed to. None of this was difficult for me to do. Before my teenaged years, I was one of those annoying kids that colored perfectly within the lines, and showed off to my teachers. I followed instructions. My “look good” exterior was impeccable. I knew how to hold it together. I was almost an expert at holding it together. Luckily, my savvy counselors saw right through this, and graciously came to my aid.
At the end of my treatment, I self-sabotaged by going on job search without getting written permission. We were never allowed to leave the facility without getting a proposal signed by staff, but because I wanted to get a job as soon as possible, I manipulated my way into getting out one day, without a signed proposal. It was difficult to get away with anything in the program, because eyes were everywhere, and it was each client’s responsibility to inform the staff of any misconduct. I was caught, and consequences were immediately imposed.
This was supposed to happen. The whole point of this program, was to identify behaviors which lead us to our drinking and using. One of my behaviors was getting whatever I wanted by manipulating my way through life. I shoved through things to get what I wanted. Because of this, I was removed from my cushy job function, placed on restriction for two weeks, and demoted back to Orientation. I was not even allowed to socialize with any of my own peers. Anytime I needed to go anywhere, including to the bathroom, I had to take “support.” Support was supposed to be a “senior” peer, although in actuality, I was the senior peer. Needless to say, this was incredibly humiliating, especially after five months of basically floating by and “looking good.”
My false sense of entitlement was radically eliminated. All of this angered me to no avail. I was in such a rage, that I could not stop crying. For about two days solid, I wept. I identified myself as a Greeter. I identified myself as a Senior Peer. I also identified myself as someone who knew what they were doing. I was completely stripped of all of these things. It was terrible, but deep down inside, I knew this was essential. I knew I must go through this process, and in the end, it would benefit my recovery. I let the rage fume and I allowed the tears to flow. This was one of the only emotions I fully experienced in rehab, but since then, I have come to know many more. Anger was the one emotion I could not hide, so it was a great gift when it arose, because I could not pretend to be anything other than angry.
At the end of two days, I was exhausted from being angry and sat in a chair at the back of a group, quiet and humiliated, yet this is when something wonderful happened. I became genuinely grateful for the whole experience, and suddenly my anger began moving inside of my gut. I literally felt my rage transcending into joy. It was occurring deep inside of me, so completely and wonderfully. I had never experience this kind of emotional alchemy inside my body before. A smile filled my face as the anger ceased while joy consumed my being. It was liberating. The counsellors constantly told us to “sit with ourselves” and our emotions, but this was difficult to do. Our first instinct is to react. They also told us to get out of our heads, and down into our bodies. I never knew what this meant. I was used to living inside my head and dropping down into a bottle. It frustrated me when they told me to get out of my head.
When I finally dropped down into my body, or into my emotion, rather than resisting it, or reacting, I experienced myself like never before. It was as if I became one with myself, and finally entered into the comfortable and cavernous place of myself that I was forever running from. I slept heavily that night, on the bottom of an old wooden bunk bed beneath a woman who gave me incredible support and love. Our dorm overlooked an enormous sprawling oak tree. It was so grand that I often meditated upon its greatness, observing squirrels and birds, and imagining what it would be like to be a child again. If I were a child in my bedroom, instead of an addict in an institution dorm, I would climb out of the window onto the tree and ascend into the limbs as far as I could go. I would take a fabulous book with me, and spend an afternoon reading upon the sun-soaked branches. If only I could go back to that time, and begin my life again.
The next morning I awoke, provoked by an unusually bright sun. All was quiet, luminous and incredibly serene. What I experienced was beyond anything I have ever felt before in a life filled with heaviness and confusion. Right now was immaculate stillness and acute awareness. Everything was vivid and my mind was transcendent and silent. For the first time in a long time, I woke up without my thoughts galloping like wild horses inside my head. There I sat up in my bed with the keenness of a hawk and calmness of a gentle summer breeze.
I slowly sat up touching my arms and my face. There was no electricity running through me. I was simply there. I was so naturally and brilliantly alive. It was me. I was simply me. I was completely awake to who I was; to who I am. I was all that I was, in one blissful arrangement of my entire wholeness. There were no fragmented parts of me, or questions unanswered. I was not any different because I was no longer a Greeter, or any less than because I was demoted back to Orientation. I was not fearful or deep in dread over being pulled out of my job search. I was not lacking anything. I was simply myself, and myself was pure, complete, and unidentified. My self was not caught up in an image; nor was it terrified of being simple, without a persona to sustain.
That eminent morning, I just was. This was beautiful and wonderful, and so dynamically liberating. All this time I believed it was the end of me, if I had to let go of my images. I feared what would happen without my precious identities. Beyond my images revealed a dynamic awareness of myself. I understood then that I was richer than all of my quick-changing characters combined. I was not short of a single thing, because I was everything.
I am me… I AM.
(Excerpt from ‘The Devil’s Altar’ – on Amazon)