Friday, August 17, 2018

“Please God let the pills still be there!” And other thoughts I had the week I left rehab

I spent 30 days at The Meadows Treatment center (in Wickenburg Arizona) for a nasty Ambien and alcohol addiction in July and August of 2008.   I met my current boyfriend Scott for the first time an hour after I checked in on July 14.  I just unearthed my "rehab journal" this week (exactly 10-year's later):

August 5, 2008  (94 degrees at 11:00pm)

This place is crazy.  Men and women aren’t even allowed to talk to each other.  Scottie and I keep wondering when they’ll separate us since it feels like all we do is sit together and talk.  His counselor came up to us in the cafeteria today and asked to speak with him in his office; Scottie gave me an “I guess we’re busted” look over his shoulder before he got up to follow him. I hope he’s not in trouble.

August 6, 2008  (110 degrees.)

I miss my kids.  

I am always someone’s mother, someone’s wife, someone’s boss, someone’s friend, someone’s caregiver.  Here in this place, I am just me.  Day after day, from sun-up to sun down, just me.  I don’t know how to do that.  I never learned how to do that.  In my dreams women’s voices call to me -- “Be willing,” they say.

August 8, 2008  (112 degrees at lunch time)

Weekends here are the worst.  Long, hot, boring. I can’t imagine that less than a week from now, I’ll be able to walk into a Starbucks (any Starbucks) and just order a coffee like it’s nothing.  I told Scottie I want us to ride to the airport together (we get out the same day as we both checked in on July 14).  He doesn’t think they’ll let us leave at the same time.  He’s probably right.  Plus, if we leave together, it will be harder for me to pick up my Ambien refill at the CVS in town.  He may not understand that I can handle taking pills now, that all I needed was a break from it so I could finally take them like a normal person.

August 9, 2008  (76 degrees in the cafeteria.  113 outside)

We have to write a goodbye letter to alcohol before we go this week.  I write a poem to myself instead:

When I see your hair all done, I know it wasn’t really fun

When I see your biceps strong, I know you’re trying to prove them wrong

I see nails done, face waxed and clean

And I think about what isn’t seen
You’re worth less.  Give up this life.  You’re not fit to be anyone’s wife

You fooled them all?  Well, you can’t fool me.  Just wait until your children see...

August 10, 2008 (112 degrees, we’re all hiding in the TV room from Craig, the tech)

I literally ache all over my body -- not from withdrawal anymore, but from the pain of missing my children.

August 11, 2008 (a girl almost fainted today while we were waiting for the boys to get out of the pool - coed pool time is forbidden)

They let us use the phones today in the office (air conditioning)!  I booked a town car to pick me up and then called to check on my CVS prescription.  They had me on hold for so long I got scared they had screwed it up.  I was all, “Please God let those pills still be there!”  But they came back on and said they’d be ready for me on Thursday. 

Thursday is my release day. 

Now I know how it feels to get out of prison.

August 12, 2008 (HOT)

I can’t believe it!  They said that Scottie and I could ride to the airport together.  At first he just looked frightened (he keeps telling me he's scared about going home to Utah)  then he smiled and said, "The first thing we should do is hit the nearest Starbucks."  Apparently there isn’t one here in Wickenburg, but there’s one on the way to the Phoenix airport.  I practiced my coffee order in the bathroom mirror this morning, “One Grande Iced Mocha Valencia please."

Maybe coffee will be my new vice.

I’ll have to make some excuse to stop at the CVS.  I’ll be super casual about it.  I’ll just convince him to stay in the car.

August 13, 2008, -- There’s a rainstorm!  (But it’s still over 100 degrees)

My counselor called me into her office and I was worried that she wanted to tell me that there had been a mistake - that I couldn’t leave with Scottie after all.  But instead she told me that she’s concerned about my “issues” (aka pill addiction) returning if I go back to the same environment when I leave here tomorrow.

I was furious. 

I was all, “ENVIRONMENT?!  You mean my house, my HOME where I live with my kids?? And isn’t it a little late for this talk?” 

And f*ck her and her late-ass “cautioning” anyway.  I can’t go another day without my kids.  I haven’t even been able to let myself think about them since they last visited because it hurts too much. Plus, after a whole month clean, I won’t have the same “issues.” I’ll finally be able to take my pills as prescribed (instead of 3 or 4 at a time, every few hours like I was doing). 

Last journal entry:

August 14, 2008 (Not a cloud in insight, 96 degrees)

Well, this is it.  I’m just scribbling this down before the town car picks us up.  My 2 roommates put some contraband chocolates under my pillow last night.  It was the sweetest chocolate that I’ve ever tasted. 

I’m going to see my kids! 

I still haven’t figured out my excuse for stopping at CVS.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m usually great at coming up with excuses...


I was in so much shame and pain when I wrote this.  It feels as though I'm reading the words of someone else.  Someone who wasn't done (with drugs and alcohol). Someone who hadn't yet reached that point of acceptance.

I’ll never forget seeing that Wickenburg CVS out of the car window as we drove toward the airport.  Scottie didn’t really notice how distracted I was -- we were both so nervous.  When we were a few miles out of town, I closed my eyes against the tears and heard the voices of those women from my dream, "Be willing..."

The feel of my kids in my arms, the smell of the watermelon shampoo they used, the look of absolute adoration on their faces when I got home was so painfully sweet that (one day at a time) my insane compulsion to "check-out" was replaced by the humility and surety that I would never be able to take or drink anything like a "normal person" again.  And then there was nothing to do but surrender - and do whatever it took to get well.



  1. We, all of us, addicts or not, struggle so fruitlessly to control our lives. The fear of losing that "control" often compells us to act in ways that are completely contrary to our goals. But, control is an illusion and the hardest thing to accept is that surrendering to who you are, really seeing the reflection in the mirror is the only control we have. Beyond that we all have to start every day with the intention to be whichever "-er" is our goal; stronger, healthier, happier etc. We have to resist the urge to want to fastforward to the easy part and live intentionally in each moment. Thanks as always for your honesty; it gives me strength!

  2. Whoa. Reading and now hearing about your experiences and your journey is always healing for me. Thank you!

  3. I work as a therapist and recently visited a treatment center in Arizona to learn more about residential treatment. This account is what I feel most curious about, the return to your life and how they support with this. Thank you for your bravery and willingness to share. Congratulations on 10 years of work!

  4. Wow. I read this and was transported back to my rehab days in 1996. All sorts of emotions. In all these years i still think about using. Yes i do. It doesn't go away. I just choose not to pick up. No matter what happens in my day, if i didnt use, my day was successful. Congratulations on 10 years!

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