Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Why going to rehab is the best Father’s Day present you’ll ever get. (Even if you’re not a Father)
His head bobbed up and down, as he beat on his chest and cried, “I’m the worst Dad, ever!” Tom, not his real name, was sh*t-face, wasted. He’d been on a three-day binge of alcohol and crystal meth. His dark hair was a greasy, tangled mess. His cheeks were unshaven and hollow. The intake room reeked of burnt chemicals, desperation and stale alcohol. Poor Tom, didn’t smell very good either! Tom’s story isn’t an unusual one. There are many men who are experiencing this, right now. Addiction is the great equalizer. It doesn’t care what colour, sex, race, or religion, you are. It’s not about the number of zeros in your bank account, or what you do for a work. Addiction is an illness, a terminal one. It isn’t about having fun. It’s about living in hell. Only you’re not the only one, living there. This disease takes hostages. In Tom’s case, it was his family. They hadn’t seen Tom since he’d gone out three days before. That meant for three days, they’ve wondered if he was dead, or alive. For three days, Tom’s partner has been going out of her mind. The psychological stress she experienced is unbelievable. Her moods will swing from fear, terror, anxiety, depression, guilt, to homicidal thoughts. Chances are, she’s not sleeping and she’s probably wondering, if Tom is – and who with! For three days, she’s been fielding questions and making excuses to their children – on why Daddy didn’t come home, again. Now you might think Tom is a real jerk for putting his family through this. He’d probably even agree with you. As I talk with Tom, he appears confused. His face crumples as he wails, how did this happen? It’s not rocket science, but Tom doesn’t know this, yet. He tells me he never meant to stay out for three days. I believe him. I never meant to, either. What Tom doesn’t understand is he’s lost the ability to predict – with any accuracy – what might happen once he puts that first drink, or drug, to his lips. He might come home, but chances are greater, he won’t. That’s what makes Tom an addict, not just a heavy user. Heavy users can stop, once they start. Addicts, can’t. By the time someone goes into treatment, the fun of using has long worn off. The consequences always outweigh the rewards. Tom’s consequences were harsh. He lost his job on that last binge – one of many times this had happened to him in the past. His wife filed for separation. His children weren’t speaking to him. He’d spent their rent money and maxed out their credit cards. He even ran up a huge debt with a nasty drug dealer. You might wonder how Tom will cope with all this wreckage. Even though Tom was in his forties, his first response was to call his parents. They were his ‘go to,’ people. They had his back. At least, they thought they did. But they were all being fooled. What they really had, was his addiction. It wasn’t the first time Tom had slept on their couch, or they’d bailed him out. I get why Tom would call his parents. They could wave a handful of cash, and make his great big mess, go away. Trouble is – it didn’t stay gone. It always came back, bigger and uglier, than it was before. By now, Tom couldn’t keep a job or a marriage. He was on the verge of financial bankruptcy. His children were growing up in a dysfunctional home. He was known as a liar and a cheat. But worst of all, was the way Tom felt – about being Tom. He blew his nose and shook his head. Then he looked at me and got honest. He said – I hate myself. I’m nothing but a waste of good air. He admitted he was hurting his family and manipulating his parents. Tom was in a place every down and out addict, knows well. He’d arrived at the fork in the road. One path leads to recovery, health and life, the other, to hopelessness and death. If you think it’s an easy choice, then you’re not an addict. In spite of all our good intentions to never do ‘it’ again, we fail. Had Tom not been intervened on, his path almost surely would have lead to hopelessness and death. The hopeless part was already happening. Left to his own devices, apathy would have followed. Tom didn’t know it then, but his life was about to make a drastic change – for the good. Five years have passed since then. Today, Tom no longer resembles the broken man, I first met. He’s worked hard to recover from his addiction. He’s made amends with his children, and bought his first house. He’s working on paying his parents back and has held the same job, for the last five years. Although his marriage didn’t work out, they remain on good terms. Tom keeps his five-year medallion in his jeans pocket. Anytime he thinks about taking a drink, he pulls it out and looks at it. It’s so much more than just a chunk of metal in his hand. It represents everything that’s important to him. Whether you’re a Father or contemplating being one, if you’re struggling with addiction – without help – you leave behind a legacy of pain and hurt. Tom had to learn the hard way. But not everyone does. You don’t have to lose it all, to understand you’re on a slippery slope. When forced to reach out for help, your worst days, are really, your best ones. Just ask Tom. For he’s found something, we all could use a little more of. Hope. Anyone in recovery will tell you, it’s a far better high, than anything out there. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance 888-601-8693.