I have written before about the voluntary work I have started doing. Last week I spent some time at a residential rehab where people go, usually for 2 weeks or so, for detoxification and stabilisation. I found it hard. A bit too close for comfort. For want of a better phrase, it was a sobering experience leaving me in a reflective state of mind.
“Rehab” has bizarrely glamorous connotations. We hear about one celebrity or another going off to rehab, often to luxury settings in stunning locations (see the example above). All clean eating, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. One facility in LA advertises itself as “pet friendly”. Another offers “recreational opportunities” including baking and miniature golf – an interesting combination. I can’t say either were high on my list of priorities in early sobriety !
The facility I visited was anything but glamorous. The setting is clean and basically furnished. It is clear that the staff are highly trained and care about the patients. But for the most part the patients themselves are socially disadvantaged. A lot have health problems, some as a consequence of their drinking. Many of them face housing problems, had a difficult time at school and were unemployed or in low paid jobs.
This brings home to me how fortunate I am. I was brought up in a stable family environment and never wanted for anything. I did well at school and later at university. I had a career as a lawyer and after I left the profession have continued to have a fulfilling career. I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful daughters. I am fit and healthy. If I had gone to rehab it would most likely have been to a private provider. I have everything those people don’t.
I wonder how they perceive me when I visit. They know I am a recovery coach which means that I am in recovery. So they know I have experienced addiction and am now abstinent. But I am quite well spoken – I have been described as “posh” in the past – I wear nice clothes and I look well. I don’t look like a stereotypical addict but I know I am an alcoholic, regardless of how I appear.
I am finding this tricky. I want to engage with the people I met at rehab. I want to support them on their recovery journey and empower them to achieve and maintain sobriety. I want them to know they are not alone and to be able to talk to someone who “gets it”. My recovery has been painfully lonely, although that is getting better over time especially as Club Sober is going well. If I can help someone not to feel so isolated, that has to be a good thing.
I think the same applies with my fellow recovery coaches. With one or two exceptions I don’t have very much in common with them. Apart from one things that is – WE ARE ALL ADDICTS and surely that is what matters most. Whichever path we took to arrive where are now, doesn’t matter.
So at the moment I feel as if I have to prove myself. It is exactly the same as when I tell my friends, family etc. people I had a problem with alcohol, even using the dreaded “A” word, a lot of them don’t believe me. I don’t tell very many people partly because this response has put me off, leading to a heightened sense of disconnect and isolation. I know I need to stick at it and in time, people will see that I have something worthwhile to give. I am kind, compassionate and empathic. I am honest and open and not afraid to practice tough love.
I have wondered about changing the way I dress or trying to speak differently. But it’s not as if I waltz in in designer clothes or formal office wear – when I am volunteering I dress casually, usually in jeans. My voice is not plummy and I talk about normal “stuff” using normal words. I don’t think I can change this. I am hoping that over time people will get to know and hopefully like, the real me and to see that I have something genuine and worthwhile to give.