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From Strung Out to Sober: When Does the Misery of Getting Clean End?

I kept falling but eventually I started to learn how to not fall so far down, and how to pick myself up a little sooner.

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But here’s where I did something different: in the past, I’d always gone to whatever psychiatrist was recommended to me. I decided that this time, I would try to find one that I could relate to and respect. It took some time and I met with four different doctors, but I finally did find someone who was young and super knowledgeable about addiction. She got me on different meds and I started seeing her once a week.

That was also the first time I’d ever tried outpatient, and the program I’d enrolled in here in LA seemed like it had really started working for me. When I’d been in inpatient rehabs before, I’d get close to the other clients when we were in there together, but as soon as we got back out in the real world, we’d discover how little we actually had in common. But that didn’t happen with outpatient, probably because we incorporated what we were doing together into our daily lives, rather than make it our entire lives. And as a result, the friends I made there are still some of my best friends today—nearly five years later.

So that’s it then, right? Outpatient and psychiatry, the magic combination? Is that what I should tell that old man on the reservation?

Actually, no.

Because I relapsed again.

My ex-girlfriend had a bottle of Vicodin left over from the time she broke her arm, and I thought one couldn’t hurt me. Three bottles later, I had a pocket full of cash and was heading downtown to go cop heroin when I suddenly, and inexplicably, had some sort of moment of clarity—or however you want to describe it. Basically, I just saw how I was about to throw everything away that I’d worked so hard to get. I saw how my life was going to spiral completely out of control again and I was going to lose everything and destroy myself and I thought, “No, no, I don’t want to do this again. I don’t want to go back to the bottom again.”

And so I didn’t. 

I went home and called my doctor, got on Suboxone and just basically locked myself inside for a week. And that was it. That was my last relapse. I’ve been sober ever since. Over four years at this point.

So what’s been the difference?

What’s gotten me from point A to point B?

How do I answer that old man’s question?

The only thing I can figure is that I guess it must have all kind of worked. That is, I don’t think it was any one treatment that got me sober. But each one gave me a little more by teaching me more about myself and my disease and recovery. None of it was a waste. I kept falling but eventually I started to learn how to not fall so far down, and how to pick myself up a little sooner. It was a lot of trial and error. I had to find out what fit for me and what didn’t.

Because there is no one answer for anyone. We are all different. What worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa. So I guess I just had to be open to trying—and then trying again. 

Of course, a lot of it is luck, too. I have plenty of friends who fell down and never could pick themselves up again because they overdosed and died. So to simply say it doesn’t matter how many times you fall because you can always get back up isn’t exactly true. People die from this disease. It happens all the time.