For many, the idea of going to rehab is an understandably foreign one.
At South Pacific Private, around one hundred people walk through the doors for treatment every month. And whilst everyone’s experience of their time in rehab is unique, it’s not uncommon for our alumni community members to say that their life was changed forever when they left our program. Yet the fear of the unknown, and the shame that can surround those who struggle with addiction, anxiety and depression are often the biggest roadblocks to asking for help. So how do we overcome these fears and take that first step? Former South Pacific Private client, Tony C shares his journey of recovery.
Taking the first step
Four years ago, Tony was dropped off at South Pacific Private by his partner.
As a self-described high functioning addict of fifteen years, Tony had a family and was running a successful business. “For around 14 years I managed to keep my life, marriage and career intact whilst drinking and using drugs.” However, Tony says it was the deceit associated with keeping his addiction under wraps that eventually led to his lies unravelling. “Like most addicts, I was outstanding at spinning lies and keeping people away. I was very polished.” However, as the truth became more blurred and the lies became harder to keep track of, Tony found himself spiralling.
Tony reached out anonymously around six months before he was eventually admitted to the program. In hindsight, he says that the delay in his admission simply came down to shame, however at the time he says it was the fear of losing his anonymity. “When I initially called, before it all fell apart for me, I didn’t have the courage to go through with the assessment,” Tony says. “I got cold feet because it would require me to name myself, and admit to myself and others that there was a problem way deeper and way more entrenched than I was willing to accept yet.”
Things began to change for Tony when he saw a drug and alcohol counsellor who also happened to be a former client of South Pacific Private. “He reflected back at me much of the deceit that I was still, even in that moment, trying to spin for him.” There was something about having a counsellor, Tony says, who too had been a client that gave him the sense that he had trodden the same path that Tony needed too. “He could see through it all. I was defenceless for the first time.”
What it’s like in rehab
Tony explains with mixed feelings how it felt when his partner dropped him off at rehab all those years ago. “At the time it was fear,” Tony says. “Fear that it wouldn’t work and fear of humiliation. Fear of the amazing amount of shame I was carrying.”
For Tony, there was also anger. “When you go into rehab you’re angry. You’re angry at the world. You’re angry at everyone but yourself. You think that it’s everyone’s fault except your own and by the time you get into those rooms, you’re a very lonely individual.”
On reflection of those first moments as he was admitted, Tony recalls a surprising moment that changed the preconception of what he was entering into. “My first memories are of one of the directors coming down to greet me. And it was that gesture that made me feel like an individual. I didn’t feel like I was being thrown into a machine or a process” Tony says.
It was the personal touch that made all the difference for Tony that day. “It was obviously a very personal moment for me coming into rehab, but it felt equally personal to this director who made the effort to come and welcome me into their proverbial arms. It suddenly made walking up those stairs so much easier and my fears started to ebb.”
What it’s like to be in recovery
Tony admits that at first, being amongst unfamiliar people during the detox phase, was unsettling. “It was a totally different universe to the one that I was accustomed to, but this was one of many significant moments of realisation as to the size of the problem I was facing.”
“The morning my partner and I left home to drive to rehab, I had thought to myself ‘I can fake this for 21 days. I’ll be back in my office in a few weeks and I’ll pick up where I left off’. That was my headspace when I left home. And I haven’t thought about drinking or using since.”
Tony says the program he undertook at South Pacific Private was outstanding but it was also hard work. “It was tough love. There was empathy, but there were also rules. Being in that initial state of anger, denial and shame I didn’t like the rules at first, and it was only after I left that I began to fully appreciate them and understand what they did for me.”
Going home after rehab
For Tony, and so many others who enter recovery, it’s not all smooth sailing. “When I had finally acknowledged my emotional pain and trauma and had reached that six-month sobriety mark, the thought ‘I’m never going to drink again’ entered my mind. And it was scary.” Whilst some people are able to drink in moderate amounts, others in recovery must learn to abstain. “To never be able to celebrate with an alcoholic drink again was frightening, and that still kicks in for me” Tony says. “I’m in an industry where drinking is cultural, so do I worry I’ll jump from a 0% beer to a 5% beer one day? Absolutely. But as long as I have that fear in the back of my head, I won’t do it. It’s when that fear is gone that I would worry about the possibility of relapsing.”
Many alumni will recall that there is a sign in the foyer of South Pacific that reads ‘expect a miracle’. “I think the idea of a miracle hits different people in different ways”, Tony says. “Coming to South Pacific Private gave me a headspace and the tools to get my shit together. I was the guy who was drinking and using drugs every day. My life since then? That has been a miracle.” Tony says this is proof for him, that miracles do happen.
“I arrived at rehab four years and 24 days ago, and to be honest I’ve never looked back. The last four years of my life have been phenomenal. The version of my life I’ve had since leaving? I would choose that every day of the week.”
What would you say to someone who hasn’t reached out for help yet?
Tony says that if you can’t yet make that call, he understands. “Making the call was the first part of my anonymity being stripped away from me, and when you’re in denial, anonymity is everything.” However, Tony’s advice for those who are hesitant to make the initial call is to start by going to a (face-to-face if possible) 12 step program. “Let the collective empathy wrap around you and listen to the people who have been where you are today. They will give you the courage and confidence to take the next step” Tony says. “I didn’t do that, but if I had, I think I would have found my way to South Pacific Private much faster.”
At South Pacific Private we treat the entire addiction cycle and are committed to helping clients and their families achieve long-term, sustainable recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, anxiety, depression or trauma, reach out to our caring Intake Team for a free, confidential discussion about what help is available on 1800 063 332, or take an online assessment now.
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