What I Know About...Rehab
The latest round of celebrities going to rehab always leaves me slightly bemused. Amy Winehouse does another stint at the Priory, while Lindsay Lohan is given the celebs equivalent of behind bars at the Betty Ford Center. If we were to believe the stars, rehab is all sipping on herbal teas while your body is soothed with back to back massages. I, however, know differently.
I was 29 when I went to rehab for alcoholism. It was my first and only time, and I was there for four months. As the saying goes, you have to hit rock bottom before you can start picking yourself up again and this is what happened to me. My life was out of control but I was lucky that I had a great partner who made me realise that if I didn’t do something about my addiction soon, I’d end up dead. This is when I decided to check into rehab.
I decided on the Castle Craig clinic because it was near where I lived in Scotland, in the UK, and I’d heard good things about it. I had no idea what to expect on my first day and I spent the entire car journey switching from excitement to terror. I hated the idea of leaving my family behind, but I knew that this was exactly what I needed. As soon as you enter the clinic, you’re taken out of normal day-to-day life. There is no television, mobile phones aren’t allowed and the internet is only available at certain times.
I shared a room with three other women and at first I hated it, but that changed as I got to know my roommates. We were all suffering from different addictions, but because we had no-one else to rely on, a closeness sprung up between us very quickly. The room itself was minimal but comfortable. I had my own bed, a wardrobe and a dressing table where I kept photos of my family. We also had an en suite bathroom.
On my first day I was partnered off with a woman who’d been there for four weeks already. She showed me around and took me to lunch and dinner. Despite still feeling terrified of what was to come, I can honestly say that my first night spent in the clinic was the best night’s sleep I’d had in years, and this was simply because I felt safe.
I was put on an alcohol detox for the first 10 days, which was very uncomfortable. I’d wake-up at 7.30am for 30-minute meditation, before heading to breakfast at 8.15am. Mealtimes were in one room altogether and the food was health orientated, so lots of salads and potatoes. It was food designed to get you feeling good about yourself again – something many of us hadn’t experienced in a while.
The group therapy sessions started at 9am and it initially felt odd talking to strangers about very personal things, but you get used to it. After 10 days at the clinic, you have to give a life story in front of everyone. It’s extremely nerve-wracking and I was terrified of being judged but after you’ve done it, it’s like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders because you realise you’re sharing your story with other people who understand what you’re going through.
The people in my sessions were very varied – Scottish, American, some Dutch, but from all walks of life; a businessman sat next to the homeless guy; professionals mixed with the junkies. It didn’t matter where you were from, we were all equals in Castle Craig.
Afternoons were spent either at a women’s therapy session (the morning group ones were mixed sex) or doing chores, like cleaning the rooms, putting chairs out for the sessions and helping out in the library. We were also expected to change our own bed linen once a week and wash our own clothes. By 10pm everyone had to be in their rooms with lights out by 11pm.
Visitors would come once a week and, while I loved seeing my family, it was really hard to say goodbye to them each time. But I knew I was where I needed to be right then and that’s what got me through it.
I’ve heard of a couple of people that I met there that have since passed away and it’s always upsetting when you find out that someone has actually died because of their illness, but, ultimately, it makes me stronger in my convictions.
After spending 16 week there, I decided to go home. I was extremely happy to be given a second chance, but also sad to be leaving. I remember the times when I thought I’d never get through it without a drink, but the therapists at the clinic taught me how to deal with that. They made me realise that I am worth saving.
It’s been almost three years since I went to Castle Craig and I’m now hoping to return, but this time as a therapist. When I tell people I’ve been to rehab, I know a lot think of the celeb version of it, but it’s much more than that. I tell people because I’m proud I’ve been to rehab. It saved my life – how many fancy spas can say that?”