I went into the rehab facility on March 10th 2020 and left only eight days later.  COVID was spreading and I was afraid of being quarantined in the facility for longer than my stay.  To be honest I had no idea what was going to happen and I didn’t want to find out by getting stuck there.  I was also worried that my ex-girlfriend might need me as she was pregnant with my daughter, so that was also running through my mind.

To be sure about my decision I was recently turned onto meditation by one of our technician babysitters in rehab named Mitch.  So I went to my room and sat on the bed with my back up against the wall and I meditated, thinking long and hard about what I thought would happen.  I decided I was going to leave.  To this day I still think I made the right choice.

So I went to the public laundry room there and grabbed my clothes I was washing and I went to my room and I packed up.  My roommate at the time Pooh, yes no bullshit that was his nickname and the only name he told me was Pooh was upset I was leaving.  We had just started to click.  I was actually upset as I was leaving a great bunch of guys I considered friends so quickly to go hang out alone with my worst enemy.  Myself.

Next I had to let my crew know I was leaving.  It was kind of like jail in the fact I was giving away all the snacks I snuck into my room and also gave my boy Walt a bunch of brand new socks I hadn’t worn yet.  Everyone was warning me like the technicians and counselors that in my first 90 days I was double as likely to relapse without completing my full rehab stay.

Also the way Danny put it and he was totally right was he said “dude, right now we’re in a bubble.  We’re sheltered from the outside world.  Once you go out there, there is no protection.”  All my boys were truly worried and suggested I stay.  I had to go, I decided and I was sticking to that.  Anyone that knows me that once my mind is made up it’s very hard to convince me otherwise.

All the counselors and technicians made a big deal against me leaving and asked me to wait until the next day until my counselor came in and I refused.  I just plainly told them I wanted to “leave against medical advice” and there was nothing they could do to stop me.  So I grabbed my stuff I had packed, said goodbye to my homies and I was on my way out.

I remember standing outside smoking a cigarette while waiting for my sister to come pick me up.  There was a man outside who was dropping off a person to intake.  We started chatting and he offered to be my sponsor.  My sister arrived and he told both of us I actually made the right choice as he had a friend in homeland security that said they were going to start quarantining that weekend.  And they did.

On the ride home I can tell my sister didn’t believe I was telling the truth about why I wanted to leave rehab.  She said “you’re a salesman for a living and an addict to boot, how can I trust you?”  That really hurt.  That’s just the truth, it really hurt.  Worst of all, I knew many in my family and my ex-girlfriend would feel the same way.  

We stopped at Wawa as that was considered an “essential business” because they sold gas.  So they were open.  I went in there with my sister and I bought a bottle of soda, a turkey and cheese sub and a bag of spicy hot cheese curls.  I had no food in the house so that’s why we even stopped there.

I remember walking into my apartment and the smell just hit me.  I was turned off to say the least and this was my apartment!  I had been living in such a haze for years this was the norm for me.  Also since the outbreak of the virus they had been bleaching the rehab facility daily so when I came home it really magnified how gross I had been living.  It was really depressing to say the least.

Even my bed sheets smelled but I didn’t have a choice but to sleep on them as I had no others.  The sheets were caked in cat hair.  Overall, everything in my apartment was disgusting.  I had a lot of cleaning to do.  

I still remember that first night home.  I still had a bottle full of klonopins.  I didn’t touch them.  At the moment I wasn’t sure if I was going back to those.  I actually never really abused them.  I abused so many other drugs but I was so heavily reliant on these I wanted to be sure I never ran out so I stuck to the two or three I was prescribed a day.

The next morning I woke up and I remember just looking directly to my left at the mirror next to my bed and I started crying.  I started crying because nothing had changed in my life and I was still miserable except now I was sober.  I didn’t realize at that time what a gift I was given.

I thought I was feeling so great after leaving rehab.  A new man so to speak.  So to break down crying so quickly was shocking.  I’ve always been emotional but this time I thought I was in a good spot mentally.  Boy was I wrong.  One of my biggest triggers was my apartment.  Aside from being disgusting it held a lot of bad memories of me and my ex.

I truly don’t remember a lot as I compare it to a blackout but I went about redoing my entire apartment.  I must have been a bit manic.  I ripped up my couches into pieces to move to the garbage as they were disgusting as shit.  

I started throwing out so much of my shit that was just old and disgusting.  Which was most of my apartment.  I hadn’t purchased new furnishings in over 15 years.  Everything was old and falling apart or it was just filthy and disgusting.  My carpet had stains all over it and wasn’t vacuumed in who knows how long.  Probably a year or longer.

I had to scrub my kitchen over and over.  It was more disgusting than I care to describe.  My microwave, couldn’t even begin to clean, had to throw it out.  

Unfortunately I was right and COVID just spread like a wildfire.  I remember going to the local grocery store and there was literally almost nothing.  I was lucky and was able to get frozen vegetables at the Dollar Tree.  Everyone was preparing for the end of the world.  At least so it seemed.

Because of the pandemic I was able to stay home and really focus on my recovery.  Otherwise I would’ve been back to work much sooner and having to deal with the anxieties that go along with my job.  With any job for that matter.  I’ve been so lucky in this department and I know it and I appreciate it everyday.  

Then came the craving for a klonopin and I still had a bottle with a three month supply in there.  About 90 pills.  I actually recorded myself dumping them into the toilet.  That was a hard thing to do.  I depended on those for so long.  Before that I couldn’t imagine a life without them.  Anyone sobering up for the first time will know the feeling of dread I was feeling about no more klonopin the rest of my life.  What would I do?  How would I handle my racing thoughts or my temper?  Would I be the same person?  Would my performance at work suffer?

So I’m sitting all alone in my apartment with no klonopin, no booze and no drugs of any type that I would have been usually taking on a daily basis.  One of which I thought I absolutely needed was Adderall.  Adderall to focus and klonopin to keep me calm and steady.  What was I going to do now?  That was my go-to daily combination for so long.

So I went about changing my environment, which is suggested for someone out of rehab.  They usually suggest moving which just wasn’t an option for me.  And staying with someone wasn’t an option either because of the virus everyone was under quarantine.  So I slowly saved enough money to redo my entire apartment.  It took me about a year to get everything I wanted and it’s like I moved.  Which is exactly what I felt I needed.  

I truly believe that if I was sitting around the same old surroundings from what I now consider my previous life I probably would’ve ended up slipping.  But I took the time, effort and money to do what I thought was going to keep me sober.  After all, I’m all by myself day and night. I should at least be comfortable in my surroundings.

As to how I’ve been staying sober, I credit it due to structure.  One of the girls in rehab gave me a great piece of advice that was so tiny but changed my life I’ll never forget it.  Ready to have your mind blown?  She said “make your bed every morning.”  That was it.  But it seriously has some kind of mental effect when you start the day off accomplishing something.  

Matter of fact a few months ago I was in Barnes & Nobles and saw a book standing out on the shelf.  It’s title was “Make Your Bed” by General McRaven.  Great little book, very inspirational.

For me another major trigger was and still is boredom.  I hear this from many addicts.  And you hear this from addicts with all types of  addiction.  That is why I try to structure 

my day and always have something to do.  I’m not saying run away and hide from your feelings besides things to keep you busy.  Being that I’m not currently working it truly is a real challenge staying busy.

When I was drinking and using a typical day I would wake up, pour a glass of wine and then go have a cigarette.  Then I would go get dressed and if it was open I would make my way to the liquor store for more cigarettes and my good old friend Jim Beam.  Then I would go home and drink until I passed out.  I’d wake up early in the afternoon and restart the process until the day was done.  So now I’ve got a lot of time to fill.

Another thing I credit my recovery to is books.  They say knowledge is power.  I think this rings especially true to addicts.  How are you supposed to battle a disease without knowing how it actually affects you.  For me learning is crucial.  

Another thing that I credit with helping my recovery and saving my life is meditation.  Just a few minutes a day could mean the difference between using or not using.  I think this is something not spoken about enough.  

In the “Big Book” Bill Wilson mentions the word “meditation” ten times.  He repeatedly spoke of not only prayer but also mediation.  This was something he did with his wife every morning.  And this is something that is a must for me to settle my brain before I face the day’s challenges.

I’m not going to sit here and preach all the benefits of meditation and a more mindful way of living.  I will give the same advice I always give.  “Always be willing to try something new and take away the good things you can from it and discard the things that don’t help.”

That’s all I got for now.  Till next time!!!