Group therapy in rehab and the counselor asked the small group, "When you're in your casket and family, friends, and associates come to the viewing, what would you like them to say about you?"
Artie H. said, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, a great family man, and he died sober."
Eugene V. answered, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher, a servant of God who made a huge difference in people's lives, and he died clean."
Al M. said, "I'd like them to say, 'Look, he's moving!'"
So what about rehab? What good is it? Various gnarly old-timers who got clean strictly through AA or NA sometimes recite their agonies, scars, and rewards of getting clean strictly through a Twelve Step program.
There's nothing wrong with that. Millions have gotten clean, sober, and free of other OCD afflictions exactly that way. It becomes just a bit destructive to a rehab grad, though, when the program-only dude comes at the grad like a Navy Seal dropping on a Cub Scout, comparing initiation rituals, as though getting clean on a rehabilitation unit is some kind of vacation.
In a fictionalized form, I recounted some of my experiences in Saint Mary's Rehabilitation Center (now Fairview) in my novel Saint Mary Blue. It wasn't a vacation resort or health spa. It was withdrawal, trying to find a few threads of hope and reality to hang onto, and learning just how big and powerful is the thing we were up against. Based on Twelve Step recovery, it was learning that addiction is a disease, but it's not a disease of stupid people, rock stars, writers, or athletes.
There are commercials on TV bragging about a rehab that spurns the "disease concept," and Twelve Step programs. Fortunately for me I was directed onto another path.
Rehab was thirty days away from the chemicals, the places I used, and the persons with whom I used.
Rehab put me together with men and women of all kinds, ages, and occupations who had the same thing in common: Getting and staying clean.
Rehab introduced me to the Twelve Steps and actually had me do work in completing the first five steps.
Rehab (the one I went to) had a two year follow up program where the patient returns after three months, six months, a year, and after the second year. Reviewing programs, feedback from your return patient group members, and sitting in your old patient group with the new fish to (1) share your experience, strength, and hope; and (2) see how far you've come.
If I hadn't gone through rehab, I don't think I would have been alive today. If you're in the water swimming with all the sharks, rehab is a safe place to acquire a sound introduction to Twelve Step recovery. But, if the sharks are telling you that it's really not that bad, go straight to rehab. Do not pass "Go." Do not collect two hundred dollars. That comes later.