It was the only time in my life that I would be handcuffed in the back of a police car.
I had threatened suicide in the middle of some emotional breakdown in March of 1998. It was my second attempt at college, this time at Tennessee Tech, and I had effectively blown it.
As the policemen were driving me to Nashville to be admitted into a psychiatric facility, they advised the handcuffs were just a precaution so I didn’t harm myself.
When I went through the admissions process, I was asked several questions about my mental stability, if I felt like hurting myself, etc.
Then they asked me about my use of substances.
Do you do any drugs? Yes.
Which ones and how often? Weed, coke, acid, mushrooms, ecstasy. However often I can get my hands on them. Daily and in combination.
Do you drink alcohol? Yes.
How often? Almost daily.
And when everything was finished they escorted me to a co-ed floor with other patients who, like me, were emotionally unstable and suicidal. The men were all alcoholics and the women were all crack addicts.
At first, I didn’t understand why I was there. What did I have in common with alcoholics and crackheads? My problems weren’t that serious.
For me, drugs and alcohol were still a point of pleasure for me. I did them with my friends, I did them to have fun, I did them to forget about the stress of school, relationships and life in general.
I didn’t have a “problem.”
But that’s not the way the hospital saw it. They looked at frequency, emotional attachment to substances and my general frame of mind and saw things differently.
And in the two weeks that I was a patient there, I had to attend A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) and N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings just like the rest of them.
I resented that.
“They” were worse off than me.
“They” had real substance abuse problems.
I was just dicking around with drugs and having fun.
So, rehab didn’t work for me. I wasn’t ready for it.
I was ready to not be suicidal.
I was ready to feel normal again but I wasn’t ready to give up drugs. There were way too many left to do.
And that’s exactly how my life played out. I’d continue using in greater quantity and greater frequency for another eight years.
When I reached the end, I knew it had all run it’s course.
My life was not improving, it was getting worse. My work had become too stressful for me to deal with. I couldn’t make it through a single day without something in my system to mask whatever pain I was dealing with.
And that was it. When it was done, it was done.
Getting clean was relatively easy.
Getting my life together afterwards wasn’t.
It was difficult to see back then, that I was doing just as much harm to those around me as I was doing to myself. I didn’t have the self-awareness to notice that all the things I was allowing into my life actually had a negative effect on the people around me.
When I coach change to my clients, the problems aren’t generally wrapped around drugs. Yes, alcohol is a big one because it’s socially acceptable. I have a very small percentage of clients who have the same background in drug recovery as I do.
But whether it’s the socially acceptable over-comsumption of alcohol or the even more acceptable over-consumption of food, sometimes we just don’t know when to stop our “bad” habits.
We’ve grown up in a society and within cultures where “food is love” and we proudly belong to the “clean plate club.” Let’s be clear, we MUST have food in our lives.
At no point in my life with drugs did anyone who cared about me say: Well, you bought all of those drugs, you sure as hell better finish them! Oddly enough, there’s a “clean plate club” in the drug world too…
But I digress…
Where I draw the most common parallel between my past and the past of many of the people who come through my door because they’ve heard we do good things for fat loss, it’s that slippery slope of knowing they need to change and not being ready to admit there’s a problem.
Let me say it like this: change is hard.
Change is messy.
Change may often have to be dramatic and painful.
But change can only happen when YOU are ready for it.
Which means that YOUR “rock bottom” will look different than mine did.
And your way out of that rock bottom will look different as well.
The unfortunate part of change is that we often don’t credit how much effort it will take to do it.
And in addition to the effort, sometimes we want better health and we want change, we just don’t want to change that much.
For me, speaking only for myself, change was a rip the band-aid off scenario.
Bridges were burned, relationships were ruined, and somehow I had to stop the self-destruction from continuing.
Your path looks different because it is different.
But the discomfort you’ll have to experience to make it all turn around is similar.
It will be hard because at a certain point you just can’t keep the self-destruction going.
The picture you see below was taken a handful of months before that last hospitalization.
I lived to tell the tale and to help you tell yours.