In Recovery: Part 3 – Reality Check
From jail, to the end of my treatment in 3 different V.A. Treatment Centers, this part of My Story uncovers the journey of my recovery. I vividly, and candidly chronicled my day to day struggles with recovery, mental health, amends, and dealing with the V.A. empire on my blog from October of 2016, to the end of 2017. You can find these musings in the Archives. However, in the coming weeks, I look back at those experiences and give you a more coherent story of my life In Recovery. I look back on that year with more insight as to what was happening, and share with you the principles and actions that built the foundation for my ongoing recovery.
About 3 months into my incarceration, I learned there was a Veterans Service Officer in the jail; someone who specifically works with Veterans within the facility. It was mid-August, and I had begun to take stock in my situation. Except for a few boxes, all of my belongings were gone. I was no longer employed. I had no savings. I had nowhere to live once I was released from jail. Alcohol had brought me to my knees.
I met with the VSO sometime in late August. He told me that there was a program I might be able to transition to at the VA; but I had to be committed to sobriety. I had to also meet with a representative from the VA, in order for them to assess my eligibility. Dare I say that I was, at this point, hopeful? August was a month of reality checks for me. The toughest one? That I had become powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable. It was the first time in my life that I realized that, every time I picked up a drink, it was always followed by many others. I finally accepted that I could no longer drink.
This reality set much deeper inside my world after meeting with the representative from the VA. During that grueling 3 hour ordeal, I told the story of my life. He wanted details. So many details. The walk back to my cell was a dizzying one. I had never had to express so thoroughly, the many traumatic and tragic events of my life to anyone. The VA representative wasn’t even sure that I would be eligible for the program. It took several weeks before I heard back.
In the meantime, jail was starting to take its toll. Although I had taken a job in the kitchen–one of the most brutally challenging jobs I ever had–in order to earn “good time,” the constant noise and boredom was getting to me. Jail is extremely loud all of the time. The word “nigger” is used thousands of times a day, by every race, for every reason. The food is completely atrocious. Let’s just say that gratitude was not on my radar at this point in my so-called ‘recovery.’
I couldn’t even stand to try to watch the miniscule t.v. that was attached to the second floor beam; not only was the incessant yammering bothersome, when I was incarcerated I did not have my glasses with me. Being nearsighted, I could barely see it anyways. So, I spent nearly all of my waking time reading. I read 78 books in 5 months. One of those books, A Million Little Pieces (an account of rehab, by someone who purported to have gone through it. However, later it was discovered that the author had falsified many portions of the book. Still a great book though), I finished the morning of my release.
I talked to one guy there the entire time I was locked up. Walter was his name. We had some laughs. As a matter of fact, he put $60 on my Canteen, helping me to endure the last 2 brutal weeks of my incarceration. It astonishes me that someone could endure years of incarceration; I was barely holding on at 5 months. Earlier this year, I found out he went to prison on drug charges. I looked him up via the prison network. I have been writing him, talking with him on the phone, sending him money every month. His one act of kindness will be returned tenfold, because I know how dismall incarceration without money can be. Anyway, I digress.
Around mid-September I got the news that I would be accepted into a program at the Jamaica Plains VA. It was to be a fairly restrictive in-patient program that would require daily classes, limited movement, regular urine tests. I would have to be directly transported to the facility on the day of my release. I had to agree that any violation of the program’s policies, would result in immediate expulsion from the program. Of course, I did agree. So on October 9th, 2016, I was brought to the Substance Abuse Residential Recovery Treatment Program (SARRTP, by two friends from the car business. It would be the very first time I had ever participated in any such program. It would be the first time my new-found sobriety would be put to the test.