It was supposed to help us. That’s what the therapists said. This daily / weekly gathering of “recovering- addict” bums on seats. A room full of people all waiting with bated breath to hear the “newbies” story. All secretly ecstatic that it wasn’t our turn to be in the hot seat.
Because we all got one. Whether we liked it or not. A non-negiotable clause in the contract we’d signed, written by the devil himself when we finally admitted defeat and checked ourselves into the house of fun.
It was “a chance to get to know each other” they said. To “provide empathy and support by talking about shared experiences” To “encourage harmony within the house”….. When we all knew that what it really was, was staff tea break fodder.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think that therapy can be a good thing. That therapy can be exactly what the doctor ordered. In the right environment. With the right people.
But if, like me, you just happened to be in rehab having “therapy,” with seventeen other accomplished misfits and manipulators, it was a whole new ball game. Because back then, our “therapy” sessions were a lot of things. But therapeutic wasn’t really the term I would use….
I hated group therapy. For many reasons. Not least because public speaking terrifies me. My words literally stick in my throat and I struggle to get them out. At best it makes me anxious and jittery. At worse it makes my throat actually bleed.
I have a tear in my oesophagus, an old trauma from years ago, meaning that if I get overly stressed I’ll start to choke which can open up the tear. So having to talk in-depth to a room full of people about the underlying reasons behind my alcohol misuse was a stress-inducing nightmare, and absolute hell on earth for me.
Especially when not everyone took it as seriously as they should have done and spent the entire session blatantly just pissing around.
There were the attention grabbers and the hypochondriacs. The “all-about-me’s” and the “so-hard-done-bys”. The guys who acted all “too-cool-for-school”, smirking in the corner at the person just feet away, in tears in the hot-seat. The ones who walked around as though they owned the place. The latecomers, the disruptive ones. The ones who blatantly didn’t give two shits about any of it, and took pleasure in trying to wreck it for the rest of us who did.
Which worked. Several times. We called it “taking hostages”. When a trouble-maker knows that his card is marked, but is determined to take someone down with them before they leave. Usually one of the quieter ones already struggling with the regime. Or one of the guys more easily led. There was no way I was becoming a hostage. So I kept out of the way and kept myself to myself.
I didn’t want to talk about myself in front of these people. To share my darkest secrets and my weak spots with these guys. I didn’t want them mentally scribbling down information about me onto their game plans and hidden agendas.
And so I was selective about who I talked to and what about.
I was completely open with my friends. Because you need your friends in rehab. You’re not going to get through it without them. But with all things group-related, I shared the bare minimum.
It got me into trouble with the staff. For being “too quiet”. They thought I was being defiant. I wasn’t. I’d tried to explain several times to my key-worker about the issues I was having in group, but it fell on deaf ears and so I gave up trying to hold the conversation.
Plus, after hearing some of the stories in there about what my fellow housemates used to get up to on the outside, I decided that it was probably best if I chose to err on the side of caution and keep my cards close to my chest. I was eating breakfast every day with some seriously fucked up people lets not forget. So keeping schtumm about my personal life seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.
None of the game-players lasted the course to be fair. They either got kicked out or walked out. Usually with the obligatory hostage in tow.
I walked out too in the end. Almost ten-weeks of head-bending and “therapy” sessions later and I was done. Completely therapied out. And so I walked. Before I was tempted to start drinking again….
Did I enjoy my time in rehab? Not really, no.
Did I agree with some of the teaching methods in there? No. Absolutely not. Group therapy being my main bugbear, for reasons I’ve already discussed.
Would I change anything about the treatment approach if I could, given my new found enlightenment? Yes, absolutely. Loads.
But at the end of the day, the time that I spent in there helped me to kick my addiction. And in the big, grand scheme of things, that’s pretty much all that matters.
Ten months after leaving rehab and I have a new job, a new home, a new boyfriend, a new life. I haven’t had a therapy session in almost a year.
I don’t feel the need to.
But if ever I did, it would have to be just me and my therapist. Not some “lunatics taking over the asylum free-for-all” rehab jobbie. Because that’s not therapy. It’s lunacy.