TSM vs. Emotional Pain – Joanna’s Journey

Some readers have no real knowledge of who I am except from what you make of me from my writings on this website, but some of you have communicated with me personally by email and it is always a pleasure to speak to with you on the telephone and via Skype.  What I hope you will have noticed is that I am basically a softie at heart.

Sadly, at times it can also leave me feeling very vulnerable in my personal life, capable of being hurt beyond belief.  This past few weeks has been such a time – an immensely difficult, emotional and stressful experience that I hope to never have to go through again.

Following weeks of concern with regards to a man in my life who I have known for the best part of 20 years now, I learned that he relapsed back into drug use some months ago.  Whilst not a complete shock given his recent behaviour, the news was still devastating to me.  He has lived his life clean for 10 years and sober from alcohol for the last 5, almost 6 years.  He is a kind and loving man.  Not a saint of course, but who is?  The fact remains that when free of drugs and alcohol, there is nothing he won’t do to help someone.  He stood by me more times than I care to remember, picking me up again and again.

He has also picked himself up several times from real adversity over the years, now having a (really) good job to lose, a relationship to lose, his home…. He rebuilt trust into the relationship with his daughters.  Now all of this is hanging on what happens over the coming couple of months.

In the hope that I would be ready to act quickly if I could get him to admit he needed help, I spent an entire day ringing as many detox and rehab facilities I could find.  Pricing up a 5 day inpatient, 4 day outpatient detox came to almost £2000 which he could manage, but there was no way he could afford a full rehab facility.  Whether his career remains open to him relies on him not only completing a full rehabilitation but then ongoing drug testing, so we are thankful that along with that responsibility also comes good medical insurance and a good boss who genuinely wants to help.  Placing him on long term sick leave, he worked with us to establish what he could do to find somewhere for him to attend.

This week, we drove almost 6 hours from England to take him to a private rehab facility in Scotland.  We had no choice in this placement – it was the clinic that his medical insurance chose in conjunction with his employer.

Now, anyone who says taking a loved one to a rehab facility is easy is lying.  I can tell you it has been quite possibly the most stressful and emotionally draining experience I have ever had to endure.  It has been absolutely gut-wrenching.

Having been through it many years before, he knew what to expect – I didn’t.  My issues are alcohol related only.  I have no real experience with drug abuse other than what he has told me, remembering that for the best part of all the time I have known him he has lived a life free from drugs.  The facility was huge, like a sprawling first-class hotel set in grounds good enough for a millionaire lifestyle.  It was clean and warm, the staff friendly and accommodating.  Following the necessary paperwork and mandatory testing, he was led away for a tour of the facilities (of which I was unable to attend with him).

A little later we had a joint meeting with two people who I understand will be his ‘guides’ throughout his stay.  One was a doctor, the other a counsellor.  They spoke of the ‘rules’ and terms of his stay.  The results of his tests showed that he requires a medically assisted detox, then six, perhaps eight weeks of intensive treatment.

When I mentioned that I take naltrexone the look that crossed the doctor’s face was a picture that could say a thousand words – naltrexone was used for opiate abuse, yet I am taking it for alcohol abuse?  Here I should tell you that this facility is a 12 step based treatment facility.  It crossed my mind that the doctor was aware of naltrexone for opiate abuse and yet sat fidgeting right in front of him was someone addicted to opiates, and he was going to be getting 12 step based treatment?  That made little sense to me but I simply nodded feeling like I was being put on trial for something….

We then had ten minutes to say our goodbyes and I walked out of that building and barely made it to the car before I burst into tears.  It is absolutely heart breaking to do that to someone you care so deeply for.

Unable to face the 6 hour drive back home to England I found a hotel in the centre of Edinburgh to spend the night.  For the previous week or two I had been a rock, solid to the core and not breaking under the stress of the suspicion that something horrible was about to happen.  Maybe my suspicions were wrong, maybe there were work problems for him and that is what was causing the mood swings and the disconnect between us? I had carried my nal tablets with me everywhere, like I always do, but was far more aware of them than I had been for the previous few months.   This felt a real threat and I had often checked and double checked that I had my tablets just to be sure.  To know they were there was very reassuring and I could breathe easy knowing I had them.

I knew I had done what I had to do – I had got him where he needed to be and now there was nothing else I could contribute.  From this point on, I am a passenger in his recovery.  After I got checked in to my hotel room I knew that I was going to crack.  I think I knew it far earlier on the drive up to the clinic.  I think I knew it that morning before we left.  All day long my chest was tight, I was ready to sob my heart out at what we were doing.  Just because it is the right thing to do doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.  Nor is it easy to be fully aware that when we stopped for a break on the journey, he was taking his last hit just to get him through.  This wasn’t the man I know.  I sat in the car waiting for him, and thought back to the number of times in my life I had been on journeys with friends and drank miniature bottles of vodka in the toilets of the motorway service stations then eaten my way through half a packet of mints afterwards, because doesn’t everybody do that??!

I took the nal tablet and left the hotel room to find somewhere to buy alcohol – certainly not a difficult thing to find in Scotland!  By the time I got back to my room and got myself dry (yes, as beautiful as Scotland is, it always seems to rain when I visit too!) thirty minutes had passed.  As much pain as I was in, I knew I couldn’t touch that drink yet.

During the day, when I could I had sought solace in messaging a friend – a wonderful lady who has been an enormous help since we got to know each other a few months ago.  I messaged her again to help pass the time.  Make sure you take the nal, was the message I received back.  How well she knows me in a such a short time….. It felt good to tell her that yes, I had already taken the nal.

Sat at the small table in the hotel room, staring at the bottle of vodka, I realised how truly amazing it was that I was still following The Sinclair Method, even under so much intense pressure.  This had been the biggest test for me since I began TSM last October and I was coming through it.  How was that even possible?  The floodgates of swallowed down emotion that had been threatening to open since the early morning were beginning to ebb, and yet I had still had some vague awareness of knowing what I had to do – knowing I had to take that tablet and wait.

As much as I thought I wanted the sheer relief getting drunk would give me from the horrendous pain I was feeling, more than a little part of me still remembered that I want to get better in spite of this.  THAT was the part of me that had so often checked my pills were still on my chain so many times that day.  THAT was the part of me that knew if I took a drink without the nal tablet in my system everything would come crashing down at some point.  And THAT was the part of me that accepted that it was inevitable that I was going to need to seek relief from this emotional pain but ensured I was protected throughout.

Being honest, I am not even sure how much of that was conscious versus subconscious, how much awareness I have of it.  TSM is engrained in me now – to the point that no matter what, it just ‘happens’.  Having gone through this I do not know what it would take for me to NOT take that tablet – and I never want to find out.

I poured the glass to the top with the vodka and downed it in one, sobbing my heart out as everything let go.  There was no relief in that drink, or the few that followed.  This has been the most I have ever drank since beginning TSM.  My switch for wanting to drink goes to the ‘off’ position fairly quickly following the tablet and though I tried to beat it by going through a lot of vodka in a short space of time, it wasn’t going to let me down.  I soon found myself realising that this wasn’t going to end the way it would have done without the nal.

The alcohol did nothing for me, absolutely nothing….. Sure, my head was swimming but without the naltrexone that bottle would’ve been gone….finished that night….unless I passed out first.

As it happened, TSM did what it has always done for me.  It shut the lid very firmly on any prospect of prolonged drinking.  Under the most intense pressure, it STILL did what I needed it to do.  It STILL worked.  I cried alone in that strange room, in a strange city, but I did not lose what I have gained over the past few months.

The following couple of months are going to be difficult, of that I have no doubt.  I am unable to telephone him for the first week, so have no idea how he will be progressing.  Of course, I can contact the clinic but cannot speak with him.  Visiting is extremely limited, only on Sunday afternoons.  We were told that it is likely to be 3 or 4 weeks before they suggest he have any visitors at all.

On arriving home, I took on the task of telephone his parents and his elder brother.  I spoke to the mother of his girls and could hear the disappointment in all their voices.  What could I possibly tell that that would make it better?

So, yes it is true to say that going into rehab is hard on the addict but it is also extremely difficult for their closest friends.  I am unable to say how this would have transpired without TSM to back me up, but it was never going to be easy or comfortable.  I am extremely thankful that TSM enabled me to do everything I promised him I would and then allowed me to emotionally collapse with a degree of reassurance that I knew I was safe from harm.

And that is something quite incredible.  The only part I have to play to ensure my continued progress no matter what, is to take that naltrexone tablet – then I cannot fail.  It has been another battle fought and won in the grand war of my recovery.

Footnote:  I could not have successfully managed this last couple of weeks without the help of my friend who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are.  Thank you for your support – from the bottom of my heart.