Passing Access

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go through the assessment process at Fairbanks, to finally restart your life and fight against your addiction? Fairbanks alumnus and volunteer, Bill, shared his experience of beginning the treatment process in hopes to encourage others who are unsure about getting help. Here’s his story in his own words:

This is it. I’m doing it. I’m getting help. I’m getting the help I know I need. I’m getting the help I need to save my marriage. The help I need to save my self-respect. My health. The help I need to save ME.

Fairbanks. Wow. How far have I sank?

But can I do it? Can I really go through with it. WILL I go through with it? Can I really do it?

They say I need to have an assessment done. An “assessment.” They say it might take two hours. TWO HOURS??!? What can possibly take two hours? Anyway, the building is not what I expected. Actually, I don’t know what I expected. A high security facility with barbed wire and padded walls? A sterile medical clinic with bright lights and white jackets? A country club? It’s just a building. Let’s do it.

A volunteer greets me. Nice guy. But I’m nervous. And anxious. But then, everything makes me anxious. That’s why I drink. That, and sleep. I can’t sleep. Oh yeah, and social situations. Small talk– UGH. And the usual regular every-body-does-it things … to celebrate … to relax… to brood… to be one of the guys… to fit in … to live with myself. In. My. Own. Skin.

OK. I like to drink.

The assessment room is like a dorm room. Without the beds. It’s got its own bathroom. Do people really shower here? Well, I guess maybe- a guy living under a bridge or in a van down by the river might need one. I’m just sitting here. Where are they? This waiting is making me more anxious. But then, everything makes me more anxious. Is this a test? I think I’m failing already and they haven’t even walked in the room yet. Settle down. Deep breaths. Save the panic for the actual assessment.

Here she is. Just a few questions. Basic demographic information … a little history. Easy enough. Two hours? I don’t think so. She needs to check my vitals signs. I’m pretty anxious, so my vitals are probably out of whack. Will she think I’m high? Be cool. Now what… a BREATHALYZER?? Uh oh. Uhhhh yeah, I can explain.

[busted]

The counselor will be in shortly I’m told. Whoa. More waiting. This is making me more… you know. And now add frustrated. Maybe I should come back tomorrow when they’re not so… what? Busy? I haven’t seen or heard another soul in here. This IS a test. They’re probably watching me squirm and shallow-breathe via a hidden camera in the potted plant. At best I’m a C plus.

The assessment counselor comes in. Finally. She seems normal enough. She explains what’s going to happen. To get the most out of this I need to be open and honest. Don’t worry, there is strict confidentiality and privacy. What is said here stays here. Just like Vegas. But without the complimentary cocktails. Openness and honesty. After going my whole adult life perfecting my sneaking and hiding and non-truth-telling, my manipulating and distracting and rationalizing, I have to be open and honest. With a complete stranger. Now I’m thinking D minus.

But the counselor, Myra, seems to understand. I think she realizes I’m pretty anxious. I know this because she tells me I seem pretty anxious. I don’t know how or what she is doing, but she is making this tolerable. Kinda. It’s a lot of questions. Pretty intimate and personal stuff. But it’s not that bad. It’s not like she’s grilling me or cross-examining me. Did I mention a lot of questions? How much? How often? How long? How? What? When? Where? Why? But it almost feels good to be saying all this stuff, to finally be admitting to what I’ve always kept secret. It feels good to finally be honest. With myself.

Honest with myself.

After about 45 minutes of questions and answers, of admissions and realities, of truths and consequences, Myra tells me she recommends an inpatient stay. In addition to my alcohol issues, I need to be detoxed off my prescription medication. AARGHHH. This was not the answer I was hoping to hear. My anxiety level shot up right before her eyes. She noticed. She then told me about the treatment program and how it would work. Lots of group therapy. And talking. And listening. And learning.

And talking. To strangers. About me. What I do, how I feel, why I feel. Why I do what I do.

Talking about me. Isn’t this (one of the many reasons) why I drank?

Ka-boom.

The sound of my anxiety level crashing through the roof.

But Myra worked her magic. She got me to understand, to realize, to accept that I needed to do this. That I HAD to do this. For my health, my marriage, my self-esteem.

For me.

Well, I did it. Nine days inpatient. PHP. IOP. Recovery management.

As of this writing, I have 2 years, 7 months, 2 weeks, and 5 days of sobriety. Approximately. Off the top of my head. It worked.

It works.

But things could change tomorrow. It’s getting easier, but it’s still work. Gotta keep working the program.

I now volunteer in the access center. It feels good to give back. To help fellow addicts through a very scary and unnerving process. To help others just like others helped me.

If you feel you might have a problem, come to Fairbanks. They’ll help.

I’ll help.

This blog was submitted by a guest writer. The views stated do not necessarily reflect those of Fairbanks.