I had a teacher once, Mrs. Alamotz, who told me, “Failure is the only teacher you will always get an A from.” She, like so many others, was trying to show me that I needed to change my ways. And I, like so many other drug addicts, wrote her advice off as patronizing and continued to use.
Managing to Earn that F—The Start of My Drug Rehab Experience
Fast-forward ten years; I got arrested—I was a major failure. I was terrified of prison. I knew I wouldn’t last being locked up with real criminals. I was a drug addict, but I never purposefully killed anyone or robbed anyone. I never even committed a crime aside from using meth. I needed to avoid jail!
Luckily, my lack of criminal record got me sentenced to mandatory rehab instead of a prison cell. For the first time in a long while, I felt like I was catching a break. I didn’t catch too many breaks in life; so oddly, I was feeling kind of positive about what might lie ahead. As I was getting ready to go to rehab, that teacher’s words popped into my head, “Failure is the only teacher you will always get an A from.” I had mastered the failure part without a doubt. Maybe, just maybe, this drug and alcohol rehab was holding my figurative “A”.
Bringing That F up to a C—What I First Leaned During Rehab
I began rehab like so many others, confused, bitter, and a complete shell of who I used to be. I was quiet and reserved, and I just wanted to make it through the sentence. I had a small hope that it might work, that I might get clean and get my life back.
But, I wasn’t about to open and share that with a bunch of strangers. These group meetings about feelings were weird and uncomfortable, and I just wanted to say what I had to say to do my time.
Eventually, I found myself making friends with others who were there for the same reason as me—to avoid prison. I also made a few friends with people who were far worse off than me. Some of these guys had lost their homes, their wives, and their families—literally everything. I was lucky enough to still have a place. I have a trade, I am a mechanic, so I can always find work, and my folks were making sure to pay my rent (using money I had in a savings) in hopes that I got straight.
The more I looked around, the more I realized what could happen to me if I didn’t start working the program. I guess you could say my failure earned me a C at this point. I wasn’t working, but I was learning.
I Finally Got That A—What My Experience Taught Me
As my perception changed about what rehab could really offer me, I stated to talk with Dan, my counselor, in our private sessions. I told him what I was noticing, and how I was afraid that if I didn’t get straight, that I was going to be back in rehab, or worse yet, in prison. I told him it was scary seeing how low some of the people in the program had fallen. I asked how to avoid that.
He counseled me first on my rehab fears, and then on how to use the resources the drug rehab had to offer. Eventually, he was able to get me to open up about how my addiction began.
After that first conversation, I realized how good it felt to actually talk about it. It was like the dam had broken. There were so many emotions to deal with. Every time I dealt with one, another one would surface. As I talked about each one, I felt better. The better I felt, the less I thought about meth!
Soon enough, my fear of telling other people what I was learning began to disappear, and groups become another way to feel even better. I began to look forward to groups for several reasons:
- To talk and get it all out there
- To listen to questions to reframe my thinking
- To look at things from many perspectives
- To reflect on what I learned when I left
Rehab literally opened up my world. It showed me how much life has to offer.
As I think back on what rehab really did for me, I keep coming to the same understanding. It taught me to see the world and my place in it. I wasn’t able to do that before, so I used drugs. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever been able to see the world and my life as I do today if I didn’t develop an addiction—if I didn’t have that major failure. My addiction that led to my rehab showed me how great life is and how much the world has to offer—it led me to earning my real life A.