As a kid I was always smiling, always active with my friends. In high school, I didn’t even notice when sports were replaced by partying. Same friends, same fun. I went to college and partied my way right into dropping out.
When I was 21 I had surgery and ended up with a huge surplus of prescription opioids. I used them at night, just for fun, and when they ran out I bought pills on the street. I wasn’t addicted: I was a recreational user. Then I came down with a terrible case of the flu. A friend had to tell me that my “flu” could be cured by my dealer.
Opioid withdrawal was terrifying. I took a hard look at that and decided it would be a good idea to switch from pills to heroin because it was cheaper and more available.
When heroin became a problem, I thought it would be a good idea to switch to Suboxone. Turns out they don’t just hand out scripts for Suboxone. I decided I would try to fit detox in over the weekend.
In detox, they wanted me to go to a 28-day program, but my insurance was limited. All the “good” rehabs were going to cost $20,000. My mom found Riverbank House online. Twenty-eight days in Riverbank House cost about the same as the out-of-pocket deductible I would have paid if I’d found a place in Massachusetts that would take my HMO.
Randy explained upfront that he really believes in long-term care of at least 90 days, but that’s just crazy. I came for the 28.
Riverbank was nothing like the rehabs I had imagined. It wasn’t a hospital or an institution. The doors weren’t locked. Every morning we walked downtown to a 12-step meeting. The Riverbank guys were so relaxed, so funny, so bonded by a common goal. It sounds like such a cliché to say it’s a true brotherhood, but there’s no other word that’s as accurate. I wanted to spend 28 days here. They taught us how to support each other and hold each other accountable. They taught us that every first thought is probably wrong. Most importantly, they taught us that real life can be awesome without drugs and alcohol, and then they proved it. Riverbank House kept me so busy, so active, so supported that I was completely distracted from any thoughts of using.
Then a funny thing happened. I was on the phone with my mom when I realized I was at day 28. No one at Riverbank House had asked me to leave and no one had pressured me to stay. I was in a position to choose; I could leave at any time. I decided to stay.
I practiced doubting every first thought. My fight or flight reaction calmed way down. I started to really appreciate life. My head stopped racing in circles. The staff taught me the path of right living and then let me put it into practice for myself.
But everyone has to go back home sometime, right?
“Don’t worry about that now,” the guys said.
Seven months ago I was a totally miserable 31-year-old opioid-addicted pizza delivery boy without a smile, living at home with mom, thinking it would be easier to die than to get clean.
Today, I’m an advocate at Riverbank House, working with the newest guys. I live right in the middle of the brotherhood and I’m about to start recovery coach certification training. I trust today. I contribute. I’m having more fun than I ever thought possible. I have my smile back. I have a future. I am truly free.