Client Story: Diary of the first day at Arrow Health

I came to Arrow after trying for about 2 years to get clean from all the drugs I was taking. I had managed to stop using hard/party drugs daily a year or so ago, and had cut it down to benders every few weeks and just using benzo’s on a daily basis to keep me “ comfortable” . But I kept picking up the drugs again and I had noticed that each time I used now I was using heavier and being more risky to the point where I was always mixing multiple drugs at once and it was completely out of my control as to how much I was taking at a time and how long it took me to stop once id started. When I wasn’t using I was obsessing over the next time I would and my mind and life were just completely out of control. In the past year I had also started using drugs that I thought I never would, and had recently been using heroin intravenously. I always said that was something that I would never do. The truth is that addiction is a progressive illness, and it had proved to me that I was no longer ever going to be able to control it, maintain a certain amount over a period of time or even minimise the risk factors involved. The last time I used had resulted in an overdose and I knew that this was my bottom line. Within a week of having that overdose I had started to have obsessive and overpowering thoughts to use again. I knew I was in real trouble then, and I felt so alone with my thoughts about wanting to use again after that experience. After I came around from the overdose I went out to my kitchen and used again, the same drug from the same batch that had just knocked me off. Was I crazy? I certainly felt so. I knew this was it for me- I had to get clean for good, but I just couldn’t do it on my own. I was sick of being a “druggie”, and I wanted out for good, but I knew I needed structure and routine along with proper education on how to put the drugs down and STAY stopped. I never wanted to pick up again, as it now was a matter of life or death for me. In sheer desperation I called Arrow. After talking to a worker on the phone, I felt instant hope that I really could do this- live clean for the rest of my life, and be happy!

My first day I was a mixture of nervous tension, feeling hopeful and excited to move away from the wreckage of my past. All of the staff made me feel very welcome, cared about and I knew that each one of them was invested in my recovery process. I knew they were all there for me, helping me to see that this is indeed possible and totally achievable if I remain open-minded and am willing to do all that the program asks of me.

The morning meditation group was a really gentle way to start the day. We talked about what the word of the day meant to us and did some simple breathing exercises. I felt calm doing all of this. A nice way to start the day. We had a group on anger- we talked all about our personal feelings and experiences with anger, and I learnt something I was completely unaware of- I learned that anger is really stress. Wow, this was a new concept to me but it made so much sense. I also got reacquainted with the fact that depression is when I turn my anger inward and don’t express it. I feel like I have options with dealing with my anger besides either pushing it down and pretending it’s not there, or throwing objects at people or trying to harm myself. I’m learning that I have other options than to use a drug to numb out, that my feelings are allowed to be what they are, and that I am entitled to have them and don’t need to apologise for having them. What had to happen was that I now needed to learn how to sit with the feeling instead of trying anything possible to get rid of it. Easier said than done. This is where I have always come undone in the past when I tried to get clean. My feelings, I couldn’t deal with feeling them if they were uncomfortable.

I left the day feeling many mixed emotions. Fear surrounding the fact that I must take a leap of faith and trust that my feelings and emotions are not going to destroy me. Do I really have what it takes to change my life? Am I going to crumble under the pressure? Am I going to run away when it all gets “too hard.”? On the other hand I also felt like I had a really serious team of professionals who are working for me to get my recovery on track. The comforting knowledge that all of these professionals working to help me were also themselves, in recovery from addiction. I didn’t need to explain certain things to them about my use and behaviours – they just immediately understood where I was coming from. The program is structured, but also not too overwhelming where its just “ go go go”. That would be very difficult for me to handle. Managing life had never been something I could do before and I felt completely alien because of it. The staff have a way of showing real empathy and understanding of where I’m at, and they want to know how I’m feeling and coping with it all. It helps me, because in being an intensive program on one hand, the staff are obviously aware that a relaxed environment is going to be the best course of action. I’m looking forward to see what tomorrow brings, and glad to say that I AM CLEAN TODAY.