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Why Rehab Worked: Lisa’s Journey to Sobriety

At 42, Lisa was “happily divorced.” With her career in full swing and the kids with their father in joint custody, Lisa found herself, most nights, at her computer sipping wine alone.

Loneliness set in quickly and deeply. Sipping wine turned to heavy drinking and, within six months, Lisa was entering a medical and emotional crisis.

Looking back she said, “Our kids, then 12 and 13, didn’t want to be around me, the house was upside down and my employer forced me to resign. I thought that my life was over.”

Concerned, friends got involved and asked her family to intervene.

She recalled, “Everyone showed up. I knew deep down that I was ‘drinking without my permission,'” using a phrase commonly heard in recovery to describe what it feels like when the alcohol seems to takes over.

After a safe medical detox, Lisa entered rehab at Gosnold in Falmouth, MA. At first, she treated the experience as if she were going to graduate school.

“I didn’t want to live with a bunch of women,” she said. “I wanted to get educated, get sober and get out. But (I found out), rehab is not like getting another degree. My brain has the disease of alcoholism and I had to relearn how to work a program every day so I could heal. I now know that learning the lifestyle takes time and patience.”

Lisa knows that she was fortunate to have support from her family and friends.

During the intervention she felt relieved: “Thank God this fight could be over.”

But what if you don’t have others watching out? Even if you have a sense that you may need help, it’s common to hide and wait until your level of addiction to become an emergency.

Many aspects of the disease of addiction are so forbidden that reaching for help becomes an exercise in overcoming the powerful taboos of shame and guilt. And to hear repeatedly, this uninformed advice: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

What if you finally admit that you need help and are met with, “You don’t have a problem. Get over yourself.”

But you know in your heart that a slender line has been crossed. You’ve tried to control your drinking but control is gone.

When they reach out to a loved one or make a call for help, it’s critical that people hear them loud and clear.-Raymond Tamasi

Raymond Tamasi is the CEO of the treatment center Gosnold. After 40 years of helping people to recover from addiction, he said that almost everyone feels, in some way, responsible for their own illness.

“If someone has a cardiac condition or cancer, they don’t feel directly responsible. Addiction is an illness. Period,” he said, underscoring that blaming the victim is inaccurate and never helps.

Tamasi said that it may take someone two years to admit to themselves that they are now addicted and need help. “When they reach out to a loved one or make a call for help, it’s critical that people hear them loud and clear.”

If you think you need professional help for your substance abuse problem, here are some things to consider:

    • Your addiction is not your fault or your family’s. You have a brain illness that can be healed with treatment. No one wants to be in rehab just as no one wants to be in the ICU. But if you accept help, treatment can be very successful.


    • Detoxification (detox) means that the alcohol and other drugs are safely removed from your bloodstream through medical supervision and sometimes medication. If unsupervised, alcohol detox can be life threatening. Medical professionals want you to be comfortable and safe. Once you are through detox, usually about three days, you may enter rehabilitation.


    • Rehabilitation is a formalized treatment program that initially can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. The best programs are tailor made for your needs and involve your support system so integrating back into real life goes smoothly for you and your family / friends / work environment.


  • You will not be brainwashed or forced to believe in God. You will be educated based on medically sound research from the best universities. Based on that information, much needed self-care and time, you can begin to make healthy, smart choices.

Four years later, Lisa, is in full remission and is a certified addiction and recovery coach. I caught up with her as she was driving her daughter, Mackenzie, to the orthodontist.

Mackenzie, 17, reflects back onto that time when her mom was away in treatment: “I was in eighth grade and sat through the family (program) every weekend. Honestly, I thought it was so boring. I was angry. I held a grudge. I thought, ‘You’re going to treatment. I hope that works out for you.’”

But, three weeks into the program, Mackenzie felt a shift in her mom and in her self.

“The first two weeks my mom was in such a vulnerable state,” she said, adding that she didn’t like being the strong one. “But by that third week, my mom was so genuinely happy. My mom was coming back. I kept the (excited, relieved) feelings to myself. But inside I was so happy. I had missed my mom.”
Photo Source: istock, pixabay

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