I entered MCDC on November 22 and was released on January 4th. Here's how the end of 2009 played out for me: Friday the 13th birthday in detox; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's in treatment. I cannot for the life of me summon up any sadness for these events. I was right where I was supposed to be, doing right what I was supposed to be doing. Of course, all the love that came my way didn't hurt a bit.
I would like to say that treatment was a totally positive experience, but I'm a little too honest for that. MCDC is a state-run facility and they're understaffed, underbudgeted and the overriding energy of the place is absolute chaos. Don't even ask me about the food; I was sure I was being poisoned at first. 3,000 calories a day and probably 80% of it carbohydrates. Don't even ask me about my weight upon release. My only other long-term treatment, in 1988, was a country club compared to MCDC.
Offsetting the general disorganization of the place was a group of counselors that are obviously committed to their jobs and have great passion for helping people find recovery.
I didn't sleep much at all for the first 12 nights I was in treatment. 2-3 hours a night was the max and I would awake in a complete state of panic, which I had actually been doing for a few months before going in. It's completely unnatural and very disconcerting to go from 0-100 in seconds and by the 13th day I really felt I was losing my mind. I had been hoping that my sleep would even out on its own, but it never did. I was finally, at threat of leaving, put on a medication that helps me sleep. Since I was informed that MCDC was a facility specializing in treating co-occurring disorders (that is mental health + addiction) I was somewhat disappointed that I had to go through such a horrible experience before receiving the help I so desperately needed. I went in knowing what my problems and issues were. I had been working in outpatient treatment for months trying to get them under control and yet I was treated just like a drug-seeking addict out only for the next good fix. I began to wonder if they knew anything at all about me, if they had even read my file or spoken with my addictions counselor in Polson. I still wonder it. Like I said, they're understaffed.
Once I began to sleep I was able to focus more on my treatment and one of the things I needed to work on most of all was my passivity. My passive behavior has gotten me into more trouble in the past few years than anything ever in my life. That, hand in hand with alcohol, led me to be jobless, homeless and at times in complete and utter despair. I was discouraged with the lack of counseling I was receiving, the lack of mental health assistance and the overall chaotic nature of the facility and its administrators. I also saw very clearly how some of the most manipulative patients were able to work the system to their favor and I don't mind telling you, it pissed me off. So I began to verbalize my complaints beginning with the fact that I didn't receive my first treatment plan for 2 1/2 weeks and had no scheduled appointments with counselors after the first week.
This action got me exactly nowhere except to almost leave without completing the program which would've jeopardized my chance to come to Homeward Bound, the halfway house for the homeless I'll be occupying for at least the next three months. But I didn't give in, break down or back down. I stood my ground, stayed firmly in my own truth and even though I had to stay a couple of extra days, I left with my certificate and I'm thinking a brand new backbone, which has been growing since the whole Sunrise Vista Inn incident last summer.
I went for an appointment at the Butte Chemical Dependency Center this morning, supposedly scheduled by MCDC before I left, and they had never heard of me. Like I said, they're underbudgeted.
I'm choosing my battles carefully these days and although I considered letters and grievances regarding MCDC, I've decided to let it go. I got what I needed there which was 43 days clean and sober and an opportunity to advocate for myself and the connection with Homeward Bound. It does concern me for other patients who may not be as assertive or determined as I was, but the fact is MCDC is one of the few treatment centers left in the country where you can get good long-term treatment for chemical dependency at little or no cost if need be. Most of us are being shuffled through short-term detox and right back onto the street as was even George McGovern's daughter, Terry, who subsequently died from her alcoholism. But that's another story for another day.
Tomorrow I will write about the foundation for my sobriety. And no, it's not powerlessness; at least not directly.