Two Dead Bodies

On my first day of treatment, I watched them roll two purplish bodies out of the room across from me. EMS were there and the police too. Residents circled the scene, taking it all in. But, most of us used and drank again. I was 21 and not convinced I had a problem I couldn’t handle on my own.

Statistically, most people do not get sober on their first attempt. Maybe other people have thought some of the same things as I did: “This is not serious enough to call attention on myself, “They don’t know me and they wouldn’t understand if they did,” “I can control this, it’s not something I should miss work over.” Similar to drugs and alcohol, most people do not lose weight or quit smoking on their first experiment with a solution. The paradigm shift is the desire to try again. The requirement is to learn from went wrong on the first try.

I never learned the names of those two dead bodies. But, in recovery, I meet people who die not long after we meet. In my first year of sobriety, four other people died within 2 years of our first “Hello!” Addiction and mental illness create tragedies everyday. This is no surprise to those of us touched by one or both. What might be a surprise is that the events leading to a premature death can be replaced with life-altering, mind-altering sea change. Change – soul level – happens everyday at D’Amore Healthcare.

Convinced I could engineer different outcomes on my own, I drank and used differently after my first treatment experience. I imagined this would reduce the pain.  I did not trust people to listen. If people listened, I felt like they would want something from me. I was tired of giving and feeling alone. I did not believe therapy or new behaviors could address the depths of the darkness I felt inside. The fact was: I did not know how to address my real human needs. But, I learned. It took 8 more years and a handful of treatment attempts, but I learned about that paradigm shift and requirement.

D’Amore Healthcare exists as the net for people who failed rehab or failed in understanding their needs. Like me.

Our programs are meant for people who have the tenacity to try again and have the feistiness to engage an intense program – to get results and start living. The people dying from addiction or causes related to mental illness have a message for us: “Try again.”

People develop patterns, habits and ideas and when someone with a different pattern, habit or idea challenges any one of these, get ready for a fight. Whether someone is overweight, smoking a pack a day, living homeless – scared of responsibility, drinking a fifth of whiskey a day, or paralyzed by social anxiety, there will be some defense of the current system of doing things. Why wouldn’t there? People don’t typically plan to destroy their health, their life or, the lives of others (alcoholism and addiction are a community disease – public health crises).

I agree with Augusten Burroughs, “It’s going to be very hard work to fix yourself, but it’s much harder work to be employed by an addiction or obsession.” 

The destruction comes when we repeat the pattern enough, without help. Or, worse, parsing the help with our own confused spin on what’s best. (Define help as the continued introduction of a new idea in a graciously redundant manner.)

I know the two dead bodies wanted help, even if 1% of want was overshadowed by 99% of fear. Or, as is often the case, the want-to-meter was high, but the courage-to-action was low. Some part of them did not believe therapy, psychiatric support, and new behaviors could improve on the darkness they felt or the answers they thought they already found. They died from overdose. Each life was over before they had a chance to experience freedom from new ideas or gracious redundancy.

Rehab’s and rehab treatment centers have a central role in public health because the United States is in a fantasy. “If it worked for me once, I’ll get it to work for me again.” But, risky behaviors are not like pennies or dollars, the value is not proportionate to the amount. Unfortunately, to the person suffering, this reality does not compute.

Here’s the fortunate reality, it’s hard either way! Staying in an old behavior is just as painful as it is to create a new behavior! Old patterns yield old outcomes: overdose, destitution, despair, death, incarceration, isolation. New patterns are unknown. That’s the scariest part. Taking a different path probably won’t pay off immediately.  But, with time, the value is proportionate to the amount of replacement behaviors! Enter: gracious redundancy. 

D’Amore Healthcare provides intensive structure for people who are motivated to break through their own self-limiting ideas. But, our brand of help instills self-compassion, which develops respect for self and others. Death is imminent, suffering is not. Learning how to address human needs is something we do every hour at D’Amore Healthcare. Every human has needs, there are no exceptions. Be a part of the mental health sea change. Don’t face mental illness alone.