Before I went to rehab, I was extremely reluctant to admit that I needed help. After all, I had spent the majority of my life numbing my emotions and blocking out reality using a multitude of substances. However, the substances eventually stopped working. I couldn’t hide behind my emotions, I couldn’t hold down a job, and I most certainly didn’t know how to develop deep emotional bonds with the people around me. Fortunately, treatment taught me how to do all of this and more. These are the 5 things I learned in rehab that changed my life.

It’s okay to be vulnerable.

I was raised to be strong and resilient. If somebody were to hurt my feelings, it wasn’t supposed to upset me. If I showed sadness, anger, frustration, or hurt, I was weak. As a result, I became a mastermind at stuffing my emotions and avoiding them at all costs. Looking back, it is no wonder that I turned to drugs and alcohol. A girls gotta cope somehow.

Rehab was the first place where I was actually encouraged to be vulnerable with other people. Sure, it was terrifying at first, and it was painful. In the end, getting vulnerable was the sole reason I was able to start healing the trauma and pain from my past that I had carried with me for so long.

Developing relationships with sober people would save my life.

If I hide my emotions and avoid getting vulnerable, then I’m not being transparent and honest with the people around me. If I’m not being honest, it is impossible to develop deep bonds with the sober people around me.

The first relationships I made in treatment were with the small group I did group therapy with. They didn’t judge me or put me down. Instead, they thoroughly understood the things I was going through and were loving and compassionate towards me. They encouraged me to grow and held me accountable. They showed me the importance of developing relationships with other sober people whom I can lean on when the going gets rough.

Therapy isn’t for the weak of heart.

I went to a dual diagnosis treatment center – and it wasn’t easy. I had always thought that therapy was a place where people went to cry about their problems and play the victim. However, it was the complete opposite of that.

I had to let go of my victim role. I had to stop sulking in self-pity and start taking responsibility for my actions and for my life. My therapist was tough on me – she made me talk about things I had never spoken about before. She told me that I wasn’t unique and that I had to stop crying out, “poor me.” She completely broke down my ego and built me back up again. If anything, getting vulnerable in therapy made me stronger.

Addiction kills.

This might seem like an obvious one, especially because it is pretty common knowledge that more than 130 people die of an opioid overdose each day in the United States. However, I didn’t really experience people dying from addiction until I went to treatment.

I remember being instructed to stand in the big group room one morning as the owner of the facility stood at the front of the room. There were about 150 clients standing in the room at the time. The owner pulled out a list and for every name he said out loud, one person had to sit down.

By the time he was done, there were only 2 people left standing in the room. The owner told us that those were the names of the people who had been through that facility that had died in the last 3 years. Shivers were sent down my spine because, for the first time, I saw how serious this disease is. I finally conceded to the fact that if I didn’t stay sober, it would kill me, too.

I have a purpose.

I never really felt like I had a place in this world. I felt like an outcast. However, I figured out exactly what my purpose is while I was in rehab.

The treatment center would bring in speakers a few nights a week who would share their experience, strength, and hope with the group. During every story that I listened to, I heard something that I could really relate to. In addition, I was able to learn from the things that I was hearing.

Then, one day a girl said to us, “there is somebody out there who can only relate to your story. She can only get the inspiration to get sober from YOU. It is YOUR responsibility to use your voice and go find her.”