“My sleeping pill addiction sent me straight to REHAB.”
He told me to pack a bag and get in the car. He said he was done and that I either fulfill the requirement of 6 weeks in rehab, or he would get a restraining order against me and prevent me from seeing my kids. I went nuts. “WHAT? A RESTRAINING ORDER?” I’m not even taking it anymore! I haven’t taken it in over a week! I quit I swear to God I quit! He angrily shoved open the door to my closet: “Either you pack or I pack. You should pack some books, you’re going to be there a while.”
I rummaged through the house furiously like I was on speed. I went into my girl’s room and jumped into my daughter Esme’s bed, her baby blanket over my head. I couldn’t possibly leave these two angels for an indeterminate amount of time. “NO I AM NOT GOING!” I screamed like an angry teenager: “I haven’t done anything wrong. Tell me what I have done! I get up, I go to work, I exercise every day, I make gourmet dinners, and I am a VP at a huge company- what more could you possibly want? Just wait, I’m going to lose my job over this and it’s going to be your fault. Do you want that?”
“What’s better,” he said, “not seeing them for 6 weeks or never seeing them again?”
I packed sweats, a hoodie, pajamas, underwear, a toothbrush and a baseball cap. F this, I thought, I’m not packing more because there’s no way I will be there for that long. He’s out of his mind if he thinks I’m going to be there for 6 weeks. Once I’m there I’ll convince them that I’m not a true “addict”, I take medically prescribed Ambien for God’s sake– who goes to rehab for that?! They’ll probably laugh at my him when he drops me off. People that are addicted to HEROIN or METH go to rehab, not someone who is taking a prescribed legal medication.
I grab my bag and without looking at my husband I storm out of the house and reluctantly throw myself in the passenger seat of the car. As he slams my door shut he yells: “You didn’t bring any Ambien, did you?”
“FUCK YOU” I yell back.
I ended up spending nearly 8 weeks in REHAB. I had no phone, no computer and no contact with the outside world, not even with my children. I desperately wanted them to visit but my husband thought it was a bad idea for them to see me “this way”. This way meaning lost, confused, destructively humble and extremely angry. Angry at my husband for putting me here where I had to share a room with 4 others, clean toilets everyday at 6am and sit in meetings from 8 am to 8 pm. Pissed because I was surrounded by a bunch of people that were clearly way worse off than me – people that were actually court ordered to come here so they could lessen their prison sentences. Trust me when I say, these people were WAYYYY worse off than I was. There was nothing comfortable about this place –from the food (horrible) to the beds (worse than a college dorm) to the vans they transported us in (also called the “druggie buggie”). And to top it all off, I felt alone and lonely; an emotion that felt like physical pain in my gut and in my heart.
Being here, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I wasn’t the Vice President of a fashion company I worked my whole life to become. I wasn’t the doting mom, the loving wife, a sister or a friend. All the words I had used to describe myself seemed empty and meaningless. No one cared who I was on paper and to the outside world. They only cared who I was in HERE. And in here, I was a drug addict, just like everybody else.
During one of the MANY group therapy sessions my counselor Yvette, a 30 year sober Latin woman with a heart of gold but a steely attitude asked me “So, who are you, Talitha?” with not a hint of empathy in her voice. I sat in silence and thought what a dumb and cheesy question. I shrugged, “I don’t know, I mean, what do you mean who am I?” “WHO IS TALITHA?” her voice now raised. I didn’t really know what to say – until this piece of unedited truth escaped me:
“Honestly? I am a walking lie. I am guilty of making things look perfect when they’re not. I pretend I’m this easy-going mom, employee and wife when inside I am killing myself. I have this insatiable hole which will never be filled. I stay busy with my work and in my off time, I over exercise, I watch everything I put into my mouth, I am a control freak. I mean let’s face it, I have been taking this drug for 6 years and my husband has put up with me getting up in the middle of the night making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and not remembering it the next morning. The bottom line is I’m really not as great as I make myself seem or how I represent myself.
The truth was, I was just like 26 year old Jessica, who drove drunk and killed somebody and was facing 6 years in federal prison. I was just as much of an addict as Simone, a 20 year old heroin lover with several overdoses on her resume. I was equally as bad off as Robert was, the 70 year old red nosed alcoholic and Vietnam Vet. I abused the ambien like an alcoholic their drink. Period, end of story.
Something kind of amazing happened in that moment. I felt free. Of expectations. Of perfection. Of being anybody other than what I was right there.
“I am Talitha and I am an addict.”