Rarely a week passes without us hearing about a celebrity entering a rehab or recovery center. What actually goes on when you enter such residential units remains, for most of us, something of a mystery.
Best-selling books, such as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and gay author Augusten Burroughs’ brilliant Dry both offer some insight into what it’s like inside a recovery facility. The latter, in particular, recounts the experience from a gay perspective.
Gay Star News talked to three other gay guys who had been through the experience.
Richard is in his late 40s and lives on the island of Jersey off the coast of southern England. He says he became aware in his early 30s that his drinking was getting out of hand.
In his late 30s, he made contact with alcohol counseling services on the island. He personally found them of limited use.
‘It got to a point where I had to give up my job before I was dismissed. Because it was becoming very obvious at work. They could smell alcohol on my breath every day.’
He says he was drinking up to a liter and a half of vodka a day. Becoming increasingly desperate, he changed doctors. His new physician suggested he enter a residential unit.
Richard voluntarily booked himself in the Priory in Southampton. The Priory is one of the best-known recovery center groups in the UK, with over a dozen premises.
It has a reputation for being favored by the rich and famous, although Richard is keen to stress his center had a wide mix of people (‘no celebrities’). The NHS (National Health Service) or medical insurance covered funding for most, but Richard paid for his own four weeks of treatment.
Some users need help to detox
Richard says he continued to drink right up until the moment he walked through the door for his stay.
In fact, he was repeatedly warned not to try and go cold turkey himself as this could be dangerous. For alcohol, and certain other drugs such as opioids and heroin, heavy users may need medical assistance to detox.
After an initial evaluation with a doctor, Richard was informed he was a suitable candidate for treatment. They told him he could start his residential course a few days later.
He says being informed the center would take him, ‘was scary, because although I really, really wanted to give up drinking, it was really becoming a reality. I saw him on the Tuesday and I think on Thursday they told me I could come in on the Sunday.
‘At this point, I may add, the alcohol had got so bad that I could barely walk. I was using a walking stick. And I couldn’t walk very far. I’m 6’3” and I weighed just over 8 stone [112 pounds]. I was welcomed by a nurse and she took me down a small corridor.’
Some people entering rehab need assisance to safely detox (Photo: Felipe P Lima Rizo for Unsplash)
‘It’s a very old building and it has all the original features, except you could tell it wasn’t like a country manor anymore because of the fire exit signs, and a sort of hospital atmosphere about it,’ he says.
‘But it was clean and comfortable looking, and we walked down this corridor to what opened up to be a nurses station, and all the residential rooms were off there.
‘I was shown to a room and they said, do not close your door, you’re not allowed to close your door. We are monitoring you every 15 minutes.’
Richard was explained the ground rules. These included no communication with the outside world for the first week, so no cell phone or computer. He also wasn’t allowed to have anyone else in his bedroom. Clients were encouraged to socialize in a communal lounge area.
Once his blood alcohol levels sunk to a certain level, medication was administered to help his body detox safely.
Difficult first week
‘The first week was very hard,’ he reflects.
He says it wasn’t so much coming off alcohol he found most challenging, but having to take part in tough therapy sessions….