Written by Rahul Mehta- Alsana Alumnus
“It’s almost dinner time and I’m absurdly bored! What did I used to do…..? Oh wait.” Twenty four hours before that, I was saying my goodbyes in IOP. No one told me what it would be like after discharge from intensive treatment. There’s no pamphlet or step by step guide on how to transition from intensive internal work to being a full grown adult, full time, with no daily/hourly/minute-by-minute support. There is no online video, college course, or For Dummy’s book on what to expect going forward. Needless to say, my transition from IOP to outpatient-slash-full-time-grown-up was just… weird. Not good weird or bad weird. Just weird. So much time was freed up that I literally had no idea what to do. Job? Check. Treatment team? Check. Meal plan which I’m never a fan of doing? Check. But… what else do I do to stay on track of my recovery? This would just be easier if I was a little blue stick figure driving in a plastic orange minivan on a board game of Life (I love that game… but I still couldn’t escape taxes).
I was to begin my transition into full time real world living packed with the knowledge, courage, integrity, and commitment I accrued from the hard work done during treatment. The differences in emotions that came with this departure was enough to drive even my dogs at home bonkers. I was excited to finally have the chance to find out who I really was and what I truly wanted to do in life. I was angry that my treatment had been cut short due to insurance reasons and I knew I had much more work to do at Alsana but wouldn’t be able to do it. I was sad to say goodbye to many of my friends that I made true connections with. I was scared to not know if I could honestly make it in the real world or crash and burn only to revert back to my old self before treatment.
You know that picture that says “SUCCESS IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE” with a giant cross-out over a straight, inclined line from A to B, but it shows it’s instead a massive knot/swirl/horrible roller coaster ride thingy from A to B? Take that picture and slap a giant fog over it, or better yet, Photoshop the picture into a gargantuan, unrecognizable blur. That was my path as I saw it going forward from discharge. I knew there would be days I’d cave to my urges, to binge uncontrollably, or to restrict in guilt and shame. But what I didn’t know was how to combine everything I learned in treatment cohesively into something usable and make sure those urges come fewer and far between without daily group and staff support. I was horror-story-frightened of turning a lapse into several lapses and then into a full blown relapse.
So it became a day by day situation. Slow, minute, insanely microscopic steps forward to that proverbial letter “B.” I was advised to schedule my days down to the hour. I had to make sure I not only did my adult thing by working, but also to give myself play time, relaxing/meditating time, recovery work time, and mindful exercise/movement time. Oh, and yes, time to eat of course.
It has been roughly seven months and sixteen days since I said goodbye to IOP. I’m not going to lie and say it was roses and unicorns since. One day I have been up, another I was then down. But slowly it has stretched to longer productive recovery days and the downs became lessons I would hash out and sort through with my treatment team. I’m learning still. My wife and friends are by my side. And as my therapist (the best ever… I won’t reveal her name but it starts with an “H” and ends with “eidi”) has said, when it comes to recovery, I’m still a baby, so I need to give myself a break and move forward <insert superman pose>.