What’s Drug Rehab Really Like?
We asked a former addict to tell us about his stints in state-funded rehab clinics. Shockingly, it sounded somewhat different than Celebrity Rehab.
By Camille Lamb
Sean (it’s not his real name) is a guy we know who lives in Florida and works as a chef. He’s a former addict who’s been clean for four years — but he still has an addictive personality. Only now, instead of doing crack, acid, heroin, ecstasy, prescription pills, or alcohol, he puts in extra time at his CrossFit gym or limits himself to a rigid diet. He’s either more or less fun at parties, depending on your point of view.
In order to reach this far healthier point in his life, Sean needed to go through rehab. Twice. After his first stint in a state-funded Massachusetts treatment center, he moved in with a couple of junkie friends and they all relapsed together. The second time, sobriety stuck. So what’s rehab like when you can’t afford the Lohan Suite at an upscale rehab center in Malibu? Not all that much fun.
When did you start doing drugs?
I started stealing my mom’s pot at 11. I was drinking too. We had just moved out of the projects and were living in a middle-class neighborhood near Lowell, Massachusetts — where The Fighter was filmed. So that’s where I would go to hang out. I have a typical addict-alcoholic story: I didn’t feel right until I took my first hit of weed. Then I felt like my insecurities were gone.
How’d you get into harder stuff?
When I was 14, I started taking acid and pills. I would take any pill you put in front of me. A lot of my friends’ moms were pretty out there — one was a prostitute — so they’d have that sort of thing around. Then I started to sniff heroin at 15. We’d go over to Lowell and get the purest Puerto Rican dope. One little $10 bag would last you three days. It was so strong that it was killing people. One time a guy I knew OD’d, and I got blamed for it. I dropped him off at his house and he fell asleep on his stairs and then went into a coma, but the rumor was that I’d dumped him out of my car when he was already dead. So I ended up getting jumped by his friends. That got me sober for six months.
Were you functional while you were doing all that?
Well, I also got into ecstasy and crack. I had this double life. I got child support payments from my dad, which I used to take a few college classes. Then I worked in restaurants to pay for my drugs. But when I was 23, the money from my dad stopped. I couldn’t go back to school, and I lost everything. So I ended up sleeping on my grandmother’s couch in the projects. I found myself smoking an empty pipe at 10 in the morning in a dirty Porta-Potty, and I checked myself into rehab. I was 26.
What was it like when you checked in?
They went through all my stuff and I had to strip down to my underwear so they could search me to make sure I wasn’t carrying. I could have still snuck sh*t in, but I didn’t. Other people did.
Did they test you for drugs?
No. They didn’t even know if patients were on the f*cking drugs that they said they were on. My uncle was a crack addict, but he knew that the facility didn’t accept crack heads, so he lied and said he was a heroin addict in order to get in. He went into a coma and died when they treated him with methadone.
How was your first night?
I was smoking crack and drinking when I went in, but like I said, they wouldn’t admit a crack head. So I told them I was an alcoholic, which I was, and they put me in the alcoholic room. It was me and a 60-year-old who was detoxing really bad. Totally delirious, losing his f*cking mind. All night long he’d call out “Where’s the stove?” and try to jump out the window. Finally the nurse let me sleep on the floor in another room. When I came back, the guy was gone; he’d lost it in the middle of the night and left in an ambulance. But first, he’d taken my clothes and toiletries and sh*t and pissed on them. It was disgusting.