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Going to rehab is anything but predictable. It’s scary, frustrating and confusing!
I still remember my first day of treatment so clearly, to the point that I panic a little bit when I think about it. I drove to the treatment center and literally could not bring myself to get out of my car and walk inside. It took me 20 minutes to walk through those doors, but I finally did. The entire night was every bit as awful as I had anticipated (which may have had to do with my negative attitude). Treatment continued to be awful, until I decided it wasn’t going to be. Once my attitude changed, so did what I got out of those treatment sessions.
Still, while at treatment I had to examine parts of myself that I never had, and be asked questions I’d never thought about. Almost nothing can prepare you for that type of experience apart from just taking the plunge. However, these five things will give you an idea of what to expect when in treatment.
- Expect to be uncomfortable. There was a moment literally every time I went to a group session that I felt uncomfortable, especially at first. As time progressed, recovery terminology and conversations became more normal to me, but I still had moments of disbelief. I’d just stop and think, “Am I really here? Is this really happening?” I think that discomfort is a normal part of treatment and recovery. In my experience, it’s never gone completely away. I still confront it occasionally.
- Expect to feel embarrassed and ashamed. I don’t think there is any way around these emotions. When confronting mistakes made in addiction, there is almost always shame involved. Shame is a hard emotion to navigate since it often stems from something that happened in the past and cannot be undone, so it seems as if there is no way to combat the emotions stemming from it. In the beginning, I was also ashamed to admit that I was in rehab. I saw it as a weakness and something that people would make judgments about. But today I don’t feel that way. I often talk about my experiences, and I do so with a sense of pride. For me, feeling that shame was an essential part of being able to feel proud of where I am today.
- Expect to be challenged. It’s the job of the people in the group, as well as the counselors, to call you on your shit. Addicts can recognize lies you tell, since they often have told them themselves. People will tell you when you’re not being honest, when you’re not telling the whole truth, when they think you actively need to be doing more in your recovery. For me, this was the most difficult part of all of treatment. When I wasn’t ready to come to terms with things on my own, I sure as hell wasn’t ready to hear what my problems were from other people. It did the opposite of make me open up – it shut me down. It’s hard to hear your shortcomings from other people, especially strangers, but it’s part of the process.
- Expect to meet incredible people. I definitely don’t stay in touch with everyone from treatment, and some have even relapsed and gone back to using. But there are a few people from my time there who I still talk to on occasion. The people in the same situation as you will be the people who you can draw strength from when you lack it, and vice versa. Peer support is an important part of recovery, almost a necessity.
- Expect to change. After all, the whole point of going to treatment is to put a stop to a toxic behavior. But when I say change, I meant it in a bigger way than that. While in treatment, I began thinking about the world differently. Things that were said or taught there had a way of sneaking into my mind while I went about everyday tasks. Where before I had been someone private and closed off, I found myself opening up to people around me and sharing my story willingly, even with people who were not in recovery. I became happy again. I learned to like the person I was becoming. Coming into treatment, I didn’t want to change. Now I couldn’t imagine still being that sad, uncomfortable person. I’ve changed for the better.
Reprinted from The Fix 2/22/16