Last night I asked my husband what he wanted. He told me “I feel so low. I just want to feel okay”. His words broke my heart. Last night was his last night at home before rehab. He didn’t sleep, tossing and turning next to me, finally getting up to go to the couch. Before he did, I asked him what would be different this time. He had been to rehab before we met in his mid 20’s. He surprised me, telling me that this would be his third time in rehab. At first I felt betrayed but, for whatever reason, that was quickly replaced with love. I guess there just wasn’t any space for my hurt feelings yet, I just wanted to get him there, and to help him get healthy. We could deal with our relationship and communication later. So back to my question, he replied to me “I’m just too old for this, I don’t want to do it anymore”. On the car ride to rehab, he would also tell me that he didn’t really want to go the first time, that he was obligated to by his employer. He had passed out at work after having taken too much Xanax following a cocaine binge. He was young and wanted to keep partying. The second time, he got sober and stayed sober for years, but he did it without any meetings or real recovery plan. He thought he “was good and done with all of that.” Prime target for the demon, unprepared and ill-equipped.
We have had an unseasonably warm fall in Massachusetts. Today the weather has gone from hot to cold. This change felt fitting for the almost silent drive up into the middle of nowhere. A reminder of the winter ahead. A reminder of the winter of our marriage, blanketed in snow, lifeless, our hearts frozen. Seasons can offer the comfort of inevitable change, change that we are hoping for in rehab. Leaving the exposure and restless heat of summer behind us, the swirling heated molecules slowing down to rest, our souls ready for hibernation, giving us stillness. Stillness before the rebirth that we are seeking, a re-shaping of the downward monotony and spiraling toxic patterns.
The drive to the rehab was about an hour long, a 3 lane highway, then the smaller route 2, and finally the winding back roads, leading us to our salvation. That morning, my senses were heightened, a hyperacuity that felt uncanny. The mechanical breathing of air in and out of our lungs as we took obligatory breaths. The steam from our mouths billowing into the crisp air. The taste of burnt coffee from Dunkin Donuts. The wheels of his suitcase bumping and rolling on the unforgiving pavement. The flocks of birds dancing in black silhouette formations, swooping down to the barren and dry cornfields, and the geese in flight above in V formations. My husband’s pupils looking out at me, large black reflecting spheres. A single leaf falling from a tree’s naked limb, the colorful foliage burning around us, streaks of color past our moving car. We stopped at a red light, close to the facility. I could feel the edgy energy from my husband. He told me he was nervous about passing the drug screen, even though he had been sober for 2 weeks. He honestly told me, “I’m just used to not passing these things”. The humming from the red light buzzed and the whirring of wheels from a cyclist passed us. “You will pass”, I told him confidently, a knot forming in my gut all the same.
We arrived at the rehab, pulling into a small gravelly parking lot. It is an old weathered white farm house on a beautiful lake in the middle of the woods. It is fall in New England, and the sky was clear blue today. It was a magnificent day to go into rehab. I suppose it was a magnificent day to do just about anything except keep using. There was a white gazebo with a group of people smoking. Their faces were friendly. “This is going to be his family for awhile”, I thought. “I hope that they take good care of him”. Inside of the old house was intake. A man with long hair, sprinkled with gray, and pulled back in a ponytail reminiscent of the 60’s took us into the small cozy office. An old educated MA hippie wearing a badge, I felt I could trust him immediately. A photo of staff with Tom Brady hung on the wall surrounded by various sports memorabilia, Bruins signs, Red Sox banners. My husband is from New Jersey. We all joked lightheartedly amidst the palpable sadness. There was a sign on the desk that read ‘Come in a Stranger, Leave as Family’. My husband passed his breathalyzer and then the paperwork began. The pony tailed man urged us to say our goodbyes outside.
As we stood outside near the car, we watched a young man receive heartfelt words of encouragement from staff and peers as he left the rehab to go home. My husband said to me in a defeated voice, “one goes out, another comes in.” I wondered if he wished he was the man leaving, but I didn’t ask. After saying our goodbyes, I got back into the car alone, really alone, texted his family with the update “he’s in”, and set my navigation for my journey back. My last words to him were “you got this”. As I drove back I thought, was it enough? Did I hug him long enough? Did I tell him I loved him with enough certainty? Did I kiss him hard enough? Look into his eyes long enough? Does he know how much I love him? My words lingered, I played them over and over in my mind. I turned them over in my mouth like rolling a cough drop with my tongue. Was it enough? I put the radio on and the tears finally fell from my eyes, the cry finally escaped from my lips, me wailing, a Justin Bieber song on the radio (I know I know…), as I took the winding roads back home.
Hey, what can I say, the song felt relevant.