Tomorrow I will be admitted into Castle Craig Rehab Clinic as an addict. For ten days I will join a community of alcoholics, drug addicts, therapists and medics – and be asked to open up about the psychological issues that caused my addiction. My mobile, laptop and Kindle will be taken away from me and I will be expected to stay on the campus 24/7.
I will tell them that I don’t have an addiction and am only there because I want to learn about the addiction treatment process, so I can become a better editor of the clinic’s blog. I’m doing what they call a “patient experience”.
The other patients may see me as an imposter. They might complain to the therapists and see me as some sort of spy. The community of addicts-in-recovery is a powerful part of the treatment process – they help each other through the most difficult moments, share horror stories (“you think that’s bad? You should hear what I did!”) – and I would understand if they don’t appreciate my presence.
More likely the other patients will challenge me, reject my claim to have no addiction and tell me that I’m in denial (a therapist once told me “denial is the best friend of addiction.”) This is what my colleague Manuela Boghian told me to expect. Manuela spent a week in treatment and emerged with a deeper understanding of addiction treatment and the patients’ perspective.
My story may sound pathetic when compared to a hard-core alcoholic or drug addict, people who often cause devastation around them and are lucky to be alive, but it’s all I can offer (and it’s true): when I was a student I would binge drink and I may have addictive tendencies.
This means that I easily get addicted to things. When I was a student I abused alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes for years. The only difference between me and the addicts I’ll be meeting tomorrow is that I managed to give up my vices.
Some of my friends think I’m virtuous because I don’t drink, smoke, have a smartphone or watch TV shows. What they don’t seem to realise, even though I try to explain, is that I gave up these things because I thought I was becoming addicted: I found it really hard to control my drinking, smoking or compulsive viewing of Breaking Bad. I remember drinking a bottle of wine every night with my ex-wife, thinking that I couldn’t possibly leave it half empty. I gave up alcohol in 2007 and never saw a reason to start again.
Hopefully they will be able to advise me about how to control my eating. Why is it that when presented with a table full of good food I can’t stop eating, while everyone else takes a modest amount and knows when to stop. After these meals I often feel bloated and guilty and tell myself “never again.”
I’m looking forward to going into rehab as I find the subject of addiction really interesting. I have learned about it by interviewing therapists, some of whom you can see here, but I haven’t had enough contact with addicts-in-recovery or seen how the therapists work with them. I have a lot of respect for addicts as it’s not easy facing up to your addiction and trying to tackle your compulsive behaviour (most people never do it). I’m sure I will learn a lot from them.