RehabAdvisorDotCalm: This Must (Not) Be the Place

Drat, Travis' cat. Photo credit: Peter, Travis' partner.
Drat, Travis' cat. Photo
Peter, Travis' partner.

DATELINE: June 2011 (a far superior residential drug and alcohol treatment facility, compared to the first, somewhere along the southern California coast. 56 days sober and counting ...)

The story you are about to read -- about my first-ever experience at drug rehab -- is entirely true. However, the names (including my own) have been changed to protect the innocent, the kind, the not so kind and the idiotic.

At the appropriate time and in the proper forum I'll revert to the actual names and places. But for now, please use your intelligence and imagination.

I believe in and live by honesty; I do not believe objectivity actually exists. And this tale --about my first seven days in drug treatment and in sobriety -- is painstakingly honest. The deeper knowledge one has of a situation (in this case, the real story behind the images of a treatment facility most know only through its advertising image over the last 25 years) is essential to making an informed decision about where one might go to get clean. I take my rehab, my recovery, and my sobriety very seriously indeed.

Every day I write the book*, and it ain't fiction.

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My name is Travis** and I am a train wreck. My drug of choice: crystal methamphetamine.

Just before 8:00 am on the morning of April 22, 2011, my loved ones threw a "Surprise Party" in my honor, in my own home. I despise surprise parties, as do most control freaks, and most addicts. However, mine was a special sort of surprise party. Some may call it an "intervention" -- pure semantics as far as I'm concerned.

I'd been awake since 5:30 am. At around 7:00 am I'd sent out one of my two early morning work reports (the modern day smoke and mirrors of laptops, VPN, and "working from home"). After a strong cup of coffee, a few even stronger hits off the meth pipe, and one off the hash pipe for good measure, I was just about to hit the shower and contemplate all the pathetic reasons I should head into work. Those were the days of difficult mental gymnastics, and of being supremely miserable for all the wrong reasons.

It was Friday, praise drugs (my then Higher Power), and even though I'd just returned from a week's vacation two days before, I was more than ready for a weekend of fun, party, and sex with my drug pals and with the meth I'd smuggled back from the California desert and stowed away in my checked luggage, in the nether regions of a travel-sized deodorant stick. I'd become such a clever drug addict, and as I'd told a meth friend but five days before the Surprise Party, I'd become a high-functioning addict as well. Thanks to the planners of the Surprise Party, I am alive and well today and here to write that when all is said and done there is no such thing as a high-functioning drug addict.

"Who the hell is knocking on the door at this hour?" I cried out, a fluffy white towel wrapped around my waist. I wasn't expecting a handyman that day, or at least I did not think so, and it was too early for the Jehovahs to come calling, but then again I was high as a kite so who really knew. Perhaps the knocking sound was a figment of my messed up imagination.

I'll never forget how I felt when I opened the door and found three of my loved ones and Trudy, the interventionist. They clearly had planned the surprise party with precision, and boy, was I ever surprised. My partner Peter, my cousin Loretta and my friend Andrea from work -- the loved ones who planned the surprise party together with Trudy -- thought I might run off in the woods adjacent to my home, denying my addictions every step of the way down the very steep hill.

But instead, I threw on my robe, grabbed my seven-month-old Maine Coon kitten and dropped myself onto the sofa, holding the Coon very tightly. I listened to them, one by one, as they read the extraordinarily beautiful letters of love they each had prepared. As for the Maine Coon, he'd had enough of the intervention, thank you very much, and split the scene. But the painstaking honesty within each letter kept me on the sofa, and left me weeping, and alone.

Before agreeing to honor a flight reservation they had made for me in just a few hours, I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the 10 hard boiled eggs I'd prepared before the start of the Surprise Party, and commenced making what turned out to be a wicked tasty egg salad. Trudy the interventionist later told me that never in her 15 years of surprise party planning had anyone prepared an egg salad at their own party. There's a first time for everything, Trudy.

The surprise party became the crystalline moment (pardon pun) -- the moment I knew the party was over, once and for all and forever. Kaput. And less than four hours later, accompanied by Greg, a "sober transporter," I was on a plane bound for the Triplet Cities in the U.S. state I'll call … Chaos. When Greg and I arrived at CONCEIT Center, an inpatient drug and alcohol center specifically marketed to the SFTF (Sapphic Fey Tri Flipped) addict, he asked the staff for a tour while I was completing some intake forms. If I had known then what I know now -- that Greg is a sober coach and travelling companion for some rather high-profile personalities and is extremely knowledgeable about treatment centers -- I would have grabbed his hand, held it tight, and hightailed it back with him to the airport. But I was not even 12 hours sober, and still a bit tweaked truth be told, and was still in shock about the circumstances in which I found myself. File under: live and learn.

Much like you would read customer reviews of hotels, at travel websites for instance, I've organized my experiential review of CONCEIT Center by category and have assigned a letter grade to each category. After more than 25 years as a privately run treatment facility, the CONCEIT Center was recently purchased lock, stock and barrel by none other than one of the largest and most ruthless health insurance companies in the United States. To say that the entry of health insurance companies into the business of alcohol and substance abuse inpatient treatment facilities is a foreboding sign is an understatement of epic proportion.

Herewith an encapsulation of my seven days at CONCEIT, organized from level of least importance or concern:


The cafeteria staff at CONCEIT did the best they could, kinda sorta, but I cannot classify them as particularly creative or nutrition-minded institutional chefs. All the beverages contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, most of the veggies were frozen (save for the small, adequate salad bar), and vegetarian/vegan options were sparse to nonexistent, bland, and offered up when available as if you were asking the line cook to part with their first born along with a slab of tofu. And when I was assigned kitchen clean-up as my chore duty, the toxic blend of bleach, detergent and Lord-knows-what-else caused my hands to break out in a nasty case of contact dermatitis. It was not purty and I was not amused.

Grade: B-


I am fully aware that drug and alcohol rehab is in no way akin to, say, a reflective and luxurious retreat at Canyon Ranch. But threadbare sheets, replete with blood stains? Darling, please pass the Clorox. And when a new client, my roommate Adam, is admitted late on the fourth night of my seven days, one would think they would have had a clean pillow for him to lay down his weary head. Not CONCEIT. The night staff had to throw two pillows in their washing machine that danced a quirky cha-cha-cha and leaked water out the bottom for good measure. Read my lips: 1-800-MAYTAG. And while I spent Easter Sunday at CONCEIT, I had hoped for an audience with the real Easter Bunny. Instead, I communed with thousands of dust bunnies, seeming permanent residents of CONCEIT. What a dump!

Grade: D

Counseling and Therapy Services

I came home from CONCEIT with some decent photocopies of articles and readings relating to crystal methamphetamine, my drug of choice, but the materials are hardly unique or inspired and could be found in a few clicks on an internet search, or for that matter, an old-fashioned trip to my town's library.

I've received weekly acupuncture treatments for the past five years, to help ease symptoms I experience from ulcerative colitis, depression/anxiety, as well as HIV immune boosting. When I asked my CONCEIT therapist if I'd have the opportunity to receive acupuncture during my 28-day stay, he replied, without missing a beat, "No, acupuncture needles trigger addicts." Hello, hello, is anyone home? Last time I checked, acupuncture needles bear no resemblance whatsoever to hypodermic needles, not to mention that detoxification acupuncture is offered primarily using ear and forehead points. If you can see acupuncture needles in your ears and upper forehead, I'll sign over the title to my 1920 funky home to you. I promise. (Looking at yourself in a mirror to see the needles does not count!) If CONCEIT so desires, don't let junkies receive acupuncture, but to categorically dismiss and deny acupuncture's efficacy as an integrative detoxification therapy is just plain silly, and ignorant.

The program where I am now a client, which by the by was my loved one's second choice in rehab facilities, employs a robust and honest integrative approach to sobriety and recovery and as such, each week clients are offered choices ranging from Kundalini yoga, detox acupuncture, equine therapy, Tai Chi, and spirituality groups, to name just a few.

Most of the group lectures during my seven-day stint at CONCEIT were delivered by "technicians" or licensed practical nurses who had obviously pulled the lecture notes from a file cabinet and delivered the content in the most robotic of ways -- not unlike listening to a tortuously boring lecture by that uninspired college assistant professor who will never ever receive tenure.


Client Safety, Staff Accountability

Each night at CONCEIT ended in the same fashion -- a 9:00 pm community meeting called "Echoes" featuring affirmations, sharing, consequences and other related announcements. As I took a seat for my last "Echoes" my olfactory glands took in the oddest of scents -- hard liquor, and lots of it.

My name is Travis and while I am a train wreck, I am not now nor have I ever been an alcoholic. But that sour, pungent smell pushed each and every one of my addict buttons (and epaulets). To the best of my knowledge and six days sober, I was at a lock-down drug and alcohol treatment facility, and alcohol and drugs are not allowed at such a place (or so I thought, silly me). The gentlemen two seats to my right was the perpetrator, beyond the shadow of a doubt, and when it came time for him to introduce himself and share an affirmation with the group he could not even utter his own name. BUSTED.

Immediately following the meeting I went downstairs to the nursing station to report the infraction. "I'm new to this rehab thing," I told the tech on duty, "but something tells me I'm not supposed to be knocked out by the smell of hard liquor." I urged her to do something about it, and she promised that she would.

I went off to the area CONCEIT refers to as a gymnasium to see if I could sweat out my anxiety; it was already 9:45 pm and "lights out" was at 11:00 pm. Not much time. When I went to the men's rest room 30 minutes later, I saw "DrunkWhat'sMyName" lurking at the entry to the shower stalls, without his shirt but wearing jeans, and he looked positively crazed, drunk, psychotic, choose your diagnosis. It became painfully obvious to me that the technicians had not yet given him a breathalyzer. I asked my friend James to go into the restroom to confirm what I had seen and that I had not lost touch with reality. James reported I was spot on; he caught this very odd behavior twice, and he confided to me at that time that this man was not only a client at CONCEIT but also a Class C Registered Sex Offender, with multiple convictions and incarcerations over the years for molestation and penetration of children between the ages of 8 and 13. I only needed to walk to CONCEIT's small library to verify this, where sure enough the town's police department had taped a Sex Offender poster to the wall.

When I confronted the technician as to whether (or not) she had dealt with the situation, she replied that she was too busy but she'd get to it. WTF? When a cop pulls someone over for a suspected DUI, do they take them out for coffee and pancakes, then a string or two of bowling, and then and only then make the suspect blow a breathalyzer? I rest my case. The technician told me to go to bed.

I awoke at 3:30am, startled and afraid, and went immediately to the nursing station to see what had become of the Inebriated One. "I can't tell you," Kristine, the nurse on duty, told me. "Patient confidentiality." "Bullshit," I replied. I reported the situation, and at the very least felt I had the right to see how CONCEIT had or had not dealt with it. "Patient confidentiality," she said again. I told Kristine I'd spend the rest of my living days standing at the nursing station until I received an honest reply, and so she went into the back room, returned several minutes later and told me he had tested negative for alcohol.

And that was the moment I knew I would leave CONCEIT as soon as the sun came up. They were protecting the wrong person -- an intoxicated registered sex offender who, I'd put money down, was neither fey nor tri nor flipped and had certainly not blown a breathalyzer. The State of Chaos had no other place to place him, save CONCEIT Center, and that is a sad commentary unto itself.

As I walked out the door later that morning, to the waiting driver who would take me to the airport, my therapist Doug called my partner Peter back east and told him I was leaving CONCEIT AMA (Against Medical Advice), and that I was coming home to use drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth, either then or now. I am not a fiction writer, and if my life depended on it I simply could not make this shit up.

For shame.


The State of Chaos, in which CONCEIT Center operates, has a peculiar and insidious law on the books that bankrolls, at taxpayer expense, any resident of the State of Chaos who seeks drug/alcohol treatment up to 90 complimentary days at an inpatient facility, followed by sober or halfway house living at highly subsidized rates. Trip up a bit, post treatment? Feel triggers to use? Cravings? Fret not, dear addict. Have a big old tumbler of Johnny Walker Red, and a mondo hit off your bud's meth pipe, shoot up if you really want, and go right back into treatment.

At least 80 percent of the clients at CONCEIT were what I call "professional rehabbers," serial abusers of a state law that has addicts from across the United States flocking to the State of Chaos for the perks of free rehab, Ad nauseum, Ad inifinitum. None of these individuals were good role models for me, the ingénue addict who was entering rehab for his first (and last) time. I have no intention of making rehab my career, so you know; rather I will focus on my sobriety and my continued recovery. The law and its insidious effects on treatment and rehab facilities quite simply broke my formerly bleeding heart.

My loved ones, the same who threw me that fabulous and auspicious surprise party (the soiree I'll never forget) sent me to CONCEIT with the best of intentions, and made their decision based primarily on an image of a place and on its name (the dangers of advertising, caveat emptor). What with me being fey and all, they also thought that fey rehab might help me deal with certain underlying issues that possibly fueled my addiction. Their thought process: fey rehab, and being with SFTF addicts, could possibly assist in my successful recovery. Frankly my dear, I care not if my plumber is fey or if the electrician is sapphic or if the barber is flipped -- I seek excellence with any service professional, and one's orientation never plays into decisions such as these. Nor do I care if my friends, in or out of rehab, are fey or straight. Just saying.

When I returned from the Triplet Cities, and before leaving for this facility in California less than 72 hours later, my loved ones did admit that if a resource had been available, not unlike the review I've just scribed of my seven days at CONCEIT, they would have made an entirely different decision and sent me instead to this facility and to the excellent integrative drug rehabilitation program I will complete in less than two days.

RehabAdvisorDotCalm, anyone?

My name is Travis and I am a train wreck.

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* Thank you, Elvis Costello.

** Travis is a regular contributor to Travis is his pseudonym. The photo used is of Drat (the cat), his present Higher Power and now 9-month-old Maine Coon.