The hate is gone. The anger is gone. The judgment is gone. I am a new man.
28 Days ago I awoke suddenly on an airplane not knowing why I was on an airplane, where I was going or who I was. It only took a few seconds for reality to come crashing in. My name is Ryan, I’m 45 years old, I’m on an airplane heading for Phoenix, AZ. Once I land a staff member from Alternative to Meds Center is going to pick me up and drive me to rehab. That’s right, I’m a 45 year old addict (at least I was, there’s more to this story).
A week an a half earlier I had my 4th mental breakdown. Yes, it’s happened before. No, never as bad as this time. They’ve progressively gotten worse over the years. Each time, as was with this one, I’d go see a very nice, well meaning Dr. who would prescribe me more medication. At 21 it was Ritalin and antidepressants. At 30, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-rage, and “a little something to help you sleep.” At 40 Klonopin, and Ambien. Just a week ago I sat in another Dr’s office and received 3 new prescriptions. Two antidepressants and more Klonopin. I had just told the Dr., in front of my wife, that for the past several months I had been stealing her Xanax so he just gave me my own.
As I was sitting there it dawned on me that prescribing me more medication wasn’t changing my situation. It never had. Nothing had changed from 21 until now. I still had trouble expressing my emotions, handling stress, dealing with fame and the constant pressure of the public eye. More @#$% medications weren’t changing any of that. So why give me more pills? Hadn’t I already proved I had poor self control when it came to dampening and suppressing my emotions?
I decided then and there I was done with this shit. Please excuse my language. I’m just sad at the lack of understanding by the traditional medical industry at dealing with the esoteric issues of life. I’ve been abusing substances in an attempt to handle the stresses of life since I turned 19. You’d think in 26 years someone would have suggested an alternative.
Do you know how I found Alternative to Meds Center? I was listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. If you’re unfamiliar with Joe Rogan, he is a stand up comedian, the color commentator for the UFC, and the former host of the TV program, “Fear Factor.” He has an “interesting” podcast to put it lightly. Two weeks before my final breakdown, Joe was interviewing Dr. Dan Engle, former head Doctor of Alternative to Meds Center. He has a different philosophy in dealing with psychiatric issues and addiction. I remember thinking, “Wow, if I had a problem I’d love to go there (to Alternative to Meds Center).” I was in full denial of my addiction, but God was watching over me.
It was no coincidence that I was listening on that day. Just two short weeks later I was sitting in my marriage therapist’s office with my wife and parents (yeah, feels good having to call your parents to help you out at 45 years of age). I told the truth for the first time in years, came clean about my addiction, showed everyone my recent cutting, and we all agreed I needed more help than a few new bottles of pills.
I started calling Alternative to Meds Center in my crazed, manic, terrified state. I don’t have any idea how many times I called, but in talking to Amanda, Lotus, and Matt I got the real sense that this place seemed different, and maybe, just maybe they could help me. All three of them were so calming. They all told me to “call any time, day or night.” Even if I just needed to talk, I should call. Really? Just call? Ok, call I did. I never even considered another treatment center. It all seemed too good to be true. But it isn’t. It’s really that good. I arrived under an assumed name. I didn’t want the pressure of trying to be someone I’m not, and can never be.
By the time I got to Alternative to Meds Center I was coming off my last Klonopin etc. In my desperation to kick this time, I had thrown away all my meds. (SIDE NOTE: This was probably a mistake 🙂 For my first 10 days I dry heaved almost non stop and had CRAZY night sweats) The staff was/is AMAZING! Seriously, I’ll NEVER be able to do them justice in my writing. I wish I could. I have stories about each and every one of them and the kindness, compassion and completely altruistic love they have shown me.
When staff and other residents asked me what I did for a living, I said I was a brand ambassador for a sunglasses company. While true, it’s still a lie. I was just using this as a cover. The cover was keeping me down and preventing me from truly healing. On about night 8 I was up all night puking and sweating, fully regretting my decision to do this thing “cold turkey.” The night staff quietly knocked on my door and gently asked if she could help. I didn’t think anyone could, and really, nor should they. I was a mess and deserved to be suffering. This place was too nice. The Detox Shoppe was a spa where Adam and acupuncturist could take away my nausea, AND anxiety. Vanessa worked out all the knots and scar tissue in my shoulders, Sonia helped reprogram the neural pathways in my brain. Sarah after performing Reiki on me, with tears in her eyes from compassion, told me how much sadness I was carrying in my neck. Kelly checking me in every day actually cared “how I was doing.” Kim helping me with castor oil packs and foot baths pulling out more of the poison I had ingested. Ayande with a constant smile and encouraging word, telling me to take it easy when I nearly passed out trying to push myself beyond my limits. Catherine the GREAT working with my supplements and in class trying to detoxify my body and get it on track to a healthy life. Andres complimenting me on my progress and giving me haircuts helping me not feel so self conscience.
Sorry, got off track, back to night 8. The lying had to stop. It was near the root of my addiction. I stayed up all night writing in my journal, trying to make sense of the mess I had made of my life. Sasha and her dog Kwan were there the whole time. Later that morning I came clean with the staff & residents who I really was and apologized for being a liar. I’ve jumped out of an airplane over the North Shore of Oahu, swam with sharks in Tahiti, driven 140 MPH in a rented BMW on a back road in TX, and have gotten in a fist fight with locals in Bangkok, Thailand, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING I have ever done in my life was scarier than coming clean on that morning. And, it set me free. I received no judgement, no condemnation, no shame, guilt or hate. I was shown love and acceptance.
This place is magic. It is. But you have to let it. In my time at Alternative to Meds Center I’ve seen residents come and go. I’ve seen a few get themselves kicked out. It’s sad. I’ve seen people complete their time here and yet never REALLY join the program. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t make that mistake. PLEASE. I beg of you DON’T MAKE THAT MISTAKE. Dive in head first. Give it your all. Get out of your comfort zone. Do whatever it takes, just join in.
When it’s time for Allyson’s Art Therapy classes, don’t think “I’m not an artist.” Just do whatever she tells you. When Chezspri, asks you to do a funny dance and make a funny sound, stop asking yourself “what the others might think about you.” Just start dancing and making funny noises. JOIN IN my friend. Staying in your comfort zone has gotten you to this place, don’t let it keep you in your addiction.
These guys are PROS. They totally know what they’re doing. I know. I’ve been set free. My heart is awake and alive. Juan, my care manager, took a group of us to see the documentary, “The Power of the Heart.” It was life changing, but Juan didn’t need to see that documentary to know the true power of the heart. He sees it every dat in this amazing, magical place.
I’ve been in therapy with Dr. Julie a few times a week and in her anger management classes. I adore her. She is a beautiful genius. We have different backgrounds and different core beliefs, and none of that matters. She knows her stuff and she actually cares about me and all of her patients. Heather taught me how to meditate more deeply and in new forms that finally has done what no pill or substance could ever do, science the negative voices in my head.
Dustin walked me through my grief of losing a friend and being unable to attend his funeral and then worked with me as a life coach to help me reenter my life with my wife, kids and job. Rob’s class on “earthing” and Eric teaching me how to make kimchi, and Bri talking about art, and MJ making me laugh, and Rebecca taking me hiking to Native ruins and singing me ancestral songs and teaching me how to play her Native flute, and Rachael taking me grocery shopping and letting me vent, and Bradley playing Ping Pong and Sean taking me to the creek to a secret rope swing, and Danielle teaching an old dog some new tricks helping me to fall in love with Yoga, taking my body, mind and spirit to new depths, and Nayeem discussing philosophy and technology, and Weekend Rob holding down the fort when us Squirrels get a little nutty on the weekends, and Daniel taking me to get my labs and showing me limitless kindness with his amazing smile, and Isaac and Lyle spearheading this endeavor unwavering in their quest to heal hurting people. The list is unlimited. It’s never ending. Just like their love.
I ask you again my friend to join in. Give it your all. Kick your ego and pride in the ass. Pack their bags and send them away. This program works. If you let it. I know. 28 days ago I was a freaked out, terrified, sad addict. Today, I’m ALIVE and set free. I’ve never experienced emotions like I am now. I can’t imagine trying to dampen them or suppress them ever again. What a waste. When it’s time to cry, I’ll cry. When it’s tim to laugh, I’ll laugh. When it’s time to be angry, I’ll be angry. When it’s time to love, I’ll love (BTW: It’s always time to love).
The hate is gone. The anger is gone. The judgement is gone. I am a new man. My wife and kids have taken to calling me Neo Ryan. I’m literally a new man. I’ll never be the same and I’ll NEVER go back to the old Ryan. That guy is dead. He died at the gates of Alternative to Meds Center. I’ll be forever grateful and I’ll never stop talking about this amazing place.
Join in my friend. You’ll never regret it.