Recovery: The First Days at Hazelden (1)

Sunday, 31 July 1994 was my first day at Hazelden.  It was spent in the infirmary, as per protocol.  We had to have complete physical workups before entering treatment (for alcoholism).

There were 6 “units” when I went through; 4 for men, and 2 for women.  Each unit had 25 beds.  Some were in “open bay” bedrooms, other beds were in private rooms.  Initially, I was in an open bay bedroom.

Early the next morning I was assigned to the Silkworth Unit.  My physical was “fine.”  Considering the shape of a few of the others, I had dodged a bullet.

The first 5 days in treatment were “assessment.”  This is where I took a lot of interviews with counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and a few others.  I also had to take a battery of written exams.  As it turned out, this was the ‘scariest’ period of my recovery.  I knew I was a drunk – I didn’t need anyone else to tell me.  If ‘they’ came back and told me I was not “alcoholic,’ that I just tended to drink a little too much – as I had told myself for so many years – where would I go from there?  I knew I would die.

I was bound and determined to answer their questions fully, and truthfully.  It made no sense to me to ask for help, then lie to them.  So I did, to the best of my ability, at the time.  (In sobriety, some of my ‘truths’ have changed.)

I remember one interview with a physical fitness counselor.  She was an attractive woman, maybe 10 years younger than myself.  I remember sitting in her office, answering her questions and talking with her, kind of numbed.  When the interview was over, she just sat there and looked at me – puzzled.  Then she asked if she could have a hug.  I was shocked!  “Why would anyone want to hug me,” I thought to myself.  But I acquiesced, and went on my way.

(Two years later I went back to Hazelden for a 3 day period of “renewal.”  I sought her out, to ask why she wanted that ‘hug.’  I found her, and she told me that day in and day out, she hears stories that are just heartbreaking.  I guess mine wasn’t any different that day.  The day I found her, I gave her a hug…)

After 3 days of interviews I was called in by the administrator, and told they were going to keep me for the entire 28 days.  I was thrilled!  It was now “official;” I had something I could wrap my arms around and begin working on.  From my perspective, there was no going back now.

It is interesting that this was the first thing I ever “made early.”  In the Air Force we had “early promotions,” called “below-the-zone” promotions.  Well, on 3 August 1994 I made “Drunk,” Below-the-Zone!

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