Passing through a Gate to Recovery: Inpatient Detox


I set out to write about my experience at inpatient detox, hoping it would encourage or inspire people to go to detox if they were considering taking the leap. However, after having written a draft, I was fearful my story would dissuade someone from going — because my experience was not great. So, I tossed the draft.

But, I’ve reconsidered. I remembered that I didn’t want to go to detox — I needed to go to detox. My drinking was chronic and I was physically dependent on alcohol. I could not safely withdraw at home because I was at risk of seizure. So, if I were to ever stop drinking, I had to go. And I had to stop drinking, or I was going to die. 

Nobody wants to go to detox, because it’s not fun. It’s not a choice between going to Cancun or South Beach for a long weekend. It’s a choice between life and death. 

Going through drug or alcohol withdrawal is almost always an uncomfortable and frightening experience. Going through withdrawal at an inpatient detox is also almost always an uncomfortable and frightening experience. But here’s the thing — in detox, you are safe because you are being medically supervised. Detoxing on your own can be dangerous, particularly with opiates, benzodiazepines and alcohol. Withdrawal from those substances can kill you

Yes, detox sucks. But detox is often one of the first gates people pass through on the way to sobriety. In active addiction, I had convinced myself that I was OK with dying from alcohol, and I’d deal with that later on. So when I decided I didn’t want to die from drinking anymore, I knew I needed help. Going to a medically supervised detox was the first help I asked for. 

Not many people with chronic addictions are deciding to get sober on a good day and oftentimes, the price of admission for recovery is pain. So things may already be bad, and detox is often just another painful stop along the way to freedom from substance abuse. 

There’s no pretty picture I can paint about my experience at inpatient detox to make it seem more appealing — and I am not going to lie to you. Other than the staff being patient and nice, myself and everyone else on the floor was unhappy. They took my phone (as is standard procedure at most treatment facilities), other patients were screaming, the facility was dingy and unkempt, and I was in a lot of physical and psychic discomfort.. 

But while it was a daunting experience, I am happy I went. Aside from the moment I decided to stop drinking, going to detox to medically withdraw from alcohol was one of the most important decisions I ever made because it got me here. Also, if I pick up again, chances are I will have to go back to detox, and I don’t ever want to go through that again. My past, unpleasant experience in detox is yet another healthy fear I can call upon should I ever find myself contemplating a drink. 

Overall, the importance of inpatient detox cannot be overstated, as it provides a safe environment for individuals to begin their journey toward sobriety with the necessary medical care, supervision, and resources. I do not regret going to detox, as I needed to pass through that gate to get here — sober, happy and free of substance abuse. 



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