They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no! … I ain’t got the time and my daddy thinks I’m fine
~ Amy Winehouse
Because of the impact of alcoholism on my life I got a job as a Psychiatric Aide at Care Manor Hospital, a drug and alcohol rehab, in 1979.
Little did I know that job would come in handy later in my life – 36 years later – when I got a similar job at Present Moment’s Recovery in San Marcos.
PMR is a “six-pack” residential recovery home that houses up to six male individuals. The house offers many modes of treatment, but no medical detoxification, in a residential setting.
I am a key employee as house manager. I get room and board and an hourly salary when I’m working with clients. I work nights: eating with them, going to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous meetings. I log and hand out their medications. We live together, so I get to know the clients very well.
PMR is a high-end facility, fully licensed under California’s strict regulations. Phillip Millgram is our guiding light and a compassionate physician who specializes in drug counseling, advanced intervention and operates Detox Rehab in Carlsbad. He takes a personal interest in his patients and always comes through for them.
PMR offers several kinds of therapy, behavioral, wholistic, cognitive.
We have three therapists, a physical trainer and acupuncturist, a yoga and reiki teacher, a sound bowl expert, anger management teacher, equine therapy and silly, fun and hilarious sessions brought to us by a rocker named Brandon and his company Rock to Recovery.
The kicker is chef James of Red Tail Catering in San Marcos. He brings us dinner every evening around 5 p.m. His stated goal was to put 10 pounds on me and he succeeded with his wonderful dinners, salads and soups he leaves us for lunch.
This is a high-end facility with a great crew of people who care about helping addicts and alcoholics find recovery. It costs a lot, but I think it’s worth it.
Working in recovery is a lot of fun, but it is a serious business. We search clients clothing and ban all products with alcohol from the house. (Drunks have been known to imbibe cologne, mouthwash, aftershave).
We drug and alcohol test them on admittance and when they return from family leave. We have to be strict with them, a slip back into drinking and using might mean the end of their lives. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen, many times.
Several visits to a Heroin Anonymous meeting with our opiate-addicted clients were eye-opening. At least 80 young people, most of them under 22 or shared their experiences and hope in the bottom floor of a church in Encnitas. Just like they do in AA meetings, the secretary calls for hands of people who are able to sponsor others. Sponsors come from the ranks of people who have worked all 12 steps.
Only a handful of these youngsters raised their hands.
The business is owned by Amy and Mark Gladden, who have a deep desire to help people recover from addictions and alcoholism. I met Mark who was among a group of friends who met on Saturdays for a little surfing, talk and breakfast.
He heard me talking about working in recovery those many years ago. One day he said he might have a job for me. Six months later, I had forgotten he mentioned it and he offered me a job at PMR.
In the interview I told their top employee that I had seen it all as an aide at Care Manor: taking blood pressure and pulse during a patient’s seizure, dealing with delireum tremens (DTs), witnessing the final stages of liver disease, dealing with patients.
I told them that an elegant lady had hired me because I told her my father died of alcoholism the year before at the age of 62. That elegant lady took me on as an employee. But really, she knew she had found a recruit.
I worked Thursday through Saturdays every week, graveyard shifts, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at what they called a Care Unit on Chapman Avenue in the City of Orange. I would finish my Thursday shift and drive to Cal State Fullerton. I slept on a couch in the Student Union after asking someone to wake me for my 9 o’clock class.
Rehab has changed a lot since 1979. There is a new class of professionals who study and work in addiction medicine. These days you have to study to become a hospital aide.
But the nature of addiction hasn’t changed. I remember all the nice people I worked with back then. One was an airline pilot, whose wife told me not to talk about aviation with him. I had already heard his great stories and seen how his eyes lighted up when he talked about flying.
These days we are working with a younger crowd, mostly guys from the East Coast and Midwest and from your neighborhood whose lives have been battered by drugs and alcohol.
The addiction disease is still as unpredictable as it is deadly. Some people make it to a friendly 12-step group and stick with sobriety. Others go from good ol’ rehab – with its three- squares-meals a day, caring therapists, fun with horses and music – back to the problems they left behind.
Back at Care Manor, about 60 percent patients were back in two or three weeks. Back then health insurers would give you a couple of stays.
I know that without a strong program of recovery they don’t have a chance. I can never guess who is going to make it and who won’t.