When someone is addicted to a chemical substance the chemicals in their brain are altered—and sometimes severely. Depending on the drug of choice, usually, the person is very joyful to be around (probably too much) and a total misery when they have run out of their favorite drug. Withdrawals can make a person the meanest and most manipulative person you have ever met. This is often why a lot of family members and friends become enablers—to avoid having to listen to the moaning and groaning of the addict.

Depression is probably the most common symptom in withdrawal from any drug. Alcohol, meth, crack, cocaine, heroin—they all alter the chemical functions in the brain (among other bodily functions) and send the person spiraling when they no longer have the substance to maintain a “high.” In the center I see a lot of patients come in and they are severely depressed—will do anything to get high. Unfortunately, I know a lot of patients leave because they are not able to cope with the feeling of being depressed and sober.

Anger and frustration are bound to run their course once the person realizes how strict the rules are here. The rules are in place so no one can mess with their sobriety, or do things that will disrupt progress. The professionals here know first hand what is right for recovery and what is regressive for their patients. Despite what any patient has to say about how wrong the staff is for doing what they do, in the long run, it is all for the betterment of the patient.

Sadness and embarrassment happen when a patient clears the withdrawal symptoms, and they are more clear-minded. I’ve heard patients tell stories of stealing from family members and friends; stories of people cheating on their spouses to score another high. It is regrettable to listen to some of these addicts talk about how they are here to fix their lives, but they will inevitably go home to people who still harbor hate and anger towards them. The role of the staff here, especially the therapists, is to reassure the patients that what someone else might feel cannot come in the way of their progress.

Hope and happiness come for most people. I will say, I see it most commonly in people who come here and really put in the effort to change and be a better person. When someone comes and doesn’t take the steps or doesn’t follow the rules, they usually either leave early or they “graduate” the program and have to return a year later when they’ve relapsed. The happiness is apparent when patients begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel; when their brains have been given a chance to recuperate.

I have grown to love these patients, and I am both delighted and sad to see them go, but in a good way, I hope I never see them again—at least not in here. This is a place where I can see people come in at their worst and leave as their best. It is the one place that someone can seek help and let down all of their walls in the hopes that they can leave as a better, happier, whole person.