I’m going to be a graduate.
In 2006, when I graduated from my university back in good ol’ NYC, I thought it would be the last time that I’d ever get to say that I graduated anything. I remember being so relieved when I finished school. The pressure and the stress, gone. The excitement of going out into the brave, new world, equipped with a class A education, and no idea what I was going to do with it.
Today, my counselor from my treatment center informed me that I am officially graduating my rehab program February 15th, 2013. Upon hearing those words, it didn’t feel all too different from that feeling I got when I knew, for sure, I was going to graduate from undergrad. Except this time, graduating means so much more. The promise of what’s ahead seems brighter today than it ever did. The sense of accomplishment, freedom, and fear. And, the fact that it’s going down the day after Valentine’s Day also adds a little bit of love and romance to the idea of it, a dramatic farewell. And, I do love me some drama.
A bunch of us are graduating in the next month. And, there’s something sort of comforting about it. Those of us who are being phased out are all currently in Phase 2 of our treatment, and today they separated us from the Phase 1 clients to talk to us about our graduations and what they’ll mean for our lives and recoveries. All of us sitting around a table, addicts and alchies who have all accomplished this thing, sobriety, which seemed to us all, at one point, so impossible.
Each of us faces a different set of challenges. Boredom, fucked up families, self judgement, stressful work environments, and fear, to name a few. But, as I sat at the table, scanning the faces of my “classmates,” I had nothing but faith in each one of them. And, I know, in reality, that statistics show most of us will not remain sober for the rest of our days. But at that table, it seemed possible. All of us are excited for our new lives, excited for the things that we’re all capable of now that we hadn’t been before. In the program Phase 2 means you’ve grown up a little, you don’t need to be there all week, every week. Phase 2 means they’ve taken our training wheels off, and are pushing us down the little hill, before the big one. Phase 2 is that little push into standing alone. The preparation for a very different Phase 2. Real life.
This new phase of my life, it’s really, really thrilling. I’ve been very aware these days of how far I’ve come, and, for the first time in a very long time, I am really excited about where my life is going. Excited for the mere fact alone that I feel like my life is actually going somewhere. I have goals and aspirations, and, suddenly they seem achievable. Something I say lightly, but, if you could feel the weight and power of my heart as I write this, you would know that it isn’t something I take lightly, at all.
There’s a sadness too, in leaving treatment. Rehab has been a safe place, where it has always been OK, in moments of fun and frustration. The people here are like me. They understand me and where I’ve been. They know what it means to move forward and the fear that is involved with that process, they’re doing it too. So, as we all prepare to let go, to invite our own spirits to take the helm, we look across the table, eyes clinging to each other.
Something inside me knows that it is important to savor this moment. Because, soon, it will be over. My comrades and I will be off in the real world, living our lives. And, no matter what happens to us out there, in this moment, we’ve accomplished this. We’ve made it to Phase 2. And, that’s enough days sober to know that life can be beautiful.