While my experience in the hospital did meet my needs for stabilization, there was one thing about it that bothered me. One of my group counselors, a kind and wise woman, gave a lecture on what we need to do to prevent recovery failure and repeat hospitalizations. Failure? I don’t think so. My hospitalization wasn’t a failure, it was a triumph. Before I checked myself into the hospital, I was working hard on my recovery. I work with a therapist, take medication as needed, attend Al-Anon meetings (for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s addiction), pray, and put a lot of time and energy into building and sustaining a healthy social network. I quit drinking for several weeks because I knew I was in a bad place and that alcohol would only make it worse. I had very little energy for exercise. I tried walking, but every time I did my mind went to dark places. My brain just wasn’t working right. I even asked a friend if I could stay with her for a few days while I got my head together. It wasn’t enough. No matter the positive coping skills I employed, I couldn’t get my mind to work right.
I checked myself into the hospital because I was in a dark place. I needed to be in a safe place, around other people, where there was no chance of me choosing a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The first time I went to the hospital, somebody close to me told me I needed to go. This time I had the strength and wisdom to make that decision on my own. I have family, friends, and clients who need me. I did what I needed to do to get well. I left feeling much, much better. My visit to the hospital was not a permanent fix, though. It was merely a bandaid. Now that I’m out and safe, I will continue to do everything I know to achieve physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. And you know what? If at some time in the future I find that what I’m doing isn’t enough, I’ll check myself right back into that hospital without the least bit of shame or disappointment. Mental illness is a nasty beast, and there’s no reason in the world why we should have to fight it alone.