Ever wondered what it’s really like to be in rehab?

THE buzz was going around. Three moms — Margie, Fely and Cookie — are going on a five-day immersion program! For the first time in SELF history, all three are going in as residents. So, good luck ladies!
Well, luck was not really what we needed. This we discovered in the process. It was more a sense of determination. Our ways were filled with trepidation, confusion, anger, anxiety, conformity … well, let us tell you more …One week of preparation did not seem enough to remember everything we wanted to haul along with us. We each had our own list of “what to bring” and by the time they were packed the bags were overflowing with supplies, which ranged from precautionary (anti-mosquito) to the more mundane (anti-odor). Most of that was quickly taken away though and we were left with the barest of necessities, namely: the required set of clothes and shoes, towels, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, hairbrush, deodorant and soap, oh, and toilet paper.

A lot of writing and filling the blanks, along with the psychological evaluation, marked the beginning of what would be a most memorable five-day stay at the SELF facility. What felt like a breeze in the beginning now started to change into a major flurry after a barrage of house rules were strictly laid out. We were assigned a “Big Sister” to help us through the baby steps of our first day. I got Lou, Margie got Samara, and Fely got Cara. From here on we were on our own.

We were three friends with three different goals for immersion: mine was to experience first-hand what the TC philosophy was all about. Margie’s was to have a better understanding of what goes on at SELF to keep the program going once her son was home. Fely felt it was a good opportunity to see her son whom she had not seen in two months.

Learning the ABCs of the TC philosophy was nothing close to simple. Our first ordeal was the reflection stage where we were each asked to sit with our feet flat on the ground and our hands on our laps, facing the wall with the TC philosophy stuck to the wall at eye level. The first 10 minutes seemed more like an hour and it was excruciatingly difficult to maintain that posture. You actually end up putting yourself in reflection mode to drift away from the physical discomfort.

We were shown to the ladies dorm soon after and were assigned our beds (we were graciously given the lower bunks), lockers, shoe racks, and were taught how to fold our clothes the TC way … our pants and t-shirts neatly folded into one third their size, our panties rolled into something that looked like fat sausages, our shirts hung in proper order and, most of all, everything had to be buttoned down. We made up our beds the TC way (which made no sense at first) but simplicity was foremost in everything … and later on we all understood why.

The work activities as well as the recreation were very rigorously scheduled and there was absolutely no room for error. The meals became the highlight of the days and nights, and the bits of chill-out time as well as siesta (whenever) were a very welcome breather.
Honestly became imperative; humility, a necessity; tolerance, a need; obedience, a demand. Tough was a common denominator.

We all had our tour of duties and — whether it was scrubbing the giant caldrons (no, they never heard of Teflon), doing the laundry, sweeping the floor, thinking of commercials, and even performing in front of the family during the morning meetings — excellence was a requirement.

It goes without saying that we were far from perfect. The family was very helpful in accepting our limitations and encouraging us while we worked with them side by side. There were moments of openness and sharing which was very touching for us. We experienced our fair share of pain and tribulations, quite like what some of the residents might have experienced. It didn’t take long before we understood the true meaning of such technical words like LE, haircut, spoken to, pull up, etc.

Somewhere along the way, my lack of tolerance and quick temper became my doom. I spent a couple of nights in anger, pain, and tears only to realize in the morning that it was not going to matter … I was still in the program! I had plans of kicking ass, as they say, and yet when the time came I had second thoughts and took my own medicine. I was ready to do what they wanted me to do … no questions asked.
We learned to use the Tools of the House, which is at the heart of the TC philosophy. There were times when we were given the chance to communicate and air our grievances. It also became the venue for expressing the love, gratitude, and happiness that the residents felt for us. It was a humbling as well as an inspiring experience.

A well concocted send-off was most memorable … when the time came for us to move on to the Reentry level, a send-off was traditional. We were asked to meet at the quadrangle and sit in the middle of the family circle. Happy thoughts came to our minds, but let me tell you … it would have been wiser to wear a bullet-proof vest instead of a smile, because in a matter of minutes, we were being rained on by some real fire power! It was such a stunning revelation to listen to all the “nasty” impressions coming out of their mouths … it was unbelievable! We were reaching the end of our rope when we were made to realize that it was all a lie … or was it … and so laughter and hugs as well as happy tears were shed by one and all. It was a truly emotional send-off.

After we were transferred upstairs, we missed everyone so badly we decided to join them for meals and merienda. It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye, but we know that these brave men and women in recovery are fighting for a real cause … a better life in this troubled world.

So, from each one of us, we leave you with a few personal impressions:

Cookie: “The five days etched an indelible pattern in my mind. So even after I left the facility I still insist on keeping everything tidy, still look for the biscuit whenever I feel hungry, still fold my shirts the TC way, but, most of all, they have given me a real insight about the strengths and weaknesses of tough love. TC is indeed what we all need once in a while. It’s good for the soul!”

Margie: “So many memories after five days which I have chosen to keep for myself. I would encourage each and every member of FAM to take this opportunity not to just learn more about the TC life but to open your mind to a new understanding of your loved ones and to join them in this incredible journey they are going through. I went into the program with two good friends at my side and left with a whole new family.”

Fely: “It was hard to say goodbye to the residents because I had grown attached to them. Would I do it again? Yes, without a doubt in my mind! And, to parents and guardians, should SELF offer another opportunity to immerse in the program in the future, do it! It will change your life!”


FAM Member
May 2009