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I Didn't Go to Treatment! This is why...

Brian McCollom addiction alcoholism cotton fever detox detox center E.R. emergency room ER heroin knowing options recovery treatment youth

I never went to treatment. In fact, I also haven’t been to a 12-step meeting in almost 6 years. But, that doesn’t mean that I’m not recovering. Maybe it means that I’m recovering better for my own journey. There wasn’t a rhyme or reason, or some intricate plan to ruin my recovery from the beginning when I didn’t go to treatment. Honestly I didn’t even know that I had a choice for treatment. I was so young—13 years old—when I started using drugs and alcohol, that when I quit, for the first time, I was still pretty young. I had no idea the options of treatment for drugs and alcohol or co-occurring disorders like mental health were even available!

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What I did do was get rushed to the Emergency Room at the age of 18 for cotton fever due to my illicit substance abuse to intravenous heroin addiction and alcoholism. When I was there I wasn’t really well informed, in fact, I was never even really told my options besides:

1. “Hey kid! You can leave now…”


2. “Go to the fifth floor! You just can’t stay in the ER!”

And with that being said, I wasn’t really sure what the fifth floor was. I was only 18-years-old going on nineteen. But, there was only one question on my mind, as most addicts ask this very same things while on their knees in front of a pile of vomit and degradation, “Will it get rid of the pain?”

All I was concerned with was getting rid of the pain, and that didn’t mean that if I left I was going to use, because I didn’t want to leave. It was kind of hard to with my mom sitting five feet outside the door in the waiting room, all the while I wouldn’t let her back because I was now within my legal right—at 18-years-old—to deny her access. Thank God she didn’t come in when the doctor screamed to the staff, “We have a shooter!”

Now if you’re begging to know it, the fifth floor was strictly a detox center accompanied next door to the mental institution. And trust me, neither of these places were much different than each other either. The only thing that separated us from "them" was a barred door with a few windows we could glance across and watch each other drool from the over-prescription of Thorazine on one side and Suboxone on the other…

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I only stayed at this detoxification facility for six and a half days, versus standard treatment of 30-90 days, sometimes 180 days if insurance will even allow that in present times!

What I did learn from the detox center was how to stay on a schedule with Suboxone (that I’m off of for 7 years), drawing and arts and crafts, and a semi-half assed departure plan they called it. This plan was written on a piece of paper and done with someone who was there to facilitate and make sure that it got done. That's it… And, The person attending wasn’t a nurse or even a specialist, just someone who stayed late after arts and crafts out of compassion. On top of that the “departure plan” was only a list/goal set of three things we wanted to see positively impact us when we left. Most of us just wrote:

“Not do drugs.” 

During my stay I was introduced to one, single, solitary support group meeting which was held in the basement of the hospital. It was a narcotics anonymous meeting of about one-hundred-and-fifty people and I was scared shitless because it had no affiliation with the detox center and was held in a church. Right there two of my biggest fears were imagined and created, “Church and large groups while not high.” 

Now, I guess I may be talking a lot of shit for someone who now has six-years 100% clean and sober on Christmas of this year, but it has no part to do with my stay at a short term detoxification facility. And you ask, “Why weren’t you given the option for treatment?” and you’re exactly right, I wasn’t given the option for treatment. 

By the time I had stayed my six days in the hospital facilitated detox center I’d racked up a bill of close to $8,000 out of pocket and another $30,000 for all the “medical interventions” that the center had claimed to give me that insurance had to pay for too. Not to mention it forever scarring my records at any emergency room from there on out.

Not only was I not informed that I had an option for treatment, I wasn’t told what the cost was of the detox facility either. The only thing I was told was that, “This will fix you,” when it didn’t. And when I needed some real help, the insurance company said, “Nope!” and my dad’s bank account said, “Hell nah!”

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So why didn’t I go to treatment right off the bat with someone/some place who was willing to work with my insurance? Because those options are not given when in a big institution (ER) and are wanting to take your money. Not to mention, there probably weren’t any beds available immediately at any well-established treatment center within a one-hundred-mile radius. And that’s the problem now a day. Most people can’t afford treatment because insurance is unwilling to work with you. Then when you can afford treatment at that exact moment, there aren’t any beds open so you have to wait and possibly relapse again. And when you do relapse and get sent to the Emergency Room they have no clue what the difference between a true treatment center is versus a terrifying experience at a beat down detox center just looking to snip a few/many pennies away from you!

So, yeah… I didn’t go to treatment. But many of our youth in this addiction epidemic are going through this same exact scenario that I went through! The professionals we rely on don’t have, or give, the proper information for referrals, insurance is 100X worse than it was when I attempted my first try at getting clean, and beds are never, usually ever, readily available at the drop of a hat!

If only we could plan when we wanted to get clean, right? Pshhhh! Like that’s ever going to happen! If it did, we may have a better fighting chance at reducing overdose because we know the system isn’t going to accompany the addicts need, so the addict must find some way to “make it work” while the system figures their shit out. Such a shame. Such a freaking shame! Because every life matters, every life is worth saving, it’s just that penny pushers and inadequate resources dominate our society at this moment. 

Today, I’m alive and well, going on six years clean and sober. But, for the addict still sick and suffering, then who’s going to want to get clean… What will you do to change the system? Will they even know their options? Probably not...

I’m speaking out, bringing awareness to the flaw… let’s get out there and fix it people! Come on!


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