“Treatment failed me from day one,” McLane said. When McLane first started treatment, he did not have a car. The treatment center he went to was supposed to pick him to take him to AA meetings, but one day the van never showed. McLane could have easily skipped the meeting and gone to the nearest bar, but he chose to walk a mile to the treatment center instead.
Although McLane showed perseverance in this moment, other people in long term recovery might have seen this inconvenience as a reason to drink again. Those that see addiction as a failing of moral character may call a choice like that a sign of weakness. But addiction is not a weakness, it is a proven illness, and if you are in the care of a treatment center, they should be doing everything they can to help you get better. Leaving someone stranded, unable to get to the place they need to be more than anywhere else, is simply cruel and ignorant.
Rich also had issues with his treatment center the first time he went to rehab. He spent 28 days at Fellowship Hall rehab in Greensboro, NC. When he was released, Fellowship Hall did not help him with the transition, and Rich found himself homeless. Rich thankfully found a halfway house that had AA meetings, but his situation could have gone down many different paths. While I was in inpatient treatment at Horsham Clinic, I befriended a 40 something women named Deandra. Deandra did not have insurance, but the clinic still took her in because she was suicidal. After a few days of improvement, the clinic decided she could be released, even though she did not feel ready yet. The only way Deandra could have remained at the clinic, was if she said she was suicidal again, which she was not. McLane also mentioned that his treatment center only admitted him because he was suicidal at the time. He also did not have insurance.
Many of us prompted Deandra to lie so she could stay, but she carries an incredible amount of guilt and swore on her life to never lie again. On top of this, if she did lie and say she was suicidal, many of her privileges at the clinic would be taken away. She would be placed on suicide watch and she would not be allowed to have visitors or phone calls. She would not be able to leave our wing of the hospital to go to meetings or the cafeteria. Instead, she would have to eat whatever they could bring her, which was normally less appetizing than what was offered in the cafeteria. So Deandra left the clinic, knowing she would be homeless. They did not point her to a shelter, or a halfway house. She was on her own.
As journalists, I believe it is our duty to expose injustices like these, while also suggesting a potential way to fix them. The stories of Deandra, McLane, and Rich are not rare. Unfortunately, I know plenty of other people that have had similar experiences with treatment centers.
*This post was edited in January 2019 to remove the last name of one of the guest speakers at his request.