The first time I found myself in rehab, I had an incredible view.
Not from the facility, which was simply a nondescript office building across from a Motel 8. It wasn’t from the residence, either, which was an old, run down house next door to a trap house. It wasn’t like other treatment centers I would go to years later, surrounded by lush gardens and vegetation in sunny South Florida. It was just a no frills, basic treatment center in Stonington, CT.
The view I was treated to each day was on the ride from the residence to the facility and back again. As we navigated through the towns in the area, each morning we could watch the sun rise on the windows of Mohegan Sun. The hotel at the casino is over 30 stories tall and made entirely of glass windows. As the sun rose and set each day, we would drive by in dirty white vans with holes in the seats, and look up and the breathtaking reflection of the sun on those windows.
Every single day I imagined what it must be like to stay in such a beautiful place. To have a clean, fluffy bed to sleep in. To take a hot bath in the extra long bathtub. To look down at the world from the top of that hotel tower, instead of looking up from the inside of a dirty treatment center van. I was only 19 at the time, not even old enough to drink or gamble, but even if I had been, the casino was no place for me. I was already deep into my addiction, and quite literally didn’t have two quarters to rub together. I was spending every cent I had on opiates, and there was nothing left for luxury.
For the next seven years, I would battle for my life. I would go to far nicer treatment centers with far better views. I saw the beautiful homes in Boca Raton, the mansions in West Palm Beach, the view of the clearest and bluest ocean water. I sleep in the fluffiest bed, adorned with the crispest, cleanest white sheets. I saw the views from 30,000 feet as I flew in and out of Florida, looking over the entire East Coast.
Despite all that, I always remembered that first stint in treatment and how beautiful the sun looked on those hundreds of clear, glass windows.
I’ve come a long way since then, in the past ten years. Most everyone can agree that none of us are likely to be the same person we were ten years ago, but my life simply could not be more different. From hanging out in apartments that were heated with open oven doors to where I spent the day yesterday could not be a better lesson in extremes.
I never went to the casinos very often, even though they’re less than an hour drive from my home. I never had money to gamble with before. The only time I had ever been before, I remember winning $80 early on in the night and then leaving early to go buy drugs with it. I couldn’t have been happier to win that money because I only had $5 to gamble with.
Now, things are a lot different. While I’m not rolling in cash or rich by any means, for the first time in my life I actually have a few dollars in my bank account. Enough that I could put a few dollars in the slots and not be too upset when I lost it all. Enough to treat my partner to a decent dinner.
But the best and most fabulous part of the casino is riding that elevator up to the 24th floor, swiping that key card, and walking into the kind of luxury I had previously only imagined. There are much more opulent places in the world than Mohegan Sun, but for me, I had this feeling for the first time in a long time of being on the inside.
I was no longer a passenger in that dirty van, looking up. Instead, I was on the inside, looking down from the 24th floor.
Standing on the other side of that glass, looking down at the cities and roads from that high up, I could see everything I couldn’t see before. I could see the highways and the exit ramps. I could see the cities unfolded and the traffic below. As night fell, I could see myself in the reflection of the glass, and that may have been the best view of all.
Looking at myself, today I see someone I sometimes don’t even recognize. Today I am a strong, sober woman. Today, I keep my promises. Today, I do not steal. Today, I do not lie. Today, I no longer commit slow suicide on a daily basis by pumping my body full of poison.
Today, I can see the whole picture, the entire view, and it couldn’t be more beautiful.
©Copyright 2018 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin