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The Group (Part 1)...

October 2017

Me: “She’s agreed to come home”

Lilly‘s Psychiatrist: “I’ve submitted the paperwork, once you land take her to Ridgeview”

Lilly had overdosed in Ottawa in September 2017. She finally agreed to come home to Atlanta and check into rehab. She needed an immediate detox and mental health medical facility with round the clock supervision and care. The only choice was Ridgeview (Psychiatric Hospital). In parallel, her therapists and I started researching dual-diagnosis programs that addressed both mental health and addiction.

Finding a program was overwhelming and heart-wrenching. Most programs only addressed addiction and the ones that addressed mental illness needed Lilly to be sober for six months. The google reviews made the search even more daunting. Most of the facilities had been investigated by the authorities and written up. Insurance would not cover anything. At this time, it was not about the money. It was about getting Lilly the help she needed.

The challenge was finding a program that would focus on both mental illness and addiction. Lilly was not just an addict with a ‘normal’ brain. She would need a specialized program to help her overcome the addiction and give her the skills to live with mental illness. Another challenge we faced was Lilly’s’ age. At the time, Lilly was 17. She would turn 18 (an adult in GA) in November. A lot of facilities would not take her in due to her age.

After a search of many programs, Lilly’s therapist suggested I go visit The Insight Program. The program would ONLY focus on addiction. The Insight Program was unique to all the programs we researched. The program encouraged peer-to-peer relationship building. The constant theme was “enthusiastic sobriety”. The kids get the kids sober and clean by understanding, accepting, challenging, and loving each other in the 12 step tradition. The program was known to get children sober while having good, wholesome fun.

At the first meeting, I was shocked to learn that the counselors were recovered addicts that were certified through the courses run at the Insight Program. The state didn’t need the counselors to have a base education to run a program. The state required that only a psychiatrist be a part of the program. I remember asking the counselor - “so you want me to trust that an addict will help my child”. His answer was simple - “you can’t cheat a cheater”. I was told that Lilly was not bipolar and it was the effect of the drugs on the brain. I argued that we had gotten three diagnoses starting at age 15. She was clean for three weeks and the psychiatrist at Ridgeview gave her the same diagnosis. The counselor at Insight was not convinced.

The morning after Lilly’s two weeks stay at Ridgeview, I took her straight to the Insight Program for an assessment. At this point, Lilly could care less about what happened to her. The in-house Psychiatrist (I knew of him) at Insight interviewed her. After 10 mins, he came out and told both me and the counselor that Lilly was suffering from Bipolar Disorder and Addiction. We decided to handle the addiction through Insight, her Psychiatrist and Psychologist would monitor the medications and the Bipolar part, and we would look into admitting her into a program that dealt with Mental Illness in March/April 2018.

After the meeting, the counselor took Lilly to the back of the building. This area was called ‘the shop’. Lilly noticed that the shop had a pungent smell of cigarettes and that 90% of those who attended Insight smoked cigarettes or vaped. The counselor laughed it off and said that this was a way for many to stay sober. I still remember his comment: “better than your kid using drugs”.

Lilly and I shared a look and decided to come back that evening so Lilly could attend a meeting. That night at the shop, the attendees were split into groups and shared their struggles on different topics. Lilly was welcomed with open arms. In a matter of minutes, Lilly went from being alone and not understood to having unconditional love from a group as large as 50. There was nothing sexual, she didn’t have to do anything to attain their love. The love, understanding, and acceptance were hers to take.

I on the other hand was hesitant and on-guard. It sounded like a rave was going on in the shop. How was everyone sober? It was loud, kids were smoking, yelling. It looked like a full-on party was going on. Lilly came out smiling. She was surrounded by people her age who were going through the same issues. It was like Lilly finally found her ‘tribe’.

Lilly agreed to commit to the insight group as an outpatient for 30 days. Her days would be filled with daily counseling from 11 am - 4 pm. After a break, she would then attend the night-time functions. These night functions taught the kids to have fun without drugs and alcohol. In addition, there would be weekend functions to keep the kids occupied. Lilly would keep up her psychiatrist and psychologist appointments to address and monitor her mental health.

November 4, 2017

The group threw Lilly a Birthday party. They decorated the shop to the nines. We ordered over 100 pizzas and sodas for everyone. I took three huge cakes. Lilly had been at the insight group for approximately 10 days. Lilly felt special, that she mattered. She no longer felt alone, judge, or isolated. Lilly was Sober, taking her bipolar meds, and working on herself.

I was still hesitant and had my doubts. The program was not run by professionals. The program didn’t understand nor address mental illness. Lilly was actively ’cutting’. Lilly had deep pain that the group was not professionally equipped to handle. I was worried about Lilly’s dependency on the group. All the ’Group Love‘ felt like smoke and mirrors. I was worried about Lilly building a network of dealers and users. I was at crossroads - she needed mental illness support, which could only happen after 6 months sober, she wasn’t ‘using’ enough for an in-patient facility. So many pre-requisites for treatment. Why was it so complicated? Why was a business being made out of people who were suffering? All I wanted was someone to treat my child! Why was this so hard to find?

My Husband - He did not like any of this. In his opinion, this was all a huge mistake! Lilly had a strong mind and she had to tap into the part of herself that wanted to get better. He felt rehab programs were a business. He didn’t understand addiction and mental illness. Didn’t understand the medications. In the end, he supported me as he has always done. He tried it for me.

The Sisters - Asmita, Naina, and Simmi were upset that Lilly overdosed. They didn’t understand why she got off her medications and treatment plan. They didn’t understand why Lilly was traumatized and in pain. After all, everyone had the same upbringing. Asmita would fly down regularly to support Lilly and be there for her functions. Naina and Sim reluctantly attended a few of Lilly’s functions. They found the kids to be wild and undisciplined. They were scared of ’the group’. All the kids resented me for dedicating so much time to Lilly’s recovery.

We as a family were told by Insight, Lilly would find a group of people that would accept her as she was and who would love her too much to let her be okay with using drugs. We were told to ‘trust the process‘. Once the parents let go, the healing begins!

November 2017 - Lilly celebrating her 30-day sobriety fist

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