I went to Oaks from May through June 2017. It was my first rehab experience. I suppose it will help to share a little bit about who I was prior to going in... I was thrown in jail for a second time in April 2017. I was broken, estranged from my family and friends and left behind a very successful career. I gave it all up for Meth, GHB, Heroin, you name it. My family had tried to intervene before but I wasn't receptive. After I was arrested this second time, however, I hit my rock bottom. Every penny was going to drugs. And very little of the money I had was actually earned by me. Most came from begging, manipulating people around me or selling my stuff. A few years prior to all of this, I was making a high six-figures. I had tried to get clean on my own, but it was always short-lived. I mainly switched from meth to opiates, and in my crazy mind I considered this being "drug free." When I was arrested, I was beaten up, 30 pounds underweight and didn't have a dime to my name. My mother should've given up on me, but for some weird reason, my family came closer, and my lawyer (who is very familiar with alcohol and drug addiction), asked me what was really going on. He didn't want to just put me back out on the streets where I'd go right back to where I was. So, I agreed with the plan to ask the courts to let me go to rehab. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, and the idea was to change people, places and things. My mother gave me a list of three rehabs to call. Oaks was the third place. I spoke with Robert from admissions in jail. He told me a bit about the process. I wasn't very receptive to the idea of going in to a facility for 6 months, so the idea of doing a short-term program appealed to me. I'm sure a big part of that, selfishly, was the thought that I could be done faster. Aside from that, I really can't say what about the Oaks appealed to me. But out of the three places, Oaks sounded special. Looking back now, I believe something was guiding me. My friends looked up Oaks and they told me their concerns. "The reviews... aren't so great." "It says here that all they serve for breakfast is milk and cereal." Others said the place was a dump or that the staff really didn't care. My mother inquired about those claims and the staff at Oaks promised they weren't true. Besides, I thought, I'm going to Oaks to RECOVER, not to sample fine cuisine. The cost to go to Oaks is relatively cheap compared to all the other places I had originally looked in to. But at the end of the day, it was my family who put up the money for this place. By the grace of God, I was given the chance to go to rehab, and I flew down 24-hours after being released from county. I arrived on the property like a deer caught in headlights. This is where I'd call home for 4-6 weeks. A few dozen guys went out of their way to introduce themselves and welcome me. I arrived just as Retirement started, and being completely new to all of this, my new roommates welcomed me in and let me listen. As a Roman Catholic, Retirement sounded a lot like confession. You open up about any resentments and ill actions that are on your mind that day, so you can go to bed with a clear conscience. I don't know about you, but when I arrived at Oaks, my conscience was not clear. I was broken down and sad. When I got up for my first meal, the guys called me to the front. It's a very cool tradition where the newest people get to eat first as part of the philosophy that the most important member of AA/NA is the newest member. As for the food... I have no idea what people are complaining about. I ate better there than I had in years. I don't know any crackhead or heroin junkie who ate lobster and steak every day, but I quickly learned that those complaining about such things were the ones who weren't paying attention to the program nor serious about recovery. Everyone had chores to do. Some griped about that. For me, I understood the concept. The staff had some very strict guidelines. No internet, no cell phones, etc. We were there to focus on ourselves. One guy put it very well to me when he said, "I don't need to worry about the outside world. When am I going to have the chance to take a month off from life to properly work on myself and my healing?" He's right. This wasn't a month vacation, but it was a chance to try and course-correct our lives, which up until we came in those doors, had become unmanageable. I met Robby on my third day, and let me just say that that first day of class was like opening up every wound in my body. And then when other men shared their stories... it floored me. Here I was sitting back and thinking I had very little in common with these people. Quite the opposite. We may come from different backgrounds, but I saw myself in every story. They give us a copy of the AA book and a notebook when we first arrive. Both are very sacred to me. i wrote notes from every class I took. Oaks is where I was reborn. My original philosophy was that if I just stopped using, then the problem was done. But that's not it. What i discovered at Oaks is that I was a very broken and unhappy person. i had suspected it, but with every class, every page I read, every time the sun set, I learned something new about myself. How can one put a price on that?
Now, a few things about Oaks...
FOOD: I went from eating maybe a hamburger every other day to three fully cooked meals that ranged from Pork and Mashed Potatoes to Chicken Alfredo. There was ALWAYS extra. I love the food, it kinda pisses me off how people gripe about that when again, none of us were eating well beforehand to begin with. A+.
LODGING: I had three roommates. You never know who you're going to get and I heard some guys complaining about theirs, but I couldn't have asked for better roommates. If it was luck, then thank you God. But over the course of me being there, some of my roommates came and went, so I really think it just comes down to respect. We all respected one another. I seriously miss my bed. Prior to Oaks, I was in JAIL with no immediate future. At Oaks, at least my mother was taking my calls, and I knew every time that I woke up, that I was starting to do the RIGHT thing. The Oaks staff often say before we pray, "let's take a minute to think about what our beds represent to us." I seriously thought about that. Honestly, six months since leaving the Oaks, I still think about what that bed meant to me. It meant hope. We had a desk to share, we each had our own dresser... I was fine. A+
THE FACILITY (LIVING WISE)... At the time I was there there were only two showers and three bathrooms, which made things frustrating a bit. However, it never bothered me. I didn't ever have to wait hours. Only minutes. There was a TV to watch in the dining hall and it's my understanding that they're now building a brand new meeting facility for that which will be available next month. But, on weekends, I got to channel surf and watch some TV. A.
THE STAFF: Those guys were always busy. The main person I worked with I firmly believe he came into my life to help save me. The guy is passionate about what he does, no one can argue with that. You see it every day. He comes to the property on weekends where guys will seek him out. Right as I was leaving, they brought in a new Mens Co-Director. I only got to know him for a few days but an excellent man with experience and the gift to look right through any BS. As they say, they're not there to be your friend, they're there to save your life. Richard is the other mens co-director who helped enforce the rules but every time he ever spoke to me it was for my own benefit. He'd remind me to make my bed if I forgot (as a guy in my 30s, there's no reason why i shouldn't make my bed), or if I was late. I don't think there was ever a time where I was unfairly pulled aside. They're there to keep us safe and to focus on recovery.
Another side note, as a gay guy, I never experienced ANY disrespect or prejudice. In order to work on myself and share parts of my story, I had to be open with my sexuality, and never once, amongst 50 other dudes who were mostly straight, did I ever feel left out or neglected. This disease hits all of us, and the amount of diversity and respect I experienced during my time at Oaks is something that is dear to my heart. At the end of the day, I just wanted to get back on track with life, and to stop being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted to look at myself in the mirror and not be disgusted with what I saw. The bond between everyone there is precious to me. Every guy there helped save my life. We were a small community, all working together to try and pick ourselves back up. I still can't explain it, but there is something special happening at Oaks. It's tucked away down a field in Greenwood, SC, but every time I have visited, it felt like I was coming back home. After all, it's the place where I was reborn. I feel no amount of words will ever do this place justice. All I can say is that it worked for me and thank you to everyone at Oaks.
Thank You Ryan for sharing your experience and story at Oaks. We are proud of all your progress and glad to call you part of our family and community!