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Making the Decision to Choose Riviera Recovery


Humiliation, shame, defeat, anger, disgust, disbelief and an ounce of relief were just some of the things I felt when I woke up for the second time in a detox unit run by my former rehab facility. On the one hand, I couldn’t believe I drank myself back there. On the other, some part of me knew that this was exactly where I needed to be. Resigned, I got out of bed and started the familiar routines of detox life, the quiet rhythm of shuffling between therapists, acupuncturists, group meetings, the smoking area and back to bed again. Each day, my clarity increased and the seemingly surreal grew more real by the minute. Without the aid of a drink, I had to face the terrifying realization that I had no future—I lost my career, I lost my boyfriend, I lost my friends, I lost my family and, worst of all, I lost me somewhere along the way. Sure, I still had my house, I had money in the bank, I had a car; but these were poor substitutes for all I had lost.

On the third day, I talked to another client about his discharge plans. Normally, after detox, clients go into a rehab facility, find sober living or go back home—I had already attempted two of the options before (rehab and home), and clearly failed. I had dismissed sober living before because I had a perfectly fine house, where I lived with my dogs, and the sober living facilities I had seen over the past five years in Connecticut were depressing places, small places, places where drama was as abundant as relapse. Yet, I knew I couldn’t go back home—I would just be inviting the cycle of isolating and drinking back in. Then this client said something that piqued my interest: He was researching sober living in southern California. As he showed me the websites for some of these facilities, I realized that this was an entirely different recovery ballgame. Sure, these places were beautifully appointed and wonderfully situated by the Pacific Ocean, but what whispered to me was the unparalleled recovery community they provided. These sites spoke of 3,500 recovery meetings to choose from in the greater Los Angeles area EACH WEEK. They described community events like surfing, softball and camping. They encouraged participation in recovery programs, in yoga, in gyms. And that’s when it struck me, perhaps this is what I needed all along—a community that bridged the gap between recovery and the “real world;” a safe place to regain myself; a place that would hold me accountable, and encourage me to get out and restart my life.

Excited by this prospect, I tasked the guy in charge of after care to find me a place on the West Coast that offered all of the community and programming I needed and, most importantly, allowed dogs. The next day he came running into the detox unit wielding a printout, thoroughly pleased with himself. “I found the perfect place for you and your dogs,” he said. “It’s in Malibu and it’s called Riviera Recovery.” A week later, I climbed into my car, two mutts in the back seat, and headed west.

As I write this, almost five months later, I am sitting in a little guesthouse I am renting in Topanga, having moved out of Riviera a week ago. I’m heading back over to the house tonight for dinner and the weekly in-house AA meeting and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends. As I look back on my stay at Riviera, I am certain of one thing: It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the right choice for me.

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