People Always Ask What Dope Sick Is Like

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Freedom from active addiction.
What an amazing gift.

I’m just checking into my suite at the Atheneum Hotel in downtown Detroit, which was a literal gift, but that’s a different story. To recognize my freedom from active addiction —that is the greatest gift!

After checking in I decided to just decompress from the drive, from the Detroit traffic, from my everyday life that I am taking a little vacation from.

I filled up the deep tub to take a nice soak and for a split second I was back there. I remembered trying to take a bath when I was dope sick. “It will help you relax,” they say, “It will make you feel better,” they say. I remember forcing myself into that tub. The change of temperature felt very discomforting. My body was already unsure if it was hot or cold. The water felt like dirty sweat. As the tub filled I felt claustrophobic. The bathroom felt small. The hum of the fan made me feel trapped and paranoid, like there was something going on outside of the room that I needed to know about. I couldn’t sit still and my joints ached. My hair was wet and stringy. I choked on the humidity as my head spun.

Not being able to take it, I jumped up into the seemingly ice cold air, to dry off and be miserable somewhere else.

Somewhere to pace and scam and scheme. In active addiction, everything is like that…There is no relaxing moment. There is no decompressing. It is always go. Go, go, go.

Freedom from active addiction. What an amazing gift! To be able to sit still. To be able to not count every minute. To not have to kill time or rush against it. Today I am able to relax, to breathe, to savor my surroundings.

For the rest of the day, I’m going to go slow. Walk slow, listen, look around, taste, smell. Today I am going to live in the world around me and express gratitude by indulging my senses.

Editorial Note: The words above were written by my new Facebook friend, and fellow Detroiter, Gabe Rheaume.

He had posted this piece of writing to the Facebook Page for ThatSoberLife. As I was reading his words, I was flooded with memories of my own. Memories of sitting on my back porch, chain smoking menthol cigarettes, sweating… shaking. If I was standing I wanted to sit. Sitting I wanted to pace. There was a constant, underlying paranoia of people and their intentions.


It is the worst kind of hell.

I was talking to a parent recently. She was driving her son to detox and wondered why everyone feared the detox period so much. I’ve known people who jumped out of the vehicle on the drive to rehab.

Remembering my own pain, I tried to explain, “For me, the actual physical symptoms were difficult to bear. Hot. Cold. Aching. Irritable. Mood swings. Bouts of fear. All of that is really bad. But nothing in my life has ever been more terrible than the profound sense of aloneness I felt during withdrawal. Not outward aloneness —it was inside. There was no internal peace. I was hollow and my thoughts were disturbed and tormented.

I felt the closest to what insanity…I mean, truly losing my mind…would feel like.

I remember watching this guy who was doing nothing more than laying on the couch and watching a movie. I looked at his hands folded behind his head and the way he could focus his attention on the movie. His breathing was steady. He appeared calm.
I remember wondering if he realized what a gift he had.
He had the gift of peace. Something I was longing for so desperately.

Something I have today.

The good news for myself, and for Gabe, and for thousands of others in active recovery —we never have to return there. Today is a day of gratitude for anyone who is on the other side of withdrawal.

I just want to say, that if you or someone you love is afraid to quit because you’re afraid of withdrawal, there is help for you.
There is information. There are people who will walk you through it. There is medical detox.
Continuing in the cycle of addiction is not the only choice you have. Please know that.
Reach out today.
Reach out now. 239-440-6856
I promise you…You will NEVER REGRET your decision to get clean.


About Gabe Rheaume

Gabriel Rheaume has been in recovery since April 9, 2015. He has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Wayne State University, likes to write, play the ukulele, and live life to the fullest. He is 33 years old and lives in Southeastern Michigan.


  1. Gianna McIsaac

    Beautifully written, Gabe! You are such an amazing writer!

  2. Megan

    I’m not an addict, but someone I love very much is, and this helps me to TRY and understand. I’ll never know what it’s like and nor will I pretend to, but I have seen someone detoxing and it’s a heartbreak I’ll never want to experience again.

  3. Mark Goodson

    This brought me back to that psych ward bed. My slepless nights there. Those blue felt slippers with a cardboard bottom. Brought it all back. So important to touch base with where I was to better appreciate where I am. Thank you Gabe.

    1. gabrielrheaume

      Thank you, Mark.

  4. danthestoryman

    You completely captured in your words what it was like for me as well. Benzos for me were awful. I hated not being able to sleep. It’s kind that you write this piece so that others know what that hell is about. It’s not a fun place to be—at all! Nicely done! Daniel Maurer (

  5. Tate Gunning

    I remember: cold sweets, sleeplessness, discomfort, edginess, depressed – I felt violated and lonely. Not fun. Took me right back, but glad to make it out alive and healthy. So thankful we aren’t there anymore, and are able to share our experiences with others. Thank you.

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