American Addiction Centers define rehab as, “an intensive form of addiction treatment where you remain at a facility for a period of time and participate in group, individual, and family therapy. Inpatient treatment may necessitate taking time off from work and/or school to live at the facility while you spend time working on your recovery.”
Got it, now why, “Y” rehab? Thanks to my professional comedian friend, Karinne, for offering her wit; I am presently in Y Rehab. “Because men have the Y-chromosome and fucking why?”
Spot on my dear. The “why?” in question is both the, “Why do men do any of the shit they do, and why do I entertain them?” There are also bigger whys I examine in general. Like, “Why do I respond to particular situations in the way I do?” Or the infamous, “Why me?” And not in the woe-is-me-why-me but the like survivor’s remorse, I had kind of a really shit childhood juxtaposed with a pretty amazing adulthood and I still be trying to figure out, why-why.
At times, I feel at battle with who I know I am/am becoming and who I was told I was during the most formative years of my life. That, along with a marriage that mirrored similar manipulation I experienced growing up, and living in a country rooted in systemic oppression—I have significant emotional clean-up I’m deliberately working on.
Too often when particular men add in their two cents about who I am, it puts me off center. Hell, when just about anyone who’s opinion I care about adds their two-cents about something in my life, I pause. That pause has proved to be problematic as it pushes against my personal knowing. I work to stand in my personal power and have created safe spaces for myself to get additional support in doing so.
A great deal of my success is rooted in a strong sense of community. I have an amazing group of sister-friends, framily, mentors, aunties, mamas, past bosses and acquaintances who have literally held me down over the years. I pride myself on having a dope ass group of people in my corner that I can depend on at any given time, anywhere in the world.
I am very grateful for my tribe and the beauty of social media that keeps me connected with them. In 2019, an online connection led me to: Calm in the Chaos, A Healing Retreat for Black Women in Senegal, West Africa. For about a week, I interacted with a diverse group of beautiful Black women while being educated by the facilitators, TaTa Phyllis and Uncle Eddy.
Prior to the retreat, I had a lot of questions about my ancestors and lack of knowledge of them. Having no connection to my biological family/familial history, I felt my ancestors were out of reach. With guidance from a marabout/ religious or spiritual leader/teacher and encouragement from Uncle Eddy, by the end of the retreat I had a better understanding of who my ancestors were and what it meant to acknowledge and honor them. I didn’t get the solid answers I thought I needed, but instead got some direction. It was that kind of direction I sought when deciding to do the Diasporic-Soul-in-Residence program. What was proposed to me was a three, six, or nine-month program in which I would get to just be in Senegal.
The Diasporic-Soul-in-Residence program provides the space and freedom to focus on one’s creative and personal pursuits while being immersed in a completely different culture, all the while being exposed to the vast knowledge of the Uncle Eddy and Ta Phyllis. The two of them provide both the sweet and savory of a hands-on educational experience with an emphasis on ancestral connection and healing from systemic racism.
The idea of detaching from not only America, but everything I'd ever known appealed to me. The in-residency program offers additional tools for healing and personal development while in community in rural West Africa.
I lived in Texas for about a year and a half and a much as I loved my apartment and working from home, it never once felt like home to me. The first time I visited Senegal in 2019, I felt at home in a way I had only ever felt in Los Angeles, California.
As one of the most adventurous people I know, I thrive in surrendering to new experiences. A part of that surrender has been growing more comfortable in parting ways with all my belongings and starting completely over. Weeks after my divorce was finalized in 2018, I spent a month backpacking through Western Spain doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. I walked 7-17 miles a day with only a few items of clothes and my laptop. It was my first time abroad and while there was adventure, I did not connect with any of the experience in the same way I had while spending less than a week in West Africa at the women’s retreat in 2019. What was missing for me was a sense of being in community.
One vital aspect of rehabilitation is community engagement in both recovery and life after. Growing up, movies like New Jack City, Losing Isaiah, 28 Days, and Gia were my cinematic educational glimpses of insight into the harsh reality of addiction, rehab, detox, group therapy and post-recovery.
While a humorous take on my own experience, Y-Rehab for me is no light matter. I came to Senegal in search of further support in a way I had not experienced in my years of therapy and personal development in the states. I had the desire to completely detach from everything I'd ever known so I could start fresh and continue to give myself permission to do so as often as necessary.
Initially, my intentions were to have support and a safe space to write my first book while delving into the deep and painful trauma of writing about my childhood. In the beginning, it felt a lot like summer camp at my favorite auntie’s house. It was just mango bliss and giddiness in the newness of it all. It didn’t take me long to come to the harsh realization that being 31 and living in a house with two whole ass parents and hella limitations (a stifling language barrier, the lack of peers/social life and the nonexistent access to men my age I could communicate with)—that I had actually unintentionally ended up in a rehab of sorts. ThAt'S nOt WhAt YoU cAmE hErE fOr--is what Uncle Eddy would say. He ain't wrong tho.
By calling this place rehab (at least for now), there is intentionality there. I know why I’m here. Folks don’t go to rehab for vacation. They don’t go to rehab to stunt on The Gram, no. Folks go to rehab, sometimes by force--to heal, to recover, to rid themselves of something their body has become addicted to. Folks go to rehab to give themselves a chance at a different lifestyle without whatever substance or thing they’d become dependent upon.
In describing the effects of addiction for its rehabilitation facility, Santè Center states, “Even when they know that their behavior causes problems, they use it to escape from emotional pain, tension, and stress. They may try to stop, but they are unable to control themselves.” Uhhh…seen?
Witnessing first-hand the effects of substance dependency caused me to be very intentional about using substances in my adulthood, and for that I’m thankful. I do however resonate with escaping from reality in ways that at times feel or felt uncontrollable. Dissociation enters the chat. Sex, drugs, and alcohol are all things I do not feel a strong need for. Do I love a good drink and some fire secks? Oh, certainly. Totes my fave. But I have never felt an all-consuming desire toward any one substance or feeling that interfered with my life in the way that addiction defines.
So, if I’m not addicted to anything, why would I feel the need to be in a self-imposed rehab? Ya ever played sports? Hell, you ever been in an accident that required painful physical therapy? You gotta rehabilitate. Oxford defines rehabilitation as the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction, or illness. Rehabilitation does not happen alone. There is someone, or a community of someones, with experience to guide you through whatever it is you are recovering from.
Some things are not meant to be carried or processed alone. Some wounds can only be healed in community.
Every trauma I experienced is a wound. Painful slices to my flesh. And while the cuts are healing over, they all have not completely. Racial trauma, a slice. Sexual abuse, a slice. Abusive relationships, slice, slice, slice.
Each time I went against my better judgement—a slice.
There are many slices to my emotional body that I have been adamantly working to heal over the years. I am not addicted to men or anything for that matter. I do however believe I have a lot of unlearning to do around people I have close intimate relationships with, so as not to cause additional slices in the future. While in Senegal, I have experienced a separation, detox, counseling from elders, and sorta group-therapy while being in-residence at a place far from home. If it looks and quacks like a duck baby…
Hear me out—I don’t think I need fixin’. I do not think that I need to change or heal or improve in some great way in order be loved or to love myself wholly. I genuinely think I am a fantastic person who has accomplished a great deal. I know my future is hella bright, because I intend it to be so. However, I recognize I still carry significant mental and emotional programming that isn’t mine. Those factors have directly impacted or influenced me, even accomplishments I’m proud of.
When I made the decision to sell all my stuff and go to Senegal, for the first time in my life my trauma was not the leading force. I wasn’t running from a marriage I was miserable in. I wasn’t running to some idea of success I thought would erase my horrid childhood. I did it because I had begun to base decisions in my life on adventure and my natural inquisitiveness. I made the choice to leave my home country for an undetermined amount of time out of the knowledge of my own ability, strength and gumption—rooted in the idea of collective healing.
Without trauma being my driving-force, I know I can lead a life of adventure and exploration in my shameless pursuit of self-expression and discovery. Along the way, I intend to release what weighs me from my past and embrace an even more beautiful and light future. One thing I know about myself for certain is that no matter the circumstance I will figure it out, and in a way that FEELS good to me.
My brother joked once and said, “Your rock bottom baby is a lot of people’s dream. If you gon struggle, it’s gon be with a view honey.”