I think one of the best things about treatment in a place like Menninger is the sense of community you get from being there. It can be rough being, essentially, locked up in a single building for weeks on end, essentially with a group of strangers (both patients and staff). But over time, you get to know everyone there, both fellow patients and staff members, and they become a kind of family group. Not necessarily long-term, certainly; a lot of people drift apart after they leave treatment. But they become people you feel comfortable sharing personal things with.
Even in the step-down, there was a sense of community. We only spent a few hours a day together, most of the time, but we had something in common, something other people around us didn’t have. It brought us together, and helped us bond. So did the fact that we all lived in a small set of apartments, and most of us relied on the step-down staff, or each other, for any kind of transportation.
I still live in the apartment complex, so I still see some of the step-down staff, and occasionally some of the people still in the program. A lot of them are new, though, so I don’t know them; we still have things in common, though. Most of the people I spend time with here in Houston are from the step-down or from Menninger. We’re good friends, and some of us are more than friends. We’re kind of like family (albeit a weird, pretty messed up family, but hey, what family isn’t?).
It’s hard finding that sense of community outside. Finding a group of people with that much in common isn’t easy. It’s not just a job, or a hobby. I’m not sure exactly what it is. But I’m happy with the community I have, and the way that we help support each other. It’s nice to have this kind of support network, because it is such an important part of treatment. DBSA, a group I attend, says that recovery has four components: medication, therapy, personal wellness, and outside support. It’s a key part of getting – and staying – better. So I am glad for my community.