Perspective: How Do I Feel?

by Roger C.

When I went to rehab in 2010 it didn’t feel like I walked through the doors at the main entrance.

It felt like I crawled under those doors.

I didn’t know what I was doing there. I didn’t know what had happened. But I knew I had somehow committed myself to staying for three weeks. I didn’t understand that, either.

I got used to the routines. Nothing too complicated. Every morning at 6:30 a.m. we would all trundle down to the gym and do some exercises while listening to loud music. Then we would go outside and walk for a mile or so. After a while, I enjoyed starting my day that way. After the walk, we would have to check in.

There was a lot of checking in. We would have to stop everything and get together with our group and “check in” with a counsellor three times a day.

One of the questions asked at check-in was “How do you feel”?

Three times a day, “How do you feel”?

I found the question a bit odd, to say the least. And there were rules about how you could answer the question. You weren’t allowed to say, for example, “fine.” Apparently that meant something like “Effed-up Interior, Nice Exterior.” Once I learned what it meant, I always wanted to answer, “fine.” I thought it described me pretty well. At least the interior part.

There was even a sheet that they handed out that had a list of ways a person could feel, and could answer the question. A list of thirty or forty possible feelings! Can you imagine? With emoticons, or whatever they’re called. When asked “How do you feel?” the answer had to be one of these, and never, ever, the word “fine.”

So I dealt with this for about a week. Twenty times or so, they asked me how I felt.

Finally, I was in my group in the middle of the afternoon and a counselor asked me the dreaded question. I had had enough.

I let her rip, shouting at the top of my lungs: “Feelings? Feelings? Haven’t you people been listening? Haven’t you heard my story? I’ve been drinking for forty years. I don’t have feelings!”

For a few seconds, there was a stunned silence. Then my roommate, Daniel, started laughing. And then others joined in. Finally, everybody was laughing, roaring really, including the counsellor. I looked at these people around me, people I had gotten to know at least a little since entering rehab, and I did something I hadn’t yet at Homewood:

I smiled.

The next few weeks went by pretty quickly. Mostly the counsellors would smile when they asked how I felt, and I would smile back. Sometimes I would answer by picking a feeling from the list on the sheet, but every time I was asked, I would stop to think about it.

“How do I feel?” I would ask myself.

In recovery, I have learned to look at my feelings. To feel my feelings. To understand that I have them, to recognize and acknowledge them.

And I have learned that it is okay to have nice feelings, even to nurture them. I can have good feelings about myself, and about others. Imagine! I wasn’t too good about caring for others before but I have been giving it a try over the last few years and it is amazing to me how just that – trying to care about others and sometimes succeeding – has changed how I live, day to day, moment to moment.

How do I feel?

I may have crawled under the doors to get into rehab but if someone had asked me how I felt as I walked out after completing my rehab, I would have answered, truthfully, “I feel hope.”

And so it has been ever since.


A gem from the TGIF vault, originally published July 5, 2013.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email