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A Bad Trip
Gary McLain
March 16, 1987
The Downfall of a Champion
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March 16, 1987

A Bad Trip

The Downfall of a Champion

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But I was able to face rehab because my mother and stepfather were behind me so much. I felt relieved when we got to White Deer. I knew I was doing the right thing, knew that I didn't have to run anymore.

All of the years of doing this, all of the conniving, the scheming, the lying and manipulation of people to get what I wanted—they were coming to an end. I really believed that.

I was frisked before I entered White Deer. They told me to take off all my clothes. They searched all my stuff. You weren't even allowed to bring in cologne, because people might try to get high off it.

A nurse met with me the next day. She said, "Do you realize that abstinence from cocaine means abstinence from all mood- and mind-altering drugs?" I was shocked. I didn't know I'd have to give up everything. I did enjoy my beer every now and then. But that would have to go, too. "That's the way it is," she said. Total abstinence is the root of recovery.

It was easier to accept this after I learned about what they called progression. Someone treated for cocaine addiction might drink a beer because he thinks that's okay. But progression—beer first, then hard liquor, maybe marijuana next—will eventually lead a person back to the drug of choice. That made a lot of sense. The people at White Deer had seen enough relapses to make me believe it.

When they were certain I didn't need to be detoxified, that I wasn't going through cocaine withdrawal, I was ready to enter a community. Communities were living groups, organized by age. We lived in cabins with 8 to 10 people in each. We were up at 6:45 a.m. to make our beds. From 7:45 until 8:30, we ate breakfast and had free time. Then, until nine, we had morning meditation, where we would read inspirational literature. We would talk about life and recovery, about God and why we do the things we do.

We learned the steps to recovery. The first and most important is to realize that you're now powerless over drugs, that your life has become unmanageable. I knew this was me. Believing this helped me accept the existence of a higher power, a conviction that was with me as I went through my daily routine.

White Deer was a beautiful place. I emphasize that because it was hard for some people to realize it was a road to recovery, not a country club. A lot of people came up there with bad attitudes. The whole idea of a rehabilitation center is to have a therapeutic community, to work together.

Most weekday afternoons, from 2:30 to about 5:00, we had group therapy sessions. In my group there were eight people and a therapist. We would share our innermost problems and secrets. Whenever I wanted to talk, in therapy or during larger lecture sessions, I had to raise my hand, stand up and say, "Hello. My name is Gary, and I'm an addict." And everybody in the room would say, "Hello, Gary." Then I would say what I had to say. This was kind of weird, but I guess by saying you're an addict you came to really believe it.

They worked with us each day to rebuild our self-esteem, and taught us to open up and release our feelings. For years, I had been holding a lot inside. I learned a lot about who Gary McLain really was, how much I would just play roles, how much of a people-pleaser I was. How I never made any time for myself and how the pressures, before and after winning the championship, built. And how I ran from all of it by involving myself more and more with drugs.

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