Today is day four and this place must be getting to me. I finally went to the bathroom yesterday and thank God for that because the constipation was killing me. Last night’s meal was chicken, which was actually pretty good too.
We had our first real day of spring yesterday. The sky was clear and the sun was warm. Everything around us seemed to thaw and winter let go of its grip. Everything is green around here now. The mountains are pretty and there is a lake down by the trail, which is a nice place to walk. The funny thing is I’m not even sure that I recognized the seasons were changing until now. Then again, I’m not sure what I recognize anymore. All I know is I am stuck here for the time being. I have to interact and as hard as I try not to, there’s always someone around me looking to talk about what’s going on with them.
I suppose this is what life is like in rehab. There are all different people with different diagnosis. There is a medical staff and people with duel diagnosis. My roommate John has a dual diagnosis. But no one presses John much. I wonder of this is because he was a priest and John gets special treatment. Either way, John is still a man of few words, which is fine with me. Either way, this is not what I expected. Then again, I’m not sure if I knew what I expected rehab life to be like. Maybe I thought it would be like the scenes I saw on television shows or in movies. I remember watching a reality show about rehabs but this is nothing like what I saw on television.
One of the program directors gave me my job yesterday afternoon. I’m on dish detail after supper. I was told this is my job until I am relived of my duties before my discharge. But like I said, the job is not a real job —at least, it’s not real as far as real jobs go. No money changes hand and there is nothing going towards my commissary. I am not paid to do this. Instead, I am told I have to do this or they will discharge me.
The job is simple enough though. I push a green plastic tray of dishes into one side of a stainless steel box. I close the hatch door and push a button that lets scalding hot water falls down on the plates, cups, and silverware, cleans them until them little orange light goes out, and then I open the other side of the box and move the tray along the stainless steel rack. We are an assembly line of addicts; one stacks, one washes, one dries, and the last one stacks them all away.
This is fun for the others in the kitchen. But not me. They laugh and joke around but I don’t. I fail to see their humor as funny.
The other guys in the kitchen with me are not people I would have ever been friends with in my usual life. It is only by circumstance that we have been brought together. Otherwise, I doubt I would speak to any of them. And I doubt they would speak to me too.
First, there’s Jimmy, he loads the dishes. Jimmy is a red-headed ginger. He’s a drunk for sure, missing teeth, has a coke-habit, and according to Jimmy, he loves cheap prostitutes. Then there’s Billy. He dries the dishes after I pull them out of the machine. Billy is perhaps one of the toughest among us. He is an ex-marine. Billy is strong and mainly quiet but he does have a good sense of humor. He has tattooed arms and a scar on his throat that leaves a mark to suggest a failed attempt at suicide.
And then there’s Anthony, whom they all call The Godfather because of his obvious Italian heritage and Brooklyn accent. Anthony is kindhearted, mild-mannered, union official that was apparently caught up in a sting. But with no prior arrests and a good attorney, The Godfather talks as though he will skate through his charges like a walk through the park.
We tolerate each other. But again, I doubt any of us would ever be friends if we weren’t forced to be in a room with one another
My feelings are all over the place now. I can feel the depression coming in. I can feel the anxiety and panic attacks come in but there is no relief for me here. The only relief say I’ll find while I’m here is through meditation. But who the hell has the patience for that?
Paranoia is beginning to set in too. I am to the point where I am starting to wonder if they put something in the food to weaken our resolve. I have heard rumors of facilities using saltpeter in the food to keep us meek and mild. I swear, the walls are closing in on me. And I don’t mean this in a literal sense. What I mean is I want to get out of here.
I can feel this place wearing me down. So far, I’ve been able to keep quiet in the groups. I’ve been able to sort of hide in plain sight. I smile when smiled at by the counselors. I act accordingly to keep them off my back because this seems like the best thing to do, but I can feel this place wearing on me.
They told me I would have a few days to settle in. And by they, I mean the staff and counselors. They said they would let me get acclimated. But I can tell they’re going to lean on me soon.. It appears as though everyone gets a turn in group. i haven’t taken one yet, but I know the outcome is in the mail and about to happen soon.
“Just bring the body,” I was told.
“Eventually, your mind will follow,” they said.
All anyone does around here is talk. But so far, it seems most of the others on my side of the staff will talk from both sides of their mouth. They share in these groups like bleeding hearts but when we’re back in the dorms or at free-time, they all tell war stories and talk about their old stomping grounds like they were places out of an action movie.
All I can feel now is trapped and angry. I keep going over the night of my arrest. I keep thinking about that strange feeling I had at the beginning of the night. I knew something was on the way. I just didn’t know what it was.
Something told me not to get in the car and drive. I keep thinking to myself, what would have happened if I turned right instead of left.
I would be home now if this was the case and nobody would know the wiser about me. I keep thinking of the arguments I had throughout the day.
The first argument was with my boss who had become my ex-boss by the close of the afternoon. The second was with my daughter and the third argument was with my ex-wife. I knew I should have stayed home that night. I knew something was about to happen. I could feel myself about to spiral out of control but I lost to this like water loses to a drain.
I keep thinking about the humiliation of the events from that day. I think about that night, me sitting in my car with blood on my forehead, the airbag from my steering deployed in my face, my car on a curb, a tree in front of someone’s house was three-quarters of the way into the driver’s side of the hood, and all the windows of my car were broken.
Thankfully Lincoln makes a sturdy car, or at least, it was sturdy enough that nothing too bad happened to me—a few scrapes and a few bruises, and I was fine. It was the girl I hit that had to suffer. Although miracles are possible, it is still unclear if she will ever be able to walk again.
I never saw her face. I don’t even remember seeing her or anything that night. All I remember is how the swirling lights above the police car bounced across the suburban homes in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. I remember the ambulance and the sight of someone being pushed on the gurney to be lifted into the back. I remember the pain in my head and I remember the feeling of the handcuffs clicking around my wrists.
But that’s all I remember.
Fortunately, I was able to show that I was on prescribed medication for anxiety. I blew into a breathalyzer though and that’s where they had me. One thing led to the next and then they found everything I never wanted them to find.
Literally, they found everything. They found my pill box. They found an emptied bottle of Johnny Walker beneath my seat, which may or may not have been there for a while. The truth is, I can’t say because I didn’t even know the bottle was there.
They found out my previous legal troubles and my earlier removal from my office while escorted by two police officers to get me away from my desk at the firm. The detectives knew I lost everything. They knew I lost my job and that my investment portfolio was in the tank. They knew I had nothing left, which is why the detectives brought me in for a profit meeting. They discussed all the charges on me. They told me what my options were. They asked if I would name a few of my sources and play ball; some of which, had nothing to do with drugs at all. Instead, they were more curious to know about the investment firm I worked for and the people in it. This included my boss. I told them nothing though. Besides, there wasn’t much for me to tell. I considered lying though. I considered making up a few names and calling them “Players” in the game but instead, I stayed quiet. I figured I would just get an attorney and let him sort this out. After all, it’s not like I was a street junkie. I was a grown man in a suit and tie and working in a suit and tie world. So what if I drink?
As I saw it, drinking was the fun of doing business. We went out to lunch and we drank. We worked late and we drank. We always drank. Work hard, play hard, that sort of thing.
Drinking to me was as much as an American pastime as baseball or apple pie. The drugs, I get, but they were more like extracurricular activities to me. Besides, I had prescriptions for everything. I only scored extras when I ran low and the doctor wouldn’t help me with more.
I was asked to answer the first few questions in the workbook they gave me. One of the first questions is why I chose to use. But how do I answer this honestly?
What do I tell them that I’m weak? Do I admit to being “powerless,” like they want me to
Sometimes, things would be too loud or there were times I couldn’t shut the world off. This is where the pills came in handy. They just balanced me. Ultimately, the pills were like a universal mute button. Sometimes, I just had to take more. Sometimes, it worked just enough and sometimes, the pills worked a bit too well and I’d have to make up something to cover mistakes.
I keep thinking about that night when they arrested me. If I had only waited to leave a little bit longer or if I went right instead of left. I could be home right now or anyplace else. But no, I’m here, up at dawn in a room at a rehab called Mountainside Lakes, sitting up in my bed while some old, ex-priest named John takes up an hour or so in the bathroom.
WHAT THE HELL DOES HE DO IN THERE?
For some reason, I never see John around during the day. I never saw him in around any of the groups they have in the upstairs office. I usually see him wandering around the grounds and near the lake up the trail outside the back of the facility. I have seen him at the lake. He seems at peace when he is outside. I never say much to John. He never says much to me either. He just wanders. He doesn’t say much to anyone. He just walks.
I tell you this place is getting to me. . .
I feel like I’m being watched all the time. I feel like they listen in on me too, like I’m being taped or video recorded.
I feel like I might be going crazy here. I must be going crazy, which is what I thought when they told me about my primary counselor.
His name is Jake. He’s a kid to me. What the hell could he possibly know? I have almost 20 years of age and experience on this man, and yet, he thinks he can help me.
To hell with him!
The word about Jake is he was some young kid that ran around on the streets and saw a little bit of a crazy life. He is open about his past but his past has nothing to do with me. What the hell does he know anyway? Jake is a kid as far as I’m concerned.
I sat with Jake for the first time yesterday afternoon. I went up to his little office, which is up the stairs and just passed the commissary. His office is no different from any other place here. Everything is outdated with an old desk, an old soft leather desk chair on wheels, and one of chair for me, the patient to sit in. The walls were old. The paintings were old. The wood paneled walls and red Berber carpeting are certainly older than my counselor and all of this is perhaps nearly as old as me at 56..
I talked about my situation but Jake already seemed to know why I was here. He knew what happened, that I almost killed a girl, that she was was innocently walking across the street, and more importantly, Jake knew that I ran her over and that Mountainside Lakes was conditions of my upcoming sentencing.
I told him how I didn’t need this place but the courts made me come here.
I told him that I didn’t have a choice.
Jake rolled his old squeaky desk chair away from his desk to face me.
“No, you do have a choice,” Jake said.
“You just don’t like the choices you have.”
I hated Jake for this. I hated him before I sat down to speak. I hated the way he looked at me and I hated the way he talked. I kept on trying to put Jake down as a counselor. I kept on trying to insult him in a passive/aggressive way, but none of this took hold..
I told Jake he had no clue what he was doing. I told him he knew nothing about me. He knew nothing about where I was from, what did, or why. I told Jake, “You don’t know anything about me!”
I started to explode in the office, which was small, and like everything else around this place; the office smelled like old motel to me. I swear, I thought I might explode even worse. I wanted to break something. I wanted to hurt someone. I wanted revenge for everything I felt.
This was the first time I felt the consequences of what I did. In my mind, I could see the hazy visions of memory from the night of my arrest. I could hear the loud cries of a Spanish speaking woman, crying out, because the gurney was loaded with the half-dead body of her child. And meanwhile, this son of a bitch counselor is sitting across from me, not blinking, not ducking, and not showing fear or any sort of weakness. All he did was sit there and let me scream.
“You don’t know what this is like,” I told him
“You don’t know anything about my life!”
I shouted, “You don’t know a fucken about me!”
There was a brief pause. I could feel my shouting echo in the room and bouncing against the walls of my eardrums. My heart was beating fast, my jaw grindig out of anger, and my fists clenched. I have seen people cry out of anger before but I never experienced myself until this session though.
I looked at my counselor. To me, he is this young punk of a kid who was just learning to walk when I was already grown and working for a living.
Jake leaned back in his chair..
“I know one thing about you for sure.”
“Oh yeah,” I cried out. “And what’s that?”
“What do you know about me?”
Jake explained, “I know that your life isn’t working out too well right now.”
He said, “I know that you have some charges over your head. And from what I hear, I know you’re the guy that can’t stop drinking. I know you you’re a guy that can’t get away from himself right now and that I’m a guy that can help you. So tell me, how do you want to go forward from here?”
God, I never hated anyone so much in my life as I did yesterday.
I have to sit with Jake again this afternoon.
I know what they want from me. They want me to submit. They want me to give in. They keep telling me, “Surrender to win,” but to hell with them.
I know what they want me to do. They want me to share in groups and cry and whine like everyone else does. They want me to stand up and say “My name is Bobby Cruz and I’m an alcoholic.”
But I’m sorry, folks.
I just can’t do that