7:00AM: Wake up. My neck is stiff and my back aches; the side of my body is in distress from the rugged, rocklike slab I spent siesta on all night. At this juncture, I’ve become relatively immune to the initial aches and pains of waking up on the cheap mattresses provided. I slowly climb down from my top bunk, which was absolutely not intended nor built to be used by anybody over the age of eight, and stumble towards the Med Office where I wait in line for my first daily dose of “keep me sane” medications. These consist of two different anti-depressants, an anti-anxiety medication, a slew of vitamins from A to Z, and my acid reducer – all in all they practically spill out of the medicine cup like a heaping bowl of popcorn at the movie theater. It is what it is – I might as well be a senior citizen; at least I’d get a discount on the popcorn.
Following my rendezvous in the office, I head straight for the kitchen, desperately hoping to see a coffee pot that has not perished and still contains the life of that premium potion my body craves. If I’m lucky, there is still enough piping hot, wake-up juice to pour myself a cup; if not, at least I can resort to the emergency bottle of instant Folger’s kept hidden amongst the contents of my underwear drawer. It’s an off-kilter, but essential exercise to achieve solace in a house full of leeches and vultures. This leads me to the coffee creamer conundrum. Creamer is worth its weight in gold around these parts and I’m fairly confident any one of us would sell our soul to the devil for merely a tablespoon of the stuff to complement our morning beverage. It’s a doleful yet veritable reality in the world of recovery homes, so I’ve learned it’s better to just accept it for what it is.
7:45AM: The mad dash for occupancy of the bathroom begins. Apparently, everybody needs to take a shower and get ready at the exact same time. God forbid there is any semblance of order to this. Whether I’m first, somewhere in the middle, or last, there is no winning in regards to the order in which I get to use the bathroom. If I am “lucky” enough to be the first one in, somebody is maliciously pounding on the door every ten seconds and screaming about how I’m taking forever, when in all reality it has only been maybe five minutes. Because of this irrational and random pounding on the door, I become startled and consequently slice my face open with the cheap razor the facility has been nice enough to provide me with. If I’m last to the showers, I walk into a hot and humid, Amazonian like state with sopping wet floors, and chaos everywhere. It’s a disgusting scene, with no shortage of hair shavings, a pissed on toilet seat, wet, crumpled up towels, and toothpaste smeared all over the sink. I mean, it was just used by at least four or five other grown men one after another, so I imagine these conditions are to be expected.
To make things worse, I have no idea what took place in there before me (although I can make a few educated guesses) and I feel filthier than when I walked in there in the first place. In addition, the last person is the most rushed because the chance of missing your ride to group therapy is lingering over your head, which adds an extra element of stress. If you get caught up somewhere in the middle, the guys before you are carrying on about how they weren’t done and they still haven’t fixed their hair, blah blah blah – while the guys still waiting continue to hit the door and complain about how its taking forever. It’s a fairly stressful way to kick off the day and I feel like I need to be re-medicated when all is said and done.
8:45AM: We all cram into a large, white van like a boxcar headed towards Auschwitz. Certain mornings, it feels as though we will be suffering the same fate – some days it’s almost welcomed. It can start feeling quite repetitive day in and day out – sitting through the same groups, listening to the same facilitators, and hearing the same material over and over again. It’s easy to become complacent and forget why I’m here; it’s easy to forget how bad my life was just a short time ago now that I’m nestled snuggly inside this cozy safety bubble. It takes all my energy just to stay here and be present.
The drive to our destination is short and I can’t help but notice the living reminders of where my disease leads, scattered haphazardly all over the streets. It helps me remember why I am here and fighting every day for my life. They sleep in alleyways and under bus stop benches. Their nutrition comes mostly from scavenging garbage cans and dumpsters. All their belongings are hauled around town with them in makeshift wagons, bicycle trailers or shopping carts. Society, for the most part, has turned its back on these less fortunate souls. We have found it easier and more convenient to blame the individual for putting themselves in the position they’re in rather than considering that they didn’t receive the opportunity for medical insurance, they have no family for support, and they’re at the point of giving up because there is no place left to turn to for help; there is no fight left in them and now, they just physically exist with no real purpose or direction. Most importantly, they have lost all hope or have become so mentally ill that they can no longer recognize what having hope even looks like. It’s a sad reality of how fragile life is and at the very least, it puts fighting over the bathroom every morning into a much healthier perspective.
9:00AM: On a good day, this is when we arrive at the facility where the next six hours will be spent sitting through group therapy sessions. These sessions range in topic anywhere from the widely practiced, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to the less popular, “science and addiction”. The names and faces within these groups change, but the problems we all face consistently stay the same – and people from all walks of life are affected with this affliction. The disease does not care where you’re from, if you are black or white, straight or gay, male or female, rich or poor – you can safely bet that there is no discrimination in the world of addiction – in our world, it wants us all dead, and that’s all there is to it.
It’s fairly easy to spot the people that wish to be in treatment to better themselves and the folks that attend because their parents, wife, or family gave them no other alternatives or the court system said, “Go to prison, or go to treatment – your choice.” Its suggested when you arrive that you should stick with the winners and there is absolute validity to that suggestion. The group mentality does have a significant effect on how much any person feels comfortable opening up and making an honest effort to process the situations, events and consequences of their choices from a life that didn’t work out so well when trying to run the show themselves. Positive energy tends to yield positive results and negative energy yields negative results. We make it through the first three hours of group and finally, it’s time for lunch.