Category: Rehab Life

Ridiculous Ramblings of a Return to Recovery

The familiar fragrance of burnt coffee intertwined with mildew and hundred-year old stale air most likely awaits me in the basement of Saint Whatever’s church I’m in attendance for that particular evening.  Being subjected to that environment is probably taking at least a few years off my life, but it’s a far better option than killing myself with this pesky alcoholism situation I’m dealing with – and let me get one thing straight right off the bat; In fact, it’s an item teetering on the fence in regards to making it on my fourth step resentments list.  I’d like to officially go on record proclaiming that, without hesitation, I will always, one-hundred percent of the time choose the scent of that grungy, infested basement with its old people smell and mildew ridden carpet over walking past a Hollister or an Abercrombie & Fitch; heinously pumping their fumes out into malls all across America.  I mean, come on – is that really necessary to force upon the innocent and unsuspecting casual shopper?  The answer is undeniably no, it’s not; it serves no purpose other than bringing about an instant headache; the doses of deadly gas and that atrocious “music” which immediately induces heart palpitations should be considered a public nuisance; so, with all that being said, I rest my case – for God sake judge and jury, please make them cut that shit out already; my entire wardrobe consists of Target’s Mossimo brand because of the ridiculous, arguably offensive business model they’ve come up with. 

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Okay, moving right along…At every one of these gatherings of the fellowship, I eagerly anticipate or at the very least fantasize about the fire company showing up due to a neighbor, random pedestrian, or driver filing a report of an immense amount of smoke coming from the vicinity; it’s as if we are amongst the morning mist while the dew slowly burns off by the fresh rays of sunlight, or trying to see through a heavy fog that recently rolled in off the ocean.  What can I say? That’s just how we roll.  As the smoke settles, the posse of my people from every age, race, creed, gender, societal status, and sexual orientation start to migrate towards the door and inside to the meeting, which involves a sort of daunting task of descending down a questionably sturdy staircase; we act and obey like cattle being rounded up and put away for the evening.  To add to the excitement, the line for a tiny cup of awful coffee has become longer than the soup kitchens on Thanksgiving; I guess that’s what those lunatics experience while camping out for seventeen days on the street; all so they can feel better about filling their own empty void of a life by being the first idiot to get the latest generation of iPhone, which is virtually no different than the generation preceding it; wow, the camera has two-hundred more mega-pixels – “my selfies are going to look soooo much better”, let’s camp out next to the Apple store so we can feel special for five minutes.  Go ahead tech-geeks, bring on your criticism and dislike for me, tell me all about the “awesome” differences and upgrades – I will warn you, however, you might as well be speaking Chinese to me; and listen up all you Chinese folks roaming the planet, I really enjoy your food, although it is kind of odd that it’s packaged and ready to go before I’m even done ordering.  I generally chalk it up to superb customer service, and my hat’s off to you – keep up the great work; on the other hand, I haven’t seen Mittens in a few days…I hope she wasn’t transformed into a delicious dish of “Orange Chicken”; hmmmm…but regardless of what may or may not have happened to Mittens, your language confuses the shit out of me; hence why I have no time or energy to appease or listen to some tech guru talking nonsensical jibber jabber into my face and attempting to convince me how it’s “so much better, dude…the flange capacitator runs on a dual-core integrated circuit which totally boosts the ISA, IRQ, and most importantly the Molex connectors, it’s really rad stuff bro – you should tote’s buy it” – Listen up, and listen good, I’m not your bro, I don’t say “rad”, and I especially don’t respond well to anybody who says “totes”.  I’m still Jersey raised through and through, even though I currently reside in California; furthermore, I have no clue what any of that shit you just spouted out at me even means; the phone I have now works just fine and suits all my needs, so go tell your bullshit to somebody who actually gives a shit – thanks and, in the respect of all the Chinese around the world, Chow.


As far as treatment centers go, I’ve been fortunate enough to land in what is essentially the five-star hotel of treatment centers – It doesn’t really get much more accommodating or comfortable in regards to rehabs unless of course your rich or famous enough to get admitted into Passages Malibu; although on the flip side, that place is more of a vacation resort or spa, rather than any real sort of actual treatment center, AND, they’re big claim to fame is that they can cure your addiction altogether; like literally take the disease out of your brain; when you leave, they undeniably tell you that you are cured and you’ll never drink or drug again – doesn’t matter if you spent thirty days there or a year (if you happen not to believe me, check out this article on the LA Weekly website: LA Weekly: Passages Malibu  I would gather that most of us have seen the commercial on television by now where CEO, Pax Prentiss, states that he was once an addict and now he’s not, placing a large emphasis on the fact that their facility is not a twelve step program; perhaps they have magical fairy dust, who knows – the rest of us, who exist the real world, understand that once an addict, always an addict; we’re never cured of this disease – it’s just the way we are wired and it comes down to pushing it into remission through treating it just like any other disease.  Diabetes = Insulin shots, Cancer = chemo or radiation therapy; drugs and alcohol = the fellowships of AA, NA, therapy and working some type of program towards recovery, not towards relapse.  That’s our medicine, and when folks want to stay healthy, it’s important to take your meds.  Anyway, the treatment program that I’m involved in does a relatively good job at providing comfort and stressing the importance of not only a mentally and spiritually healthy life, but a physically healthy lifestyle as well, such as going to the gym regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

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(I’m fairly certain the face on that little fella is one of confusion)

My Rehab, among offering a variety of relatively healthy snacks, also provides popsicles; and who doesn’t love a good popsicle from time to time; seems rather harmless right?  Wrong!  Now let me explain why.  These particular popsicles have two, (yes I can count, and I shall repeat), two of those wooden stick handles protruding from the bottom of one, that’s right – one mass of frozen, deliciousness.  First of all, I don’t even know which one I’m supposed to hold on to while enjoying this delicious treat, or if maybe this is supposed to be some sort of a two-handed ordeal.  Second, at some point during the enjoyment of said delicious, frozen treat, the popsicle begins to melt a bit and breaks apart, spilling out both tiny and large pieces of ice all over the floor, your clothes and anything else that is in the general vicinity, all the while, you just stand or sit there looking stupid with two wooden sticks in your hands – with the red ones, I feel like I’m obligated to call in a forensic crime team to analyze what appears like blood splatter, or better yet, give Dexter a holler.  The whole idea of two sticks on one popsicle really threw me for a loop and genuinely confused me.  I’m admittedly the last person who has a desire to get the annoying, “Special Interest” groups involved in anything, but where are all the damn tree huggers when there’s actually something legitimate to protest – the pointless wasting and misuse of popsicle sticks all over America.

Obviously, it would appear I’m going through a bit of an irritable stage right now; a vast emotional roller coaster if you will – the most random and stupid things seem like cataclysmic life events.  The head and brain doctor’s say it’s normal so that’s good, right?  I mean I imagine they didn’t spend all those years in medical school collaborating as to the reasoning behind two-handled popsicles; plus, it’s not like this is my first rodeo – I know how it goes, although each time coming back from ever increasingly horrific benders, the mood swings and frustration seem to intensify a bit.  So there you have it ladies and gentlemen – that’s where I’m at with five sober days under my belt.

Enter at Your Own Risk

in_the_dark_cave_by_pai_shiifanThe morning dew.  It glistens as if the yard were a sea of tiny white pearls; challenged to grasp each blade of grass and struggle against evaporation or the unavoidable pull of the Earth’s gravity below.  Doses of sunlight emerge through the shadows invoking an eerie haze; the cackling of inconspicuous birds resonating throughout, ricocheting back and forth between the decrepit fences before echoing off into a vast nothingness.  A hollowed out tree towers above and has managed to produce one lone flower.  It’s deep, bursting yellow pierces through the fog as beams of light successfully touch down on its pedals; an integral sign of fragile hope in such a disheartening existence.  It rests, peaceful and vibrant, on a drooping branch that transfers life into its roots.  Silently, it’s witnessed a community form around it; watched generations grow old, enjoying its shelter and company over the years.  It’s weathered the storms that brewed far above; fiercely holding firm against heavy rains, raging bolts of lightning and the weight of snow and ice wrapped around it so firmly, like a serpent squeezes the life out of its prey hunting in the night.  Crisp, cool winds filter through the air; a tidal wave of fresh-starts and new beginnings, the distinct sense of nature’s reincarnation after a long winters hiatus; a phoenix rising from the ashes.    

Through the mist a woman, angelic – glowing with a heavenly natural beauty.  Her crystal blue eyes are soul piercing, trance inducing; a single deep stare breeds a lustful life sentence.  Draped against olive skin are long locks of golden blonde hair, gently dancing in the breeze; perfectly choreographed to an eager beating heart.  Slowly, seemingly without effort she gets closer, floating on air and moving steadily through an erupting surge of passionate energy; it’s intoxicating, paralyzing – playfully she nibbles her bottom lip; pheromone’s saturate the atmosphere forming a tornado of salacious desire that even the gods couldn’t dissolve.  It’s getting stronger now; eyes ever locking; deep, steady panting persists as the signal for final approach is confirmed and then…

The excruciating reality of my eyes opening wide to a life alone in this tiny twin bed, which is not even really mine and sits opposite another tiny twin bed; occupied by a different dude.  Lucky for him, he appears to remain traveling through dreamland at the moment, but his rude awakening is coming and that gives me a debaucherously strange sense of satisfaction – this is getting old.  For some reason, my brain likes to kick back into consciousness at the exact moment the payoff is about to take place; dreams are such a tease.  I subconsciously torture myself; creating perfect and beautiful model-like angels inside my thick skull; the type of woman that doesn’t exist – at least not to guys like me; like they can sense the sunken, shell of a man that walks around all disconnected and zombie-like – I can be the real walking dead sometimes; seriously searching out Daryl and his crossbow – but I’ll be real; it’s not like I’m ever going to find him so, fuck it – time to start another day in paradise.

wildebeest-snp-a5539gI say a quick prayer; a prayer which mostly involves asking for guidance on how to be accepting of whatever I walk into once I enter the shared, common area – the area I refer to in my head as, “The Serengeti” – this is where other creatures like myself freely roam, mingle, and occasionally prey on each other – living examples that prove the nature of human development is also still a work in progress.  The important part is – we mostly get each other, understand the struggle, and are all okay with it; actively looking into ourselves and working to be better people – quite possibly we’ll leave our former “creature” selves behind and merge back into society refreshed and renewed – ready to contribute, and be useful – pay our taxes – maybe.  There are supposed to be two guarantees in life – death and taxes – I can assure you that paying the IRS is no guarantee for an addict or alcoholic active in the lifestyle – at least not willingly.  Death, on the other hand, we’re all too familiar with.

One of the exceptions to the unity I’ve come across in the pursuit of my new life is Braden.  He is sitting at the computer in the hallway outside my bedroom.  I know this because he sits there from sunrise to sunset every day without fail – he has ever since I moved into the residential treatment house.  I’m curious as to how he gets away with missing group therapy all day, but that’s really none of my business and I remember to maintain focus on myself.  Plus, it’s apparent there is more wrong with him than just substance abuse; he oozes that serial killer, psycho type of vibe – which is further confirmed as I exit my room and get immediately stopped to watch a video on YouTube.  There’s a cold, empty look in his eyes and a huge grin plastered across his face; he’s overly excited for me to see what he finds so amusingly hysterical – and honestly, I was intrigued – until – he pressed play.  What took over the screen was the dash-cam view from a police car facing a vehicle, pulled over on the side of the freeway; the night vision recording made it a little blurry, but certainly added to the horrifying tone of what would happen next. 

As the officer is approaching the vehicle, a man steps out and in an impulsive act of sheer violence, murders him in cold blood; one shot to the chest before leaving the scene and the officer to die.  As all this is transpiring in front of us, Braden joyfully points and laughs, screaming “fuck the cops”; creating his own deranged and twisted form of celebration, basking in the injustice that has occurred and for a split second, the emptiness in his eyes suddenly ignite into flames, becoming alive with a demonic lifeform before dying back down into the cold, emptiness once again.  I was startled, to say the least, and my anxiety levels escalated immensely.  What I imagined doing to Braden right then was far worse than the fate suffered by that police officer, but I managed to keep my composure, appear like I wasn’t bothered, and slowly walk away as his sick laughter resonated behind me, growing further in the distance.  No prayer would ever prepare me for an encounter like that.

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The literal space between my titillating encounter with pure beauty and this realness of the ugly, repulsive side of human nature was a mere few paces.  It’s a reminder of what’s ever surrounding me and toying with my head; why I self-medicated to deal with it all.  There’s so much hate that we’re forced to dodge and weave through on a daily basis; so much out of our control.  Flip on the news and get a glimpse of what the human mind is attracted to.  Death and despair – murders, rapes, kid-touchers, mass shootings; the list goes on – and it’s all evil.  A good excuse; a portion of why I could justify and entertain the desire not to be present in this life; drown in the bottle until my time is up; until I check out of this hedonistic place.  Maybe I like to drown in it because there are certain facets of that negativity I see in myself; characteristics I wish weren’t there – the parts that continuously break the hearts of people around me as I let them down once more; the parts where I let myself down.  Or maybe by working through this process, not running or hiding, and getting to know myself without a drink or a drug, I can learn how to see through the fog and the mist; try to focus on that lone flower, bursting and vibrant in its yellow magnificence, and see the true beauty in all things wicked and cruel.  Or maybe I’ll die trying – but I’ll never give up.                 

Crusader for a Lost Spark – AM

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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.

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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.