Tuesday, September 6, 2016
I sat in the far right corner of a fluorescent lit, sterile smelling, rather drab and institutional room in some isolated ward of my local hospital. Two weeks ago, I'd been through the ringer. Seven 350mg bottles of glorious DXM (in the form of cough syrup) in 2 days equals a brief but intense bout of brain damage accompanied by a special sort of paranoid God-complex, (the team of medical professionals surrounding me with their, oh so cold and calculated instruments called it "an overdose"... Shit, I guess I was one of those people now). All the benzos and haloperidol (gross) I could ever want flowed through my veins, fucking my brain, blood and nerves in a savage, orgy of neuron dulling hedonism. My pleas for morphine were avoided like the plague by even the most naïve looking of nurses. The world my eyes saw had been raped by a kaleidoscope but those eyes sobered up long enough to look the Chinese doctor hovering over me and answer his battery of questions... but I'm sure all of us have been through the "How long? "How much?" and "Are you still hearing voices?” routine.
Anyway... after my forced and very unpleasant detox, here I sat in the locked ward of that very same hospital awaiting my fate. I was there for less than two days and after explaining the situation to my parents, we agreed that IOP (read; rehab lite) best suited my needs.
A fly landed as my arm as Haley started speaking. Ah, Haley, the pill head with the sexy lips. She was usually the first one to kick off the "sharing" portion of the day. I shooed it away and tried to focus on her lips. Soft and alluring as they were I had other things on my mind but it was at the very least, a distraction which I can certainly say are the only substances I've ever been addicted to. Anna was the next person to share. Her tracks looked too fresh for her to be here and the NA gospel she espoused, a little too perfect but she was nice. She had kind eyes. Then after Dom the gang banging "Spice" addict who smelled like piss recited his haunting, ghetto poetry, it was my turn.
"So, what brings you here?" Linda the drug counselor asked with an odd sort of inflection. Reminiscent of a highly dignified 70's burn-out minus the deadened eyes and conspiracy theory dribble. Calm to a point of near listlessness with subtle overtones of clarity.
"Honestly, I was just wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Oh? Well you'd be surprised. I don't really believe in coincidence. Addicts will rationalize all sorts of things to justify using. I'd be curious to see what your thoughts about the wrong palce and the wrong time six months from now. "
"Bull-Shit," someone whispered.
And after some pause.
"I get it man..."
"People like us find ourselves in shitty places like that a lot... I guess I've always felt drawn to those dark places too. Even before the drugs," Anna said smiling at me.
"People like us?" I asked
"Addicts. Junkies. The psycho-babble bullshit that's written on all of our medical records... but there's no changing it. It's a part of who we are. We've gotta own up to it to get better."
"Anna, no cross talking. This is a safe...," Linda said
"Oh yeah," I responded. Interrupting Linda.
"In my case it was a psych ward."
"Yeah,” I chuckled.
“It was a life experience if there ever was one,"
That god-damn fly was starting to circle around me again.
"What did you do to end up there?"
“Anna! No cross talking!" Linda's patient stoner vibe was starting to wear thing. A reminder of everyone's (for better or worse) inherent humanity.
"Is there anything else you'd like to share?" she said curtly.
"No, I'm done."
“So what did you do to get locked up?” Anna asked as we shared a cigarette behind the Shell Station on 3rd street.
The first day of IOP had ended as I figured she would Anna went to cop a bag as soon as she left the parking lot. She offered me couple hits of some mid-grade (which I happily accepted), a ride (yup, sure thing) and some dope, which for some strange reason, I didn’t indulge in… maybe this “rehab lite” shit was starting to sink in, (Ha, me rehabilitated after day one. Now there’s a laugh. Pure gold right there).
“I overdosed on cough syrup and apparently wound up naked in a graveyard.”
“Apparently?” she asked after laughing.
“Well I guess that’s what went down, according to what I was told by the cops anyway”
“Damn… I wish I had an origin story,” she laughed again.
“I just wanted to get high one last time… Just like today. Right now. I don’t know….”
“It’s tough. I can’t explain it either… you don’t have to go through with that whole thing (pointing to her purse knowing what was inside) you know. You don’t even have a spike… do you?”
“Not yet,” she said with a wink.
“But, you are right. I don’t wana go back to where I was but I feel like at this point it’s inevitable. Going back to those dark, shitty places.”
“Yeah… so what was your dark place?”
At first she said nothing then after killing what was left of her cigarette, looked me dead in the eyes with more chilling, sadness than I’d seen on the faces of the most desperate people I’d ever met… and I’d met a lot of those people.
“You don’t want to know… I think I kind of wana try and track down a spike… you should go.”
“It’s cool I mean if you want me to, sure but…”
Her hand grasped mine.
“Please… You might actually have a shot at this whole treatment thing. I know what you’re going to say. What you’re going to ask of me. Get better Ann. I know you can get better. Everyone tries to save me and it’s sweet and well intentioned because you’re a good person just like everyone else but, I just… can’t. I just can’t, not today.”
I sat still for a bit and after what seemed like a years-long stretch stood up, dusted off my jacket and like some Caribbean slave in a robotic, voodoo trance, started walking away.
“Be careful,” I whispered as her image faded behind me.
I never saw Anna again after that. The weeks passed and somehow I skirted through all the requirements of “rehab lite.” I even managed to find a job and have enough money to fill my car above a quarter tank. I was well on my way to becoming a productive member of society…
“So what brings you here,” Linda asked a few months later.
“I’d rather not say.”
“Okay, well Richard how about…”
“Wait, I know why I’m here.”
“Oh?” Linda asked (though she wasn’t nearly as intrigued as I thought she would be).
“Yeah… I have a really hard time staying away from dark places.”