Rehab: day one
Bored: seven days
"You seem awful happy to be here, but it won't last!", said the 16-year heroin veteran after I introduced myself and told them why I was joining them today. I was a little surprised that his good natured ribbing wasn't more clever, because in the lifetime it seemed to take to seat and organize this unseemly crew of junkies and drunks, he had cracked some pretty funny jokes. 16-year heroin veteran is much hotter than you would expect, given that he's been shooting up for about as long as The Simpsons have been on the air. He has very white teeth and, save for some incredibly fucked up tattoos, is a dead ringer for Ty Pennington. I mean, I don't think Ty Pennington is hot, but maybe you do.
When uncomfortable, I have a habit of feigning extreme cheer.
"Oh of course!" is what I said to the officer when he told me he was arresting me for DUI.
A few minutes prior to this I was waiting in the lobby as people filed in off the street for the six o'clock meeting. When I sat down, the other four people in the room were sharing jokes about dicks and gangrene and how the technician should have to shake it off for you at the end since you're paying for the privilege of pissing in a cup for them. Then a technician emerged from behind a door and took one of them inside and I realized: they were not joking.
And which one has dick gangrene?
I get anxious really easily, which I'm surely going to learn is just one of the many reasons I love getting totally fucked up drunk. Sober, I'm your party's deadest weight. After three drinks, you love me. Everybody does. I'm the funniest between drinks two and five. After eight I'm still kind of a riot, but maybe getting on your nerves. Much more than that, though, and you're probably going to get a call from me at three in the morning where I don't make much sense and tell you things I meant to keep to myself. I've had some seriously loose lips the last few years.
Here's a story from my childhood: James, Kenny, and I went to a Seahawks game at the Kingdome (RIP) with James' dad. I had to use the bathroom, so Mr. Kozij took me into the mens room where I came face to face with the most mortifying public urinal ever pissed in. I could almost physically feel the psychological damage happening, right there. As though the folds of my brain were being torn like soft paper and re-shaped into a bow, or a swan. The "urinal" was a massive, circular pool, approximately forty-seven acres in size. It was jam-packed, shoulder to shoulder, with guys holding their wangs and pissing at each other from across the way. It was a Kafkaesque parade of loose skin dreamed up by an evil gay mastermind with a degree in engineering from a university in a some bleak eastern European country.
A space opened up in front of me and Mr. Kozij prodded me forward. "Your turn!"
I did not then and have not since been able to pee in front of another person. Unless I'm drunk, that is. In which case: need someone to pee on your shitty ex-boyfriend's car locks in the freezing cold? I'm your guy (not only am I fun after five double Makers and Cokes, but I totally have your back).
And so the first thing I think of when the reality of the situation hits me is not avoiding wangrene, but that if I have to piss in front of that technician dude, this is going to be a very, very long year. I'm still not sure if I have to. I'm hoping pee tests are just for the people from drug court.
I look like a real douche. I'm wearing khakis and a tucked in dress shirt and Coach loafers because I just got here from work. Everyone else is either thugged out, super trashy, or at best, very casual. I'm reading an article in Newsweek about the expansion of Google and I hate how I know I look but I can't take my eyes off the paper because I'm afraid if I do, somebody will punch me or mimic my effeminate, high-pitched voice, and I will cry. For a fleeting moment I allow myself to think "I don't belong here" before reminding myself that, in fact, it was only three months ago that I had doused in Febreeze and then flipped a mattress I had peed on after a night of very expressive karaoke and multiple drunk dials.
"Hey new guy", says a gum-smacking girl in the corner. "Are you here for drug court or DUI?"
I say "DUI!", and a woman from somewhere down the hall calls us into a room.
This thing must work, because nobody here seems drunk or high, except for the guy two seats away from me who looks like he is TOTALLY TRIPPING BALLS, right now, here, as I live and breathe. He scratches at a scraggly face and his eyes are an indeterminate color. The girl between us has terrible acne scars and wears inexpensive makeup. She says to nobody in particular, or maybe someone I didn't see, that she's been so horny lately. The contract I just signed says a condition of all of this is that you must express yourself freely. Maybe she's just getting into the spirit of things, but the meeting hasn't even started. Tripping balls guy tugs at his coat.
Wrench! The guy who normally runs this thing isn't here today, so his supervisor is stepping in. But then she has to go take care of something so a counselor is going to start the meeting. There's some confusion. I have no idea what's going on. I'm looking around at people who I think I can identify with and I'm copying how they're sitting and folding their arms and I'm praying it isn't too obvious.
Two people do their introductions before me. A cute black girl who looks too young to be here says this is her fifth meeting, she's here for drug court. The host asks if she's taken her TB test yet (?). Then she asks if she's "opted in" to "a group" yet. I'm thinking this means "are you going to narcotics anonymous?", but I don't know for sure until later when this is coupled with talk of a "sponsor". I don't know half the shit anybody is saying, by the way, and I'm looking forward to being able to speak this language later so that I can participate more. She's basically like "Fuck narcotics anonymous" and the instructor moves on to the guy next to me. "TB test?" Again, WTF? "Opted in? How often? Good for you! Next!". It's me.
My name's B and I'm here because of a DUI. "Is this your first?" It sure is! "Next!" Huh?
There are three other DUIsters here and we all get the same speedy service. I'm still trying to figure out what this means, but some perspective was provided for me by the friend I spoke to when I got home, who reminded me of the scene in Half Baked where Dave Chappelle goes to NA and tells the group that he's there because he likes weed too much. Then Bob Saget tells the group all about how he's been sucking dick for crack, and Dave Chappelle feels like an idiot. You could look at this any number of ways, but since I'm paying thousands of dollars for this and I'm determined to get my money's worth, I'm going with "Dave Chappelle did, in fact, smoke too much weed".
There's talk. It's a fucking mess. This is rehab? It's just the host asking about feelings and people sharing anecdotes and lots of cross-talk about jail and how drugs are bad. Amidst some pap about "doing it for yourself and nobody else", a schlumpy looking guy rather brilliantly says "I'm not doing this for my kids, I'm not doing this for my girlfriend, I'm not doing this because 'I just want mama to be proud of me'". Heh. Maybe it was the delivery, but it was pretty funny. Schlumpo and Ty Pennington seem to get along pretty well. They kind of seem like the cool kids, and I make a mental note to try to befriend them, because even in a situation created for the sole purpose of re-shaping my fucked up priorities, my priorities remain thoroughly fucked up.
This banter goes on for awhile and I can't believe how useless it seems. I'm fantasizing about what it would be like to be at Promises with Lindsay Lohan, or any place where a sliding scale wasn't a part of the selection process. After a brief break, it is time for THE FILM. It's about brains, and I need to tell you about it but I'm exhausted. So, more on the conclusion to day one later.
All of this sounds really cynical, but I promise I'm not. I drink too much and it caught up with me and I'm determined to do something about it. I've also been told that the bullshit circle-jerk that I participated in today is nothing like the normal meetings with the regular guy, and there will also be some intense one on one sessions, which sounds very sexy. I'll keep you posted.
PS: Twelve years later I watched the Kingdome implode via webcast days after a job had relocated me to the east coast. I was 21 and away from home for the first time. It made me sad until I remembered that somewhere in there, the terrurinal was crumbling along with everything else. After that I was free to look forward to whatever was going to replace it.