Wednesday, February 23, 2011

First gaseous days

The detox portion of my recovery tour had been billed by my interventioneers as "5-7 days". It ended up being closer to two weeks.

I don't recall ever seeing the inside of the facility for the first time. What I remember is this: a sassy black nurse overseeing my admission, taking my vitals and "Oooh Lawd!"-ing all over the place. She handed me a dixie cupful of pills, and the next thing I knew I was being jarred awake from the bed I had been sleeping in. I didn't know if it was day or night. "Don't get up", another nurse said. "I just need to take your blood pressure and give you..." she confirmed something on a clipboard and satisfied, handed me another dixie cupful of pills, "...this". I took them, noticed I was wearing bright orange hospital scrubs, and went back to sleep.

The first two and a half days were like this, apparently as much for me as for anybody. I woke up at one point during these two days and the guy next to me, looking terrified, asked me "is it 2:00 PM or 2:00 AM?". "I really have no idea", I'd said, before noticing that the plastic, e-z wash sandals I'd been issued were the exact same ones I'd been issued when I went to jail that one time. Something about the fact that the manufacturers tossed a clumsy bone to aesthetics, in the form of a monochromatic faux wicker pattern covering the foot's instep, struck me as a little generous, but mostly funny. Like if we really put on our thinking caps, we could mentally transport ourselves from a farty, clinical detox facility to brunch with Blanche on the Golden Girls' Sunshine State lanai. Annnnd... back to sleep.

When I finally started getting up to get up, instead of just getting up to get my pills every two hours, I began to notice that the facility wasn't so bad. Smelly, yes, and marked sonically by the moans, groans, and wet farts of my 40+ roommates in the throes of acute withdrawal. But, you know, it was painted a nice sage green. The food was okay. The people serving it were not surly. My survey showed that my temporary home consisted of three rooms: the farty dormitory room, the small cafeteria (less farty), and a tiny movie room (least farty of all).

We were not permitted outside, so these three rooms were our everything. There was a floor to ceiling bank of windows about 12 feet wide in the dormitory, but it was covered with a white coating so that nobody could see in or out. Though we could watch the movies provided by the facility, there was no TV, no radio, no newspapers, positively no internet, and extremely limited telephone communication via a wall mounted pay phone in the cafeteria. If this sounds about as disorienting as being captive on a far-flung, low-fi spacecraft that may not have the juice to make it safely back to its landing strip somewhere in rural, late 80s USSR, then we might share a hive mind because I was TOTALLY THINKING THE SAME THING.

Late one night something happened with the heating ducts and the fire alarm went off. We were all herded out into a back parking lot as the nighttime floor manager, I'm sure in total compliance with his state-mandated safety training, screamed behind us in a narrow hallway "RUN!!!!!!!!! GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!". The *right* way to do things must have held over from frequent grade school fire drills, or maybe it's because we were still all pretty high on our meds, because we all just kind of calmly lumbered outside.

But outside we were, in our threadbare scrubs on a 31 degree February evening. With chattering teeth and blueifying complexions, we noted every sensation to one another as though it were an uncommon revelation:

"It fuh-fuh-feels like it's going to s-s-s-snow-wuh"
"th th the air smell-smell-smells so c-c-c-clean"
"I d-d-didn't realize you could suh-suh-suh-see the conv-v-v-vention center from here"

It was marvelous, and really a bummer when we were called back inside.

This is not to say that the isolation was wholly unpleasant. On the contrary, it was a pleasure to take a break from everything. No emails to respond to, no calls to return, no bills to pay. There were no personal problems. I've never taken a vacation like this before. Even during an actual, recreational vacation, you've still got your cell phone. In New Orleans you're looking for the complimentary executive lounge in your hotel because someone just texted you about a hilarious youtube video, or you make sure your room in Vegas will have free wifi before booking the ticket in case someone tags you to an unflattering facebook photo. Rich people pay for this, to be away away. Though the personal care products were not, the isolation was nice for a change.

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