Discover more from Dangerfield's Exaggerations.
Bits of Rehabs (Part 2)
20 years in and out of Rehabs
Most people who work in rehabs have been through the machine, usually several times and if it ‘worked’, if they’re clean, it means they’ve dedicated their entire lives to it. They are not clean and living their lives. They are clean, and that has become their lives. At least one Narcotics Anonymous meeting a day, gallons of coffee after the meeting. And not much else. “My worst day clean was better than my best day using” you’ll hear in meetings all over the world. What a ridiculous lie.
But they’re clean, they’ve done it, they’re better than you. And many rehabs hire, ‘hire’, people who are barely clean themselves. They recommend people who have just graduated to do some voluntary work, since many of them have never worked. (Yes, they call it ‘graduating’, when you’ve managed to put up with their endless patronizing, their prayers, the psychology they learned at an hour seminar, and all the other beastly realities of being rehabilitated, you get to Graduate! And in fairness it’s quite the achievement because it’s an endurance on so many levels, to get through it shows you have something about you. I graduated once. Just the once.) “Give a little bit back”, “You can’t keep what you have without giving it away.” Both of those and about a hundred more are in the official Narcotics anonymous literature. And what a coincidence, they have a position that needs filling tomorrow! “Hang on, Joanne, we have a position here as an office slave, I mean general admin assistant. That would suit you perfectly.” So, just three weeks clean, crying herself to sleep after forty minutes with a knife hovering over her scarred and disfigured breasts, no friends, no family, no heroin to stop her cutting herself to pieces, she seizes the chance – People! Friends! A job (‘job’), and one day you walk in and a girl who was graduating the day you arrived five weeks ago is now working seven hours a day, five days a week, trying to make sense of the most chaotic office ever because it’s run by a load of ex addicts, who aren’t getting paid. And that bag of heroin is looking more and more tempting with every two hundred page alphabetical archiving job. ‘Job’. “Is that blood on your T-Shirt, Joanne?”
So, it’s graduation day and everyone sits in a circle and tells you about yourself and wishes you luck. ‘Luck’ haha, after three months of their ‘treatment’, luck is probably your best bet. Some people have a guest at their glorious graduation, put on a nice dress, a smidge of make-up. Their guest, a boyfriend or parent, frequently an obviously using junkie, and the obvious awkwardness you can imagine that brings. “Good luck Erica, moving back in with Spider, Bosh, Tripper, or whatever the name of that mess sitting next to you is. He has of course got a bag and two spikes on him to share with Erica and get her back under his control immediately (her real sickness) in the public toilets opposite the rehab just five minutes after all the hard, painful, surreal work she’s put in to save her life over the last 4 months. The bottom line is, whoever it is sitting there, will be subjected to a cult like, God-heavy weirdorama, cringing their teeth loose for an hour while the most unconvincing charade of compassion and love plays out. It’s disgusting, half of them hate you and everyone knows it. Half of who’s left has been there a week and doesn’t even know your name “You’re an inspiration to me….er….mate”. And the remainder have had so many psychological scraps with you in group therapy during your time there, they disguise ‘You’re fucked, well I hope so anyway, please die’ through some artificially nervous form of encouragement comprised of empty and tired platitudes.
At one rehab, I said to a bloke called Martin, who’d become a good friend and tragic figure I could identify with “After all the rehabs I’ve attended, and the hundreds of addicts I’ve seen get clean, you are without doubt the least likely to stay clean” Pause for effect. “It suits you though. Maybe make your peace with it, you’ve got plenty of money” It didn’t go down to well, but Martin thanked me, and a sincere smile was shared between two people who understood something profound they had in common. It was certainly more than the grunts he dished out to all the other people’s comments, who pretty much avoided him for his whole time because he happened to be old.
I remember when it was Martin’s first day and we were all in the group room, the therapist and co-facilitator looking at their watches “We’re just waiting for Martin, it’s his first day and I think they’re just having a bit of trouble with his paperwork” That will be Joanne, crying her eyes out and hiding under the reception office table, pumping a staple gun into her arms and licking off the blood, to make sure she’s still alive. ‘Giving back’. A few minutes later and in walks Martin. Lyle and Scott jumper over his shoulders, nice pink shirt, T.M Lewin – flash enough to look good, cheap enough to dispose of when puked on. Light blue corduroys. There was a bit of money about the man, mid-fifties, combed back receding hair, and shivering and mumbling just like you’d expect of an alcoholic on his first morning of detox. He crashes his chair into some midwit to his left, as he tries to sit down and makes the situation worse by doing much the same to the person sitting to his right. It’s quite a palaver and I can’t help but laugh. Because all the teacher’s pets are trying to look sad and compassionate at poor old Martin’s inability to do something as basic as sit down, my laughter is magnified a hundred times. I knew it was coming. There’s an old man smashing chairs into people, farts were registered and discussed secretly later, yet a man who has just done a three-week heroin detox laughing is the issue. The co-facilitator bleats it out: “You’re only laughing because you’re nervous” she says, making sure everyone hears it above the clanking of chair legs and mumbling of a man who doesn’t know his own name, and in the manner of a school teacher to a four-year-old which is how they see client relationships anyway. “In that case you’re treating me like a child for being nervous, and I’d guess about half the people in this room are quite nervous right now. Is that a new rule, no nerves? She purses her lips and her hatred for her father flashes across her face, “OK Martin” she says, thankful that he managed to finally sit down before having to deal with my comment, that knocked her out of the park. Although I’ve set myself up for at least two days, maybe more of harsh treatment. I will be targeted. I Don’t care, I’m not here to get clean. No one is. People go to rehab because someone else wants them to get clean.
So, Martin sat there, looking into wobbling space, hands and arms shaking, bottom lip doing a tango. Nice striped socks, blue and light brown, handmade shoes. He’d done well at some point. “How are you Martin” The beast says, and Martin kind of changes his wobbling to more of a quick spasm as if to acknowledge a question. “It’s OK to be nervous, Martin” (to group) “Who wasn’t nervous on their first day?” Who was nervous a few minutes ago? “How are you feeling Martin?” And finally, he speaks, and it’s wonderful. After managing to pump enough air into what’s left of his lungs, which judging by his amber tipped fingers have taken a forty a day bashing for at least thirty years, of no doubt Gitanes filterless if his schmutter is anything to go by. “Well,” he says with a sudden command of the now silent room “All I know is this, I called on the room service phone this morning” (by which he means the emergency intercom in the shared resident houses just in case anyone has a seizure (a wonderful calamity in itself watching them trying to stuff a diazepam suppository deep, deep into some spasming anus, competing with product coming out while they’re trying to get some in, in through the out door. Screaming at the marveling arc of other residents who can’t believe they’re being treated to this one again, it’s the third this week! ”Get out, back to your rooms, now!” But no one’s going to miss this, and no one moves.) Martin continues “and to tell the truth I’m not sure there was even anyone working, but I ordered an eggs benedict and a glass of new world red” He pumps air into his lungs like you might a bagpipe and wipes some extraordinarily gelatinous spittle, hanging from both sides of his bottom lip. “Now, that was a good hour ago and here I bloody am, sitting in some sort of progressive Hare Krishna fart-share and I’m still yet to hear a thing about breakfast.” It’s only nerves people, it’s only nerves. Lovely Martin. Eton lad, captain of cricket team, captain of rugby team, captain of sports I didn’t know existed, awards for things I didn’t know existed. And an old-school, military father who hated him, and in whose eyes could do no right. Made millions, did Martin, many millions importing wine from the new world. Drunk a glass or two too many, and washed up in this rehab, which he clearly thought was a hotel. He’s dead now.
Out of the twenty or so people I saw come and go in that place, (it was the one I stayed at the longest and must give credit to the boss who treated us like people, much to the chagrin of the rest of the staff) only three are still alive. Two using, and the third, Karen, who rocked-up at rehab barely a skeleton, is now dragging around about 120kg of fat having decided to swap cocaine for cake. She reminds me of Ken, a one-legged Junkie who clumsily, clatters himself around his stinky little apartment, the floor covered in pizza boxes and empty methadone bottles, always on a mission of little value and intense effort. He once had two legs, but got into the habit of putting a bit of water in a well-used crack pipe, giving it a good shake, pulling it into a spike and then jabbing it in his femoral vein. He loved it. His leg didn’t though, and once you could smell his rotting leg from outside the apartment, it was only a matter of time before they cut the whole thing off at the hip. But none of that reminds me of the Karen. It’s the tattoo Ken has on his left shoulder. It’s a syringe, with the words ‘Still Winning’ underneath. Yes mate, in some parallel world where Hieronymus Bosch designs wallpaper and the Marquis de Sade is president, Martin – and Karen – are still winning. On the off chance I run into Karen at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, (where I go mainly for the laughs, although I do have a couple of real friends in the Soho meetings) I can’t look at Karen, I mustn’t get caught in a face to face situation with her, because the two inches of fat that now cover her face have created a sort of optical illusion where every now and again you remember what she looks like, you remember that Karen is still in there somewhere, and her face flashes through the flab for a fraction of a second, and you feel like slamming down on the buzzer of life and screaming ’Karen, it’s Karen!’ before it retracts back into the ester of fatty acids and she’s a complete stranger again.
It’s worth pointing out that apart from the cost and quality of the fittings and food, all rehabs are the same. Why? QuADS. There you go, QuADS, the Quality in Alcohol and Drugs Services. Basically, government body organizational standards. It’s a bizarre document mainly for the fact it never quite gets to any actual treatment. In that way it’s quite a cliffhanger, just when you think they’re going to help someone, it says things like ‘Social Functioning and life Context: Reduced crime, improved employment, improved family relationship, improved personal relationships. All 122 pages are as basic and useless as that. What’s far more interesting about our little QuADS is how I found out about them, from a patient in a rehab, who told me all about it. William was his name, overweight, puffy, but clever and the kind of wit you learn to depend on to get you through the next excruciating minute, siting round the coffee table in the biting February wind that’s stripping layers from your weak, withered, and withdrawing skin.
At one point he had it all. Well, he had a bit, he had something, a lot more than he has now, sitting on his plastic chair in another rehab in another town with another group of broken people knowing, based on previous experience he has about a 10% chance of getting or staying clean. He wore a shirt, tie, trousers whose type I don’t know, trousers made for people like William to blend him in, to help him disappear.
So, he had a fairly good life. But then one day, after visiting his GP, those government legislated drug dealers, getting paid for every prescription written and signed off with a pen bearing ‘Xanax’ along the side. Brand name Xanax, substance name Alprazolam, and now the third most abused drug in America. An anti-anxiety medication? What a surprise! Anyway, his GP with a grin and a shot of self-prescribed morphine in his drawer, waiting for the last of these pesky wasters to leave him in peace. Feet up, morphine hit, gently swirling a Cognac and reading Tolstoy, gives William a Alprazolam prescription. Only 1mg, 2 a day, because William said he was getting a bit stressed in the evenings. “It will help take the edge of, William, give you a chance to concentrate on what’s important in life and we could say, put all these negative thoughts in a little box.” By which he means I can do nothing to help you but Alprazolam is the nuts and you’ll soon be in a blur where you’ll work 20 hours a day, and stop shouting at the kids whose names you can’t remember. Three short months and William was taking 20mg a day of that wonderful stuff. If you don’t know, that’s loads, a huge habit, that will probably take about 20 minutes to get 40 of them down in a nervous rush. He probably mixed them with some yoghurt and a banana and whizzed it into a drug smoothy. He told his GP the Xanax was giving him weird physical sensations, so the doctor swapped it for another benzodiazepine, Diazepam, which has a shorter - or longer - half-life and so is easier to come off. When he arrived at the treatment center, he was so smashed they let him stay in the residents building with a ‘volunteer’ with 2 weeks clean and graduated (the first person they could find who they knew would be doing nothing) to make sure he didn’t do anything dangerous. He did manage to phone the police and tell them his daughters were trapped in the washing machine and he thinks they’re dead, our volunteer asleep, PlayStation control in hand. The children were at home with the mother, William’s wife. The police arrived, woke the volunteer, tried speaking to William and explained there were no children in the washing machine, and William said “Maybe they’ve shrunk?”
Yep, William had a huge Benzo habit that took six months to even start to cut him some slack, and give him those wonderful glimpses of peace that signal it’s all coming to and end. It was torture really, a madness well beyond the pay-grade of every so-called ‘professional’ in the building. Benzo detox is possibly the worst just because it goes on so long. Every substance has got its particular unbearable symptoms, but time, that’s the worst of them all, and with Benzos, you’ve got loads of it coming, usually an unbearable amount, an amount not worth bothering with.
So, one day I say to William “Why are these places all the same? I’ve been to posh ones where I actually paid for this nonsense, I’ve been to countless NHS ones in old NHS buildings, I’ve been to castles that were not castles, and plenty more. But at base, once you strip away the bullshit, the decoration and the wallpaper, why are they all the same? William looked around slowly, to make sure there were no Stasi in earshot, and said under his breath “QuADS. Over a hundred pages of meaningless tables, numbers and acronyms that you need to read, in a group, takes about eight hours, then get down on one knee and promise to run your rehab center according to the virtually surreal nonsense contained in the QuADS. You have to be regularly inspected to make sure you’re keeping up with your QuADS, or at least appearing to be, because no one knows what they are, and because no one really cares”. He put his big, puffy hands on his thighs and looked into the distance as if he remembers a time when people cared, but it was more than that, it was personal. William was broken by a system that didn’t need him, and he actually wanted to make some changes, that weird and unusual thing of helping other humans. “And how do you know about this, this QuADS lark?” I asked. “Well, it’s funny really. Once my habit was at about 150mg a day and I was working every hour God sent me, even putting a bit of time in around the dinner table asking the kids how they were getting on, at whatever it was the little bleeders did. The wife, not so much. She treated me more like a slot machine, she put food and clean clothes in and money came out, but I was working in the medical field and got this promotion where I was to oversee the documentation of procedures to better administrate the ‘care cycle’ of drug addicts – which seemed like a good thing, but I soon realized I’d been conned into a position where my real job was to work out how to spend less time seeing the addicts and spend less money treating them. And before long I was part of a group of people putting together QuADS, the Quality in Alcohol and Drugs Services that was going to revolutionize drug treatment across the UK. After a couple of years, and now on about 300mg of diazepam a day, I was pretty much top-dog there. I got to say yes to an idea, I got to say no to an idea, I got to say the idea – as long as it didn’t cost any money or take up any time”. He rocked back and forth a few times trying to get out of his chair that had kind of trapped his thighs. I gave him a hand and between us we got him upright. “Come and have a look at this” he said. And we walked through the kitchen into the entrance hall to the facility. A few famous faces, who’d been bribed into becoming patrons (“You know we saved your life, and chance of a few quid now and again?”) framed in a 2.99 boots home-framing set. And there it was, an A3 poster, framed and pride of place, above the celebrities. At the top of the document “QuADS” in big blue letters, a few official looking stamps and signatures, some crap about patient protection and relationships and there right at the bottom, in block capitals, next to a wild and elaborate signature was the name William Barrington. Amazing, excellent in fact. Not only did my mate William, still waiting for his egg’s benedict, 4 weeks later, write up the rehab aims and objectives for every rehab in the United Kingdom, but he did it full of benzos, memory of a goldfish, and unable to focus further than the end of his nose. And he actually signed off the place he was being treated in right now. Truly Epic. “Oh yes, we had to visit every rehab in the UK – much like you – and if they failed, they had to up their game and get another check 5 months later, and if they passed, they got this certificate” We never failed anyone, because no one really knew or knows what the QuADS are. It’s a nonsense document.” We shook hands, both smiling, the staff in the reception area suspicious as it would appear a couple of clients were happy, so something must be at fault. They probably brought it up in the team meeting. But as we shook hands, I saw real pride in Williams eyes, and he could see how impressed I was by the whole bizzarro weirdness of the situation. Two junkies bonding over something so excellent, in fact, it was the first time in all his time there that anyone had appreciated anything he’d said or done. Still clean apparently, poor bloke.
So, there you have it, however much you pay, the location, whatever, QuADrophenia’s what you’re getting and if you leave a rehab clean and stay clean it will be in spite of the rehab center and absolutely fuck all to do with their prayers, meditations, life stories, goals groups, ‘buddy system’ (it happens) “This is Vincent, 120 kilograms of pure muscle and hate. He’s just come out of four years prison. Tristan, you sopping wet piece of piss, you’ll be Vincent’s buddy for the first three weeks of his stay. You’ll share a room and if he needs to go into town, or do anything you’ll accompany him.” And you’ll probably do well not to sleep and keep an eye on him.
I washed up at one place that sold itself as a castle. Castle QuADS or something like that. On their website it says “It’s time to leave addiction behind, at Castle QuADS rehab clinic (‘clinic’, nice touch) we know that recovery is possible.” And therein lies the whole glaring contradiction that comprises addiction treatment. For what is addiction? A behavior you can’t stop doing, or a substance you can’t stop taking? Well, if you can’t stop doing it, how are you going to treat me? It would appear you’re actually telling me addiction doesn’t exist, it just requires your intervention (“just sign here, can you pay by card?”) to put an end to it. What a racket. It’s almost beautiful. Almost. You’ve sacrificed everything you had and given your entire life over to your drug of choice, you’re an addict. You can’t stop. Give us some money and you’ll stop. What?
The photos of the Castle, somewhere in Scotland looked beautiful, pictures of hot upper-middle class girls brushing horses and wearing stable garb. The whole website was a funnel to a huge gallery of beautiful, sunlight-tinted photos and historic information about the Georgian manor house where all the magic happens. They even make the ludicrous claim ‘Since we opened our doors more than 30 years ago, over 70% of the patients we’ve treated have achieved long term abstinence.” What they mean of course is 70% of the clients who answered the phone, and weren’t face down on a crack house toilet floor when they called. And by “achieved long term abstinence”, they probably mean six months or more. And 66% of them now have naught but nightmares about the place. Because what they don’t tell you is those photos must have been taken about half a century ago and put through five days of photoshopping. It’s the proverbial shithole. The place is falling apart. And being so huge, the place is freezing, not what you want on a detox at all, since your skin feels like it’s made from ice already. They also don’t tell you it’s run by some Dutch company who have a deal with the Dutch government who give free insurance against addiction, so in truth it’s a Dutch drug addict processing machine, many having already been there five or six times, all on the tax payer. To sit around being cold, living out William Barrington's Diazepam smoothie for breakfast’s treatment dream, where everything is outlined but nothing really happens. Try being the only Englishman there, and within the first hour they have a ‘house meeting’ where everyone from the cleaners to the boss attend and everyone is ordered to speak English. “This is an English facility and we speak English here” And since I was the only English person there, this was for my benefit, causing everyone to hate me before they’ve even spoken to me. That’s just lovely and the only effect it had was whenever I walked into a room, the common room, the smoking shed – anywhere – they all stopped talking. Because their English isn’t so good. Even group therapy is in English and in every single group someone kicks off that they have to talk about really sensitive personal events in a language they can barely speak. They invoiced me for 6 weeks treatment at 600 GBP a week. I’d been there two days. “Not a chance, I’ve done the maths and you’re getting 180 quid”. She looked at me like she had me by the balls, and she wasn’t the kind of lady you want anywhere near your balls. “When you arrived, you filled in and signed a document that if you chose to leave, you’ll pay the full treatment costs” I hadn’t, and I knew I hadn’t, because with my previous experience of lasting between 2 and 6 days, there was no chance I was putting nearly 4 grand on the line upon arrival. “Find that invoice and that signature in 10 minutes, or I’ll pay you in cash and I am off. Three of them, nervously looking through folders and typing on computers. The nervous faces started appearing as they realized they didn’t have no such signature. I slapped the cash on the table, “There’s your 180 quid, now give me my discharge papers and I’m off, I want to use, and you’re delaying it”. That afternoon I was using in the schemes in Edinburgh, a million miles from the madness I’d suffered for two days in a ‘Dutch Castle’. Which sounds like a euphemism for something awkward and sexual.
Bognor Regis. A rehab called ‘Ravenscourt’. An NHS military style, treat them mean and then treat them meaner kind of set up. It was arranged for me by a detox center I was at for three weeks. So, three weeks without heroin, feeling like absolute death, no sleep, struggling to stand up for more than five minutes, rather than chuck me back into the life that I’d come from – to their credit – they made the phone calls and booked me in for three months at Ravenscourt. A few of the people at the detox center had previously been to there and told me it was a living Hell. No surprises. When someone new arrives it’s a six mile walk along the freezing English winter seafront, the thought of which seriously had me considering just forgetting about it and going back to mum’s where I would have definitely used again, and again, and again – back to normal. A six mile walk down the freezing beach? It was a tough one. But I was here for my mum. Getting clean, it’s such a drag. The only times my addiction has caused me any real problems is when I’ve tried to stop. And not because I was trying to stop, but because the only method offered to stop was the same everywhere, and in short it was this: Addiction is a disease, and God and some other weirdness will rid you of that disease. Pure madness. But if you question it, if you dare suggest it might be something else, or that really, they’re essentially offering faith healing. Well, that’s ‘part of the disease’, that’s ‘part of the disease of addiction talking’, and you need to ‘Let Go Let God’, another platitude you’ll see on laminated sheets pinned to the walls of all rehabs, or in the front of books, along with a handful of other meaningless platitudes that have nothing to do with addiction or much else at all.
And although I don’t remember the word ‘God’ appearing even once in the QuADS document, (William Barrington’s benzo multiverse having probably transcended God, and probably even the concept of deities at all), rehabs are so entwined with the twelve steps of Narcotics Anonymous (where the word ‘God’ appears in four steps and is alluded to in the other eight.) You’ve got to give up your critical abilities, your intelligence, WHO YOU ARE, and let these dumb bastards engage you in faith healing and torture. And it happened. I arrived at Ravenscourt, horrible, run down, piss-smelling, like a minus three-star hotel where you’re going to do what you’re told or be punished. They put my suitcase in my room, which I’d share with Glen, my ‘buddy’, at around twenty he was ten years younger than me, and after our official introduction he said, “Welcome to Hell, although by the looks of it you’re already there so you’ll fit in nicely.” He then handed me a battered, graffitied school-type ring binder and said “Fill this in in twenty minutes then meet up in the group room. Because you’ve arrived, we have to go for a walk along the beach.” Walking the two sets of stairs to my room had me whiting-out, the thought of a walk, out in that cold nearly made me cry, so I took a deep breath, asked God for the strength to fill it in, didn’t get it and opened the file.
Question one: “Who do you turn to for spiritual support?” They wanted me to write God, or Buddha, or Allah, the usual suspects. My cold shaking hand wrote “Nietzsche” which was the start of me either getting ripped to pieces in group, leaving, or getting asked to leave. The rest of the form went much the same “How do you relax?” “Can’t remember”. “What do you do when your stress levels overwhelm you?” “Dance”.
The walk was torture. I collapsed several times, and when other people went to help me up, the group leader (probably an ex-client, three weeks clean or some other reassuring qualification) shouted like some caricature of a military figure “Let him get up on his own. If he can’t get up, he stays there until he can”. Or he dies, Lovely. Ten minutes of this and predictably I’m already thinking of leaving, working out where I can get some money, some heroin, and away from these lunatics as soon as possible.
I’d caught some kind of fever on top of my withdrawal, I was obviously sick anyway, but something new and hideous had joined the party. I didn’t feel good at all, I was getting head-shocks, going into mad spasms, and basically a whole load of other symptoms that were not typical of a heroin withdrawal. We were all sent to bed at 9:30, but the cigarette paper thin duvet they’d given me wasn’t doing the trick, and I was crying, and even Glen saying “You’ll be all right, mate” made no difference, strangely. In the end I got dressed and went down stairs looking for a duvet, blanket, anything to give me a bit of additional heat, when some grumpy, blatant, ex-alcoholic appeared, making me jump, the extra exertion causing me to lean up against the wall and get my breath. Who was this man? Creeping around the place like Bela Lugosi, face made of sponge, those giant pores, typical of heavy drinkers his face looked more like a crumpet with features than anything human. He told me we weren’t allowed downstairs during the night.
So, I told him my duvet wasn’t keeping me warm, that I was feeling really bad and if I could have another duvet, I might be OK. “Get back to your room and I’ll see what I can do.” I crawled back up the stairs on all fours, the muscles in my legs spasming, giving way occasionally causing me to collapse. But another duvet was coming. The situation would improve. It was worth it. I wouldn’t sleep anyway, but laying their all-night freezing was unnecessary and I was quite impressed I’d managed to do something about it. I sat up on my bed, wrapped in my pathetic excuse for a duvet and I could hear footsteps. Relief was coming. Glen as awake. I looked into his dark, hollow eyes. I smiled, but his face didn’t respond. “Are you dead?” I asked. “I’m not sure.” He said, nothing on his face moving.
The door swung open and three clients walked in. No duvet. They kneeled down by my bed. “Dear God” Glen smiled. I was ready to go. But leaving now, and spending a night outside would be worse. There’d be no scoring in a strange town, and I had no money. They carried on praying for a few minutes before leaving. One of them put his hand on my shoulder “This too shall Pass” he said. “It would pass a lot quicker if you gave me another duvet.” Glen gave them the finger as they left. ‘Hey Glen, I’ll swap one of my boots for your duvet, but only for one night” He thought about it. “What if it doesn’t fit?”
“I hate this fucking place” I told him, “and in a couple of days I’ll be leaving”. “I would leave” he said “but my girlfriend died, and everyone’s blaming me. I have to stay”. “Last chance on the boot?” I said.
In the morning an alarm went off around eight o’clock. I hadn’t slept a wink. I’d just slowly watched it get light and thought about my life from the angles that hurt me the most. After a disgusting breakfast made by the clients, some kind of porridge. Me and Glen were outside in the freezing windy morning, cleaning the windows. They do this is all rehabs. “TD’s” they call them, or ‘Therapeutic Duties.’ It’s a way of getting the place cleaned without paying. Everyone sits in the group room and whoever’s been nominated ‘group leader’ for that week reads out a list of jobs (mopping the toilet, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming the group room) and clients are allocated a job, groups of two or three for certain jobs like laundry, or groups of two, like me and my buddy Glen “cleaning the outside windows” Shit.
So, we stood outside, buckets of ice-cold water and dirty old cloths, smearing dirty water across the windows and trying not to feel the ice-cold filthy water run down your arms. The first time I heard about Therapeutic Duties I thought they were joking. Before I’d ever been to a rehab center, I thought I’d be laying in a bed, some music to listen to and a couple of nurses changing my sweat, piss, and other body fluid-soaked sheets, running me a bath three times a day and generally trying to make my experience of withdrawal better. And there I was that first rehab, that first day, and the new people always get the worst jobs. So not hot nurses, no being bathed, but cleaning a rehab toilet. Now there’s toilets and there’s rehab toilets, and the filth and mess I had to scrape from the toilet, and the floor around it, caused me to add to it more than once. And because you get the job for a week, by day three I just stood there for a few minutes feeling my stomach start to rumble before puking into the toilet, hacking up my empty stomach until my chest was in agony, then putting on my rubber gloves and getting my first bit of therapy for the day. “TD’s”, as a concept, it really is a measure of the entire rehab con.
I could go on, having had so many such holidays, but I think you get the idea. Sixty years ago, we were criminals, and today after all the research, and all the studies, the QuADS, the millions of people who’ve been through these places, they’ve progressed to defining us as ‘sick’, we have a disease. A disease that when I wake up in the morning, it makes me go and find some money, jump on a train, wait around for hours, then finally inject a bag of substance unknown, possibly about 8% heroin into a hole in my femoral vein. And how do they treat me? Essentially faith healing, God, Buddha, Allah, and cleaning windows. Rehabs are a house of clowns, doing their best to take people who take drugs to swap that choice for another one, to join the circus.
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