We’ve been clean a few weeks, vomiting, then gnashing our teeth, then finally sleeping sweat-soaked through detox. Now released to residential treatment, there is coffee and bacon and eggs and then fresh baked cookies and pie in the late afternoon. Two friendly but not codependent dogs wagging, and there, across the lake, behind the gym, are horses. Tuesday is movie night, and on Thursdays we are driven in the big white van to Walgreens.
Some meetings are bleak. “One in seven of you will make it,” the counselor says. “That’s four and a third in this room.” Some are more optimistic. “See this?” the counselor says, “This is a driver’s license. This is a credit card. This is a Blockbuster video membership card. One day, you can have these back.” Most meetings are ambiguous, more “moment of silence” than “recovery.”
In the cafeteria between meetings, the drinkers fill cups full of ice like foreplay—as much as they can carry—but there is only lemon ice tea, raspberry ice tea, sugar-free ice tea. They call this sound a trigger. It’s a clink and rattle. Giving blood on Wednesdays is similarly tough on those who used to bang dope.
At eight o’clock, we line up for our trazadone and vistaril and melatonin, limp mockeries of the hard stuff, though the nostalgia for the tactile, the feeling of a mouthful of pills, the relaxing of the muscles in the throat, etc. is appreciated. We could not abuse these little bastards if we tried. And of course, the nurses are stronger than us and a few carry weapons.
Some of us have even found love. The segregated cabins have woken up our junior high selves. There are secret rendezvous at night, the moon reflected on the lake, ooh-la-la, dirty notes passed during lectures about anhedonia and needle diseases. Meet me, do you, check one.
And don’t laugh at Walgreens. Ava S. finds her special shampoo with frizz immunity and it makes her happy. Dylan H. gets a pound of teriyaki beef jerky to share, and a birthday present for his son. We see beer and wine. We get nuts. The cashier assumes we are some berserk sports team, did you win? Our prepaid Visa cards demand a call to customer service but the representatives are friendly and helpful and the people behind us in line are scared or patient.
There’s no email, no phones, and the local post office is open just two hours a day. Lawyers and debt collectors keep out! Dealers and exes and parents, we’ve lost our hearing, and know only one phrase in sign language.
Last Tuesday, they showed a movie about an addict who learns to train horses. It might as well have been science fiction. Our own horses charge us into trees, distinctly away from the sunset, and sleep better than us standing up. Next Tuesday, we’ll ask them to play it in reverse, so we can see a movie about a lonely horse trainer who learns to drink successfully and gets his family and friends back.
But there is good news for the other twenty-five and two thirds of us. The young and handsome doctor, after many weeks truant, is IN because you can’t golf when it’s raining. In his waiting room, they swear, he is not anything like your parking lot dealer, or that cute, tattooed bartender, or your best fucking friend, and he’ll see us all now.