Continued from Valentine’s Day Eve, part trois.
I settled into my room with a book I had brought – Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. My room being directly outside of the common area made it easy to hear what was going on with the rest of the gang, who had mostly settled there.
I was too shy, too scared to socialize with them at this point. So, I hid with my book, in my room, pretending to read, on my plastic-sheeted-two-inch-thick mattress.
10:30 came around before too long – bed time, with lights-out coming at 11:00. Mike and Jeff, my two roommates came in and shut the door. They each took up residence on their respective beds, acting as if this was home to them – their behavoirs showed no signs of anxiety or abnormality – they were quite at home in this situation.
Mike rested on his side, head propped up with one arm, flipping through a magazine. Jeff laid on his stomach over a pillow, legs bent up at the knees, thumbing a magazine.
I had never seen either of these two in my life, but here I was sharing a room with them in a poorly constructed alcohol treatment center for the gays – in Eden Prarie, MN – rated the highest income per capita of all of the metro area suburbs. Of course we were tucked in the back of town next to the Simon Delivers distribution center.
Mike had unkempt longer black hair. He looked to be right out of That ’70s Show, and most certainly a stoner, as he barely embodied a bit of energy.
Jeff on the other hand, was full of energy. His legs kicked back and forth in the air and he was thumbing through the magazine quite quickly – clearly not reading any of the editorials, but perhaps stopping for a second or two on pages that contained ads for some pseudo-steroid protein powder.
Jeff broke the silence by asking, “So, what’s your drug of choice?” It rattled off his tongue so fast and with such practice, that he must have asked it numerous times before this.
“Um, alcohol I guess.”
“How old are you,” he responded back almost before I finished my response to his previous question.
“Do you have a boyfriend,” again so fast I imagined he had a repertoire of questions he rattled off to every new-comer he ran across.
“How many times have you been in treatment?”
“Um, none. This is my first time. How many times have you been in treatment?” I asked, rather puzzled by the question.
“This is my third time,” he responded, as if three weren’t that many times.
“You know the success rate is only 1 in 10 for treatment? Even less for gay people.”
This was an interesting turn in the conversation. First he drills me with questions, asks me if I have a boyfriend, presumably to see if I’m available, and then throws this at me after finding out this is my first visit to treatment? I was really put off by him – why would he tell me this on my first night in treatment?
“How do they measure success rate?” I was truly curious.
“By the number of people who are still sober a year after treatment.” he reported.
Ben was still casually perusing his magazine, head propped up on one arm that had to be close to falling asleep on him. Not a peep out of him yet.
“Do you wanna play Attack Uno?” Jeff asked.
“I don’t know what Attack Uno is, but sure – I don’t think I’m going to be able to fall asleep anytime soon.” I reluctantly agreed.
“Oh, you should ask the nurse for some Trazadone – they hand it out like candy around here. That’ll knock you out! They start you out at half a pill, but I’m up to two a night.”
“You’re kidding me! Aren’t they supposed to get people off drugs and alcohol here?” I was astonished.
“Yeah, but lots of folks have been passing out for years by drinking. You take away the booze and they can’t sleep, so many of us end up taking sleeping medication.”
“Mike, you in?” Jeff asked.
“Uh, yeah, uh, sure,” Mike sort of semi-mummbled back, as he slowly moved to the floor.
We gathered in a circle on the floor and played Attack Uno for the next hour or so, after which we all took back to our beds.
I learned that Jeff was in treatment because he’d been ordered here by the court system after the police had raided his house, taken everything, and he was likely facing jail time. He was 25 years old and had amassed the beginnings of a career in sales.
Mike was only 19 and from New Jersey. His parents had pretty much disowned him unless he cleaned up his act. So much so that after he graduated from his last treatment center in New York, they sent him to Minnesota to continue treatment. When he graduated from this program they weren’t going to let him return home until he stayed sober for a few months after treatment.
I laid in bed that night staring at the ceiling. There were green glow-in-the-dark star stickers placed on the white drop-ceiling panels. Everytime I moved the plastic sheet creaked, and I found myself moving a lot because after settling in any one position for very long my ass would sink through the mattress to rest on the hard plywood beneath it.
I worried about what was going to happen over the next few weeks. What I would be returning to at home? Would my roommate abandon me? What would work think? How would my family react? Would I have any friends now that I would quit drinking? What was involved in this whole treatment thing? So many questions, and nothing I could do about it. I was definately not in control of this situation.
All that, and they had taken my cell phone away from me.
To be continued …