… continued from Valentine’s Day Eve, part deux.
I chatted with Roots for a few minutes when the stomping upstairs became methodic. They were coming downstairs. I was nervous. Here was the point I was going to meet the crazies, the people I would hereafter be seen as one of. Thoughts went through my head. What would they be like? How many would there be? I really didn’t know what to expect.
They came into the common area was I was standing with Roots. They appeared surprisingly normal. A couple of them obviously had poor taste, hygeine habbits and haircuts, but otherwise they seemed almost too normal. Almost too much like me, or older versions of me.
I was introduced to them all and shook each of their hands one by one, forgetting the names as soon as they were uttered.
I was introduced to Bob, who was to become my “buddy.” Bob was also an inpatient, but he’d been there for a few days longer than I. In fact, he’d been to treatment before, too – many times.
It was Bob’s job to show me around the place, orient me to the rules, and answer any questions I had. He was older than me by at least ten years, had a sweet, endearing nature to him, and alcohol had visibly taken it’s toll on him.
Bob showed me the job board where The Queen had delegated chores to each of the inpatients. The Queen got her job from the previous queen – new royalty was picked each week by the previous week’s royals.
I had to do chores? What was I paying $11,000 for the first 20 days for here?
Bob and I only had a few minutes to chat before nightly affirmations was to begin. We headed upstairs to the group room and took a seat.
Little did I realize, I was about to witness my first glimpse of the daily rituals the crazies partook in.
The indestructible furniture was arranged in a circle around the room, facing in at a large coffee table in the center of the room. At least the coffee table matched, I thought – same unfinished variety that everything else was made of.
I took a seat on a sofa next to Bob. We waited for everyone to file in and I noticed that Bob was sniffling a lot. I asked him if he had a cold.
“No. I am constantly sniffling. The membranes inside of my nose have deteriorated away.”
Boy did I feel stupid. Was this a result of his drinking? I didn’t ask.
A particularly queeny crazy entered the room and headed over to the mantle. He removed a crown made of construction paper and pipe cleaners adorned with glitter and cotton balls and placed it snug on his head, careful not to interfere with each of his individually styled hairs.
Somehow I’d missed that little ornament on my way in.
Presumably this was The Queen. The King entered shortly thereafter and similarly donned his own “crown” from the mantle.
Everyone took their seats and the meeting opened with everyone gathering in a circle, hands on each others shoulders, reciting the Serenity Prayer. I didn’t know the words, but it sounded familiar – could have been the fact that it was printed and framed on the wall multiple places throughout the building. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Of course Pride had added it’s own addition – it ended with, “We are somebody. Peace.”
We all took our seats again and The King began reading from a three-ringed binder, and thus the alien proceedings had begun.
Affirmations came first and began with The Queen. Bob whispered in my ear with his coarse smoker’s voice that everyone was to say three good things about themselves, after which the room would repeat what had been said. You were to end your affirmations with a fourth, which was always, “And I am somebody.”
“Shit,” I thought. I have to say something? What in the hell was I going to say about myself that was good? I have new clothes? Luckily Bob had a sheet handy that had some standard lines on it that I began to skim.
The Queen was finishing her’s up with, “And I am somebody” in her lisp-infected voice.
The room repeated back to her, “And you are somebody.”
Nothing was really registering as I read the sheet. I was simultaneously trying to do too many things. I was concentrating on everyone else’s confirmations, gauging how mine might be responded too, repeating people’s affirmations back to them with the rest of the room, and at the same time trying to skim down the sheet and pick three that didn’t sound too corny.
There were things like I am loved, I have the power to say yes and I have the power to say no, I am a child of God, I am loved, I am a good person, I am allowed to have emotions, and the list went on.
Bob had picked a seat far to close to The Queen – right next to her! It was now his turn. Crap, my turn was fast approaching. What was I going to say? Didn’t he know to anticipate that I’d want some time to prepare and pick a seat farther away? I was having a mild panic-attack.
Bob finished his affirmations and the room’s stares shifted to me. I could feel all of their eyes on me, but couldn’t bring myself to look up. I was staring at the sheet and began reading off the sheet. I quickly settled on, “I am loved.”
The room repeated back to me, “You are loved.”
Phew, that seemed to go off without too much trouble. I picked another, “I am living in the here and now.”
Again, the room repeated back to me, “You are living in the here and now.”
The pressure was slowly subsiding. I picked the third, “I am living on God’s time.”
And again the room responded with, “You are living on God’s time.”
I finished it up with, “And I am somebody.”
“And you are somebody,” the crazies repeated.
My anxiety subsided as the next person began their affirmations. I realized my hands were clenched together and clammy, my jaw was tight, and I was sweating. These things were my body telling me it wanted a drink – and a stiff one at that.
The affirmations finished up with The King’s. A daily thought and daily prayer were read, we went around to room sharing what we were grateful for that day, and then came the evening’s excitement – Fuzzy Wuzzy.
Fuzzy Wuzzy was an ancient stuffed teddy bear that had been ripped, sewn back together, adorned with 50 cent sunglasses and Mardi Gras beads, and stunk by it’s slutty nature of sleeping with everyone in the building.
When it was announced that it was time for Fuzzy Wuzzy everyone got excited and in a Happy Birthday song-like manner began singing in unison, “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear … Fuzzy Wuzzy doesn’t care … if you’ve had a good day, or a bad day, but just because you are somebody. And tonight … Fuzzy Wuzzy goes to …” at which point the holder of Fuzzy would pick another crazy to give Fuzzy to for the night and following day when the ritual would occur again during the following evening’s affirmations.
Next up on the agenda were the consequences. Every time somebody came into a group session late, didn’t do their assigned job, or were otherwise deemed deserving of a consequence, their name was written in a tablet on the center coffee table.
It was the queens job to dole out individual consequences in front of the group at the end of the meeting. Consequences ranged from cleaning the kitchen to writing a one page paper on why they’re grateful for their sobriety. The consequences were group-enforced; if you didn’t do your consequence you were given another, and so on.
The queen gave out a couple of consequences and I vowed I would never be late to a group.
The meeting was closed with the serenity prayer and everyone filed downstairs to the common area. The evening was ours to do with as we pleased until lights out at eleven.
To be continued …