… continued from Valentine’s Day Eve.
I was greeted by two women at the door. Literally at the door – they were outside smoking cigarettes. One older than the other, but both approaching middle age. The older had grey hair in a buzz cut and was wearing tight jeans, a flannel shirt, and a denim jacket, circa 1988 – obviously a butch Lebanese. The younger had bleached blonde hair with 2 inch long roots exposed at a part down the middle, bags under her eyes, and thin as a rail – she wore a black NASCAR jacket that hung off of her frame. Didn’t know what to think of her.
“You must be Dan,” said the Lebanese, as I began to walk by her towards the door.
These two were the staff.
They brought me inside and sat me in a small examining room. I got a glimpse of the place prior to being locked in the back. Dismal. Dismal at best. They had fake plants. For God’s sake – fake plants! And this was a gay treatment center? Who was in charge of the decorations around here?
Turns out Lebanese was the tech. Roots was the nurse. Lebanese began the intake procedure by filling out some paperwork and Roots finished it up by taking my vitals and administering a test for TB.
I was told I didn’t have to attend any groups for 72 hours if I didn’t wish to participate. Sort of an ‘ease into things’ take on treatment, I thought. But what good was it going to do me to sit around? I wanted to get better quick.
I was informed that the rest of the inpatients were upstairs in the group room for a patient’s graduation. Nightly affirmations would begin afterwards. I heard chants, cheering, random laughs, and stomping. The stomping was so loud I thought the floor was going to give.
Lebanese showed me around the place – it was vacant with everyone upstairs. Men’s room was down the hall with community showers. The lobby, vending machine area, phones, nurses station, gymnasium down the hall, and the cafeteria and group rooms were upstairs. Though the building looked from the outside as if it wad been built in the mid 80s with a light brick exterior, the interior was cheap. The floor creaked when you walked on it – and we were on the bottom floor of the building. The carpet was stain-filled and a ugly shade of grey and the walls seemed to be made of a plastic-like, indestructible material.
We ended the tour at my room – right next to the nursing station. Lebanese left me to unpacking, or rather, in my case – untagging my new clothes. She showed me my new home: a bed, dresser and a desk. There were three of each as I had two roommates. All of the furniture appeared as if it had come from one of those “unfinished furniture” places that tout good quality construction, but left unfinished so you can stain it yourself and save a nickel or two… something I’ve never understood, but was to be soon accustomed to.
The bed was unmade, sheets and towels folded on top of a plastic sheet lying on the thinnest, most flexible mattress I’ve ever been a witness to. Seriously – a plastic sheet? Do people regularly wet the bed in this place? I certainly hoped not.
So there I was at Pride Institute with fake plants, a floor about to cave in above me, unfinished furniture, a flimsy mattress, and a plastic sheet. Not exactly the Liza Minnelli treatment center motif I had imagined.
Then it sorta sunk in. My life was a wreck. Only people referred to as “messes” end up in places like this. I was alone. The commotion continued upstairs. I wondered what these people were going to be like. Would I have anything in common with them? Would I actually be able to ‘get better’ in this place?
Not knowing what to do with myself I walked out of my room into the common area. Roots was at the nursing station. Other than the warning she gave me prior to poking me with the TB test, she’d barely said a word to me. I walked over to her and stood there. She asked me, “so why did you come here?”
Good question. “I guess because I don’t know how to live anymore. I’m trying to figure out how to live without drinking. I’m looking for some tools.”
“We can help you with that. You’ve taken the first step.”
To be continued …