One of the most important amends I had to make…while stumbling my way around early sobriety, had been very personal.
So personal, I continue to not forgive or forget what destructive path…I sent myself down. Apologizing to others had been difficult. Yet, forgiving myself for the shit I pulled…years into sobriety, comes with difficulty.
The very first meeting I attended after a month and a half in detox/rehab, had been at Howard Rec., Concord, New Hampshire.
Now, Howard Rec is located right smack dab in the middle of our lovely state’s…state run mental health facility. New Hampshire Hospital holds many memories for me. Most of which I cannot comment on until a later date.
However, it could be said that…Howard Rec scared the shit out of me…from childhood to adulthood. The stories of sociopaths running around with chains…unknowns with gray Johnnies, limping and drooling…chasing down small children such as myself.
These were some of the horror stories I had been told to dismay me from cutting across the State Hospital lawn…to get to school.
Course, as an early teen in the late 70’s and early 80’s and a budding addict, I went headstrong across the lawn every chance I could.
Current day, Howard Rec., 1995, wet behind the ears with too much coffee and not enough drink…I, deer stuck in headlight’ grappled for the rec., room door.
What I came upon was a scene from a National Lampoon movie. A not updated gymnasium lay before me. Warped basketball floors, tilted back nets with strings fraying. And, a garden variety of alcoholics…in many stages of sobriety. All dress in black.
My first thought?
‘Is this the Johnny Cash wake?’
Truth be told. After the confusion and my wanting to tie one on…at the Frosty Mug. I discovered the meeting had been for a woman who, along with mental impairments, been sober for 25 years.
Her husband, who she had met while being a patient at the state hospital, quickly noticed the look of a newbee…in the halls.
Brushing well wishers aside, he made a bee line for your’s truly.
I had almost made it to the girl’s bathroom, toilets a half a foot off the ground. But alas, no!
Henry grabbed my shoulder with the strength of several men…though he appeared to be older than dirt.
“Where you going girl? Norma, would be pissed if she chased away an addict!”
I didn’t really have a response. I just listened. And, listened.
Henry told me of his struggles. Norma problems with major depression. And, their marriage of sobriety. What influenced me most?
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. Your really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. That’s Lucy! Norma loved watching, I love LUCY! She believed that laughter…along with Thorazine and AA meetings…were really the best medicine!”
All at once, a vision…
Some woman shuffling along, smile on her face, Big Book in hand…and television set to TV land’s, I Love LUCY!
I broke out into tears, laughter and almost…puked.
Henry, not long after that meeting, went on to see his wife, Norma. Every couple of months…I take an afternoon and binge watch, LUCY.
Sometimes there are little ghost towns with in the little villages. Small nuances, distorted realities of how life could have been. Burbs, set amongst small town chatter of even smaller small talk, discuss the ‘stuff that brings matter to life.’ Often, these shanties are often refered to as, rehabs. Tired stretches of road that hold a promise to the end of self imposed misery.
My posse frequents one such group of forgotten cottages , the Last House on the Road. The Last House is an old old old administration building. It had been part and parcel to an orphanage, that became a monastery and eventual, a catholic school. The drunks it current houses may know nothing of the vast history, other than, its tiny little well manicured cemetery devoted to townies, orphans from centuries past and occasional, nuns that have moved on to meet the maker.
I had attended a ‘low income’ rehab. I had no choice. I had no money. I had no insurance. I had no soul!
The day I entered rehab…after several weeks of detox and dubiously looking at what I had made of myself, in the non-breakable mirror; only one promise needed to by made and paid.
The action had not been to remain sober ’til my dying day. The plan had not been for a speedy recovery and devote myself to the betterment of addicts everywhere.
The promise had been simple:
I promise to pay back…Farnum Center…at least one dollar a day…until my room and board in recovery…has been paid back.
Honestly, the point had been simple, the sober powers that be knew most would not be able to ever pay…in full, what it costs to sober a dunk up and/or ween an addict off. To me, a dollar sign could never replace what rehab gives to those who are willing to let go of their will power. To be handed back a life. Whether you began your descent into the madness of addiction at 20 or 65! When clean and sober…everyone is returned to new born baby status. And, to be able to begin anew is a gift that has no price tag.
Back to the story at hand…the ‘promissory vow’ of one single monthly dollar in repayment, was the addiction counselor’s way of bringing the ‘small child’ back to adulthood. That by agreeing to payment…the addict has begun the teeny tiny steps towards making amends!
The State of New Hampshire has decided to revoke funding to ‘rehabs that tend to attend to the uninsured’! After next month, the 60 thousand dollars that aids to the functioning of non profit recovery centers…will be gone. Generally speaking, only the rich shall survive. After all, I’ve been ’round the recovery block a year or to…most who need the help the most…are not working, stable persons with insurance. Typically they are, unemployable but filled with talent, young people without support (because addiction is a family disease) and with holes in the bottom of their shoes.
How do I know? That had been me.
When I walk…meditate at the Last House…it helps me to not forget. The Last House is now part of a working farm which is part of a piece of N.H. Forest and Nature conservatory. The wonderful owners of the farm have allowed for the recovery center to take over some of the old and need of repair…buildings of history.
The dogs and I have seen crying young twenty somethings…suitcase packed…awaiting a ride…postponing the inevitable. Cabs from several towns over have sat outside the female housing unit…running in idle…again awaiting to whisk a recent ‘quitter’ away.
But…we have also seen small community gardens erected by persons that are participating in twenty eight to as long as you need, programs. We’ve passed groups of smiling faces on the dirt road that leads to the corn fields. They are happy, at ease and have a slight hitch in their ride. Their stride displays a promise to keep on keeping on…but is doing so with uncertainty.
My last day at rehab…we attended an outside meeting. The meeting hall filled with smoke. That should tell you how long ago I got sober. Coffee cups over flowed the card tables. Blue and gold velvet special message signs for special people… hung off the walls of particle board. It had been a lonely but lively room in a Unitarian basement.
As we, a crowd of graduates from the class of fall term 1995 Farnum Center, a plane flew overhead. It had a tailored lettered kite dragging behind…
‘We are here for you…Call today!’
Immediately, for I had been traveling in a pink cloud since the booze left my system, I realized that my conscience contact with my Higher Power…was receiving an answer.
The plane had been advertising a special for new car buyers. It need not have mattered. It could have been a sign for male enhancement. It had been a sign nonetheless.
The times have been rough. The times have been noteworthy. The days and nights filled with moments of being human…again.
The thing rehab promised me?
Life would be conducted sober and semi serene…It would not be easier!
Shit if I know what I would have done without detox and a program. I recall, at the time, my choice had been rehab or running a kitchen at a dude ranch in Montana with a bi-sexual couple…that wanted to make nice nice.
Shame on the state of New Hampshire. Shame on the powers that be. We have per ca-pita, the largest under aged addiction to alcoholism than any other state. Perhaps, New Hampshire will see their own sign. Perhaps, it will continue to come in the form of meth overdoses and prostitution and child abuse. Perhaps, the state will continue to have to pay for those addicts in other ways and forms.
EARL'S PLACE: "AN OPEN & RESPECTFUL ONLINE SPACE TO DEBATE OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES FACING THE GLOBE," CURATED BY AWARD-WINNING COLUMNIST, EARL PLANTE, AN UNFLINCHING ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL & ECONOMIC JUSTICE