To 'Hab or 'Hab Not
Well, here I am again. Waiting for a place in rehab. And barely two years after swearing blind that I’d never piss on demand under the scrutiny of a public servant again. But here I am, nevertheless. And this one depends on a D.I.Y. detox, requiring three cleans per week, until a bed becomes available.
I love to go up, down, sideways and round and round — preferably all at the same time. I dearly love my ganja, my gas, and my gin’n tonix, (usually in that order). I’ve had on-again off-again love/hate affairs with that charismatic and treacherous Dr Harry (although that’s been history for ten years), and occasional one-night stands (technically one-night crashes) with benzos and other sleeping dragons. And I’m still in thrall to that most futile and least enjoyable of substances, nicotine, which imparts nothing except a compelling need to be needed.
And I’ve been doing it all for a long time now. Over 30 years. In that time you get to try pretty much everything, including giving things up. I gave things up all the time, sometimes even when they were readily available, and even when I could afford them, and sometimes for weeks at a time.
After Dr Harry moved in the other drugs got scared and moved out, and then I started giving up other things, like jobs, possessions, friends, and getting out of bed in the morning. Finally, I gave up real estate, specifically my house in
I had already cold-turkeyed heroin (several times, for varying periods), and gone on, and jumped off, the ‘done, before my first in-patient detox (which was for alcohol) back in 1997. I remember being appalled by the staff’s suggestion that this extremely unpleasant week of shaking, sweating, humiliating group sessions and compulsory AA meetings should not be considered the end of my ‘problem’. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was the start of my ‘recovery’. I was henceforth to consider myself an addict for life, a person who not only could never drink again, but also could never take any other drug.
What did they mean? I’d stopped chucking, started eating and I could even write my name more clearly than a five year old again. In short, I was a functioning adult once more. And as for lumping alcohol in with my dearly beloved pot, well that was tantamount to heresy in my book. Dope had never caused me to lose a day’s work, or fight with my boyfriend, or cuddle a toilet whilst heaving my guts up! They were totally different kettles of fish, and while I might concede that alcohol might not, in the long run, be my longneck of lager, there was no way I was throwing out the bong with the bottle!
It was here that I first heard the term ‘rehab’. There was a great deal of pressure to continue my ‘treatment’ by going to one for a while — a ‘while’ being anywhere from a month to a year. A year! I protested that it was impossible to just give up my life — I had a job to return to! And I was acting as carer for my ex, who had an acquired brain injury from a bad OD the previous year. I couldn’t just leave him to the tender mercies of Centrelink! No, I’d go to AA every day and I’d be fine, I assured them. I walked away, healthy and confident, and lasted 17 days.
Since then I’ve lost count of the number of in-patient detoxes I’ve done; they’ve become a bit of a walk in the park, though I admit I’ve never done one for opiates or anything nasty like that. Also, you’ve got to pick the right one.
Yes, detoxing is usually pretty easy for me, especially if I’m broke. But my grand plans for a change of lifestyle never last. For years I put the responsibility for my using down to ‘childhood trauma’ and ‘external influences’ (i.e. my ex-partner. I never blamed him for my using, but just being with him made me want to use. It still does.)
So I made the move away and returned to my old job in
The Gods like a joke as much as the next person and I got an insurance payout of $30,000. Wow! It was like winning the lottery! Then a guy I had worked with for five years offered me a toke on a joint. Oh, fuck yes! Turned out he deals. Thank you, whoever, I was really missing this stuff. And then… “I can also get you nice gas”, he said.
“You little ripper. I’m cashed up, bring me in a gram.”
It was rocket fuel! I hadn’t had any for about five years and totally reveled in staying up for days. I thought to myself, I’ll just do it for two weeks, to lose some weight, and then I’ll stop. Oh, yeah?
Two weeks later I knew. I knew I was going to lose my job, and then my house. I knew I wouldn’t stop until the gear dried up, or my friend got busted, or I ran out of money. Most of all, I knew I couldn’t blame anyone else for my choices, ever again, especially the one person who would, without question or hesitation, give me somewhere to live. Again.
I had a Grand Plan taking shape in my head. It was this: I decided to spend all the money, then ‘asset-strip’ myself of anything I had valuable left (so that I couldn’t change my mind), and then go into a long-term rehab. If, at the end of a year, I came out and still couldn’t wake up in the morning without feeling terrified of the day ahead of me, then I would kill myself. Easy.
It took four months to spend most of that money. Before I lost my job I applied for an increase in my credit card limit, and spent that too. I already had two mobile contracts plus a landline, but I took out a two-year broadband contract as well. I knew I could never pay what I owed, but I thought I’d rather go down with a bang than a whimper.
By November 2004 I was back on the coast, crammed into my ex’s tiny little flat, broke, depressed beyond daytime telly, but with my plan slowly becoming realty. Once a fortnight, on payday, we would drive down to
I got myself a financial counsellor to put the wheels in motion and to put my debts on hold which I had heard you could do in my situation. I wrote long letters of explanation to my debtors, but the only acknowledgements I received were more demands. I threw them on the ever-increasing pile, exclaiming: “Get in the queue, you bastards.” I even sold my car to the local car yard for half of its worth one day because we’d run out of ciggies.
Soon even our fortnightly trips to
I’d been pretty sick since getting back to the coast, and I put it down to the sudden withdrawal from large quantities of speed. My periods stopped. I was really angry and depressed all the time. The quack said it could be early menopause from all the drugs I’d taken for so long. I didn’t mind, I hated the things, and had never wanted kids. I thought I’d be really bad at mothering, and I‘m sure I was right.
I started researching rehabs on the internet. I avoided anything to do with Gods of any kind, but it was nigh on impossible to avoid AA. I needed to get somewhere straight from detox or I knew I wouldn’t make it past the first pub.
Soon I was on my way to detox, yet again, to a place where the staff knew my name. I ran into an old music buddy there — it was really quite fun. I rang my chosen rehab every day, and within a week I was on a train, heading for a new kind of hell.
Rehab by Numbers
I knew straight away that I was not going to like this place. It had a depressing feel, and a one-size-fits-nobody approach which was specifically designed, I’m convinced, to break the spirit (though the powers that be denied it). Within three days I was packed and ready to walk out, hitch-hike back to the coast, broke or not. It took a lot of persuading to keep me there.
The best way to describe this gloomy institution is by comparing it to George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, which nobody there had never heard of, let alone read. Not even the staff, made up largely of ex-users (I thought this would be a plus, but in many ways it was worse than a teenage student counsellor). They had the equivalent of ‘Thought Police’, ‘Everything Not Compulsory Is Forbidden’, ‘The Anti-Sex League’ and lots of shadowy ‘Big Brothers’ who turned up once a month for meetings. Every day someone came round with a sheet of paper to ask you how you were feeling. I once replied, “DoublePlusUnGood”, but though nobody understood the reference, the instruction came down from on high not to use that term again.
Strangely, I found myself relaxing little by little into a state of surrender and took immense pleasure in the small things they couldn’t take away, like singing subversive jazz songs about whisky and sex. Every time you broke a rule, you had to write an ‘Awareness’, and I enjoyed playing around with the words and politely insulting the shit out of the place as much as I could get away with. I would wake up at 4.00am, just to get some head time to myself, but it was hard because we had AA or NA every night till 10 or 11pm. Although I really hated it there, I was determined to see it through. After all, I’d left myself no escape route.