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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Saturday, October 19, 2013

rehab revisited

2 years ago today i went into rehab.

fogged, in what they call a "benzo-coma", i protested limply, like an overcooked noodle.

i was cooked all right.

121 pills later, i was "FINE!...I'M FINE!", assuring my husband, as he paced on the phone with my neurologist. "She will die from the withdrawal. Bring her into Cedars-Sinai". oh, my sweet, tiny, Jewish neurologist, my co-dependent clinician, so delightfully prodigious with his prescriptive scribblings, who confessed to feeling guilty when next i saw him.

[guilt. such a useful emotion for the addict.]

i was fine. i don't remember a thing.

or much.

there was the slumped back of my kidney doctor walking away. my apathy, a cold shower dousing our friendship in confusion and pain. his newly-transplanted prodigy back in the ER for more, because she couldn't care less.

a shadowy shape in the corner, surreal in his stillness but for his eyes. a shimmering lake about to crest the levees and drown us all. a friend patiently waiting for me to wake up.

and anger, His anger - volcanic hot - surging through the hospital halls as he marched and marched, building to canter, to trot, to gallop away. a Prince ready to retire The White Horse. anger like an air popcorn machine gone turbo, spraying the halls with kernels of his rage.

it would be accurate to say i was scared, but in a self-eating, zombie kind of way. too flaccid to focus on my prey.

i just lay there.

"You deserve this." that Voice would nag sharply, like an old shrew demanding her rights in the "15-items-or-less" aisle. "That yogurt pack counts as 4 items! To the back of the line!"

to the back of the line.


i arrived at night. it looked so pretty. white shutters. bright twinkle lights. canopied couches. like a Napa Valley bed and breakfast welcoming me for the next 60 mornings.

only without the complimentary Mimosa.

i stood there, wobbling like a bowling pin ready to be knocked down, in front of who came to be my 2 favorite techs, S. and C..

"How do you feel?", they asked.

"Scared", i answered.

was that the right answer?

it would be wrong to say i wasn't scared.

it would be right to say i felt like i'd stepped into my own episode of Intervention. finally! maybe now i would understand why junkies shooting up in abandoned warehouses looked good to me. "Why?", i wondered. why didn't i clutch and shake my head exclaiming, "OH MY GOD! WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM?" no, i still wanted to try it. 

i want[ed] to try it all. 

i sniffed as they pillaged my open bags, seizing hand sanitizer, perfume, hair spray. Ambien. "But how will I sleep?", i wailed. "I'll give you something, honey", S. soothed.

i stood hunched, my soul like loose skin hanging off the bone, too flabby to feel. i couldn't muscle up any emotion, not even tighten a pretense. it dangled, like a freak benign tumor that serves no purpose, weighing me down under. as i drooped off to a tiny twin bed, defeated, head hanging, heart hung, i was ready, in the City of Altered Angels, to have it all snipped away.

it would be too easy to quip about the Grammy-award winning tune Amy Winehouse would croon with Stoly-crack-fueled resistance. the song that ran on a track around my brain, as i chased her defiance as my own, huffing and puffing 'til i collapsed in a pile of smelly old sweats and fresh new regrets.

"They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no, no..."

but it would be a lie to say i never fantasized about doing the karaoke with Amy, belting out her hit together, testifying with pursed pouts and jutting hips that,"you don't know! you just don't know!"; teenage BFF's flipping birds skyward from unshackled arms stretched long and lean, pumping our venom outward, always outward.

towards you.
towards them.
towards all.

oh, yes, i was hard done by, don't cha know. i was in rehab.

it would be wrong to say i remember when the fog lifted. it took a long time to physically stabilize. my detox was long, and the cravings longer. it took months for them to subside. like water bubbling over on the stove, they calmed from a righteous, spiting boil to a low-grade simmer, and finally, cooled enough to slide to the back burner.

but never, ever off.

for 4 solid years, my disease palmed me into a desperate diner waitress, broke and broken, the heat, the pace of Its kitchen wearing me down into a sweaty, greasy mess.

"Order Up!". Its spinning metal rack of orders never ceased to turn. It squeaked orders from the moment my eyes cranked open with rusty resistance.

i didn't want to get up. i never wanted to get up. i didn't want to open my eyes, ears, heart, because The Orders kept coming.

"Get up. Take Your Pills. Buy Alcohol. Order Pills. Con Doctor. Manipulate Pharmacist. Lie to Husband. Hide Alcohol. Take Pills. Drink Alcohol. Ignore all Mirrors. Ignore Everyone. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

amidst a perfect storm of events, i had given up and poured the remains of my life down a funnel of fear, lubricating the journey with a backsplash of booze and dissolving baubles, anything to speed it up. it couldn't be stopped up with silly ideas like hope or serenity. i just shoved and flushed hard.

the invisible line between catch and release had been crossed. i had been caught by a disease i could not name, even though i had lived it from the other side as a child. a father's daughter who could not reel this one in without a little help from her friends.

it would be right to say i smiled when i got to rehab. i laughed. i flirted.

and it would be wrong to say i didn't feel relief.

after 4 years of holding my breath, i could finally breathe.

i had tea with the pharmacist who didn't take pills, rap with the gay son of a Texan and skip down Robertson with a suburban boy blue. and all our conversations were the same. our frequencies in sync, no feedback, crystal clear. invisible to the eye, we all wore the same uniforms. through sleet and snow and dark of night, we had all weathered the same storm.

and nodding. oh, the nodding.

to a 3/4 beat, i'd nod.

"i'm not/ a-lone/ i'm not/ a-lone/".

it would be wrong to say i didn't love them.

for the first time in my life, my hand was held, nay, grabbed as i attempted to navigate the landscape of insanity that sprawls between my ears. my brain untamed is hazardous to Your health, not mine. i was comfortable living inside the tornado, my delicious default. as You prayed for the Eye of The Storm to land, for calm air to descend, hot and moist, and wrap You in a blanket of peace, on all fours i'd position, angry and aroused, ready for the storm to carry me away again.

chaos, my cherub. my sweet spot.

where i could hate and hate loud and never hear the replies.

we drink because we are happy.
we drink because we are sad.
we drink because we get a job,
we drink because we are mad.

there is no answer to be found.
this riddle will not be solved.
we cannot change but with acceptance,
we drink because we are alcoholic, and that is all.

i used to HATE it when that old adage floated around like second-hand smoke; i'd hack on the esotericism of it all  - "everything happens for a reason." EGADS. who are YOU to know this? HOW do you know this? and why don't I understand?

i left rehab on december 13th, the day i lost my Daddy to this disease, 35 years earlier.

there are no accidents.

and when i understand this, i am empowered by something greater than reason.


rehab did not fix everything, but a soul is not to be fixed, it's to be freed.

it would be right to say the fog has lifted.

and it would be wrong to say rehab didn't save my life.