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Twisting all the bad things into good

Feb 26, 2012

CHAPTER 10: THE PATRON SAINT OF . . .WHATEVER. Lucky

                     Any fool can have bad luck;
                    the art consists in knowing how to exploit it.
                         Frank Wedekind


             Group therapy is in session. T sits at the head of the table. He asks if anyone has anything they would like to discuss. Nobody speaks up. Despite their silence, most of the group seem to be paying attention. A few of the guys never shift their gaze away from their folded arms.

            This is the closest in proximity that I have been to the others. It's the first time that I realize these people are not a group. They are individuals. They are as different from each other as I am to them. These differences make it clear that an hour of one on one therapy is what we all really need. For a few, this is nothing more than missing another hour of television. It's hard to know if they have even been paying attention to the Law and Order episodes that have been playing one after another. Maybe the television serves the same purpose as it does in the rec room of most homes. It's a distraction from the silence that comes when people do not communicate. That silence is why some people can't fall asleep without the television on. It's the same reason some people can't fall asleep at all.

            Nobody wants to talk about feelings.
            Nobody wants to appear vulnerable.
            Nobody really knows anybody else.
            Their silence says more than their unspoken words ever could.
            T asks DJ about her progress in finding a sober house for women. She says she is hoping and waiting for a spot to open up at a place that her caseworker has been in contact with. She tells T that she needs to stay clean this time. T asks her to remind him what her D.O.C. is.
            I raise my hand and interject,"Excuse me, I'm sorry. What's "D.O.C" stand for?"
            DJ says,"He's asking what my drug of choice is."
            "Oh, okay. Thanks. Sorry to interrupt". 
            She tells me that there's no need to apologize. She turns back to T and reminds him that crack is her D.O.C. She discusses how she is able to stay clean for a short time until something happens that she can't cope with. That is when she usually disappears for days at a time. Her two sons are in their late teens and she is afraid of losing them forever if it happens one more time.

            I think about my parents and how lucky I am.

            T begins to discuss the necessity of finding a healthy coping mechanism to replace acting out by falling back into addiction. He says that just because he is leading a group therapy session, that does not mean that he always deals with stress in a healthy way. He says that sometimes he just wants to go act out in his own way, but he reminds himself that he is a father and a husband, and whatever he does out of selfishness will not only affect him, but his whole family. He chooses to be a rock for his family, instead of the rock that causes the ripple effect.

            I think about how lucky I am to have hurt only myself.

            Passing out at the wheel and totaling a thirty thousand dollar car with seventeen thousand miles on it seems lucky when you crash into a ditch, instead of a wall, or a family of four.
            Things that can not be undone.
            Wrongs that can and will never be made right.
            Damage that can not be repaired or replaced.
            A memoir with no funny parts.
            The forgiveness that even a bestseller would not provide.
            A life that is more than wasted.

            I think about how lucky I am.


            T thanks DJ for sharing. Nobody else volunteers to speak, so T looks at his clipboard and then at me.
            "James, right?"
            I sit up. "Yeah".
            "I know you just got here, and this is your first group session. Would you like to talk about why you're here?"
            "Yeah, sure. Back in 2003, I was drunk and I dove into a pool, not realizing how shallow it was, and I hit my head on the bottom. I remember just feeling lucky to have not gotten killed or paralyzed. My roommate at the time was there and that was how his best friend died. A few months later, I was in unbearable pain from my lower back to my toes. I could barely put my socks on, so I went and got an MRI, and found out I had herniated two discs in my back and ruptured one in my neck. The neurologist prescribed me Vicodin. I had always smoked weed and stuff, but I was never into pills. They helped with the pain, but I also liked how they made me chatty because I worked on the phone, so it made me not hate my job as much. After a few weeks of physical therapy, the doctor stopped prescribing the Vicodin because he said I could get addicted. A friend of mine told me about a pain management clinic he went to. So I started going there, and at first they prescribed me Percocet, then more and more Roxys and Xanax. So that just got worse and worse until March when I got arrested for possessing pills and not having my prescription bottle. I got fired a few days later, so I figured that was the time to try to get off. I was never able to completely stop. I've had insomnia since March, and then, I guess it was Friday, I started hallucinating and that went on until I woke up this morning and realized what had happened."
            "Who brought you here?" T asks.
            "A cop."
            One of the girls asks if I was Baker Acted. I tell her that I was. She said that they wouldn't Baker Act me just because I was hallucinating.
           "Well, my roommate told my dad that I had knives next to my bed," I tell her,"So my dad told the cop, and he came and scooped me up. I was never going to kill myself though".
            They don't seem convinced.
            T asks,"Would you say that your psychosis was drug induced?"
            "Yeah. Definitely."
            "How many people in the group would say that they are in here as a result of drugs?" T asks.
            Less than half raise their hands.

            I don't remember the last time I felt as lucky as I do today.



           Shortly after group, it's time for dinner.
           Everyone forms a single file line like schoolchildren. T leads us outside and to a small cafeteria area in another building. The line does not beak until after each person walks away with their tray and sit downs to eat. It's not a buffet. There's no picking and choosing. All the trays are already prepared. The lady in the kitchen continues to slide the trays out as more are taken away.
           Me and the guy ahead of me stand there waiting for her to prep our meal.
           Before she gives me my tray, I make a request.
           "Yes, I'll have the surf n' turf, please".
           Either she doesn't think I'm funny, or she doesn't speak English.

           After I put my unsweetened red Kool Aid type drink on my tray, I decide against sitting at a table alone, like a few others do. I sit towards the end of the table where most of the group is sitting. I'm hungry as hell so I start in on my roast beef, but my spork is far from doing the job a plastic knife would.
            "James, just use your hands", Brian says.
            I look down the table at him. Brian appears to be in his fifties. He is one of the few people wearing a gown instead of street clothes.
            "I'm not using my hands", I tell him. 
            There's no way of knowing what kind of germs I could pick up in this place.
            "You can tell James was raised right," Brian tells the others.
            DJ says,"Let him eat however he wants to eat".
            "What?" Brian says. "I'm just saying you can tell by the way he eats that he has good manners".
            "Thanks, man", I say. "My mom would be so proud."
            "Yeah, you got those English manners."
            I start laughing. It feels good to laugh again. It's been too long.
            "What the hell are English manners?" I ask him.
            "The way the people on the top level of the Titanic ate. Not like the rest of us bottom feeders".
           
            "You know who you look like?" Loretta asks Brian.
            "Who do I look like?"
            "You look like that guy from The Green Mile".
            "Tom Hanks?" Brian asks.
            Brian looks nothing like Tom Hanks. He has white hair.
            "No, not Tom Hanks" she says.
            At least I know that Loretta is not delusional. She's actually kind of cute and obviously the youngest person in our unit. She looks to be in her early twenties.
            She tries to describe the actor. "The other guard, his friend, the one with white hair".
            Time to show off my movie knowledge.
            "The actor's name is David Morse," I inform them.
            Brian looks nothing like David Morse, but it's a lot closer than Tom Hanks.
            "Look at James", Brian says. "He's intelligent too. What are you doing here?"
            "I just know a lot about movies, that's all".
            "Old Sparky", Loretta says.
            "Old Sparky was the name of the electric chair," I remind her.
            "That's your name from now on, Old Sparky", Loretta tells him.
            "Well, alright", Sparky says with a smile, showing off the little gap between his two top front teeth.
            I can tell that me and Sparky are going to get along.
            It feels good to know that I won't have to keep myself entertained.
            This is starting to feel like summer camp.

            I can't help but to feel like one lucky camper.

              

Feb 24, 2012

CHAPTER 9: THE PATRON SAINT OF . . . WHATEVER. With Friends Like These

 The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four
 Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness.
Think of your three best friends.
If they're okay,
It's you.  
Rita Mae Brown



THURSDAY



            My peaceful nap has just ended.
            The movie is over, but the drama continues.
            "Bitch, what is your fucking problem?" I hear one of the girls say.
            Now this is more like it.
            The girl who was yelling is getting in another girl's face.
            "DJ," the tech calmly says. "Relax".
            The tech sitting behind the counter is simply referred to as T. T is a former college football player who looks a bit like Biz Markie, but not really. (Not everybody has a doppelganger). This almost one of a kind tech is so cool that he doesn't even stand up or raise his voice. He speaks to them like a father who does not even bother to look away from his newspaper when he tells his kids to stop fighting. If I couldn't see him, I would assume that his feet were up and his eyes were closed. I like him already.
            "Then tell this bitch to quit following me around," DJ demands.
            "Stop following her around, Viviana."  he says.

            The girl annoying DJ is the one with the voice that makes Rosie Perez sound like Adele. The one who was being tortured by the dude with the dick when I got here last night. For some reason, the kid with the cock missed the cut. I guess he wasn't disturbed enough to be kept here. That's comforting.
            "I am only just trying to talk weeth her, what is wrong weeth that?" she asks in Spangleesh.
            "Don't try to talk with her" T says.
            DJ keeps spinning records. "You're always up somebody's ass or trying to fuck any guy who comes in here who will talk to you."

            "Do NOT talk to Viviana" I tell myself.

            I probably should also avoid starting a conversation with DJ or shadowing her around the room.
            DJ is not a small woman. She would kick Viv's ass. She might even land a few punches on me. "A few" being however many it took to put me on the rec room floor.
             Like me, Viv doesn't know when to shut up.
             "I'm only trying to make friends" she admits.
             "You're not here to make friends" T tells her.

             Hearing the word "friends" reminds me of that dick, I mean, my best friend. The call I placed to him last night was my final delusion, I think. In reality, the last thing I said to him was "FUCK YOU!" After all, he was complicit in having the cops come get me and having me held here involuntarily.
             I should call and thank him.
         
             After T tells me it's cool for me to use the phone, I go to the back of the room and take a seat under the phone on the wall. I wish I would have called him while the girls were yelling. He would have probably liked that. I'm sure he would have pictured this place to be a lot more exciting than it really is.

            Jeff answers, "This is Jeff".
            "This is Jim".
            "AY! You're back" he says.
            "Yeah, I'm back." I say. "Fuckin' A, bro".
            Sounding somewhere between trepidation, fascination, and wanting to break out in laughter, Jeff asks,"Duuude. What happened to you?"
            "I don't know, dude. I went so long without sleeping I just lost my shit".
           "Yeah you did" he says. "What the hell? What were you on?"
           I get that question a lot. Nobody ever believes my answer.
           "Nothing" I tell him.
           "Nothing? What do you mean, "nothing"? Let me guess, you were just really tired?"
           We both laugh at his "really tired" reference to the time he found me passed out on my bathroom floor about ten years earlier. That was the first time he found it hard to believe that a lack of sleep was a valid excuse for my condition.

           "Ever since I got arrested, I had been trying to get off the painkillers and the xanax on my own, and being all stressed out, I just could not sleep. I was maybe getting eight hours of sleep a week, I don't even know."
           "How long were you like that?"
           "For months" I tell him.
           "Months? I just saw you like two weeks ago".
           "Oh, the hallucinations. I thought you meant the insomnia. I think that all started on Friday".
           "Man, you are Tyler Durden", he says. We both laugh.
           In my twisted mind, I thought that was pretty cool.

           "Your dad called me saying that your roommate called your mom and told her you were talking to people who weren't there for the last week."
           "You would think he would have called the first day" I point out.
           Jeff agrees. "Yeah, really. He never said anything to you, like, "Hey, you're talking to yourself"?"
           "Nope. I don't know. Maybe he was scared."
           "That's even more of a reason to call. What the hell's wrong with that kid?"
           "I don't know. He's got problems. How did my dad have your number?"
           "I sent him a message on FaceBook a few weeks back about how I was worried about you but I never heard back from him.
           "Yeah, I don't even know why he has an account. He never uses it. I'm surprised he even saw the message."
         Jeff continues. "He called me and then we both talked to the cop. Bro, I thought you wanted to kill me yesterday. The cop said you would have definitely swung on me if you weren't cuffed".
         "Yeah, sorry about that. I thought we were starting some conglomerate and you were having me arrested to save it."
        "What the hell?"
        "Yeah. That's why I thought you brought the cops over. I don't know, bro. I thought all kinds of crazy shit was happening. I didn't even realize that I had been hallucinating until I woke up this morning". 
        "Did you talk to your dad?" he asks.
        "Yeah, dude. I decided I'm going to move up North."
        "Good" he says with noticeable enthusiasm. "I mean, I think that's a good idea. Everybody's gonna miss ya, but you need to go somewhere and recharge."
         "I need to do something", I admit.

         "I was telling the cop, "Look, Jimmy's my best friend, but that's not Jimmy". I called him after he dropped you off and told him I was concerned. I didn't know what was going on with you or what you thought I did to you. I just knew you were crazy. I told the cop that I thought if they let you out, you might come over to the house and want to kill me or something. He was like, "Oh, don't worry, they definitely won't be letting him out for a few days"."
         "Yeah, bro, I was spouting conspiracy theories the whole ride here" I tell him. "Man, I can't believe I'm in here."
         "What's it like?" he asks.
         "It's not what I expected. I didn't get admitted until this afternoon, but so far, everyone's just sitting around watching movies. Still, it's embarrassing that of all the fucked people we've known, I'm the only one who ends up in a place like this."        
         Jeff says, "The only person who knows about it is Jamie. I had to tell him. He called and said,"Did Jim go to Vegas? He left me a weird message". What did you say to him?" Jeff asks, laughing.
       "I really called him? I wasn't sure if that really happened. I thought I was in Vegas on Friday night and that him and Kelly met us out there. I left him a message to call me and fill in the blanks for me. I remember saying how it was the best time in a while, and how I was glad we went, but I just couldn't remember the details of how we all decided to meet there, or how we got home. Jesus, imagine if he would have answered, what that conversation would have been like."
        "That would have been awesome" he says.

        I have a very comforting thought pop into my mind out of nowhere. "Dude, thank God I did not go on Facebook all week. I would have been posting about being in Vegas and my dad dying. Then everyone would have known about this. I'd never get laid again."
        Jeff says,"Well, besides Jamie, I haven't said anything, and I told him not to."
        "Thanks, man. Nobody else needs to know about this shit."
        Then again, maybe I'll write a book about my secret humiliation one day.
        "You wouldn't believe some of the stuff I thought happened. Trust me, it's a long story, but I'll tell ya all about it when I get out of here. I should be out Monday. They don't release anyone on the weekend. You think you can pick me up?"
        "Yeah, of course. If I can't get out of work, I'll have Kimmy come pick you up" he says.
        "All right, thanks, dude. I'll let you know what's up".

        After we hang up, I imagine how awkward it would be to be picked up and driven home from a mental joint by my best friend's wife, who has never known me when I wasn't "all fucked up", to use her exact words.

        It occurs to me that I either just got off the phone with the best friend ever or the worst husband ever.


         

        

       
    

Feb 19, 2012

CHAPTER 8: THE PATRON SAINT OF . . . WHATEVER. Shapeshifting

             "But I don't close the door on that dark past or ignore it,
             because there is that beast there in me. 
             And I got to keep him caged or he'll eat me alive"
                Johnny Cash


THURSDAY

              
               All eyes are on The Wolfman.
               He just woke up in his torn clothes.
               He is a man again.
               It won't last.
               I already know how it's going to end.
               I suffered through it the first time.
               Hours. Wasted. Can't. Get. Back.
               Even if you don't know the whole story, I'm still going to ruin it.
               Consider this a spoiler alert.
               It's not going to have a happy ending.

           
              With nothing to write about when I get out of here, there is little comfort to be found in my situation. I grasp for any thought that even resembles a word I used to know as hope. I'm bored out of my mind so I consider doing something that may totally back fire. What do I have to lose? I've been involuntarily put in a place for crazy crackhead types. Yeah, I'm gonna do it. This is definitely the best time and place to count my many blessings. This won't require a writing utensil. Removing my "Have a nice day" slippers will not be necessary. The fingers on my left hand should be more than enough to help me keep count of all the good things that I have going for me. Let's see if I can even get beyond my opposable thumb.

             At least I have my health.
             Thumbs down. This blessing counting bullshit was another in a long life of bad ideas. Physically, I'm in terrible shape. If I thought the number of pushups I could do would outnumber my blessings, I'd ask for a sports bra to wear while I struggled through each one. As far as my mental health is concerned, well,  I'm in a goddamn fucking mental health facility. Maybe there is a dual diagnosis for someone who is both physically and mentally unhealthy. I'm off to a great start.

             My fingers are still clenched in a closed fist.

             What's another way that my life is awesome?
             At least I'm not in jail.
             5 days in South County Mental Health has got to be better than 5 days in Palm Beach County Jail. I've only been here a few minutes, but when I look around at the other guests, I don't feel the need to prepare myself to punch the first person who approaches me in the throat.
             As far as counting with fingers goes, I'm still on my hitchhiker, which is appropriate since I just want someone to get me the hell out of here.

             At least I'm not insane.
             At least not insane in a schizophrenic kind of way, like I was afraid the doctor was going to tell me. He could have provided a worse diagnosis than he gave me.
             What's else do I have going for me?             
             At least I'm not dead.
             Wow. I am truly blessed. I'm not in prison, I'm not a schizophrenic, and I'm not dead. Maybe I can use that as a title on a dating profile. Now that my fuck off finger is extended, I should really just put the first two down.

             The more I consider this minor blessing of being alive, I realize that it is a blessing. It's the first time in a long time that I am glad to be alive. I'm glad that I never fell asleep one night not to wake up in the morning. Dying in your sleep is almost impossible when you never sleep. Despite this minor detail, today I can honestly say that I don't wish that I had never been born. But, who knows how I will feel when I get released on Monday.
            Monday worries me.
            I have to admit that I am scared of what will happen.
            They'll be waiting for me.
            On Monday, all those things that put me here will drop the hammer as soon as I'm released. There is no defending myself from such an onslaught. I'm too weak. I'm no match for this wicked world that I have created.
            A lost sheep amongst werewolves under a full moon.
            No shepherd packing silver bullets.
            It's going to be a slaughter.
 
            Maybe I shouldn't hope to get released on Monday. At least here, I know I'm going to get fed 3 times a day. Even if they have to drug my ass, at least I know I will be able to sleep. Depending on the drugs I'm administered, it may not be so bad. Insanity could be better. Madness could be an excuse and an answer. The crazier they think I am, the less I have to worry about things like not having anything to eat, not being able to sleep, not having a driver's license so I can drive to a bunch of shitty job interviews, not having a shitty job so I can purchase luxury goods like food and water that does not come from a tap. It would be nice to have a few extra bucks left over after my shopping spree at Everything's A Dollar so that I can cross out "shelter" on my short list of basic necessities of survival. High ticket items like cable, electricity, and Arizona Iced Tea will be afterthoughts if I don't even have a tap to drink water from or a kitchen where I can keep frozen and nuke my beef burrito that comes from a plastic package simply labeled "Beef Burrito". Its a good thing I live on the intracoastal. I'll only have a few hundred yards to push my shopping cart full of unread books, Unlucky Jeans, and unworn shoes because I'll be living on the beach. Like, literally. As impressive as "living on the beach" may sound to the ladies, my lack of hygiene would negate the possibility of even getting passed my best opening line, "Hey, lady, you gonna finish that?" which is usually immediately followed by my closing line,"Hey, fuck you, lady, you're on my beach!"
             After she immediately packs up her grandchildren's beach blankets and buckets, I'll still be sitting there, on my  beach, eating the leftover crust of her  sandwich, and smoking crack with her  empty can of Coke Zero. For a few minutes, I'll sit there, cracked out, waiting for the sun to set off the east coast of Florida, just like it never does at this same time every day. Maybe somewhere between my dual diagnoses, I'll have a moment of unwanted clarity. Maybe I'll realize that somewhere, the sun does set in the west. That exotic place could be right behind me, but I wouldn't know. I never look back. Whenever I'm plagued by a disturbing moment of clarity such as this, I'll do my own little daily affirmation. "Life's a beach" is what I will tell myself, and then, no matter what, I will make myself start laughing. Some days, I may even have to say my daily affirmation more than once. Eventually, the day will come when I try to say my hourly affirmation, but the wrong words will roll off of my tongue. "Life's a bitch" is what I will tell myself, and then, no matter what, I won't be able to make myself stop crying.
         

            Back to the movie.
            Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. There is nothing I can do to change it while I'm in here. I decide to try to get into the movie instead of messing with my mind.
             That's when I remember that I never called my dad back after I saw the doctor.
             I walk over to a tech and ask him if I can make a phone call. He tells me I can use the phone on the wall by the table. I pick up the phone and sit in the seat underneath it.
             "Dad. Hey, it's me. I saw the doctor and they got me admitted".
             He asks me what the doctor told me. I can tell that he is worried about what my answer may be.
             "He said that the detox, the depression, and the stress obviously didn't help things, but he said the hallucinating was most likely from just going so long without sleeping".
             He double checks with me to make sure that it was not something that would happen again. I can hear in his voice that he is relieved that the doctor didn't tell me something much worse.
             "No," I tell him."All those things combined to cause the insomnia, but besides that, he said he didn't think anything was wrong with me."
            I don't think either of us totally buy the fact that there's nothing wrong with me, but we both pretend the psychiatrist knew what he was talking about.

            "Listen, Jimmy." he says. "You're a grown man, and you can do what you want, but ever since Michelle left and Mitch died, you've been depressed and all by yourself. I really don't think there's anything there for you anymore. I can't tell you what to do, it's your life, but your mom and I think you should move back here. We need to start putting this family back together again."
             Usually in life, it's only in retrospect when we realize a decision we made changed the course of our lives. I knew right then that whatever decision I made was going to change everything. I think of how after twenty two years, everything and everyone I know is here. Considering this, it should have been a difficult decision to make. It wasn't. It was still difficult to say it though.
             I took a deep breath before I surrendered.
             "I think you're right". I look around the room. "Yeah, I'm done. It's over."
             That was the part in the parable when the prodigal son decides it's time to go home.



            The movie continues.
            Not all movies can be classics like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
            This movie does not star Jack Nicholson.
            It is a new version with a new actor.
            With the weight of the world off of my shoulders, I decide to let myself enjoy it this time. Maybe my expectations were just too unrealistic. After a few minutes, I realize that even if it's not a great movie, there are still some good parts. Those are the parts I'm going to focus on this time.

             As great an actor that Nicholson is, his 1994 version of the wolfman story sucked. This is the recently released 2010 version with Benicio Del Toro as an actor who turns into a werewolf and Anthony Hopkins, excuse me, Sir Anthony Hopkins as his father. This was just at the theater. I know this is a bootleg version, but you would never know by the quality.
             In this version, the wolfman leaves his theater tour to return to his family's estate and has an uneasy reunion with his estranged father. I can't help but think about how there is no resemblance between the father and the son in question. It doesn't matter because they are both great in their own way. The uneasiness is a result of the father having his son put in an insane asylum for suffering delusions about his parents. After a few weeks, the son had completely recovered.
              That's the backstory. What I'm seeing now is the son back in the same asylum. He is enduring ice-water and electrotherapy treatments. A sadistic doctor tells him that people have witnessed him change into a monster. The doctor says that the first step in his recovery is admitting his delusions.
              As I watch this cruel treatment, I wonder who the genius was that thought this was a good movie to show to people in a mental facility. I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but if I am, that just proves my point even more. Maybe it's a way of the techs saying, "You see this? Things could be worse, so keep your mouths shut or we'll take you to the torture room." If that was their intention, it seems to be working.
              Unfortunately, keeping my mouth shut is going to take a lot more medication, if not a lobotomy. Even though the shrink didn't say I was bipolar, now that I know I won't be living on the beach anytime soon, I'm feeling a bit manic. All the depression and all of the physical uneasiness of withdrawal is finally gone. It's the first time I've felt "normal" in a long time. I'm happy to not be in jail. I'm happy to be alive. I'm so happy to know that I am not insane that I want to jump out of my chair and moonwalk across the room while singing Smooth Criminal, even though I don't know if MJ's asking Annie or Eddy if they're okay. Come to think of it, I don't know any of the lyrics besides something about some bloodstains on the carpet. Maybe I should choose a song with easier lyrics, like"It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)". That won't seem too psychotic.

             I decide to try to hide my mania by settling to get a laugh out of one of the techs to show him I'm not sick like the rest of these sickos. It's a good way to introduce myself to Herb. He is standing a few feet away from me writing something on his clipboard. On the tv, the wolfman has totally lost his shit. He's running around and jumping from roof to roof while occasionally stopping to howl at the moon.
             "That was me last weekend," I announce to Herb.
             By the time he stops writing and looks up at the movie, the wolfman is ripping the internal organs out of some unlucky villager's torso.
            Herb gives me a confused look and asks."What? Like tearing guts up and stuff?"
            "No," I say." Just like...running around, being all crazy...and stuff."
            Herb begins writing some new notes on his clipboard.
    
            I decide it's best that I shut up and not try to be funny just so I can keep myself entertained. I don't say anything for the rest of the movie. When it's over, a tech throws in a bootleg dvd of Salt. I just saw this one too. After months of insomnia, I decide a nap would not be a bad idea. It's the only way I'm going to keep my mouth shut. After months of not being able to sleep in my own bed, I close my eyes and fade out in my chair.

Feb 17, 2012

CHAPTER 7: PATRON SAINT OF...WHATEVER. Observe & Exploit

"I've been silent so long now it's gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God. You think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It's still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it's truth, even if it didn't happen."
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


        


THURSDAY

            In the past, a prolonged conversation about my prolonged erection with two girls I just met would have lead to places more pleasant than a room in a crisis stabilization unit. That was also a lifetime ago when my jeans were size 34 and my safe was full of hundreds. Now, my age is 34 and my safe is empty.
            For the first time since my days of wine and rose colored sunglasses, I have a chance to sleep in between two other singles. Unfortunately, the three singles in question are beds for three dually diagnosed dudes. This is one threesome I will not be bragging about.      
           
            I size up my bed. There was no hypoallergenic memory foam body pillow, no goose down duvet, and the sheets appeared to have a thread count of about 4.
            The tech shows me an armoire where I can keep my stuff.
            Great Gatsby! I was worried that I would have no place to hang my white Armani suit. Even though Labor Day was 4 days ago, the South Florida temperature is well above 72 degrees, so I figured it might be my last chance before Memorial Day to pull off my "Hey, ladies, check me out in the white suit, but please be careful with your cranberry and vodka" routine. I unpacked my Louis Vuitton duffle bag and placed the rest of my clothes in the bottom three drawers.
            No I didn't.
            If that cop had allowed me to pack a bag, I probably wouldn't have been brought here in bare feet, and I probably would not be wearing tan ballet slippers with happy faces on them. All I had was what I was wearing when I left my apartment, minus my red flip flops, wherever the hell they are. I'm stuck with my white t-shirt with it's yellow pit stains, my boxers, and my Abercrombie jeans that were ripped from above the knee to just above my ankle. Even if I told anyone that I really did have a Louis Vuitton duffle bag, knock off or not, they wouldn't believe me. If they did, they would most likely assume that I lifted it from some rich guy after I sucked him off for a couple pain killers. They would be wrong, mind you, but who knows what kinds of thoughts go through the sick minds on the inside and on the outside of a mental facility? Not me. I don't want to know. What I do know, is these people would never believe that this dirtbag had over twenty something pairs of shoes at home, and almost as many pairs of jeans that were not ripped. For some reason, I have a feeling that if I do end up talking to anybody, fashion will not be part of the conversation.

            Besides the beds and unnecessary armoires, the room was empty. I was glad that it had a bathroom with a shower in it. I was thinking that bath time would consist of one of the techs gently rinsing me off with a fire hose while I cowered naked in the corner of some filthy wash room. I also was not up for a group shower, unless that group consisted of me and two bipolar chicks at their most manic.
            It wasn't the thought of bathing with and banging bipolar beauties that made me want to take a long shower. Even though I knew it would feel good to wash off for the first time since I don't know when,  my main objective was to delay facing whatever version of reality that I would find in the recreation room.
            The tech gave me a cashmere robe and a set of microfiber towels for my face, body, and hands. I definitely appreciated the assorted towels. Call me OCD (just make sure you do it eleven times), but I was never a big fan of drying my face with the same towel I used on my sack. I might as well just blow myself while I'm at it. Maybe there's a difference.
             The tech also gave me an Anthony Logistics plastic travel bag with a glycolic facial cleanser, an invigorating facial scrub, coconut shampoo, and a citrus body cleansing gel.
            No he didn't.
            He handed me one towel for my whole body. I made a mental note that my junk would have to remain wet until the rest of my body had been dried by this towel that I wouldn't have washed my car with. As for the produits de toilette pour hommes, I was given a plastic bin with sample sized products that looked like they were stolen from a hotel that charges by the hour. It had a little bar of soap, a little bottle of shampoo, a teeny tiny toothpaste, a toothbrush that after one use looked like it had been used to scrub a toilet with by a scorned ex girlfriend, a shot of mouthwash, a tiny stick of deodorant that would have fit in the kung-fu grip of an action figure, and a raspberry vanilla body moisturizer that would have to double for a hair product due to my lack of my Murray's, a pomade that was actually designed for black dudes to hook up some waves, but also comes in handy when I go for the Jimmy Neutron look. Maybe I could borrow some from one of the male techs since they were all Afro- Americans, even though none of them had an afro. Maybe I shouldn't bother them about my hair or anything else, besides a new towel before every shower. Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut so I can make it to Monday without getting the Reginald Denny treatment.

             The tech finally left the room. I think he was expecting a tip. Unfortunately, I haven't seen my wallet or any other of my personal belongings since I was handcuffed and had my pockets emptied yesterday. That cop seemed cool so I doubt he left town with my thirty dollars and my three credit cards with a combined balance of zero. It could be less by now, but I wouldn't know because I had lost interest in useless things like mail and self improvement.
            I stepped into the bathroom through the kind of swinging door a swinging dick cowboy walks through as he enters a saloon. The door had a slide lock on it, though it would not have stopped a five year old from kicking it open or just walking right under it. I started thinking this is probably the first shower I've had since Sunday, when I was weeping over my dead father while he was at a movie in Philadelphia with my mom, who I thought was making potato salad in my kitchen in Florida. I shake my head in disbelief at my delusions and try to wash myself clean of any remnants of psychosis. When I close my eyes to wash my face, I can see things that I now know did not happen. I was able to remember every detail of the afternoon. One thing I was not able to remember was the last time I washed myself with a bar of soap instead of the bottled kind. I made sure not to drop it on what I imagined must be a germ infested shower floor. Even when I could not get any cleaner, I kept washing. I just wanted to stay in there until Monday. It was the first time since the hallucinations stopped that I had any time to myself. It was also the first time in months that my body was not feeling the effects of opiate withdrawal.
           
            After the longest shower I ever took alone without a prolong direction, I put my dirty clothes back on my clean body. When I ran out of ways to waste time, I put my hands on the sink and took a good look at myself in the mirror. It wasn't one of those mirror moments when you compliment yourself by asking,"Man, why did God make you so good looking?" It was also not the kind where you insult yourself by asking,"How did you turn into such a fucking loser?" It was the kind of staring contest that you can't win or lose, no matter how long it goes on. You might not know how to feel about the person staring back at you, but that is okay. Not knowing means knowing that it is up to you to decide. Whether you decide to make that person your best friend or your worst enemy, you know that you are in it together, alone.
            I wanted to convince myself that everything would be different this time, but I didn't even know where to start.
           It was like trying to find the right thing to tell someone who walked out on you when you want them to come back and love you again. Before you can find those words, they've already left the room.  



            I enter the rec room and look for the seat that is furthest away from everyone else. I sit down with my back to the wall next to the entrance door. I kept telling myself that maybe this whole experience will give me something to finally write about. I thought of how Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest after he had spent time in a mental health facility. Unlike me, Kesey was actually working at the facility. Whatever. The point is that he was inspired to write about his experience while he was there. I hoped that maybe, if nothing else, I could walk out of here with some material.....and, I don't know, maybe even some stuff about addiction and mental health.
             After about three minutes, I'm already bored as shit.
             There are no padded cells. There are seven bedroom doors and walls lined with sofas. The back of the room is a large wooden table with about twenty seats around it.
             I scan the room for someone I can observe, and later exploit.
             Nobody is wearing a strait jacket. A few men are wearing hospital gowns. Everyone else is in street clothes. Nobody is swimming around the room like it's their fish tank. Nobody is getting their ass by the techs. Nobody is shouting conspiracy theories or talking to themselves. In fact, nobody is doing or saying shit, let alone fingerpainting the walls with it. These inmates have no ambitions of running the asylum. It doesn't take long to realize that even if I was allowed to wield anything as lethal as a pen, pencil, or crayon, I don't have any material to work with.
            Who would waste their time reading about this?
            This will not go down as a classic.
            This could never be a movie.
            What sane person would even waste their time writing about this?
            Not me.
            I'm all better now.
            This is not a book.
            I don't know what this is.
    

Feb 16, 2012

EXTRA SCENE: THE PATRON SAINT OF...WHATEVER. Laugh Now, Cry Later

No one will ever see things the way I do
No one will try
All my friends think that I'm gone
But I swear, I swear I'm not
The Almost, Say This Sooner

        
            When the doctor asked how me how many times, I said only a few.
            I'm not sure why I lied.
            Maybe because I knew what it could do the mind.
            If a drug can lead to insanity, this was the one.

            I remember the first time I did acid.
            It was the second drug I ever tried. After a few weeks of smoking weed, I was a completely different person. After a few months, I was ready to take it to the next level.
            Actually I wasn't ready at all. I just thought tripping was going to be like being really stoned for six hours.
            Not so much.


             It was 1993. I was 17. As usual, my parents were away for the weekend, either at our condo in Hutchinson Island or taking my little brother to Disney World. After the first time I got high, I never went away with them again. I wish I would have gone with them that weekend.
             I wish I would have gone with them every weekend.

             When a friend asked me if I wanted him to bring over some acid, I immediately said yes.
             Jeff was already at my house. We had the same conversation that we had almost every weekend.
             "Let me invite some people over", he says with the kitchen phone in his hand.
             'Nah, dude. I don't want a bunch of people over".
             "Yeah you do" he assures me. He's ready to start dialing.
             "No, I don't".
             "Just a few people" he promises.
             I've heard this before. "Yeah, right. You know what happens when we try to invite just a few people over. We start drinking, you start telling everyone who calls "yeah, we're at Jimmy's, we're having a party, come over, call some girls" and then it turns into the Busch Beer Fest".
              "That wasn't me" he says innocently.
              "Whatever". I can't argue since I don't remember how that debacle got started.
              He's still holding the phone when he pulls his beeper out of his pocket. I don't know if it really vibrated or if he just pretended it did. He checks the number. "Look, it's Sandi wanting to know what we're doing". Without waving his hand, Jeff pulls a Jedi Mind Trick. "She's with Jill. You like Jill".
              I just look at him.
              "They're cool girls" he reminds me.
              "I know they're cool. It's not them I'm worried about".
              "So, I'll just tell them to come over and then we just won't answer the phone".
              "If we don't answer the phone, how the fuck are they supposed get through the guard gate?'
              "I'm calling" he says with defiance as he dials the phone. Jeff takes me out of the equation because we go through this same scene three weekends out of the month. Even if I say I don't want to have people over, he knows I really do. He's got the phone to his ear waiting for Sandi to answer.
            I surrender. Before I finish saying,"Fine" to give him permission, he's already started another conversation. He's not looking at me or listening to me. I don't even know why I still waste our time debating this with him anymore. He wins every time, and every time I can hear the giddy excitement in his voice as he starts making the calls. 
            "Hey. It's Jeff. What's up?" He doesn't even look at me. He's laughing. Dick. "You're with Jill?" He looks at me, nodding to tell me what I already know. He turns his back, looking at the floor while pacing as far away from me as the cord will allow. He starts with the laughing again.
            I snap my fingers at him but he pretends not to notice. "Hey". He turns to look at me. As quietly and as clearly as possible, I remind him of what he already knows."Just them".
            "Yeah, we're at Jimmy's. Come by." Jeff looks right in my face. "We're having people over". He can't hold back his smart ass smile. I shake my head as I finally give up trying to hold back my own.

            In less time than it takes to have a pizza delivered, there's a group of 10 gathered around a long glass dining room table. My family only used this table on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since such a beautiful and very expensive table is so rarely enjoyed, I would also use it for only the most special of occasions, such as when we would play a drinking game called "Asshole", when we would have enough weed for gravity bong hits or for passing multiple joints and/or pipes in both directions, and when a drunk girl decided to dance on it. Even though the glass was about an inch thick and she was about how 45 seconds away from making this a really cool story, I reluctantly told her that my family does not even eat dinner on this table that she has mistaken for a dance floor. I reached up to take her hand and help her down while my friends booed me and put their dollar bills back in their wallets. That was a fun night. I'm pretty sure that was the night that her and I both got laid for the first time. Surprisingly, it wasn't by each other. Unsurprisingly, me and the table dancer were not the only drunk and horny teenagers in the house. Yeah, that was a good time.

            Back to a night that, although just as memorable, I would not exactly call a good night. There were no drunk girls dancing on table tops or trying to get back at their parents. There was no 2 liter bottomless Coke bottle floating in a water bucket to be used for gravity bong hits. Not even one piece of my parents silverware would have to be trashed after being permanently blackened as a result of doing hot knives.
             That night, we were being innocent 16 and 17 year old kids. We just sat around the table talking about Catholic School stuff while the guys were binge drinking. I actually forgot all about the LSD until my friend showed up with it. I followed him into the bathroom. He pulled out a small piece of folded tinfoil and opened it up on the sink. Inside was what looked like a small rectangular piece of cream colored construction paper. He used a razor blade to rip it in two even halves, each about the size of my pinky fingernail. He presses down on his half with the tip of his index finger and puts it on his tongue. He points to mine, still in the foil."There you go".
            "What should I do with it?"
            "Take it" he tells me as if I'm a total moron. "Put it on your tongue". He sticks his tongue out for a visual aid.
            "No shit. I didn't think that I was gonna snort the fucking thing. I'm talking about what I should do with it until later".
            'What do you mean, later? " He's about to panic. "I already took mine. Dude, I'm not tripping by myself".
            "I don't wanna be all fucked while the girls are here. I kinda like Jill, I don't want her to know I'm on acid. I don't even want the other guys to know I'm tripping and start fucking with my head. It's not like they're gonna be here all night. I'll drop after the girls leave".
            "Fuck that. You have to drop it now" he says. "If you wait, I'm gonna be coming down while you're peaking. That'll suck. We need to be on the same level. Besides, it takes like three hours before you even start to feel it".
            "Three hours? Really?"
            "At least".
           
             Three hours, my balls.
            About thirty eight minutes later, I'm fucked up. Everybody knows I'm tripping. They all start messing with my head. Even the girls. Even my friend who is also tripping. They're all moving their bodies in little circles. I tell them I know what they are doing and insist that I am not tripping. They insist that they are not doing anything, that it's just me.
              I keep telling them that I'm not tripping while I wipe the tears from my eyes.
              Acid rules.
              I can't stop laughing.
           
              About 4 hours later, I can't stop crying.
              Acid blows.
              The girls left hours ago.
              I think I apologized for being so fucked up.
              Thank God they left before this horror show started.

              Now, I'm sitting in a patio chair out back by my pool. I'm a total mess. I'm sobbing and talking at the same time. Krupp and Kyle are sitting in the chairs on each side of me. Krupp is trying to make me think in a fashion that was logical. He finally gives up trying to maintain his own buzz that I have killed, and tries in vain to say something to comfort me, or at least to get me to stop with the fucking hyperventilating. I kept saying  how much I let my parents down when I totaled my Firebird a few months earlier. I couldn't get over how much of a disappointment I was.
            
             Almost 18 years later, nothing has changed.


             You would think that would have been enough to say to myself, "You know what? I don't think LSD is a good drug for me. I think too much as it is already".
             I never learn. I decided to give another try, and then another, and then another. Kids used to say that if you do acid 7 times, you are considered "legally insane". That's why I told myself I would stop at 6. But I didn't. It was never fun after the uncontrollable laughter ceased. I must have put myself through the torture another 15, maybe 20 times. I stopped counting. More often than not, it was a nightmare.
              After my family fell apart, I never touched acid again. I was afraid of what might happen once I started dwelling on thoughts and feelings that went far beyond the disappointment of teenager whose life was only eighty percent perfect. I knew it would have been too much for me to handle. If I couldn't handle my thoughts at 17, when I had everything, God knows what would happen now.     

      

Feb 4, 2012

CHAPTER 6: THE PATRON SAINT OF . . . WHATEVER. Side Effects & Adverse Reactions

 
More than a drug is what I need
Need a change of scenery
Need a new life
James, Say Something  

THURSDAY. 9/9/10

            Dual diagnosis?
            I understood the doctor, but I don't understand this nurse.
            Dual diagnosis? What the hell does that mean? 
            I ask again, but this time, out loud.
            "Dual diagnosis? What the heck does that mean?"  
            The girl sitting across the desk next to the nurse does not seem offended by my use of the word "heck". That's swell, but I have no idea who the "heck" she is or why the "fuck' she has to know about my dual diagnosis. Maybe it's "Bring Your Friend or Daughter to Work Day." That concept makes sense because what could be more kick ass than taking an unpaid day off from your own shitty job to spend it at someone else's shitty job? Actually, that doesn't make sense. I'm still going to mark the day on my 2011 calendar, and then set a reminder for myself to send a reminder to my Gynecologist friend, because that shouldn't be too uncomfortable. Well, unless you're the one in the stirrups. Me being allowed to attend a cervical screening is about as likely as a mental ward allowing any kind of "Bring Your Whoever to Wherever Day".
            It doesn't matter who the girl is. All I'm trying to do is act not insane. The only way to pull that off is by keeping my big hypomanic mouth shut. Besides, I'm probably just overthinking this girl's presence. She's obviously not having fun, so she's probably training. She is definitely judging. Maybe paranoia is half of my "dual diagnosis". Maybe the other half  is being delusional, like thinking I have a friend who is an OB/GYN.

            The nurse looks up from the doctor's notes scribbled on my evaluation. She explains that a dual diagnosis is for patients who are lucky enough to have both substance abuse and mental problems. They call this "co-occurring disorders". I call it being "fucked up". She tells me that I am going to be taking up residence in the Crisis Stabilization Unit for the head cases whose preferred substance to abuse is drugs. There's also a separate unit for the alkies who have been dually diagnosed.

            The nurse is showing the trainee my chart. She is explaining something about how to properly fill out Axis I to Axis V. Then she starts talking about quadrants.
            "You need to mark one of the categories under the quadrants of care," she tells her. "James is a category 3."
            Unless there's a hurricane named after me approaching South Florida, it sounds like I'm a "category 3".
            "What's that mean?'' I ask. "What's category 3?"
            The nurse looks at me and then looks at the trainee as if she asked my question.
            "That's when a patient's substance disorder is more severe than their mental disorder."
            "Oh. Yeah, that's definitely me then," I proudly reassure them.

            Although I am relatively coherent, it still seems surreal to hear terms like "crisis", "substance abuse", and "mental disorder". I guess it's not the actual terms that bother me as much as the fact that they are being used in reference to me.There's no point in trying to explain that any of my mental problems were just results of my drug problem.             

            The nurse begins to tell me what medications that I will be given.
            I'm guessing that Oxycodone and Xanax are not on the list.
            "We're going to start you on twenty milligrams of Lexapro."
            "What's that for?"
            "It's an antidepressant. It also helps anxiety. You'll start on that as soon as you are admitted, then you'll be taking it in the mornings."
            I guess I'm not as close to being a pharmacist as I thought, unless it's a pharmacy that only sells painkillers and benzos. Everything else is everything else. If it never got me high, I probably never heard of it. I ask her when I should start to feel it. She says it will take time to build up in my system, but I should notice a difference in about ten to fourteen days. That seems like a long time when you're used to taking pills that anti your depression in about twenty to thirty minutes. But, by now, I think we all know how that worked out. Whatever. On to the next pill I've never heard of.
            She tells me that the Risperidone and Trazodone will  be taken before bedtime to help me sleep and to stabilize my mood.
            "Okay. Do any of these have any side effects?" I ask her.
            "It depends on the person's physiology and the medication. Everyone is different so some people may have different reactions to the same thing. The most common side effect of  the Lexapro and the Risperidone is usually some weight gain. The trazodone can sometimes cause prolong direction."
            "What's prolong direction mean?"
            "Prolong direction," she repeats, as if I would understand the second time that she said the same exact thing in the same exact way.
            "Okay, I'm sure it's me, I still don't know what that is."
            She assumes I understand her medical jargon. She repeats it a third time.
            "Prolong. Direction." That time she said it a little slower with a little emphasis. She may as well have said, "You mean you've never heard of prolong direction before? Hey silent trainee, James doesn't know what prolong direction is. Now's the time to break your silence so that you can join me and together we can  laugh in his crazy Category III face. Ready? 1,2,3, laugh. Hee hee hee hee! Awww, look at him. He's so vulnerable. I love it. We should get drinks after work and talk to some hot guys who don't have a mental illness that is only slightly less severe than their drug addiction like James has."

            Even though everything that they didn't say is pretty much true, this nurse is not the only one who is losing her patience. No matter how slow she says it, I still don't get if she's talking about my balance or sleepwalking or what. If she writes it down, I'm gonna freak.
            "Yeah, prolong direction, I get that part. But what direction?"
            Now the trainee is not the only one who is speechless. She gives the trainee a look of disbelief and embarrassment. Maybe she's embarrassed that she lacks the vocabulary necessary to properly explain herself.  I look at the trainee. Even though she quickly puts her head down to avoid eye contact, it's clear that she is familiar with the possible side effect in question.
            The nurse's mouth moves before any sound comes out as if she is going to speak in slow motion. She obviously thinks this mad genius across her desk is a moron.
            "Not "direction". Prolonged. Erection."
            Now I get it. Why didn't she just say that the first three times?
            "Ohhh, "prolonged erection". I thought you were saying "prolong direction"."
            I'm pretty sure she already knew that. I laugh it off, if only in an attempt to make the trainee a little less uncomfortable than I am. I tend to talk too much when I'm uncomfortable.
            I say, "I guess that direction would be "up" in that case."
            I laugh. Alone.
            "I'll just make sure to keep my shirt untucked."
            Silence. The uncomfortable kind.
            Thank you, ladies, you've been an awkward audience. I'll be here all weekend. You can catch my last show on Monday. I hope.
            "No, that's fine. I can handle a prolonged erection," I tell them.
            What did I just say?
            They can think I'm mentally ill, but I can't let them think I'm gay.
            "I mean, I can handle my own prolonged erection, not somebody else's."
            If I were a psychologist instead of a psycho, manic would be my diagnosis.
            "I'm just saying, when I think of side effects, I think of anal leakage or something."

            I'm the one in the stirrups.

            "You know, like on tv?" Their dumbfounded faces indicate that they don't. "Those commercials that list side effects that are even worse than whatever the drug's supposed to cure?"

            I'm the one who needs to be cured.

            "Like when they say how an antidepressant might make you suicidal, as if you don't have enough problems already."

            I'm the one with enough problems already.

            That suicide side effect doesn't seem so bad right now.
            Suicide I can live with.
            Better than "anal leakage".

            Alright, I think it's time to go.
            Can someone please bring me my strait jacket and then kindly point me in the prolonged direction of my padded cell?







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