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Twisting all the bad things into good

Feb 26, 2012


                     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.


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