Part 6 of Dry Drunk is posted here. This is Part 7.
A work of fiction.
The ward is on lockdown. Somebody snapped and attacked an orderly. I saw the whole thing happen in front of me. He'd been pacing angrily up and down the corridors, sweaty, with an ashen face. Detox. It had only been a matter of time. What we had been observing in his behavior unnerved us, because what we saw was a human grenade with the pin pulled out.
The man slugged the orderly in the stomach without any warning, and when he doubled over in pain, the patient proceeded to taunt him. How do you like that, huh, boy? The boy reference was made in reference to the race of the man he had attacked. Someone triggered the automatic security system, which closed the doors of every room in the building and started up a high pitched, highly annoying whine.
When it comes to unexpected racist language, I return to my own past. During most of her life, my grandmother was a good Christian woman. A preacher's daughter, she was very devout, never used profanity, and always sought to be pleasant to everyone. But then Alzheimer's set in and we realized she had a full understanding and a willingness to use a vocabulary we were shocked to discover she even knew. It wasn't just curse words, it was racial slurs, too.
This kid doesn't have that kind of excuse, and after the staff called for back up he was eventually taken down, subdued, and I assume, sedated. I got caught inside an interior room for half an hour until the melee concluded, one that fortunately had a television. When the all-clear was given, I spoke with the other patients about what happened. It threw off the immaculate timing of the intensive therapy approach upon which the facility placed full reliance. Their theory was to regiment nearly every hour of our life, to ward against self-pity and boredom.
It wasn't a bad strategy, but I preferred more talking, more group therapy. I did not prefer coloring a cheap piece of balsa wood with water colors, which was curiously named occupational therapy. If this was an occupation, what kind of shitty job was this? I started to feel trapped again, wanting to escape the terrible food and weak coffee.
She's not taking my calls. It's probably over. In fairness, it had been over a long time ago. If you burn enough bridges, love departs and all you are to each other is a habit.
But this curvy, geeky girl has found me, and keeps asking me to read this book she has just finished. It looks interesting and she looks interested in me. She tells me she couldn't find me during lock-down and tells me she was worried about me. I know she means it and I know what she means. I'm intrigued. This time a woman has made the first move.
In time, I will learn she has a thing for men with curly hair like mine. I know I've blown through two or three women, women who began with some promise, in two weeks of being here, but that's typical for me. I'm trying to nurse my hurt in the form of others. I want them to be my strength. This is why I always begin relationships very well, but can never make a single one last for good. That's part of the reason I signed up for rehab. That fact is what hurts the most. I want the longevity of a forty year relationship like my own parents and I doubt it will ever come to pass for me.
Few people want to enable an alcoholic. I rarely lost my temper, rarely was deliberately mean, and never raised my hand in violence to anyone. But I was a helpless child, a baby, really. And when I drank I didn't act much like an adult. Bills went unpaid. Clothes went unwashed. The only thing that mattered was booze. Partners got tired of cleaning up my messes.
I would hang a sign around my neck if I could that says "Be Careful", especially in the presence of this women. We're not supposed to have any kind of romantic or sexual contact, but that doesn't stop the flirtation from taking part. In addition to its own sake, it's another surefire way to keep boredom from overwhelming a person. I wonder if I'll have any luck with the beginning of something new, sometimes that can be allowed to fully blossom and grow into something better.
I want to change. This woman is a ticket to my salvation, a motivational force. She's why I wake up every morning on an uncomfortable bed that hurts my back. Even though I think about running away, I came here to get better. It's the constant, stuffy confinement that throws me into a panic. It's the forced small talk and the defensive people lost in denial who don't really want to get better. They don't want to admit that they have a problem. In their minds, they were Shanghaied here and are indignant for the inconvenience.
I see a thousand reflection of who I used to be and who I hope I never will be. And then it's time for lunch again and I see her again. this new girl. In the midst of the pain, she appears. She tells me, in a roundabout way, that she doesn't mind nursing me. She has the personality of a nurse, and I wonder once again if that is what it takes for me to be successful.
Lest I forget, she's here for the same reason I am. I don't have the heart to ask her about her own story. I've already heard what seems like a thousand, some more emotionally intense than others. I don't want to ruin this spell she has over me. If I know too much, then this awkward honeymoon will subside, and she will become like everyone else here. I need someone to be pure and unsullied.
I think to myself that maybe another drunk like me is the best I can do. My expectations have grown quite low. Like most of us, I once dreamed of a lengthy marriage or at least a long-term relationship. A few failures later, I would take a year or two if they were mostly happy. This is not something I will never discuss with her, or if I do, it will be much later.
It's time for another activity. Some of them are gender-segregated, but this one contains both men and women. For some reason, the women always cry frequently, and the men squirm uncomfortably in their seats. The moderator makes heavy use of a whiteboard, writing down pertinent phrases people bring up in their testimonials. My admirer sits deliberately next to me. I imagine her holding my hand, if that was allowed. It would make a difference.
I'm halfway through the program and so is she. We communicate more with body language and very cautious talk, so that we aren't discovered and deliberately separated. This isn't 1984, but it is a controlled environment that I doubt many people are meant to enjoy. I've heard that some people frequent psych wards when they need a break from reality, but this is not a psych ward and there is no break from reality here. Instead, all I see is reality staring me in the face. I can't escape reality, bits and pieces of me.
The 1-800 number on the billboard I called promised help, but it did not reveal what form that help took. When I found that our apartment had been stripped bare of her things, including the kids' things, I raised a white flag of surrender. The more persistent sorts would have tried to win her back, but I didn't deceive myself. I knew she was gone for good, and that I would need to start over from scratch. If I am privy to any true skill, it is the ability to eventually find other relationship partners with enough persistence.
I didn't go into rehab necessarily to find someone new, but I'd be lying if I said that the thought didn't cross my mind. And as for you romantics out there, take my advice. Don't try it yourself. No matter how you rationalize it, the deck is stacked against you. You have a serious problem and he or she does, too. No matter how well it starts out, you are bound to pull each other down eventually. If you are up, and he or she is down, you might manage it. And the same is true if he or she is up, and you are down. But if you are both down at the same time, watch out. The results are not pretty.