Today was my fifth day in the treatment centre. I have been in the detox ward since Wednesday, the day I arrived here. The detox is a sort of hospital, a sick ward, with twelve trolley beds – the kind you see in hospital corridors. Since I arrived I have been in pajamas, my clothes and stuff searched and taken away for the week. In detox we are confined to a few rooms, basically a communal living room with no TV, a dining room and the ward itself with the 12 trolley beds. If you’ve seen that movie One flew over the cuckoos’s nest, the picture it brings to your mind…well, you wouldn’t be a million miles away let’s say. We are given medication – four times a day – and you don’t do much apart from eat, sleep and sit in the living room for rosary every evening. You are allowed to go out to a smoking area if you smoke. I don’t but find myself going out with the other smokers just to get outside in the fresh smoky air for awhile at least. Occasionally, I go into the living room to chat with the other men in my ward – we are all in the same group – but not very often. I rather sit in bed with my book, the librium making me feel lethargic all the time. And that’s not going into the general depression my mind and body feel. Thankfully the librium numbs me.
So this morning, Sunday morning, I was very happy to receive my clothes and bag back. We were all moved from the detox (all 12 of us) and into our rooms up in the house. I am allowed to wear my own clothes again! Thank God for small mercies! Me and the group were all split up into smaller groups of four and given different rooms – 4 beds to a room. Well it was like the Ritz Carlton compared to the ward! And we were allowed to go where we liked, walk I mean, well within reason of course. You had to stay in the grounds…and you couldn’t go over to the side of the house where the women were – the place was run by nuns in case you didn’t know. It was actually run by the religious order – the nuns. And they were very strict about everything. There was a rote for absolutely everything. Everyone up at 6.30 am, prayer, meditation, work, therapy, prayer, meetings, recreation, prayer, bed. That was roughly your day. To give you an idea of the place: there were about 400 residents and about 60 rooms. Every resident had to work in the mornings after prayer and meetings until about 2 or 3pm. You started work in week 2. We would be given our jobs tomorrow. There was a heavy sense of depression by virtue of the fact of just being here – but it was alleviated in that you were kept busy, there was a schedule everyday.
But to get back to the room, I was moved into with the other 3 guys…There was plenty of space, it was ensuite and the bed was much more comfortable. Much better altogether. Saturday and Sundays, residents are allowed guests. So it was really a double happy for me today as my Mam, Dad, Sister and girlfriend were coming to visit me!
Things are slightly different in here at the weekends. Well there’s visitors for a start and most of the residents don’t work. Medication and mass are at different times as well.
After I put my bag down in my room and changed the sheets, I took a walk around the grounds as I hadn’t been outside in five days. I was keen to explore just what the surroundings were like. From the window it looked serene, pastoral even, like some old church grounds with the religious effigies of Mary and Jesus around the place, trees, a calming stream running through a forested area with bushes and hedges. A retreat, I guess.
I had a pleasant walk around and came back to the room. I sat around on the bed waiting for my name to be called, waiting for my visitors. I just about hear the speaker through the door as the receptionist called out a constant stream of names, letting them know their visitors had arrived. I dared not go to use the bathroom in case I couldn’t hear if my name got called out. The air conditioner came on when I switched on the bathroom light and even with the door open, I still wouldn’t be able to hear the receptionist on the intercom. Finally my name was called down to reception and I jumped off the bed and fairly ran down there.
My mother’s smiling face was the first one I saw through the glass panel door of the reception. Then I seen them all, my sister, my dad and my girlfriend. Smiles on all their faces, happy to see me as I hugged them all. And my girlfriend Siyana…the girl I had hurt so much, that kind loving sweet girl who had still come down to see me despite all the hurt and pain and the horrible breakup we had been through. She was dressed in the smart grey coat I had bought for her the week before we split up, before I left our apartment to stay in a hostel as a result of my crazy drinking and behavior. It had only been six days since I seen my mother and sister, but it felt as though it had been six months.
A family meeting was scheduled in the main hall for one hour for all the families. More of a presentation on alcoholism and how to deal with having someone with addiction in the family. After that finished we went over to the restaurant for a lunch. They all had fish and chips and I went for the lamb shank. It was certainly much better tasting food than I had been getting over in the house. I was already looking forward to eating here again next Sunday!
It was great to see everybody here together. It really gave me a boost. I wasn’t sure if they’d want to come to see me. And it was a few hours drive away too. Siyana was very affectionate to me in that touch feel-y way of hers and it really surprised me after everything that had happened. Would she get back with me if I did the rehab? The hope of this would me it all so much easier for me. But I wasn’t sure if she did want to get back together. She said on the phone that it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe she was just putting on this show because my mother had asked her. Maybe everyone was just pretending because they were guessing it must be difficult for me down here.
We had a nice walk around and Siyana gave me a watch she bought for me – an old fashioned pocket watch thing. It was beautiful. My mother sort of looked at her and me in an odd way. Maybe as if to say “don’t play games”. I had to go by a strict timetable in here, so the watch would be very useful. We strolled around together talking, cracking jokes – well my sister tried to anyway to raise the spirits. She was great to have in a group, because she’s a chatterbox, but not just a chatterbox, she always has funny anecdotes at the ready. And that always puts everyone else at ease.
Mam said I should do the twelve weeks. I had just done my first week so that sounded a bit…Yes of course I wanted to do the twelve weeks. But it wouldn’t be easy. I might end up going mad before then, I joked. Everyone gave me a serious sort of look. Siyana put her arm around me, her smiling eyes and lips shining in my face. My light. We all hugged and said our goodbyes. It was hard to watch the car drive away with them all inside, going away from me, leaving me here again. You’ll have to get used to this I told myself as I cleared my throat and walked back to the room.
Later that evening when medication was due I asked the nurse to take me off the librium, it was making me too drowsy. I still had the bad cough from the day I came in so I asked for cough medicine and paracetamol. No cough medicine unfortunately. I would have to order that on Monday when someone would go to the town for it.
At around 10pm someone knocked on the door and said there was a phonecall for me. It was the one person I would most have wanted to hear in the world.
“Hey,” she said.
“Was nice to see you today. Thanks so much for coming.” I said.
“It was good to see you in there. I hope you stay the 12 weeks and get better.”
“Maybe we start a different chapter when you get better.”
If you would have put your head into my chest just then, you would have heard the most beautiful sounding bells chiming in my heart. I went to bed for the first time in weeks holding onto hope, as if I were a child holding onto a precious balloon.