This week I’m spending a lot of time working on a speech I’ll give Tuesday—and practicing the delivery of it on my computer’s video cam.
Wince is too sweet of a word to describe what it’s like to watch it back. If, like me, you still want to believe folks who say you don’t look your age, I can’t recommend this approach.
Trust me, it has occurred to me that I might just be worried about the wrong things. It’s not about me, right?
Still, since I’m too distracted by revelations about my face to write a post, and since Sober Mercies releases in paperback this Tuesday, it seems a good time to run an excerpt that seems to relate.
Here it is:
“In typical, self-centered fashion, I had imagined that treatment would be all about me. I had pictured myself spending a lot of one-on-one time with the staff psychiatrist while he probed my psyche to solve the mystery of what drove someone as nice as me to drink myself blotto. Sure, I knew the other patients would be there, hovering in the background.
But in my mind, the camera was always focused on me, front and center.
It was nothing like that.
I quickly learned that rehab is nothing if not a group activity. It’s like one long experiment in the study of how people develop intimacy with strangers. Naturally, whether or not this is a good thing depends largely on who your fellow residents happen to be. These are the people who will see you with bed-head at six a.m. when you stumble half asleep down the hall to have your vitals taken. Who will learn your most shameful secrets. Who will see you exposed for what you are—a blubbering drunk in Banana Republic clothes.
Who won’t like you.
It was true. Right away, several of the residents decided I thought I was better than them. During dinner in the school-style cafeteria that first night, a lesbian and meth addict named Geneva mocked me for being so “put together.” She said I looked like one of the damn counselors. She was sure if I met her on the street, I wouldn’t give her the f*@*#ing time of day.
Others at the table nodded or snickered.
I had half-expected this—not quite fitting in. But I was taken aback by the open hostility. I went to my room and cried. What did these people want from me? Should I not put on makeup and blow-dry my hair? Should I wear only T-shirts? Forgive me for not knowing what a “tweaker” is! (It’s a methamphetamine addict.) I don’t think I’m better than any of them! I insisted to myself.
And yet, I did think I was different. I just wasn’t in the same category as these hard-core alcoholics and drug addicts. I’d never stolen anything. I’d never spent time in jail or on the street. I’d never woken up naked in Vegas, unsure how I got there and who was in bed with me.
That night, I phoned Dave and told him I’d met a drug-addicted lesbian named Geneva who hated me on sight. I told him I missed him. I missed Edmund (my dog). I missed being at home in our house on our wide, pretty street where no one ever looked at me funny, wore pajamas to dinner, or asked me what I was ‘in for.’
On the upside, before I came to treatment, I had envisioned myself here curled up in a corner, sweating profusely, delirious with pain, and perhaps suffering small seizures. But that never happened. Much to my relief, during those first couple days, I was given Valium to help me cope with the physical symptoms of withdrawal.
In the meantime, because I was new and detoxing, I was temporarily excused from most of the program activities. Since I didn’t have a roommate, this allowed me plenty of time to wallow in self-pity. In fact, I was so worried about being ostracized that I forgot to worry about not being able to drink.
At around eight on that first night, the irony hit me. Instead of climbing the walls with craving as I’d expected, I was alone in my room, calmly reading a book, desperately upset because a lesbian didn’t like me.
Obviously, I had worried about all the wrong things.”
P.S. Just so you know, Geneva turned into a great friend and I eventually realized I was exactly like all the other residents. :)