May 28, 2019

Wear and tear, rough edges, messy, but clean, no offensive odour. All my first impressions of Next-Door Recovery Society -- and an analogue to my own condition.

52-years old, drinking nightly for the past two decades. At best, would “quit” for a few days, only to double up upon my return.

Everything I write sounds cliché. To be fair, it is, and I am. I believe I'm special. A mental health issue self-medicated with booze, not a drunk or an addict.

The truth. I'm not special or unique. I, like millions before me, hid my problem from family and friends until I hit my rock bottom, cliché et al.  “Next-Door Recover Society” a cliché-esk sounding name – how apropos.

The “Centre”, is a two-story house on a long skinny lot, in the residential neighborhood of Port Moody British Columbia – a small city 20 KM outside of downtown Vancouver.

As I enter, I spot an office-like door, noticing it has both a deadbolt and a padlock. I wonder if security is an issue? If my safety a concern It's not too late to ask my sister Lorna for help, or return to couch surfing at my friend Ed’s, my “home” before Detox and finally here.

The panic and anxiety fade. Probably from the residual Trazadone, an anti-psychotic drug flowing through my system. A parting gift from Detox. 

Detox weaned me off booze and cannabis but married me to Ativan during the day and Trazadone at night.  With my week long stay complete, they sent me off to recovery, where over the next week I discover a need to detox, from Detox.

***

The system in the lower mainland of BC is designed to help, but only if you understand the game. I'm a first-timer and fall through the cracks, repeatedly, daily. I have but one advantage, I'm broken mentally, and for once in my life, I'm willing to ask for help, I'm desperate for help.

Naive as I am, I expect a miracle the same day I admit I'm unable to function in society. Instead, roadblocks appear at every turn. I believe a phone call or two will place me in a treatment program within days. This is Canada after all, the birthplace of socialized medicine — and the Lower Mainland, home to one of, if not the largest drug problem in the world.

No red carpet and a free cab ride to treatment. If I wanted help, asking was the first step, but demanding was the second. Not easy with my pride and confidence destroyed – shattered.

I'm ready to be humbled. I'm scared and embarrassed, but still searching for an instant solution to my life-long problem.

 ***

I enter the office. A man my age, with dark-rimmed glasses, notices me immediately and introduces himself as “Dennis”, nothing more, no title, no last name. Either a casual approach, or years of Alcohol Anonymous seeping through?

Dennis introduces me to Gary, a stoic-looking man, a term used to describe my demeanour most of my life.  Then Steve, another counselor/employee, who is lounging in an office chair, casually leaning back, arms splayed out, like a son playing at his Dad's place of work. 

Gary may be in his 30's, Steve 20's at best. The office contains a mish-mash of furniture, I assume donated, as it appears to be built in the 1960's – like me. I'm offered a chair and Steve perks up — time to work instead of lounge.

He escorts me to the back office, more 60’s furniture and various file cabinets. Also, apparently a make-shift storage room.  We sit. I’m tired and still questioning my decision.  My choices are few.  Ask parents for a loan — not happening — too much pride, and they only recently discovered my illness during an epic family fight. 

To me, everything is a sign I need to approach life directly, no more safety nets.  Staying with friends is an option, but was my life for the last year and I’m tired of their generosity.   I don’t need pity, I need help.

I’m sick of lying constantly, they do not know my story, no-one does with the exception of Hyacinth, my daughter. 

I have not worked for a year, my savings are gone, I have few choices available, and rehab seems the easiest.

Steve opens a binder and starts reading out the intake package and questions.  I fain attentiveness, knowing deep down, I’m only here for a place to stay, and hopefully a story.   The end of my book, the final chapter where the villain becomes the hero.

I notice Steve struggling on some words.  Instantly I want to correct him.  I back off, my comprehension is crap, but my vocabulary is fine.  I have to tread lightly and remember I have two goals.  One, a break from life, and two, get on Long-Term Disability.  I’m done working in the joyless IT industry and have no desire to ever return to any job not suited to my personality, or lack thereof.

I explain my memory issues to Steve. I exaggerate. At some point I figure a government agency will check my story and if they do, I want it clear to everyone I’m a mental case who can barely remember his name. 

The memory issues are real, but undiagnosed.  I’m not attempting to rip off welfare, I simply desire a fresh start in life and breathing room for my body and mind to recover from the physical and mental health issues caused by two decades of alcohol abuse. 

Steve asks me various questions about my past history, I answer honestly but pad the answers in the direction they are seeking.   Unconsciously looking for the best words to answer every question I throw a few psychological terms in the mix.  He looks up the spelling of a few phrases on his phone — not wanting to make an error on the form.  I understand his pride of workmanship and start to feel a kinship with this “kid”.

The conversation turns from my story to his. It’s intense, brutal in sections, yet he tells it with a smile not tears, just his past, not his burden.  The connection to him grows stronger, my desire to run away dissipates.

20 minutes later, questions answered, intake done.   Steve shows me my room.  15’ x 15’, bunk beds, both available, an old student desk, two dressers and a closet.  The bunk beds are metal, Ikea like, I feel like a teenager in a dorm room.   Again, the desire to leave hits me like a wave.  Steve informs me I have the rest of the day free to myself, tomorrow the recovery will begin.

***

…… to be continued…