TIR ORIGINAL ADDICTION-RECOVERY FICTION
A few days after the ‘karate suit’ encounter group, the rehab staff moved Lee into a room with Neil and Wonky Lee. Residents were regularly moved about throughout their stay. Lee thought that it was so that they could learn to deal with challenging situations without melting down into a dramatic mess. Addicts were demanding, dramatic people, after all.
Lee sat on his bed concentrating on writing his daily diary entry. He thought carefully about what feelings had arisen during the day. When he could identify them, he put pen to paper. The curtains were drawn and the only light came from an old bedside lamp. The dark felt like a familiar friend. Lee enjoyed writing his diary. When he was writing, his head felt calm and the noise inside it stopped.
I have wasted so much time in active addiction. I finally understand that my life is precious, special. If I do not use every last breath clean from this day forth I will die with a million regrets and my soul will forever be broken.I know that the statistics are against me. A mere 2% of us in this rehab will make it and this is how addiction rolls. It will never leave me. It’s relentless, a psychopathic murderer. I know what I need to do, yet fear still grips me in an uncomfortable embrace.I have a fire within me, but my mouth’s become a twisted mouthpiece full of rumour.’
After writing the last line, Lee set down his pen and scratched the two-day-old bristles on his chin, trying to elicit a deeper meaning. None came. He felt like he was moving forward, but apart from being clean, he was unclear what his progress was. But he did feel as if another brick had been taken out of his wall. Now that it was starting to crumble, he could negotiate the remaining barrier that remained. Was his future beyond it?
Neil lay on his bed staring into the darkness. Lee could smell the rank odor of his unwashed socks. Neil refused to do anything with his laundry except sniff it. Apparently, Neil decided that washing detergents were the work of Satan. Without warning, Neil opened his mouth and started to speak.
His words became perfectly aimed arrows piercing into Lee’s mind.
“If your heart is feeling hard, visualize a white circle. That’s your heart. Now imagine another circle around it with the darkness between them. The darkness is slowly turning light. Imagine the demons are learning and fill in the light. Can you see the circle in your mind?”
Lee closed his eyes and a perfect white circle appeared. His paranoia eased, and he felt the simple white shape rocking him. But before Lee could embrace the peace laid forth before him, a galloping thud of footprints brought him out of his trance.
Wonky Lee stood in the middle of the bedroom, staring at Neil, who was making a circle shape in the air with his hands.
“Alright, fuckers." He jumped onto Lee’s bed and punched him on the arm affectionately.
Wonky nodded towards the large circular shape that Neil was making and said, “Easy Neil, is that how you masturbate?” Then he added, “Have you had a wank today yet?”
You see, the day before, Lee had walked in to find Neil butt naked, wanking on his bed. In the rehab, wanking was known as sinning. When someone came off heroin, they’d be like a 13-year-old boy with a walking hard-on. A lustful dependence had replaced the opiate one. Lee, like everyone else in the rehab, was sinning a lot. Last week he had nine sins in a single day (which he was quite proud of). Most of these were in the middle of the night when insomnia was at its peak, but a fair few were during the day.
The morning sin was standard; a few more during the day would help ease matters. Lee would often leave midway through a group to go relieve himself. For some strange reason, he’d often get a semi during the relapse prevention group. Whatever the reason, it passed a bit of time. He’d even had one in the greenhouse when he was meant to be on gardening duty. He vowed that one of the first things he would do when he got out was spend the night with a girl. It was so needed and all this sinning couldn’t be good for a person. The act was a bit like ‘liking’ your own Facebook posts, he thought. No,wait . . . liking your own Facebook posts was like giving yourself a cuddle after having a wank. Lee had never given himself a cuddle post-wank.
Neil turned on his bedside lamp and looked fiercely at Wonky before answering.
“I’m not into that sadomasochistic shit." He frowned before pursing his lips and continued, “If I came back as a girl with Hepatitis C, would you still fuck me?”
Neil confused the fuck out of Lee. Each word from Neil's mouth was either euphoric or spoken from the depths of despair. One minute, he was throwing down advice so deep and divine that Lee could almost imagine him as an enlightened bodhisattva. The next, he was like a crazy wolf, intent on pushing mankind away. Neil stared at Lee and Wonky, waiting patiently for the unwritten answer. When one didn’t come, Neil reached into his jean pocket and pulled out a see-through baggie and held it up to the light.
“What the fuck have you got there, Neil.” Lee was the first to say what both he and Wonky were thinking.
“It’s a bag of Laura’s pubes,” he answered casually.
“You . . . fucking what?” Wonky looked at Lee puzzled, confused and slightly alarmed.
“I’ve been collecting them when I’m on morning toilet cleaning duty. In the future, I’m going to make a lab, with the technology to clone people. I’d like to clone Laura because she is kind and pretty and will be my girlfriend. Now I’ve got the DNA from her pubes.”
Wonky looked skyward and tutted at an imaginary God, then quickly changed the subject.
“Got some good news, you pair of cranks, you’re both in the kitchen with me from Monday." The news animated Wonky; it was far more important (and, at least couched in reality) than Neil’s hypothetical cloning impossibility. “Yeah, us three are now the kitchen crew. The fucking dream team."
Everybody looked at each other and burst out laughing. Even Neil could understand the hilarity of three junkies who could barely toast a piece of bread without burning it now being responsible for all the meals of about 30 residents on a daily basis. But their laughter was happy enough.
There were many perks to working in the kitchens. Munching on the food was the top one. But also, it meant no dishwashing after meals, since that was left to the rest of the community. And the kitchen crew got a few hours a day to be left to their own devices, not hassled by staff or other residents.
Before they started working in the kitchen, first there was a weekend to safely negotiate. As was often the case, it ended up being a weekend full of disorder. On Friday night, a group of residents had somehow clandestinely brought alcohol on site and got pissed up. Lee was on lock-up duty with the night staff girl Laura. Lee had the hots for Laura. She was a pretty, young girl and always had a good bit of banter. She showed kindness in a way that the normal staff didn’t. Lee thought that she probably had fewer boundaries around her because of her lack of experience. She’d soon get wise, he thought.
“Lee, come in here with me,” she said. Lee followed her into the lounge.
This is it. Here we go. She’s gonna kiss me.
In Lee’s mind, he was gearing up for what was obviously going to be the best kiss of his life. He practically floated into the room. He closed his eyes and was about to open his mouth, but before he did, Laura opened hers.
“Can you smell something in here, Lee?" Apart from disappointment? Lee could smell booze.
“Why are you closing your eyes?”
“Err, I’ve got a bit of dust in them.”
Then everything fell apart. The person who brought in the contraband was a guy called Mark who Lee had never really liked. Once, Lee got escorted out of the group room for calling Mark a muggy cunt. Things between them almost got a bit hairy.
Later that day, a young girl Mary did a runner and jumped into a river, almost catching hypothermia in the process. She ended up getting arrested and when she came back to treatment the following day, she cut her arms up so badly that she had to go to the hospital.
In the evening, the young lad, Liam, was taken to hospital for snorting tree bark.
By Monday at lunchtime, the three junkie musketeers found themselves deep within the rehab kitchen wearing dirty blue aprons and matching hats. They looked like Gordon Ramsey on acid.
“I’ve been made head of kitchens and Lee is deputy,” said Wonky Lee in his most serious voice.
“What about me?” Neil chirped, looking rather dejected.
“You, Neil-my-son, are the all-round crank and sausage roll o’clock maker." Wonky walked over to Neil and slung his arm over his shoulder as if to reassure him that the position of sausage roll o’clock maker was of utmost importance.
“Brilliant.” Neil grinned. “Err what do I have to do?" Neil’s green eyes darted around the kitchen trying to unravel the mystery.
“Every day at exactly 11 o’clock we will stop all our work and eat sausage rolls and you Neil will be responsible for making sure that this happens.”
“Ok, but what happens if the lunch goes out late?”
“The new motto of this kitchen and our new kitchen crew is, ‘If they don’t like it, then fuck ‘em!’”
And with those words of motivation, Neil walked into the store room, took six frozen sausage rolls out of the freezer and put them into the oven.
Residents working in the kitchen were technically forbidden from eating the food, but it was a perk of the job despite the rules. At any rate, you had three people in the kitchen who’d never taken much notice of rules in their lives. Old habits die hard.
After the sausage rolls, it was time to prepare the lunch menu. Lee rummaged around one of the large, industrial sized fridges.
“What about this? Looks like it needs using up." He held up a large bag of beef chunks.
“That’ll do nicely. We’ll fry it up with some vegetables or something," Wonky said very matter-of-factly. “Neil, can you fry that up?”
“Frying is A-OK,” replied a content-looking Neil.
A while later the kitchen was full of smoke. Burnt oil and Neil’s roll-ups.
“Taste this. I think it’s a bit tough." Neil held out a large wooden spoon with a couple of chunks of beef on it.
“Fuck me Neil . . . that tastes like old tires!" Lee spat the beef out onto the floor. He looked at his watch. “Shit, we’re meant to have the lunch out in twenty minutes. That beef is fucked.”
Wonky Lee, always calm under pressure replied, “We’ll liquidize it and make a lovely beef smoothie. If they don’t like it?”
In unison the kitchen crew shouted: “Fuck ‘em!”
As expected, when the lunch of liquidized beef and bread rolls came out half an hour late, the kitchen crew was confronted with an array of moans, puzzled looks, and resentments.
“What the fuck is this shit?”
“This is worse than prison food.”
“I wouldn’t feed this to my dog," shouted Nick the Leg. (He’d gotten the nickname because his leg was a bandaged up, manky, weeping limb who’d never had it so bad.)
“You haven’t got a dog. You’re barred from keeping them, you mug." Lee didn’t like Nick the Leg one bit. On hot summer day, he’d locked his young Labrador in his car with no windows open for ventilation. The poor thing suffocated to death. Nick had been banned for life from keeping dogs.
“How the fuck are we meant to live on this shit?" A girl called Emma was screwing her face up so hard Lee thought that her eyes and nose would disappear into her bad skin.
“Fuck you, Emma. A few weeks ago your lunch was half a can of beans." Wonky wasn’t gonna be taking any shit.
“Yeah, twat off, Emma." Neither was Neil.
The kitchen crew looked at each other and smiled. They were in this together, joined in a beef-smoothie brotherhood.
Lee had many friends but had been alone for longer than he could remember. Suddenly, he’d found an unexpected kinship in the rehab. He felt an energy slowly giving him strength. Perhaps even hope.
Neil glanced at Lee, clicked his fingers, and winked. Lee laughed and Wonky shouted.
“Look at Fonzy over there, Mr. Cool!”
Several days later, the kitchen crew were ordered to do a deep clean and were knee deep in grime. At least Wonky and Lee were. Neil was stood outside the back door smoking tea leaves in a rizla paper.
“Neil, what the fuck are you smoking?" inquired Lee.
“I’m smoking tea. Louie Armstrong calls weed ‘tea,’ so it’s okay.”
The days since the beef smoothie lunch had been eventful as each day in the rehab was. The intensity was all encompassing, defining the residents’ very existence. They were intense people, after all. If you can handle the extreme nature of a hardcore heroin addiction a dose of rehab, intensity is a familiar state to be in.
Lee heard that someone had brought heroin and crack on site after someone’s family visit. Little Albert had been taken to hospital after eating a daffodil. The drama only got worse, though. Two people, "Scouse" John and "Slut-drop" Sarah, had left together and the day after they’d both been found dead in a flat—overdose on imagined love and low tolerance.
“Come on, Neil, stop smoking that shit and do some work." Wonky threw a cloth at Neil’s head. “Get started in the store room,” Wonky said.
To get to the store, you had to go outside and into a small outdoor building which held food and housed several fridges and freezers.
The three lads had been busy cleaning for about half an hour. Everyone was quite happy; the radio was on and the kitchen felt like a world away from rehab.
“Come and have a look at this." Neil voice could just about be heard over Madonna singing “Like a Prayer.” In Lee’s opinion, the best bit of the track was the part where the gospel singers’ voices covered Madonna’s.
Just like a prayer, I’ll take you thereIt’s like a dream to meJust like a prayer, I’ll take you thereIt’s like a dream to me
Wonky and Lee walked into the store room. It was cold, dark, and musky inside. It smelt of damp and a strange, bacterial potential that Lee couldn’t put his finger on.
“Look at this, man." Neil’s voice sank, and his eyes strained wide.
Neil had somehow moved one of the extremely heavy freezers (how the fuck had he managed to do this alone?). Behind it was a round hole. It was big, certainly big enough to get your body through.
“It leads to a mystery." Neil moved his hands in the air like a wizard kneading bread.
Lee walked to the hole and put his head in. There appeared to be a steep path leading who knew where. “Weird,” he said as he came back into the store room.
Wonky Lee was next to put his head into the hole.
There was a grin on his face when he came back.
“Come on, you two. What are you waiting for? I never met a long, dark tunnel I didn’t like.”
Neil was the first one into the hole. Before Lee and Wonky followed, he popped his head back out and whispered, “A mystery.”
As they disappeared down the narrow tunnel, their footsteps echoed like brushes on a snare drum. Breathless, they walked further away from the rehab.
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