No clue – Episode 5
The rest of my day was rubbish! I spent most of the time in my head with unanswered questions running rampant. I felt like that great line from Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’, only I didn’t wake up with the sheets soaking wet, only the freight train running through the middle of my head. I got no work done and when I built up some enthusiasm to phone a client, I hung up before they answered. I decided to take an old desk pad out and start to vent my feelings on paper. My therapy was waiting in the ink stored in my pen. It never failed to help me straighten my thoughts out. I would share it here, but let’s just say that the content was censored as my thoughts spilt out onto the blank pages. When Rob my neighbour in the next cubicle stuck his head over to ask if I wanted a coffee he must have thought I was into something really dodgy as I quickly closed the pad in case he could read what I had written.
Jess was the sweetest innocent girl I knew. I would have lost a ton of money wagering that she was a squeaky clean nerd. I’m not saying she was boring, just that she didn’t fit my image of a drug addict. I remember her coming over to our house when Rick was dating her, she was shy and unassuming. We got on from the day Rick introduced us and we had some good conversations, which irritated Rick sometimes when he wanted her to himself. She definitely was no party animal. They suited each other so well. I could never understand why they would rather spend many a Saturday night with our family playing board games, than going out to the local clubs. There were plenty in the area to choose from too. My internal clock told me that my workday was officially over and my wristwatch confirmed that it was just past five. The pen therapy had helped me realise that Jess wasn’t a regular drug user.
A quick shower and an unsuccessful search in my refrigerator for a quick snack and I was sitting in my car watching people arrive and go into the foyer of the Syd James Community hall. It looked like everybody knew each other as they shook hands, hugged, fist pumped, or shoulder bumped, chatting and laughing their way inside. I noticed that there was someone sitting in the car next to me, but I couldn’t make out their gender in the darkness. I was looking for an ally, preferably a male. The interior light went on as the person got out of the vehicle. Bingo! A guy I quickly estimated to be in his mid-thirties unfolded himself and straightened up to about twice my height. The perfect cover for me, nobody would even notice little me next to him. I hopped out of my car and greeted him with a big smile trying to make an immediate connection. Looking down at the top of my head, he returned the greeting.
“Your first time?” I stammered.
He nodded and walked on. I had to pick up my pace to a trot to keep up.
“Are you a?” the words were out before I could swallow them back.
Looking straight ahead he nodded again and picked up his pace.
“Me too, I mean my first time here.” I added quickly realising the ambiguity of my answer.
He walked into the foyer ahead of me and was greeted by a midget, at least next to him she looked like a midget. He followed her towards a reception table and I followed like a lost puppy. My idea of being unnoticed was working perfectly, nobody even looked at me. With the formalities of filling in an info sheet and receiving a sheet of paper headed with ‘Welcome to Positive Sobriety’ and a short introduction, we were ushered into a room full of chairs arranged in a big circle. I carried on with my puppy dog routine and sat next to the tall guy. The butterflies flying around my stomach felt like a bunch of fruit bats.
Mike a long grey haired, unshaven hippy introduced himself as the facilitator for the evening and explained the proceedings to follow as if we were all first-timers. I started to relax a little having a better idea of what to expect. The tall guy seemed to have a nervous condition because his bobbing feet moved his long legs up and down as he scratched the top of his thighs back and forth up to his knees. I got the fright of my life when he suddenly leaned forward, reaching for his calves and scratched violently. It was freaking me out and I wished I’d chosen another place to sit.
After introducing himself, Mike handed over to Lee, the hostess who signed us in. Lee introduced herself then handed over to the person on her right to continue the circle of introductions. The bats were flying in formation again! I was five chairs from Lee. What was I going to say? I saw a movie where meetings like this where happening and they all introduced themselves stating their name and addiction and that was pretty much it. Being so uptight I missed the first two instructions, so I decided to lie, give them my name and tell them I was a heroin addict like I had seen in the movies. Then I would never come back again to put things straight. Now I listened as James, two chairs away did his introduction.
“Hi, my name is James and I am grateful to be in recovery. I have had a great week and I am doing super well.”
What was he addicted to? Why was he there? That wasn’t enough. I wanted more.
“Good evening, I am Nora and I am also so grateful to be in recovery. My week has been a bit crappy, but I made it through without relapsing, so I am happy to be here.”
What did you nearly relapse with? How am I going to learn anything from this group? My silently rehearsed introduction was not going to help me. At least I didn’t have to say what I was addicted to. I could just say I was happy to be in recovery and had a good week so far.
“Hi, I am Kyle and I am grateful to beee” I felt like a fraud as my voice trailed off and it didn’t feel good. “Okay, can I start again? Hi, I am Kyle, but I’m not grateful to be in recovery.” I felt everyone’s eyes on me. “I am very sad in fact. A good friend of mine overdosed on heroin today and I am here to find out how I can help her.”
Mike started to clap slowly and the rest of the circle followed.
“Welcome Kyle, it’s good to have you with us. You’re in the right place. Stick with us we certainly can help you to help your friend. How is she doing?” Mike’s voice was soothing and filled with compassion.
The bats landed and I told the group an abbreviated version of what had happened and how Jess was doing. The rest of the group did their introductions and Mike went on with the evening's proceedings. I was relieved to hear that there were several people supporting an addict, or as I was gently corrected, supporting a person in recovery. I was taught that ‘The Positive Sobriety Group’, was not into labelling people struggling with substance abuse as addicts. I also learned that if I was a person who wanted to understand and help Jess, that I simply loved, or cared for a person battling addiction. I was not supporting, or enabling her addiction, I was learning to support her recovery.
It turned out to be a very different evening to what I was expecting, but I was still feeling like a square peg. As for the tall guy, his name was Phil and he was fresh out of detox from shooting up heroin and could not afford rehab. We had a good chat during the coffee break and he opened up about his drug experimentation and very quick spiral into addiction. This was his third overdose and then he said the strangest thing.
“I don’t have another overdose in me.”
The bobbing and itching were symptoms of his withdrawal and he apologised for distracting me. It was the beginning of learning about an insidious world I had no clue about.