Month: August 2011

At Least He Could Wipe His Own Butt…

There are a few universal invariants in life: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the Earth revolves around the sun, Carrot Top will never be a funny comedian, and everyone poops.

It’s true; everyone poops. I poop, you poop, the Pope poops, dogs poop, cats poop, worms poop. Everyone poops.

I do, however, wish old men did not poop. And I’ll tell you why.

First, for those who don’t know, I work in the medical profession. Cardiology. Electrophysiology, if you want to get specific. I deal with pacemakers and defibrillators and heart rhythms daily.

No poop.

So, imagine my shock and dismay when I was escorting a patient to a room to be seen by one of the doctors when he announced, “I have to use the bathroom.”

Oh, okay, sir. No problem. I wheeled him in his wheelchair to the nearest men’s room and pushed him inside. I said to the gentleman, “I’ll be outside the door if you need me,” and started walking out of the bathroom, when he said to the words I didn’t want to hear…

“I need help.”

Son of a…

I halted in the doorway, closed my eyes and let out a short defeated sigh, then turned around and helped my patient out of his wheelchair and positioned him over the john. Once in place, I had him grab hold of the arm rests on the side of the commode and I bent over him and pulled his trousers and oh goody, adult diaper down and helped him lower himself down onto the porcelain.

My first thought, aside from, “GODDAMN IT!!” was, “dude, you’ve got a diaper. I used to wear diapers, too. Pretty sure you can just poop in that thing and some nurse who actually gets paid to wipe your butt will assist you.”

I apologize for the graphic content, but we all know that everyone poops and poop smells. Terminally ill people, however…their poop smells far, far worse than anything you can imagine. Like, imagine the smelliest, most vile smell you’ve ever assaulted your olfactory sensors with and times that by infinity gillion. This is just a fraction of how awful this man’s crap smelled.

Now, I have a pretty strong stomach, and can usually boast that whenever we have a particularly pungent patient in our facility, I don’t smell them. My co-workers will come out of the same room, gagging and say, “did you NOT smell that guy? He smells like he took a bath in piss and Drakkar Noir.”

Honestly, I can’t smell that. I thank my lucky stars for that.

But this guy? This guy I smelled.

My eyes started watering and my throat started clenching in an effort to keep my previously digest lunch from coming back up. I held my breath as long as I could, but that wasn’t good enough. The stench had worked its way into my nostrils and I could taste the smell in the back of my throat, which is so, so, so, so much worse.

Here’s this little old man, grunting away on the pot and I’m praying to a god I know doesn’t exist to smite me down right here and there to spare me any more of this man’s shit.

I was running out of reserved air, so I begrudgingly took a deep breath, almost vomiting as I did so, and thankfully, he announced he was finished. I helped him lift off the toilet seat, and then I made my second vital error–the first being going to work that morning–I looked. I looked at his poop.

It was a force of habit! I look at my own poop! I won’t be completely vile and describe it to you, because even I have standards.

So, here I am, half naked 80-year-old man hanging around my neck, his bare butt hanging out and he reaches over to grab some toilet paper, which I had made the split second decision to drop his old ass and bolt for the door if he asked me to wipe  him, but by the stars, he did so himself.

He completed his task, dropped the paper into the bowl and I helped him pull up his Depends and pants and settle him back into his wheelchair. I unlocked the wheels and we high-tailed it out of there before I went insane from poop fumes.

I feel kind of bad because I’m pretty sure I hit a couple of G’s wheeling him to his waiting clinic room because I wanted to be rid of Poopy McPooperson. I got to the room, parked him inside, and as I was leaving, he feebly called out to me, “thanks for your help, sweetie.”

Aw…you’re welcome.

As I was walking back to my office, I was taking huge, deep breaths and savoring the fresh air, when I walked by the bathroom.

Then, it hit me again like a ton of poopy bricks: did I flush?

I know I didn’t flush…did he flush?

Son of a bitch again…

I thought I was free of my horrifying ordeal, but no, I had to walk into the lion’s den yet again. The mere thought of going back into the bathroom and that eau de stink ass smell punching me in the face made me start gagging, but I had to go back in, as I realized I had also left my pen on the sink.

I almost didn’t go back in. I thought about it. I got a sick, twisted sense of satisfaction knowing that my pain would be shared by some unsuspecting sonofabitch to go in there next, but I left my like, most favorite pen in there, so I took a deep breath and covered my mouth and nose with the sleeve of my scrub top and ventured back in. I didn’t make eye contact with the bowl this time, and lifted up my right leg and flushed with my foot, grabbed my pen and hauled ass out of there again.

If there is a Hell, surely I danced with the Devil that day.

Everybody poops…just make sure I’m nowhere near you when it happens.

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This Thing Called Depression

I feel I should add a disclaimer that this may cause some concern for me and my well-being. Perhaps it will be warranted, but those who know me best know that I’m not a big talker when it comes to feelings and emotions and blah dee blah; much better at writing this stuff out, that way no judgment can be passed, and I can get everything that’s in my head out in an effort to clear my mind to make room for poop and fart jokes. So, here goes…

The good news is that after over a month of not being on my antidepressants, I started taking them again on Saturday. Why did I stop taking them? Well, combination of procrastination and self-science experiment to see if I really needed them, or if my mood was a result of environment. I’m given a three month supply of my medicine, and then when I run out, I have to go visit wacky Dr. Tatay for a chat, then he refills them for me. My last visit in May, I still had over a months supply, so I didn’t refill them. When I DID go to refill them in July when I ran out, I was denied and didn’t make an appointment with Rafael the Singing Psychiatrist.

This proved to be a mistake.

Holy shit. Talk about mood swings. I’m not sure how familiar you all are with the intracies of how antidepressants work, and I’m not an expert on it either, so I won’t bore you and myself with medical mumbo jumbo, but essentially, it involves neurotransmitters, neurons, and chemicals like serotonin, norephinephrin, and dopamine. These guys regulate mood, reaction to stress, sleep patterns, appetite, and sexuality. These hormones get passed through your brain by neurons. Depressed folk like myself have low levels of these hormones for whatever reason. For instance, my symptoms of despression, aside from being, well–depressed–include an infuriating inability to sleep properly–either far too much or not enough; poor ability to handle stress (Hi. I’m Erin. I tried killing myself when my marriage dissolved. Good coping skills, ass); over-eating (I’m sad. I’m going to eat this entire dude of ice cream); and TMI, but a total disinterest in sex (this may or may not have also been attributed to the fact that sex with my ex was boring).

I digress. So, chemicals are running amok, not doing their job and whatnot. Enter antidepressants, or if you want to get fancy shmancy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Insert more eye-crossing medical jargon, but again, basically these things are supposed to turn our frowns upside down. Ta da!

Anyway, so after a month off my drugs, it was like I was back at square one with my depression. I was sleeping horribly and just became a moody motherfucker. Suicidal thoughts came back (I’ll discuss this more later). Eating really didn’t matter to me–I would have much rather drank my meals than actually ingest something nutritious into my body. I got a liter of whiskey for my birthday. Said liter was gone in a week–grant it, not terrible considering I could have polished that thing off in a day or two, but it’s made bad by the fact that I’d come home from work and drink by myself and drink until I was drunk, pass out on my bed, sleep for four hours, then be wide awake. Neat. Add this to the fact that during this time was the one year “anniversary” of when things got really ugly between the ex and myself and the whole suicide/hospital/alcohol rehab incident, well friends…yeah. Erin was not in a very good place.

Lesson learned from this? STAY ON YOUR MEDICATION, STUPID.

And actually, I was quite prepared to NOT start taking the medication again. I had the mentality (0r lack of mentality) of “you don’t need the drugs. Just suck it the fuck up and deal with shit for once.”

But then, one day last week, I had a change of heart.

I was at the regular karaoke bar, sitting alone and browsing my Twitter feed. I follow John Moe, a journalist on National Public Radio, and usually, he’s goofy and funny and quite frankly, my kind of people. In fact, if you’re on Twitter, follow him: @johnmoe. Anyway, what John wrote about made me have what Oprah calls her “a-ha! moment.” Here’s what he had to say:

“I have to talk about something that isn’t a joke for a little while here. Sorry if that’s jarring to you. Gotta do it. Today would have been the 49th birthday of my only brother, Rick Moe. He killed himself in 2007. I made a promise to myself to talk about it. I don’t want to write about me here. I’m dealing with it. I’m okay. I want to write about you. Rick suffered from untreated depression. In his case, that was compounded with substanceabuse although he was clean when he died. But he suffered because he was afraid to get help. I’m not living out therapy here, but at his funeral I swore I would shine light on this. And now I have lots of people reading me. If you suffer depression, you may think it’s just going to be that way forever. It doesn’t have to be. Get help. Keep getting more help. And it may mean YEARS of trying to find the right help. Maddening trial and error. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. And depression makes you feel alone and like a weirdo. You’re not. A LOT of people live with this. You have a disease. And it can be so bad and you can feel so helpless, you may want to die. I can’t tell you what to do. Who am I, right? But a suicide ricochets. The first person dies but everyone who loves that person is wounded and forever disabled. That’s what’s left behind. Just please, please, please know that if you kill yourself, the pain stays behind, you’re transferring that horrible pain to everyone else. I can’t talk to the only brother I ever had today. I wish he had made a different choice. I want you to make good choices. Get help. And keep getting help. And stay with it. And if it doesn’t work, try something esle. And fight and fight and fight like hell.”

So, here I am, in the bar sitting by myself at a table in the corner, and crying. So many things about what he wrote resonated with me…”suicide ricochets…the first person dies but everyone…is wounded and forever disabled…the pain stays behind and you’re transferring that horrible pain to everyone else…fight and fight and fight like hell…”

I empathize with John, I do. He lost his only brother to depression and suicide. The anguish he feels must be devastating, and my heart hurts for this man and his family. But allow me a moment to bring the depressed’s point of view into perspective.

Our brains aren’t firing properly, as I so nerdily described earlier. Chemicals alter our thinking, or lack thereof. When I was attempting my suicide, my thought was of finally ending my pain. Even though my ex and I had grown apart and our marriage wasn’t even a figment of what it once was, I loved him with everything I had. I didn’t want to live without him or his love, as infuriating as he was to me at times. Life without him meant my life was over, and why bother trudging through life knowing this?

 I didn’t want to. I wanted to end my life.

I didn’t care about you.

I didn’t care about my parents or ironically, my only brother, living without me in their lives.

And I admit, even now, I still really don’t care.

Isn’t that disgusting? I am surrounded by a small village of incredible people who love me despite my flaws and yet, I take you all for granted. Selfish of me? Most definitely. I would rather ease my own suffering and broken heart that I am certain will never, ever be healed. Time does not heal all wounds. Time only loosely brings the broken bits together, not forming a complete bond. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy again. When I find a glimmer of happiness in my life, I latch on to it but ultimately end up destroying it.

This is the thought process of a depressed person, my friends. Devastating, isn’t it? This is what I live with day-to-day. This is what I think about constantly. No one will love me, I do not deserve the love of those who foolishly do love me. Not everyone deserves to be loved, and I am one of those people. I will mess things up for you. I’m better off by myself, that way I can’t hurt you and ultimately, I won’t get hurt myself.

I don’t want to think like this anymore. I’m a rational person. I know that what I just said is bullshit. But due to depression coursing through me and I can’t help it.

This is why John’s post all but hit me upside the head. What he wrote gave me a different perspective, I guess. I mean, I consider myself to be very empathetic. Most times, I put other people’s feelings ahead of my own, with this one exception, of course. I was sitting at the table, thinking of my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and nephew, all my friends and what killing myself would have done to them, and that’s when I made the decision to refill my medication.

I don’t want to feel worthless and like a burden to you all. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy and make someone else happy, too. I know, I know…a wise man told me today that “I used to think that I had to have someone in my life to be happy.” For the most part, that’s true–you don’t. But this is also coming from a guy who is in a relationship right now, so I feel he’s kind of lost in his own advice, but I love him regardless of his contradictory advice.

Sorry to skip to a different subject now, but I want to use what he said to me as a segue to my next topic. As I just said, you don’t need someone in your life to make you happy. You make yourself happy by doing the things you want and need for yourself. But it’s nice to share your happiness with someone. I miss my ex. I do. He was exactly one third of my life. Cliche as it is, no one really quite understands me or gets my stupid jokes quite like he does, which is both amazing and right now, infuriating. I’ll be sitting here, watching one of my as my mother calls “stupid” tv shows, and come to a part where both he and I would laugh like loons, and while I still laugh, it’s hard not to have someone share in your laughter.

I miss having someone next to me when I sleep. The first few months after he left were terrible. Blue, my dog, does a pretty decent job of sleeping next to me at night, which I love more than anything, but Blue isn’t going to be here forever (oh LORD. Side note: want to see two grown adults cry like children? Mention to them the day they have to put their dogs to sleep. This was my roommate and I yesterday. The very thought of not having Blue makes me bawl like a baby. This dog has been such a blessing to me. He’s annoying as fuck half of the time, he sheds more hair than what he has on his body and how that is even physically possible, I have no clue, and he has a licking problem, but he’s MY annoying shedding licker and when the time comes for him to leave me, I don’t know what the hell I”m going to do. Fucking dog is making me cry right now…he’s curled up at my feet and sleeping. Goddamn animal.)

Fuck.

Okay, anyway, as I was saying before I started bawling like a bitch was that I am affectionate person and miss receiving affection. Sure, hugs from my roommates and friends and family are amazing and always appreciated, but there’s a huge difference between you people and a hug from someone to whom you’re not afraid to have see you naked. There’s a different kind of bond (heh…unintentional sex joke there). I miss being kissed. I miss holding hands. I miss waking up next to someone not caring that my eye make-up is smeared across my eyes and I have kitten-pooped-in-my-mouth-while-I-was-sleeping breath and they still tell me I look beautiful. I miss sneaking little butt grabs and pinches whenever they walk up the stairs in front of me. Little probably trivial things like that, but I miss them all.

I’ve met some men since my ex, all wonderful in their own rights (with the exception of one; may there be a Hell so he may burn for all eternity). There’s the one that got me to become more serious about my writing and was so familiar to me, he was like a long-lost friend. There’s the one that made me laugh until I couldn’t possibly laugh any more, but always did, and there’s the one that I connected with on so many levels, it’s terrifying. This last one I kind of have a glimmer of hope for, but in true Erin fashion, trying to keep myself guarded…and failing miserably at. He is gifted with the same annoying habit my mother has of getting me to blab about things I don’t want to blab about.

So what’s the hold up with any of these guys? Why didn’t they work out?

Oddly enough, they all share the same trait: taken, as in unavailable to me. I know, this may raise some eyebrows in my direction in a “why were you even dealing with them in the first place?” sort of way, but that’s beside the point. I think. Or I’m just trying to distract you all from the fact that I’m a tart. Anyway. This is another blog post I simply do not have the heart to write about tonight. Perhaps some other time. Or not at all. We’ll see.

Anyway.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I’m sure some of you are clambering over yourselves to reach out to me or have some comments to make, and I will welcome anything you have to say. Just please know that–and I’m loathe to use this word because I don’t want to think of depression as a “disease”–I have an…illness, I guess is a better word. I’m trying to get better. I want to be better. I need to be better. I’m tired of living my life on this constant up and down bullshit. Like John Moe said, “it’s maddening trial and error.” And it is. There are times when I want to stop trying and just, well, stop. Suicidal thoughts creep up, usually just a fleeting thought, but still think about it from time to time. I wish I could make the promise to all of you that I won’t try anything to harm myself again, but that’s a promise I don’t want to make right now. It’s tough, people. It’s grueling, actually, to know committing suicide is not a solution to a problem, but only exacerbates the problem.

Suicide does ricochet.

But with any luck, I’ll be able to stop it.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

Yours,

E

 

The Year 2003

And what a year that was.

It started out innocently enough, I suppose, or at least it had every intention of doing so, but a series of unfortunate events spiraled out of control.

I was to be married this year, and was fraught with excitement and nervousness about it. We had set the date for October 25, as fall is my favorite time of year, with all the leaves changing to jewel tones in the trees, the air becoming crisp and cool.

Then, it was discovered that my father had been having an affair with a co-worker. Not again, I thought to myself as was told. I’ll never forget that night, much to my desire to do so.

I was working until 11pm, as I usually did, and as I was driving the highway home, I was met by an approaching vehicle, and when we passed, their brake lights glared on and stopped in the middle of road, then the white reverse lights came on, and the truck began driving backwards towards me. I recognized the truck as my parents, so I hit my own brakes and stopped in the road, being mindful of other cars that might be approaching, and my mind going through scenarios as to why I had just met one of them on the road. My mother should be working the night shift, and my father was usually in bed when I got home.

I rolled down my window and was greeted by my mother. Her eyes were red, her mascara streaked down her red cheeks, and her voice was wavering as she began speaking to me.

“Your father has something to tell you when you get home,” she managed to get out through her tears.

I could feel the boulder of dread building in the pit of my stomach, and I feebly responded with an “okay.”

She then drove off back to work, and I to our home.

I pulled into the circular gravel driveway, parked my car under the Russian olive tree as I usually did, and sat in my car for a few minutes, trying to think of any excuse not to go inside. Something told me I wouldn’t like what I was about to be told. Reluctantly, I opened my car door and made my way into the house.

My father had rigged the living room lights up to a dimmer switch years before, so the light was on, but just barely illuminated the room. The radio was on to his usual New Age station, and he was sitting in the recliner by the large picture window, rocking slowly back and forth.

“Hi. Sit down, please,” he said to me as I came into the room.

I sat down at the edge of the couch and waited for him to tell me what I didn’t want to hear.

“I’ve been having an affair. Your mother just found out.”  He was emotionless, as these words came out of his mouth.

I sat in the semi-darkness in silence. Anger turned to rage which turned to hatred. I could feel tears wanting to make their way down my own cheeks, but I bit my tongue in an effort to stop them.

“Do you have anything you want to say to me?” asked my father, still rocking slowly. I wanted to jump off the couch and punch his smug face. I resisted that urge, as well.

“No.”

And with that, I got up off the couch and went into my bedroom and shut the door. I don’t really recall what I did after that. I’m sure I cried then, out of sight of my father, letting the tears soak into my pillow case and lull me into sleep, but I don’t remember. All I know really remember about that time was the absolute and utter disgust I felt for the man. I didn’t care if I never had to see him again. How dare he do this to our family after what we had just been through two years prior when my mother confessed to her own affair?

He was the first man to break my heart, to let me down so horribly. Everyone knows a bond between a father and daughter is a special one. She bases her looking for a mate on the qualities her father possesses, and to have done this with this lying, cheating, despicable man made me sick to my stomach.

I remember not talking to my father, and avoiding contact altogether. I was grateful to work the late shift at work, as that meant I didn’t have to see him. On my days off, I would travel to see my fiance, further avoiding my father. My plan worked for about a week, then my ninety-two-year-old grandmother was discovered on the floor of her apartment, having suffered a massive and debilitating stroke. She was rushed to the hospital and in the intensive care unit. Again, details are foggy, but I must have been with Jason at the time, because he was with me when I went to see her in the hospital.

I remember walking down the hallway to her room and hearing the voices of my father, Uncle Dean, and mom and as I parted the curtain to enter her room, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. She was writhing in her hospital bed, moaning, her mouth gaping open and her thin bony hands were grasping at the metal bars on the side of the bed. She always had perfectly coiffed hair that she kept neatly in a perm and dyed the same shade it was when she was a young woman, but now, her hair was a matted mess on her head and she hadn’t been to the beauty shop in a while because I could see her white roots growing out.

I remember gasping audibly when I saw her, shocked at what I saw before me. My father had been sitting on the ledge of the window and I saw my Mom lean over to him and tell him to go to me. Keep in mind this was the first time I had seen my father in over a week. He stood up and walked over to me and wrapped his arms around me in an embrace. I started crying into his broad shoulders, but I don’t know if it was because of the state of my grandmother, or because I was so relieved to see him.

My grandma’s stroke was devastating to her. She lost her ability to speak and use her right side, so when she was stable enough, she was released to a nursing home, never to return to her apartment again. These events got me thinking about how long she would be with us and the impending wedding in October. I wanted my whole family there with us, but with Grandma’s condition, there was no way she could make the trip to the wedding, so Jason and I had a discussion and it was decided we were going to get married in March in the chapel in the nursing home where Grandma was. I still get considerable flack for this decision, as the ceremony was “critical personnel only,” meaning my parents, Jason’s parents and siblings. That’s it.

Jason and I had also discussed moving once we were married and had just leased an apartment in Lincoln the week before, so after our wedding on Saturday, we spent all day Sunday moving our things into the new place and were settled in by Monday.

A week later, I got a phone call from my Mom, and she was crying. Again. During the whole Grandma in the hospital fiasco, my parents had decided to give their marriage another shot and were going to work on things. This phone call, however, was to tell me that it was definitely over. Dad was still seeing the woman. Reenter my hatred for my father.

This time, avoiding him was much easier, since we were two hours away. Plus, I had the task of trying to find a job and to keep planning the reception for October, since we–well, I–wanted to still have a big party and fancy wedding dress and to have all of our family in attendance. So I dove head-first into those projects and did a fairly decent job of not talking to my dad. He would call, I’d be curt and hang up after a few minutes.

“We’re in love, Erin,” he said during one conversation. “I know you’re unhappy with this situation, but I hope you can take the both of us into your life soon.”

That phone call left me throwing our cell phone across our tiny apartment living room.
Gradually, I began to be less angry with my father, and allowed him to come visit us, but it had to be just him–SHE couldn’t come along.

Then, I had a “come to Jesus” talk with my brother. He basically told me I was being absolutely ridiculous for treating our father like shit, and I need to get over myself and deal with what happened. So, out of utter fear of what my brother would do to me, I did–begrudgingly at first, but it became easier as I got to know Nancy better, and I am eternally grateful I did come to my senses, as we lost Nancy to cancer two years ago.

So, 2003 is a bittersweet year for me. Love gained and love lost. Thinking my marriage would defy the odds, and I sit here, a divorced woman. My father is broken hearted over the loss of his wife. My mom hates to admit it, but I think she still misses my dad. I still miss Jason, the fucking prick he can be. In the end, as fucked up as life may be sometimes, all the bullshit we have to wade through is all worth it in the end, or at least I hope it is.

Verdict is still out on that one.

They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab And I Said Okay

I’ve been in rehab. 

Not anything fancy, like the Betty Ford clinic, but a run-down, beaten-up place with mismatched furniture, faded carpet and discount store art work on the walls.  Pictures of flowers in crystal vases. Actual flowers in cheap plastic vases on the scuffed end tables.  Fake flowers, of course.

The building used to be dormitories for a nursing college.  There’s thick layers of white paint on the walls, probably covering up the old lead-based paint. 

I wasn’t inpatient, so I wasn’t forced to live at the facility, which was a small blessing. I was what was called “intensified out-patient.”  Sounds so serious.  Three hours a day, three days a week, plus going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting sometime during the week, so there was another hour.

I was there for eight weeks.  Eight long, arduous weeks. I dreaded those three hours, those three days.  Driving into the parking lot of the facility, I’d park and sit in my car, staring at the building, wishing for myself to be absolutely anywhere at that moment, wishing I’d start my car up and drive away from this place.

I never did.  I always went inside.

The treatment facility was for alcoholics and drug addicts, as well. And it wasn’t just for adults, either; kids were there.  I think that was the most depressing part about the whole ordeal–seeing sixteen-year-old kids amongst sixty-year-old adults.  The harsh contrast was actually sort of comical, but probably only to me. And not really comical per se, but more ironic. As children and teenagers, we get pounded into our heads that “drugs and alcohol are bad!” I guess some of us must have not paid attention…

The first hour was devoted to sitting in a lecture room, listening to one of the counselors ramble on about the Twelve Step program.  At the end of the eight weeks, I felt I could get up and lead the lecture myself.

The first day, I was scared shitless. I didn’t belong here. I didn’t have a problem. Sure, I like to drink, but I’m not what I considered a “classic alcoholic.”  I didn’t hide my drinking, I didn’t drink alone, I didn’t keep my bottles of booze tucked away in a shoe in the back of a closet or stashed in an empty tool box drawer in the garage. I admit my usual social drinking got out of hand during the height of the bullshit with my soon-to-be ex-husband, but I’m not an alcoholic.

Anyway, back to the first day. I parked and walked through the commons area where there were about twenty people outside smoking. What a sad bunch of losers, I thought as I walked past the sun-faded picnic tables.  I glanced down at the tables and saw the ashtrays placed on top were overflowing with about eight different brands of cigarette butts. Everyone was smoking like this was their last cigarette; like death row inmates taken outside before they were gassed or electrocuted or lethally injected. 

Most people were sitting, slumped over the table tops, half-smoked cigarettes dangling precariously from their fingers tips. They’d bring the things to their lips, purse them tightly around the filter and inhale deeply, the cherry glowing a brilliant orange, whitish-grey wisps of smoke dancing, then a huge plume of smoke flowing out of their open mouths.  I caught the eye of one of the smokers as I walked past and offered her a polite smile.  Her only form of acknowledgement was to stare at me and blow smoke out her nostrils.  She looked like an angry bull from the cartoons I used to watch when I was little.

I weaved through the small crowd and to the entrance of the building and let myself in.  It was the end of July, so outside was hot, sticky and humid, but the inside of the building was freezing cold, thanks to what was surely an ancient and over-worked air conditioning unit. Fluorescent lights lit the hallways, and like a cliché, one row was flickering on and off, giving the hall the feel of a mental ward in a bad horror movie. I half expected Nurse Hatchet herself to come around the corner and lead me away. 

Since it was my first day, I had to meet with my appointed social worker.  I walked up to the front desk, where a very tired looking woman was sitting.  She glanced up at me as I approached her.

“Hi.  I, uh, I guess I’m here for treatment,” I said awkwardly. 

“Name?” she replied shortly.

Shit…what was my name? I was out of my element, my brain wasn’t firing properly.  I stared at her, looking too intently upon her to be polite.  Finally, my name came to me, and I told her. 

She made a big production of looking through papers on her desk, mumbling under her breath.  I didn’t hear what she said, but I’m sure it wasn’t polite, nor repeatable. Finally, she found what she was looking for and said to me, “You’re with Otto.  I’ll let him know you’re here.”

I smiled meekly, said “thanks” too softly, and went to sit down on a very abused-looking sofa. 

A few minutes went by, and I was fidgeting with the papers in my hand.  I could feel the paper become moist with the perspiration from my hands as I clenched and unclenched my fists around the rolled up documents I had. I waited a few more minutes, growing more anxious, but then Otto The Counselor came down.

Short. Bald, save for the strip of hair wrapping around his head.  Big, Dumbo-esque ears. Out-dated glasses with huge frames that overwhelmed his face. A sweater and corduroys, even in the middle of July.  Scuffed, faded brown loafers.  His name tag did indeed say he was Otto, but also that he was the treatment facility’s chaplain. 

We walked to his office in silence.  Correction: I walked in silence, he was yammering a mile a minute about the rules, protocol, procedures, expectations and repercussions of violating the terms of my admittance to the program.  I know my eyes were wide and bewildered.  I was trying to absorb everything he was telling me, but the whole experience so far was overloading my already fragile mind. I was trying to absorb the more pertinent information, but I confess, not a lot stuck. Thank goodness I was given a three-ring binder full of information, so if needed, I could reference that.

We got into his office, and he sat at his desk, I sat across from him, sitting ram-rod straight in my chair, my hands resting on the binder, and my legs pressed tightly together. I felt like I was at an important job interview, and as I found out, I kind of was. Otto began asking me all manners of questions, from why I was here (recommended by my psychiatrist), why did your psychiatrist send you here (had just spent three days in the mental ward for attempted suicide), why did you try to kill yourself (divorcing from my husband, couldn’t handle the sudden stress), how do you deal with stress (not very well, if I ended up in the loony ward for a few days. I was expecting a chuckle from that answer. I was not rewarded one), do you drink to handle stress (yes, that’s why my shrink sent me here), and so forth and so on for about a half hour.
 
It was just Otto rapid-firing questions at me, and me trying to answer them as quickly as they came to me. Otto glanced at his clock, and said it was time for lecture, and that I would meet with my counselor later that evening. I stood up and shook his hand, and walked out of his office, and down the stairs to the main floor where lecture was held. I looked at the door leading to the freedom of the outside and for a split second, thought about bolting, but then I recalled some of the more harsh punishments for failing to meet program requirements, and thought I’d better keep my ass inside.

The lecture room was already full, since it was required by all program participants to attend. In a weird way, it kind of reminded me of a UN meeting; all nationalities were present, ages ranging from sixteen to sixty-five. The teenagers were the more rambunctious of the group, laughing and generally goofing off. The adults sat silently in their chairs. I found an empty seat and sat down, that goddamn binder still clutched in my hands. The counselor leading the day’s lecture walked in and immediately started yelling at the kids to shut up. I was a bit taken a-back by her frankness.

Everyone eventually settled down and the lecture began: Steps 7 and 8: We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings, and make a list of all the persons we have harmed, and become willing to makes amends to them all, respectively. She droned on and on, clearly not holding anyone’s attention, as I heard the kids behind and around me snickering and talking amongst themselves. She’d stop talking every few minutes and threaten the kids with corrective action, to which they’d make some smart ass comment back to her. This was the longest hour of my life, and I became depressed when I realized I’d have to suffer through this bullshit for eight weeks.

She ended the lecture, and the entire class quickly rose and made a mass exodus for the exits, all going outside to smoke before we met for our group sessions. I walked outside and and stood off in the corner, observing everyone. Many were seated at the picnic tables, writing furiously in their own binders, others found a very worn basketball and began an impromptu game of hoops, and the rest of us smoked. We had fifteen minutes before group therapy, and I looked forlornly at my car in the parking lot, and sighed when I realized I should have made my break for it when I had the chance earlier.

The fifteen minutes were up, and a voice came over the PA system that we should all convene to our classrooms for group. We all herded back inside the building like cattle, and made our way to wherever we were supposed to be. My classroom was at the end of the creepy flickering fluorescent light hallway. I walked inside and found six other adults already sitting in chairs that had been arranged in a circle. I sat down and pretended to be very interested in my binder, paging through it. A few more people trickled in, and then a heavy set woman in her early thirties walked in and shut the door behind her. Her name tag declared her to be Shellie, and this was my group therapist.

She had a lovely smile that lit up her entire face, blond hair with darker blond streaks running through it, and she was also wearing clothes not fitting of the July weather. She saw me and asked, “Erin?” I looked up and nodded yes.

“Hi, I’m Shellie. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet with you earlier; I was in a meeting. When can we get together to talk this week? What’s your schedule like?”

I told her the times I was available and we made a date for the following day before lecture started.

“Oh, and before I forget, I’m going to need you to pee for me.”

I must have had an extremely puzzled look on my face, which she rewarded with a small chuckle, and said, “mandatory drug testing. Everyone has to pee at least once a week. You can head to the nurses office after we’re done here.”

And with that, she began lecture. She went around the room, asking everyone how their day was going, did you have any cravings, and if so, how did you deal with them? Then, it was my turn, but she asked me to introduce myself to the group. I stood up slowly, and made eye contact with the ground and said, “Hi, my name is Erin,” and then quickly sat back down.

“Tell us more; why are you here? What’s your addiction of choice?” asked Shellie.

I sighed, hating being put on the spot, but I obliged. “I am here because I guess I have a drinking problem. My psychiatrist recommended I come here, so….here I am.”

“Welcome,Erin,” Shellie replied.

Welcome isn’t exactly the word I would have used….

After lecture, I went upstairs to take my urine test. I should have studied more, I joked to myself. I hope I pass.

I peed in the cup and handed it to the nurse who had been standing outside the bathroom stall. That was a bit unnerving, to say the least. I got patted down before I went inside the bathroom and had to empty my pockets and put the contents in a plastic basket. The water in the toilet bowl was blue to prevent dipping the cup inside and messing with the results. All standard precautions when dealing with addicts; we’re a wily bunch.

The next day I met with Shellie. She welcomed me into her office and the first words out of her mouth were, “you failed your pee test.”

Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it. Suddenly, the joke I had told myself the night before wasn’t so funny. I then remembered the few beers I had had the night before my first time at the center. This caused a bit of an issue, Shellie said. “You know you’re in an alcohol abuse program, right? That kind of means you have to abstain from drinking…”

“You mean like, none at all? I just had two beers!”

“Yeah, that’s kind of what the word ‘abstain’ means, Erin.”

Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it damn it.

“And because of this, I had to go to the program directors, because usually, if you fail the pee test we have to kick you out, but I was able to talk to them, explain the situation to them a little more clearly, and they agreed to let you stay, but you’re on probation and if you fail the next test, you’re definitely getting booted out of here.”

I was stunned into silence, and I just nodded my understanding. Wow. I’ve always been the “good kid,” so to hear that what I thought was harmless was actually NOT really kind of scared me, so I signed an agreement stating I’d not drink alcohol during the remainder of my stay there.

The days and classes went on, seeing the same group of people come in and sit in their usual spots, the dull expressions on everyone’s faces. I was counting down the days I was to be out of there…only six more weeks…only six more weeks…

Then came time for me to start “working the steps,” and no, I don’t mean the exercise steps, either. The Twelve Steps. After I met with Shellie each week, she’d hand me a workbook, which I likened to the the same workbooks I did when I was in Sunday School as a girl, and mostly because these things were written in such a simplistic language, that I’m pretty sure the eight-year-old me could have completed it with no problem.

I hadn’t really taken into consideration this whole AA thing when I was in rehab. I was kind of hoping it would be focused more on dealing with MY issues and helping me to stop using alcohol as a crutch when times got sticky, so when the program began relying heavily on The Twelve Steps, I started freaking out a bit. Most people are somewhat familiar with AA and how it works, mostly that AA members “submit to a Higher Power.” This HP as we called it in rehab because we’re cool like that, was 99.9% of the time God.

Crap.

I’m an atheist. What the hell is my HP supposed to be? I’m not going to feign interested in an invisible being for six weeks just to get through the program, but a later encounter had me changing my mind about that.

I met with Otto again to discuss my “absurd lack of religion” and just what in the hell I was supposed to do about this Higher Power business.

Enter the second strong feeling that I should have bolted from the building when I had the chance the first day. Otto was not impressed I am atheist. He flat-out told me I was wrong for this belief and then spent an hour interrogating me as to why I felt this way. I kindly explained to him at first that I used to be a Christian, but over the years, as I became more self-aware of myself and did more research into matters, that you know what? No God. I could see the tips of his Dumbo ears turn red.

“What’s your proof there is no God, Erin?”

“What’s your proof there is one, Otto?”

His ears were glowing by now.

He cleared his throat and shooed the subject away, claiming our talk to over and I needed to get to group therapy. From that point on, Otto did not treat me the same, and this was made evident again when I made my way to the second and third steps of the AA program. I had to fill out another dumb worksheet, and go to another dumb class. I was so tired of this crap by then.

I went into the classroom and sat next to another woman. We made small talk. She was from Missouri and was addicted to meth. Her family sent her here to get help.

“What’s your drug of choice?”

“I guess alcohol…”

“Right on, I used to be a drunk, too, but this place has been great in helping me with everything. I get to go home in a week. I’m so excited. I hope I can see my kids. It’s been almost a year since they got taken away from me…”

As she was telling me her story, my heart broke for this woman. It did. I had never actually met anyone addicted to meth and as she was telling me her life story, I was getting angry at how a substance can take hold of a person’ s life and make them give up everything just to get high. I was liking this woman. She was a good person who just made bad life choices.

Then, class started. Otto walked in and immediately had a vendetta against me.

“Welcome everyone, this is your second and third steps. Let’s begin withErin.Erin, please tell us why you’re here and how you came to believe in The Higher Power will restore you to sanity.”

Goddamn it, Otto.

“Hi, I’m Erin. I’m here because I like to drink to handle my problems, and this isn’t exactly a useful tool to have. And Otto, as you and I discussed the other day, I’m an atheist, so I really struggled with the notion of a ‘higher power,’ but after some thought, I have decided to use my writing as a higher power. It keeps me grounded and sane.”

Remember that nice woman that was sitting next to me? The one I started showing compassion and caring and understanding for? The moment the words “I’m an atheist” left my mouth, she got this look of absolute disgust on her face and actually scooted her chair away from me. After I was finished talking, she opened her mouth.

“Wait, what do you mean you don’t believe in God?”

“Well, that means I don’t believe in God.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“I don’t understand why anyone doesn’t believe in God. He saved me.”

I kept my mouth shut, because the next words out of my mouth would have been something along the lines of “your God is super awesome for letting you get addicted to methamphetamines and losing your children because you proved yourself to be a really shitty mom,” but I didn’t.

Instead, I said, “well, you have your thing, I have mine,” and sat awkwardly in the hard plastic chair next to Meth Mom of the Year until the end of class. As I was leaving, Otto approached me and offered his apologies for her.

“She should practice what she believes in and not pass judgment on people. That’s what her Jesus would do,” and with that, I walked out.

I should have known that this episode would mark the inevitable decline of my time at rehab. But I wasn’t gifted with foreshadowing, so I learned the hard way.

A few more weeks went by, mostly without incident. I wasn’t drinking, I was reluctantly doing my stupid “homework,” and then…then I fucked up.

But not in a went-on-a-three-day-booze-binge kind of way. In a Erin-is-a-freaking-idiot sort of way.

I just didn’t go to class one day. I didn’t feel like it. I called the center and left a message for my counselor, and I stayed home.

The next day at the beginning of lecture, Shellie found me.

“Hey, can I see you in my office real quick?”

“Sure.”

We walked in to her office and sat down.

“So, this is difficult, but I have to excuse you from the program.”

“What? Why?”

“Because of yesterday. As part of your probation on the program, you need to attend every class. I’m sorry, but you’re done.”

I tried very hard to mask my “disappointment,” but on the inside, I was screaming for joy. I had my out. I was free.

I got up, shook Shellie’s hand, and thanked her for her time, and I had to restrain myself from running down the hallway and jumping off the stairs, clicking my heels like I’ve seen done in movies when someone is full of jubilation and mirth.

Free, free, free. No more being made to feel like an outcast due to my lack of religion, no more being treated like a child, no be peeing in cups in front of strangers. The life of an addict is not a glamorous one. Your dignity goes out the window.

Now, a year later, I look back at my time in rehab with disdain. It truly was a waste of my time. The AA program is flawed. I’m not advocating drinking or anything like that. I’m just saying that there has to be a better way to help people than to shame them into submission.

I still have my AA “Bible.” I look at it from time to time, mostly to shake my head in disgust. To their credit, there is a small section in the book about being an atheist and in AA. It’s about four pages long, and the basic premise is “while we understand there are those in the world who do not believe in God as their Savior and this is fine, but to really benefit from the program, you should probably believe in God.”

No thanks

I drive by the center every now and again, and a cold shiver runs down my spine.

I wish I had never gone inside, but I always did.

 

2011: What I Need

Angry? Angst fueld? Perhaps I am. Perhaps I view the world through shit-covered glasses now. Can you blame me? But if you’re not angry about something, you haven’t been paying attention.

The love of my life doesn’t want me anymore. He chose to get rid of me. He chose to destroy what we had by being a selfish piece of shit. I gave him all that I had–I loved him unconditionally, I always did what was in OUR best interests, not just what I thought was good for me, when God knows I wanted to be as fucking selfish as he is and do what I wanted. But I’m not like that. I wanted him to be happy, and in turn, I gave up my happiness in the process. After so many years of doing so, I’ve lost track of what I want.

I want someone to look at me in my eyes and tell me they love me despite my flaws, because do I ever have flaws.

I want to be held close.

I want someone to want me with the same passion and desire that I have for you.

I want to be debt-free, but that’s a different blog post all together.

I just don’t want these things–I need these things.

I need someone to take care of me, but understand that I also need time for myself; time alone and to be perfectly okay with this.

I need a good, hard, unadulterated fucking. Sorry Mom, but I do.

I also need you to be tender and loving with me, even when I’m being belligerent and stubborn.

I need you to not be like him.

This list seems daunting, and it probably is to someone who can’t handle me. I’m a handful. Ask my parents. I may have been the more behaved of the two kids, but I’m just as, if not more so of a chore.

If you can offer me these things, step up. I’m ready for you.

Screw, Marry, Kill

I have decided that this is not only my new favorite meme, but also my motto in life. Screw him, marry him, then kill him. Some may just get screwed, and some may get killed.

Wait…what?

I am sitting in bed and Stephen King’s miniseries “The Stand” is playing in the background. I mention this because I want to apologize in advance if I suddenly comment on the show instead of staying on track with the writing. In order to not confuse you all, I shall  use this * symbol, and my notes will appear at the bottom of the post. Thank you.

I have been forty-three hours smoke-free. I haven’t had a cigarette since five o’clock Friday evening*, and all in all, I am doing fairly well with this. I hate to admit it, but I am glad that Corey, the roommate that also smokes, is not here this weekend, as that’s kind of our “routine,” if you will–Saturdays and Sundays are usually spent going outside every hour on the hour to “let the dogs out,” which is legitimate, but this also gives us the chance to smoke like fire fiends, which we do. It is not unusual for me to puff through a pack and a half a day during the weekend, and that my friends, is ridic. No wonder I can’t friggin’ breathe**. So without him here, not smoking has been much easier. Sorry, Corn, but it has.

I have also decided I am going to be single-handedly funding the Skittles corporation, as when the urge to go out and buy a pack of smokes has come up, I grab a few Skittles. Delicious distraction! This will also cause me to gain elebenty gillion pounds as I’m pretty sure I’ve put away roughly 1.5 million Skittles over the course of two days…okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I haven’t eaten that many, but damn it, if I had that many, I would. So, if you want to support me in my effort, I suggest you send me Skittles. Please.****

*Laura San DiGiacomo has buckets and buckets of hair in this series. Wasn’t she the chick in “Just Shoot Me?” I’ll have to Google that.

**Oh shit! The dude that voices Patrick on SpongeBob is in this!

***Know how I can tell I need to get laid? When watching Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald make out turns me on…this is how I know I need to get laid…or I need a psych evaluation.

****This movie is just…awful. Truly awful. When will they make a decent adaptation of a King novel? I know I have gone on about this topic before several times, but the more supernatural his story is, the worse it is as a movie. I’m looking at YOU, Dreamcatchers.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hello. This is me, twenty-four hours later. I stopped writing in the midst of the earlier post, as The Stand was just too darn silly for me to ignore. Apologies.

Much has transpired in 1,440 minutes. I smoked. Just one cigarette, but I smoked. I was doing so well, too. Three days doesn’t seem like that long to go without nicotine coursing your veins, but trust me–it is.

I got an email from Him today. That’s why I smoked. Now, He and I have a very…peculiar relationship after our impending divorce. Things were tense for a few months after, as they are often wont to be, but we progressed to friends. Actually, it was quite like the months before him moving out–without all the resentment and ill-will, that is. But now…now it’s encroaching upon anger and resentment territory again, and here’s why: Dumbfuck decided to quit his job about two months ago…without having the foresight to have another one lined up. So. His stunning lack of funds has become his non-existent lack of funds, which is proving to be quite troublesome to me, as we are still on the same cell phone plan. Yes, yes, I know. I’ve already gotten an earful from my father about this. Goddamn parents, being right about shit. Really fucking annoying sometimes. I digress.

Dumbfuck has no job. Without job, we cannot pay me back for his share of the phone bill, which, I simply cannot afford to pay by myself. I have a freaking car payment and insurance  along with my other monthly obligations, motherdumbfuck. Jesus christ…I should actually be thanking him, though. Why? Well, thanking him for reminding me WHY WE ARE GETTING DIVORCED IN THE FIRST PLACE. SWEET CHRIST ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY.

Anyway, I’ve sent Dumbfuck random texts over the course of the past few months–nothing major, or harassing by way of getting money–mostly goofy texts, like “aw dude, I’m watching a movie that Mr. Oizo did the soundtrack to!” shit like that. No response. Oookaaayyyy…yesterday, whilst out on the town procuring nourishment, I happened to notice he was leaving the neighbor’s house as I was pulling up to my house. I pretended not to notice him, but I did. This sent me into a semi-rage.

Then today, I got an email from him. I had forgotten I had sent him some of my stories I had written for him to read. Stupid mistake on my part, and his email proved I was correct in this thought. He was never supportive of my writing when we were together. Ever. I would have him read my stories, and he’d feign some sort of interest, but he was just being polite. I don’t know why I thought this would change, and it hasn’t. His reply to me was so condescending and my earlier semi-rage turned into straight up wanting to kick his goofy ass.

But if I think about it, I’m not mad at him, per se. I’m mad at myself for letting him still affect me over a year after he has been gone from my life. I know what you’re all probably screaming at me: GET HIM OFF YOUR CELL PLAN. I know this is what needs to be done, but I also know that if I do so, he’ll be without a phone as he probably can’t afford to support his own coverage. Big fucking deal, right? Well…yes, but you see, I suffer from “toobigofaheartitis” and even though the man ripped my heart out, took a steaming dump on it, then haphazardly shoved it back into my chest, I can’t do it. I mean, I will…probably…eventually…once it makes me mad enough to do so…which, if he keeps up this retardation, will probably be next week some time.

Gack.

Hi. I’m Erin, and I’m a doormat. Come on in. Don’t forget to wipe your feet ALL OVER MY GODDAMN FACE.

And this, ladies and jelly spoons, is why I smoked. And am drinking a too tall glass of whiskey and diet cola now. He is inadvertently killing me because I am intentionally trying to kill myself by lung cancer and/or kidney disease.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In an unrelated/yet oddly related email from one of my dearest friends, she said, and I quote, “Don’t let someone else’s actions drive you crazy and hinder your progress. What do you have control over? You. You control Erin and her mind. If you sense your mind going down an angry path, stop and enjoy a butterfly. Color. Masturbate.” Best goddamn advice I’ve gotten in a long time, and I will heed it, because it really is solid advice.

So, with that, I’m done.

Stay tuned for the next exciting post. I’m excited. You should be, too.

In the words of the immortal Red Green:

Keep your stick on the ice.

E.E.