Wow. Huntington Beach is amazing. I feel as though I have died and gone to paradise. The sun is at a constant shine. There are several different types of plant life that I am unfamiliar with. Washington state is known as the Evergreen State. We have some deciduous trees, but they are predominantly, tall evergreens. California is full of palm trees and succulent type plants. There are aloe vera plants growing at the base of the palm trees.
The van makes it way through a neighborhood filled with large homes and mansions and Candy informs me that we are getting close.
“Are you ready to meet your new Withdrawal Specialist?” she asks.
“Oh, wait, you are not staying with me?” I question.
“No, they need me up at the center for a while, but I will see you again. You are going to do great Liz and I will call your daughter and let her know how much you miss her,” she promises.
Once we arrive at the Huntington house, I am greeted by several smiling faces. One by one, these amazing people greet me and welcome me back. The first thing I notice about the staff here, is that they are genuine and extremely welcoming and comforting to be around. They are all former drug and alcohol addicts, who have recovered and remained here to help others through their programs.
My first night in California, there was a mishap with my luggage, so I actually had stayed in this house that night and had the pleasure of meeting a few of these people already. Of course, I was nodding from heroin and don’t remember much about it. Right away, Don runs over and shakes my hand while he bursts into his hyena like laughter.
Don picked me up from the airport. He drives like a maniac and has a bad habit of looking at you while driving and talking away, rather than focusing on the road in front of him. Even semi-nodded, I was alert enough to be concerned by his weaving on the road!
“Oh, well, it looks like they’ve got you all fixed up, I see!” He exclaims excitedly, still shaking my hand.
His laugh is infectious and I can’t help but laugh with him.
“Well, I feel a lot better than I did when you picked me up from the airport. That’s for sure,” I reply.
A tall, thin, lady with beautiful eye make-up and long black hair greets me, “Hi Liz, I am Shelly and I am going to be your WD Specialist (WD= withdrawal) today.”
Her lips are painted with a sparkling lip gloss. Don grabs my luggage and pulls it into the office. Apparently it is part of protocol to search my belongings.
“They searched my bags at Murietta (Med detox facility),” I inform him.
“I understand Liz. We have to be very diligent about making sure that nothing gets into any of our facilities. I know you are not harboring any drugs or weapons, but we have to perform another search to guarantee it for the big wigs who run the joint ,” he replies.
I acknowledge that I understand. However, I have had a watchdog with me every step of the way and find it funny that they need to search my belongings again. I’ve had no opportunity to sneak away and score dope, but it is what it is and I don’t protest any further.
“Where are the other students?” I inquire.
When I stayed here the first night, I met three students that were in this phase of the program. Cody (a former marine), Kacie (a cheerleader looking type, but complete sweetheart), and Gus (a Greek New Yorker). Apparently they have moved on to the center. I was so excited to have drug addict company, but alas, I am doing this part of the program solo, as well.
“Well, let’s get started!” Exclaims Shelly.
“Right now? What are we going to do?” I ask.
“First things first, let’s go for a walk,” she says, overly enthused.
Truth is, I am so exhausted. I do not want to go for a walk. My legs are restless, my back hurts and all my joints are aching. I’ve not been very honest about how I feel, because I want to get to the center so badly and call my daughter. Later, I will regret not being honest about the state of withdrawals I am actually in and would definitely encourage others to be brutally honest and not in such a rush to get to the center, but going in, I do not realize this.
Shelly and I make our way out the door.
“So, there are these drills we have to do that are called light objectives,” she explains. “They are little exercises that are designed to move you to the center.”
I am confused by her explanation of these light objectives, but agree to try one out, as we continue to walk. After all, my goal is to get to the center as quickly as possible.
“I am going to give you a command and then you do as you’re instructed. If you have a realization while I am running this objective with you, please voice it. When you have discovered the meaning of the exercise, we will end our session,” she explains.
Even as she continues to explain it, I am completely lost and have no idea what the hell she is talking about, or what type of realization I am supposed to have. I take a moment to reflect on my options. Should I fight her and refuse to do this weird exercise, or should I grit my teeth and attempt it, so that I can get to the center?
“I’ve come this far already, Shelly. My goal is to get clean. If part of that involves me running light objectives, so be it.”
Her face turns from one of concern to that of relief. “Look at that tree,” she says, as she points at a palm tree to the right of us.
My eyes turn in its direction. “Okay. I see the tree,” I say, with a tone of uncertainty.
“Good. Now go over to it and touch it,” she instructs.
What the actual fuck? Touch the tree? This is so freaking weird, but I comply with her command.
“Good,” she acknowledges my action.
“I’m sorry, but what am I supposed to realize about touching a tree?” I ask, in all seriousness.
“I know these drills seem silly and truth is, they are, but we have to run them. You won’t be able to move up to the center unless we do. I have to fill out paperwork about what you realize by doing these objectives. I promise, if you work with me a little with these, we can relax with them later. Do we have a deal?” she asks.
I agree to her conditions. I ask her if I can take a minute and consult with God. This puzzles her for a brief second, but she agrees to it.
Quietly, in the solitude of my own mind, I pray,
Dear God, please help me to realize whatever it is I am meant to realize with these objectives. I am trusting you to get me through this program. This is very foreign to me and I need your help. I really want to call Natalia and I don’t feel good. Please relieve my withdrawal symptoms and help me to function through these drills. Amen.
P.S. Is this some New Age type program? Why am I touching trees? If it is, I am sorry if it is not Christian and please forgive me if I am participating in some weird spiritual voodoo hoodoo bologna. Amen.
“Okay, I am ready to run this objective,” I inform Shelly.
We continue to walk together. She has me look at things along the way and then of course, go over and touch them. The entire time my mind is racing with ideas about what she is waiting for me to say so that we can stop this madness. I mean really, wow, I touched a fire hydrant, bravo, and really, how many more trees am I meant to touch before having some documented epiphany?
“I think I am ready to realize something,” I say.
Shelly laughs. “Okay, what have you realized?” She asks.
“I realize, that it’s been a long time, since I have taken the time to be aware of my surroundings and appreciate God’s creation,” I reply.
I hold my breath, waiting for some kind of response from her. As, I express the realization, I realize that there is a humbling truth in it. It actually feels good to recognize that.
She smiles and suggests that we can stop running this objective.
“Did I say the right thing?” I ask.
“There is no, one, correct answer for everyone,” she explains. “But for now, we can end session.”
What does that even mean? I am so confused. It feels as though we have been walking forever and I really want to go back to the Huntington house and take a nap. Shelly doesn’t respond to my napping suggestion, but agrees we can return back to the house.
Along the way, we talk about where I am from and my drug of choice. One thing I’ve learned quickly about rehab, is that there are two questions everyone asks: 1- What is your DOC (drug of choice)? 2- Where are you from?
As I begin to elaborate on my heroin use, Shelly interrupts,
“We are not supposed to talk about drug use. Of course, everyone does, but the idea behind these objectives is to pull you into present time and keep you out of your head about things, including, your drug use.”
I can’t help but scoff at the idea of never talking about heroin. After all, I am in rehab. Isn’t part of rehab and recovery, acknowledging your drug use and underlying conditions? This program is getting stranger by the minute.
“My drug of choice was alcohol, ” she admits.
Wait a second. We are not supposed to talk about this, but yet she has volunteered her drug of choice. I let out a sigh of relief and think to myself, “Okay, she’s human.”
When we get back to the house, she inquiries about my being allowed to take a nap. It is against their protocol, and this extremely short lady named, Juanita, tells her I cannot. I am only 4’11 and Juanita is shorter than I am! This is a rare encounter for me. Everyone here calls her Little One.
I try not to get angry. However, I am so tired and the Valium withdrawals are horrible. It is taking everything in me to keep my eyes open. It is almost dinner time and Little One suggests that if I stay up through dinner and get an assist, then I can go to bed an hour earlier than usual.
Oh yes! An assist. This excites me, as I have been dying to get a massage. Shelly instructs me to lay down on the massage table and I oblige.
Slowly, Shelly takes a couple fingers and very lightly, traces my spine three times. What the hell is this? This isn’t a massage.
“You can’t hurt me Shelly. I’ve had two car accidents that have caused a lot of neck and back pain. Like, seriously, you could put your elbow into my shoulder and it won’t hurt,” I suggest.
“We are not allowed to give you a massage. These assists are designed to help break up built up tension and drug residuals in your nerves and tissues,” she replies.
“But, the Narconon dude told my dad that I was getting massages. That, combined with the one on one counseling, were the two biggest motivations for him choosing this place,” I protest. “He knows I have bad back pain and that’s how this whole opiate addiction even started.”
“I’m sorry,” Shelly apologizes, “There are probably going to be a few things that you were promised, that won’t actually be part of your program here.”
At this point, I have been flipped over like three times and had a few fingers tracing my back and extremities. It’s irritating, but it’s not her fault that I was misinformed. I begin to ponder on what else I have been “misinformed” about. All I can do is trust God and know that he put me here for a reason and I’m going to make the most out of it. I’m not going to allow for a few false advertisements concerning this place, deter my dedication to completing this program and getting clean and sober.
The reality is, a massage or no massage, this place beats living in my car. Having a shower and a bathroom to brush my teeth in, is a nice change from brushing my teeth with a bottle of stale water out of the trunk of my car.
After dinner, Little One makes good on her promise and lets me go to sleep an hour early, but not before drinking this nasty crap called a “drug bomb.” It’s a concoction of vitamins, more vitamins and Tang. I also have to drink something called, Cal-Mag. It’s a nasty vinegar tasting drink. I step outside to smoke a cigarette and when no one is looking, I water the plants with it. I detest vinegar (ironic considering dope has a vinegar taste).
My back is in spasms. It’s strange how the body becomes restless and the withdrawals really surface, once laying down. This is the worst night I have had since I’ve gotten here. My body is convulsing and I have managed to wrap myself up in the bottom sheet. My legs kick, viciously trying to shake the restlessness out. A few hours have passed and the house is quiet. There is only one guy working the night shift.
My mind is plagued with ideas of sneaking down the balcony attached to this room and making my way to Huntington Pier. Surely, I would be able to score some dope there. My elbow, involuntarily jerks into the wall beside me and I fight to stay asleep through this torment. I thought the worst of the withdrawals were over. I cry out to God for help.
The clock reads 3:00 a.m. The devil’s hour. My body is soaked with a cold sweat. My feet touch the floor beside the bed and I stand up. I can’t take this anymore. It is pure agony. My body is burning in hell. I’ve made up my mind, I am climbing down the balcony and scoring some dope tonight…