Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Detox Blues

My lovely wife drove me to the detox while I polished off a bottle of Perrier-Jouet '75 (a damned fine champagne) like it was a soda pop. I suppose I could have left it for her, but she liked Kessler's sweet girl, but no palate. I get dropped off, it's after hours so I have to go around to the back and buzz in on an intercom.

A nurse comes out to do my evaluation. They do the normal stuff. Go through and make sure I'm not bringing in any dope or booze. (yes, people do that, shit, I've done it) They call the doctor to get the OK for admission. This doctor has seen me before. He's signed the papers that transferred me to several very expensive rehabs that cater to people in the entertainment industry. I'm sure that somebody, somewhere has gone through one of these joints and gotten sober. I just know that I never did. As soon as they started making sure that I understood how fucking special I was and stuff the whole message of recovery got lost. Anyway the Dr. who I will call Dr. Eye (as in talian) isn't all that impressed with me showing up on a Sunday evening and causing a phone call that interupts his weekend. He tells them that he is pretty tired of seeing my ass every three to four months and spending insurance bucks so that I can go out and come back in even worse shape a few months from now. He finally tells them that they can go ahead and admit me, but he wants to see me first thing in the morning.

As far as any medical detox program, he has me on a bare minimum this time. The son of a bitch wants me to feel how far gone I am. Usually, in a hospital you can talk them out of some alternative drugs to ease through the withdrawal sickness, but not this time for me. He wants me to feel this. By the time three hours have passed I am one sick puppy.

For those who aren't familiar with it, withdrawal sickness is like a nasty case of the flu, with insomnia, intestinal cramps, nausea, migranes, alternate hot flashes and chills, uncontrollable shivering, a lot of fun stuff like that. One of the worst parts about it is that you have a fairly good sense that it is not going to fatal, it's just going to feel like homegrown dogshit for a long time.

The doctor and his entourage wait until well into the morning, when I am really sick before they come to see me. They tell me that as an insurance entity they have decided that I am not cost effective and that should I fail to maintain a reasonable degree of sobriety, like say, six or nine months, they will cancel my medical coverage and refuse to treat me anymore. The effect of this is to instill in me an honest desire to keep my medical insurance. After all, this is America and if you're not covered (or your family isn't covered) you're in some deep kim chee.

On my third night in the hospital I have a heart attack. I wake up in the middle of the night with the whole shooting pain in the left arm, crushing sensation in my chest. I'm so plowed under by this that I can't even manage to get to the call button. In a stroke of extreme luck (yes, I believe in luck, dumb, blind, screaming luck) a night janitor (who happened to have 19 years of sobriety at the time, later became a good friend, and died on a gurney awaiting a liver transplant) saw me in distress and called the code. For anyone planning a heart attack I heartily recommend having in the hospital if you can arrange that. I was later told that if I had needed an ambulance ride or been more than a few minutes away from help I would have been a goner. The biggest bright spot of the whole evening is when the cardiologist is looking at the ticker ticker tape and says "This is not your first heart attack." All I could say was "I guess heroin kicks the shit outta them huh?" I thought it was dead clever, he wasn't amused, must be a cardiologist thing. I get stabilized, and spend the next day in ICU under close observation.

Once I'm out of the woods on the cardio stuff, I go back to the detox ward. Dr. Eye comes to see me and tells me that he thinks he can help me find a way to stay alive. He starts laying some heavy shit on me. He says that according to the cardiologist if I hadn't come to the hospital when I did, I probably would not have lived another 24 hours. I probably would have died at home that night or soon after. Dr. Eye asks me point blank if I'm ready to die. I say no. He says "So what now? Are you ready to make some changes?" I say "sure, why not?" (I still love Pat Paulson, he would have made a great president) Dr. Eye tells me that the only thing he's ever seen work for people like me is to attend AA meetings. They have a 14 day out patient program for when I leave the detox unit, but that very night at the hospital there is an AA meeting. He says I should go. I tell him that I will. He's glad to hear that but makes sure that he assigns a big ass male nurse on the evening shift to see that it happens.

I'm still pretty sick. Got all the same symptoms working, along with being pretty beat up from the ER and shit. But Clarence puts me in a wheelchair and takes me down the hall to the meeting. I want you to picture this with me. A shaking, sweating, aging hippie in pj's in a wheelchair surrounded by well dressed white guys, walking around, talking loudly to each other, coming up to me, holding out their hands saying "Hi, I'm Bob, pleased to meet you." like we're at a fucking junior chamber of commerce meeting or some crap like that. The jazz baby in me is thinking "I may look and feel like shit, but damn, I am just too fucking cool for this room dude." Anyway, I almost make it through the meeting, but the nausea and fatigue catches up with me. One of the guys at the meeting walks alongside me as Clarence takes me back to the unit and gives me his phone number. He says "Call me if you're not a punk." I'm thinking, "Jack, this shit is so ON."

More to come later. . .


Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

"I still love Pat Paulson, he would have made a great president."

"If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve." -- Pat Paulson

Yep, my kinda guy also.

10:17 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah, i've kinda felt for a while that the structure and system we have for our politics makes it impossible for anyone who would do a good job of being president to get the job. the campaign and dealing compromises required make it possible for only sociopathic assholes and privileged idiots to attain. if you have a soul, it must be sold, if you have no soul, well, that's just one more deal we don't have to make.

11:22 AM  
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