Rehab at Christmas

I lay there staring at the ceiling wondering how the fuck I ended up back in there, in one of those places. There I was two months into another rehab stay. I should’ve been grateful, But — Rehab at Christmas has got to be one of the cringiest, most lonely, ego-deflating experiences that there is.

They tell you, ‘You could be lying in some door-way, on some street with a needle hanging out your arm.’

I won't lie, after two months of people controlling your money, being surrounded by jail talk, drug workers and councillors talking down to you with their patronising remarks. The needle and doorway doesn’t seem all that bad.

‘Harness some gratitude,’ they said.

At that moment Jason came bursting into the room. I sat up.

‘Malky’s leaving,’ he said.

He ran to the wardrobe and started pulling out all sorts of stuff. He was throwing items on the bed behind him, jumpers, shirts, and trainers: A collection of shite that he called clothes.

‘So fuckin what, mate,’ I replied as I lit up a smoke. ‘cunts are always leaving.’ They should swop the front door for a fuckin turnstile, one cunt out, another new cunt in, get used to it.’

‘I got Malky in the Secret Santa. It would be a shame for him to leave without his gift.’ He said walking out the door, with a wrapped present.

It's mad in rehab. People are mad in general. Workers and residents alike. I mean here was Malkys life hanging by a thread. One bad decision and it’s all downhill, and there was Jason worried about his gift. People are mad.

The decision to leave rehab early. I mean most of us resident types are basically swopping a hot meal and a warm bed for a ferocious smack habit. Of course, we don’t tell ourselves that. We lie to ourselves. I’ll stay clean this time. It’ll be different this time. The definition of insanity — making the same mistake over and over again while expecting different results. That’s what they tell you in rehab. That’s what they tell you in the hope something sinks in. People leave rehab early all the time, and me, I understand that completely. I stubbed my cigarette out and got up, pulled my jeans and tea-shirt on and sauntered out of the room to the top of the stairs to watch the drama unfold.

One of the workers was standing at the front door trying to convince Malky to stay. Tommy’s a good cunt. But I could see he had his work cut out for him. He’s convinced a thousand others to stay before, but also a million others have left. He’s gone over the please don’t leave routine so many times now that it just sounds scripted. To be fair, I doubt Tommy really gives a fuck, one cunt out, a new cunt in, like a said, put a fuckin turnstile on the door.

‘I just want my money that’s in my property,’ said Malky.

‘I can’t give you it,’ said Tommy with a shrug of the shoulders. ‘The finance person is off until tomorrow and I don’t have the authority to sign it out.’ You should stay here and get your money tomorrow, it’ll give you time to think about this decision.’

‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, you’ll get it tomorrow, it's only a day away,’ sang some random funny cunt out of the group room.

You need a thick skin for rehab, and when the drugs are gone sensitivity is at its worse. Malky was fuckin raging. He’s out. I could see it in his eyes, even from the top of the stairs. Jason walked over to him and held up the gift.

‘What the fucks that?’ Said Malky.

‘I got you in the Secret Santa,’ replied Jason. ‘It’s your gift.’

There you have it. We could all see that Jason’s mental health had all but crumbled. Tommy gave Jason a nod and pointed to the group room. Malky took the gift. Jason smiled and walked away. It was like a cut Christmas scene from one flew over the cuckoos nest. Juicy fruit style. Malky was shaking the gift, feeling the weight, He was praying it was worth a tenner. I knew. Tommy opened the door and ushered him out into the cold. Clunk went the lock at his back. He was out, just like that.

‘FUCK YOU TOMMY YA WANK!’ Shouted Malky as he disappeared down the path. ‘A’L BE BACK FOR MY FUCKIN CLOTHES AND MY MONEY TOMORROW.’

Another one bit the dust. Some of the boys watched Malky walk away, carrying his little gift with only one thought on his mind. I get it, I understand only too well. Addictions like a disease. You could read about it in a book. You could watch some shite documentary about it. You could even sit with some addict and assess the fuckin life out of them. People have been trying to understand the addict mind for years. Thing is. They look at it from the outside in. An addict has the miserable opportunity to look at it from the inside out. The thing is most of us don’t want to. They give us methadone, suboxone, they even give us free hits now. Good luck with that one. Someone like me will always use on top. More drugs on top of free drugs and thank you very much. I’m all in or I’m all out. It's just the way we are. It’s the only illness where you don’t get Lucozade and grapes brought to your bedside.

‘GROUP ROOM,’ Shouted Tommy, as his voice echoed throughout the house.

Nine residents made their way towards the group room carrying coffee heading for group therapy for their daily dose of recovery.

Tommy sits at the head of the group surrounded by a mean-looking bunch, all scars and bad teeth. We looked like a bunch of pirates without a ship.

‘Feelings check,’ said Tommy as he looked at the first guy.

‘I’m good.’ He said.

‘good.’ Said the next.

‘alright.’ Was another reply as Tommy went around the room.

‘good.’

‘fine.’

And so on.

‘That’s good, everybody’s good,’ he said, not believing a word but pressing on with his own agenda.

Good, great and alright are the usual responses. Who wants to admit how they really feel? Who wants to hold their hands up to feeling like a no use junkie scumbag. I was the one that said I was alright. Like I said, who wants to own how they really feel. Don’t get me wrong, there’s usually always one. Ironically, that’s the fella that’s odds on to stay clean. Who’d have thought it?

‘Christmas is nearly upon us,’ said Tommy trying to sound positive.

‘You don’t fuckin say,’ I thought to myself.

But, like everybody else. I just gave him a smile and a nod. We were in a group after all, and most of us like to avoid attention. We all knew what was coming. The talk in the house had been circulating for weeks. A play, a Christmas fuckin play. None of us were happy, well none of us except Jason. Mental health Jason. He looked delighted.

‘That boy has done his nut, seen it before, his mental health’s fucked,’ I thought to myself.

‘We’re going to put a play on. A story about Santa and his reindeer's,’ said Tommy.

‘It’s reindeer ya dick, the plural of reindeer is reindeer, ya fuckin prick,’ I thought to myself but still just smiled.

‘It will be about how yous are all very grateful to be here and to give a positive message about recovery from addiction, as well as, hope to all your families. Is there anybody here that can’t commit? Speak now or forever hold your tongue.

‘ Fuckin plamf,’ I thought.

Jason’s eyes are glowing. He looked overjoyed at the mere mention of the coming scenario. His mental health was right out the window. My face, it felt serious and deadpan. Without so much as a second thought. My hand shot up.

‘Me. I can’t commit. I won’t be here. I won’t be here at Christmas.’

‘Your only two months into your stay, ‘said Tommy. You need at least six months.

‘A’l be fine — I won’t be here.’

My decision was made.

There I was, weeks had passed, maybe a month, fuck knows. All I knew, it was still cold, cold and wet. the only thing protecting my arse from the pavement was the flattened down cardboard box that I had found. Crowds of people walked by me, towing and throwing in and out of shops in search of a bargain. Life was passing me by as I sat there looking decensianly tragic with a plastic cup in front of me. The odd coin being dropped in bringing me closer to that sought after ten-pound note. Then I see him.

He was walking up towards me. He was hand in hand with some blonde women. He was well dressed. They both were. He looked healthy. They both did. Mental health Jason and his new bird were looking happy.

‘Cunts fuckin punching well above his weight.’ I thought to myself.

He sees me. She sees me. They both stop and I tilt my head up somehow managing to hold eye contact.

‘Alright, Alan?’ he said with a nod.

‘Aye, mate. Brand new.’

She stood slightly behind him, kind of there but not there.

‘You don’t look brand new.’

‘A’l be fine,’ I said with a nod at the cup.

‘You know there’s a way out,’ he said and handed me a bit of paper.

‘Rehab? Don’t know, man,’ I said.

‘You might have burned your bridges with rehab, but you should try anyway, that’s my number, mate. Phone me anytime and a’l take you to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I know you were struggling in there. I could see that your mental health had crashed. Give yourself a chance though. Phone me and we’ll grab a coffee and hit a meeting.’

He dropped a pound coin in my cup. I forced a smile. He smiled. She smiled. They walked off. How I wished that I stayed in rehab for Christmas.

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They tell you it’s tough at the top, but it’s a lot tougher at the bottom. Short stories: Drugs. Violence. Dark humour. ✍️🤓

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Alan Cope

Alan Cope

They tell you it’s tough at the top, but it’s a lot tougher at the bottom. Short stories: Drugs. Violence. Dark humour. ✍️🤓

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