A Closed Door and a Familiar Face

July 2007

Even if nobody had mentioned where we were going, I’d still have known what our final destination was.

The rustic road to Arcadia Recovery Center, with its many fields of cattle and rows of peach stands, had been easy to discern. I had made this drive, from Austin to Kerrville, countless times before; although, this would be the last time, I told myself. No way am I going to do this rehab shit more than twice.

I agreed to go through treatment one more time, then I was finished.

Never again.

I was dead serious about that.

Yet, as much fun as I had the last time, thirty days is nonetheless a long time in Arcadia. However, this stretch was going to be particularly different since I now had a genuine, life-threatening addiction.

At least I was high.

After my dad had picked me up from Texas Cania for the two-week detox, we had gone straight to their house, where I had to stay the night before we left for Arcadia in the morning. I would have done something crazy like ran away, if it had not been for Scarlett being there. I had figured my parents thought it was the only way they could get me to come to compliance and get me back in rehab, if I spent one last night with her. But they didn’t know what we had planned. Or perhaps they did.

We had eaten a good home-cooked meal that my dad had made. He used to always cook dinner for my family, growing up. I loved his cooking. I wish I would have enjoyed it more, but the only thought bobbing around inside my head was to bolt upstairs and shooting all the dope that Scarlett had bought. With that running laps in my head, I couldn’t eat much.

I was more than anxious to get upstairs, but Scarlett kept kicking my shin and mouthing the word “stop” because I was acting “too obvious.” I didn’t care, though. What if they did catch us? I was heading to rehab first thing in the morning anyway.

By the time my dad had finished eating, I was already halfway up the stairs, after I had thanked him for a delectable dinner.

I was ready to feel that intense rush I had dreamed about for the past two long-drawn-out weeks.

I was so anxious I couldn’t even cook up a shot, thus I had Scarlett do it for me. Then I figured, why not she shoots me up as well? I had wanted it to be like the first time. The first time she stuck that skinny needle into my arm and pushed down on the plunger, plunging me into a jaw-dropping abyss. It is virtually like an orgasm.

I wanted to experience that climactic sensation once again.

After she had finished cooking the dope, it wasn’t difficult to detect a vein. They must have grown in that little two-week period. I also had to be careful because this was how many junkies overdose: By doing the exact amount they used to before they got sober. Your body simply doesn’t have that tolerance anymore.

Luckily, Scarlett was aware of that fact. But had I been on my own, I’d be an ice-cold corpse. Eww, I had never seen a real dead body before. One that hadn’t been filled with embalming fluid and dressed up, looking nicer than they had ever dressed before.

That had not been the case, though. I didn’t get as high as the first time, but I was still feeling something. However, not as much as I wanted to be. I didn’t think she had put enough in there because I knew I could have been higher.

I had wanted another one.

Scarlett wasn’t having it though. We had needed to spread out our shots if the dope was going to last us all that night and still have some left for when we woke up.

It was deviating sitting with her once again. I had no idea what she had been up to. Was she was still on methadone or what? Was she still with Mike? She didn’t act like it. Whatever. I didn’t need to ruin the night by bringing it up, therefore I stayed silent, trying to enjoy her missed presence and the high. Though, not enjoying it too much: The idea of having to go through another thirty-day treatment was an absolute buzzkill.

It was going to suck, I knew. And we had to leave early in the morning.

So there we were, on our merry way. I had refused to ride with my parents. My mother had met us at the house then rode with my dad, while Scarlett and I chose to drive in her car, always staying a few hundred feet back to attempt to get one last shot in.

When we arrived, I melted out of my seat, trying to move as slow as possible, like a damn child. I was being immature while making a scene, but I didn’t care. I wanted people to know I was back. And they did remember me, I had previously been the model patient, getting everything done that was asked of me.

It had been precisely a year since the last time I was here. Arcadia had become my annual summer vacation. Some people go to the beach or on a cruise, I go to rehab.

I didn’t even look at my dad when he handed me my suitcase. I knew this wasn’t his or my mom’s fault that I was there. It was all mine, of course. I simply didn’t want to own up to it. Without an adult way to show how I felt, I decided to act like a child, blaming them.

Walking through the front doors, everything had looked the same. The egg-shell walls, the front office with its interrogating, fluorescent lighting, the vitals station, where they took your blood pressure. God, they couldn’t change it up a bit? I felt like I was even seeing the same people, like Mickey. Oh, that would be awesome.

Until I looked once more. It was Mickey! My emo-punk junky friend from last year. The little punk looked the same, possibly a tad bit skinnier with a short, dark blue mohawk poking out of his head.

“Oh my God, Mickey! What’s going on?!” I yelled at his face, igniting the nurses and techs who were trying to get me checked-in.

They were calling my name for a vitals check, but I ignored them. I hadn’t seen this kid in a while. Then I remembered, the last time I saw him, was at my parent’s house, when him and Scarlett had stolen my Dad’s binoculars. That had put a sour taste in my mouth, but I gave him a hug anyway. I was glad he was still alive and kicking.

“Yo, what’s up, man,” he replied in his soft, but raspy voice. He is the most chilled out, relaxed-looking dude I knew. I was baffled and excited we were both here together again. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

“How long have you been here?” I asked.

“A week, I think. You know how it is here, time stands still.”

I couldn’t help but give the largest grin, which started to hurt my jaw. I realized I had not smiled in a long time. “That’s right man, the fluorescent-black hole.” I was referring to rehab being the only other place, besides a black hole, where time stops.

It was then the moment for my mom and dad to head out. They had tried to hug me and say goodbye, but I was still being a complete asshole towards them, thus I kept telling them to leave already! Until, they did, with my mom tearing up and softly sobbing. Go ahead and hate me right now. I do.

The nurses took my vitals then I went through the drug assessment once again. After that, I was let loose to do whatever everyone else was doing. I already knew the drill and I had already detoxed so I got a room with the “Big Dogs.” Ordinarily you would stay in detox for a couple days, then they transfer you to your room in the “Dog Pound,” they called it. It may sound pathetic, but even though I was surrounded by strangers, I felt like I was home.

I soon was staring at the mirror once again. Though this time I wasn’t filled with so much numbed anger. That’s the best way I can describe what it’s like to exist on antidepressants.

The numbness had worn off after a couple days, when my body had familiarized itself with the strange, foreign chemicals that seized command. My poor body didn’t stand a chance against the heavy duty capsules of synthetic numbness. But I was subsequently acclimated with everything and had felt a better sense of “normal.” Emotions were there but were dulled down merely enough to where if somebody had upset me, I could simply shrug it off.

So there I was, facing myself again. I was focused on the crazy length my hair had grown. It had become that emo-look, where the bangs obscured the face. I loved Mickey’s mohawk and figured the best time to own one was right then while in rehab for a month. And so, we borrowed the clippers from the front desk and hacked off the long chunks of greasy black hair that covered my head. It was such a relieving feeling, like my head had been paroled from being locked up in an unkempt prison house. The chunks of hair that started to litter the bathroom sink were repulsive. I had never realized how bad my dandruff had been. But with this new fashion, my head felt clean and rejuvenated.

It took about ten minutes to shave both sides of my noggin, leaving an inch-wide airstrip of spiked hair in the middle. Except my front bangs refused to stand up, therefore they fell forward, dipping down onto my brow. I looked like a rooster mixed with Sonic the Hedgehog. I had to cut the little bit off to match the rest. Luckily, I had packed a perfect styling wax that would support my hair up into a perfect hawk. Not the kind where some parts become clumped together. Every strand stood up on its own like soldiers lined up to march. It was a perfect hawk.

It brought me back to my punk rock days before I entered high school. And with my buddy Mickey next to me, we were Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols. (Except neither of them had mohawks; it was the whole punk attitude that we had.)

I didn’t talk to many people except for Mickey and a few cute girls that were about the same age. There were already cliques formed, but when Mickey and I walked around, everybody wanted to hang out and smoke a cigarette with us. We were the only heroin addicts—besides Alphie who had told everyone he was a heroin addict, but had no track marks.

Alphie had thought he ran the place. He did possess a loud voice that everyone listened to and had a flamboyant personality. He was tall, lanky, and had a tan as if he lived in Hawaii. He didn’t though. He was a fellow Austinite like me.

I It had seemed like the tone had changed once I became accustomed with the new crowd. This was likely all in my mind. I thought I was the shit, now that I was a heroin addict. I can recall feeling like a rock star in rehab. I don’t have a good enough word to describe the foolish arrogance that flowed through me.

It was a completely different crowd of addicts and alcoholics this time around. All the younger addicts didn’t take anything seriously. Each of them had their own reasons for hating the twelve steps. It was either the fact that treatment centers with a Twelve-Step plan, like Arcadia, had only a 5-10 percent success rate, or nobody would believe in the whole higher power deal. I still believed in something greater than myself, but kept it to myself.

Whenever somebody would bring it up, I either stood up and left or sat there quietly. This had also fueled my arrogance, like I had discovered something that nobody else had.

Somebody would follow me sometimes. Hannah, who was one of the cute girls there. She had been friendly to me before, yet, after I had shaved my head into an unwitting tribute to the Native American, there was a certain glow in her widen eyes as she talked to me. I knew those eyes. They’re the “I want you to fuck me” eyes. I did my best not to pay attention, playing hard to get, which really drove her crazy. But it had been difficult with that face surrounding those wanting eyes. Her face was identical to Kelly Kapowski’s, from the 90s T.V. show, Saved by the Bell. With the same piercing blue eyes.

Then one day, the cosmos sent me another beautiful creature, Maisie. She was two years older than me, but looked three years younger. Her facial features were nearly identical to Liv Tyler’s—I never shared a rehab with a celebrity, but was damn near close with Liv Tyler and Kelly Kapowski lookalikes.

Though, Maisie had all my attention when she walked in with her long, brown hair, hazel eyes, pale skin, blue denim jeans and hoodie. Precisely my style. I’ll get back to her in a moment. I have to talk about something important: How my life was saved…

I had a much worthier counselor this time around. The last one was okay, but she had not been an addict or alcoholic. I would soon take to despise any counselor trying to tell me anything, if they had never suffered from addiction. But my new counselor had. Not from drugs or alcohol, though. She had suffered from anorexia and bulimia, both had become detrimental addictions, and she had recovered. She had used the twelve steps and different western practices including chakra work, Reiki, and meditation to overcome her demons. That had caught my interest. I believe she was my counselor for a reason. I did believe in destiny, and I believed that is what brought Miss Davis and I together.

Miss Davis, ironically, had also been Scarlett’s counselor the year before. So, she knew my girlfriend personally and probably better than I did. She knew I was in a “toxic relationship” and had to get out immediately.

If I wasn’t on any medication at the time, things would have gone utterly different. But now I understood what needed to happen. It was time that I be the sailor and Scarlett be the port, and this ship isn’t coming back.

Well, maybe one more time…

Scarlett had come to visit after the first couple of days. I was allowed to have a visiting day my first week—which was not allowed to others—because I had already spent two weeks in detox prior. Once again, she acted as if nothing wrong had happened between us, like we were nevertheless happy in our screwed-up relationship. However, I loved her still, so I played along.

We ended up in my room, while everyone else had gone to class. I barricaded my door with the corner of my bed so nobody could open it up and catch us. We attempted to have sex. I had a feeling it was going to be the last time we’d do this. I imagine she had that same feeling. Before I could get my clothes off, there were loud, interrupting knocks on the door. Busted. We were caught by one of the younger counselors.

Scarlett was then asked to leave and I was sent to class. I thought nothing of it, like I had gotten away with it without even a slap on the wrist. However, not the case. Evidently, the head staff wanted me and my ornery attitude out of there. But my counselor came in to battle for me, telling them, “If you kick him out now, he is going to go back to a toxic living environment and the next time we hear of him will be in an obituary.”

With that, they allowed me to stay. But I was on everyone’s shit list after that. This had reinforced the idea that she was meant to be my counselor. She had saved my life. I have no earthly idea what would have become of me had I left. I had already essentially died once, so what else could happen? I knew I’d be dead, therefore I owed her my life.

For fighting for me, I did something for her—and for myself—that I didn’t know if I was ready to do. But I had owed her. Big time. So I did it.

I stuck my fifty cents into one of the five telephones available and called her. This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for my meds and my new infatuation for the new young woman, Maisie.

She had to go. I figured it was better that I break my own heart by leaving, than having her break my heart everyday. With that, I had told Scarlett that I couldn’t be with her any longer. She began to tell me everything was going to be different when I came back and that she still loved me. It had no impression on me whatsoever, after what she had already done to me.

She had lied about so many things. In hindsight, I don’t know if she ever loved me or only wanted to use me. She had given me heroin; though, she didn’t hold a gun to my head. I had wanted to try it, but she should have known what was going to befall of me. Then she cheated on me, leaving me dreadfully depressed, couped up in a dirty apartment.

She had crushed my heart.

I never knew how depression felt until those dark days when she never came home and was hooking up with Mike. She had me trapped in a horrible position. I couldn’t leave her because she was my only means of copping dope. Thus, it was either stay with her and be miserable, or leave her and be sick. I couldn’t even begin to think about enduring the sickness. Now, this was my opportunity to escape the double-edged sword she unwittingly held to my neck without any of the dope sickness.

I did feel a large thud in my heart, like it dropped a tiny bit once I heard her start to cry, but I couldn’t feel anything else after, thanks to my meds. I merely tried to act upset strictly for show. To show her that I did have feelings for her. But this was my ultimate decision and I wasn’t changing it. I couldn’t be with her any longer and that was that.

It was as if a thousand pounds of grief and sadness had fallen off of me. Thinking of all those dark and painful memories, which overweighted the good ones by a million, being thrown back in her face. I left every flake of our relationship in that telephone receiver, then hung it up.

I stayed away from the phone room after that and never saw her again. Until, after treatment when she started sending me semi-erotic pictures of herself asking me to come back.

Other than the span of cellphone pictures, Scarlett “The Harlot” Bolten was out of my life. She will be the target of retaliation for a long time on karma’s payment plan.

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