“The Family” was an awful place but I didn’t have anywhere else to go and since my attempted escape didn’t go well I decided to fall in line. The days were long and arduous. We were up by 5am each day to work on the farm. Even as I look back on this more than 30 years later I still think they purposely gave me the most disgusting chores. My barn jobs were shoveling cow shit from the barn which is just as delightful as it sounds. I also carried bales of hay to the goat pens. Interesting job since a bale of hay was at least half my body weight.On the plus side this task wasn’t as pungent and I made friends with a billy goat.
After the early morning chores were complete we were rewarded with breakfast. I have to say that I loved breakfast at this place. Perhaps it was the early morning activity that made me appreciate it or maybe it was the lack of things to enjoy…… whatever the reason, the guy in charge of breakfast made the best cheese omelets.
Meals were interesting and intense at this place. By interesting I mean incredibly horrible, awkward and demeaning. Imagine 40 people, mostly grown men spread out among a handful of tables that spanned two small rooms. The facilitator, Tony and his wife sat at the head of the largest table and no topic was sparred at meal time. One time a male resident discussed the fact that he had a wet dream about me the prior night. Nothing was off limits if Tony approved of it.
There were tears, yelling and general condemnation at almost every meal. One 14 year old boy routinely cried and was lambasted over his “crocodile tears”. He was the only one there younger than me and my heart broke for him a million times. Another fun fact, if you had to go to the bathroom during meal time you had to sit with your right thumb up in the hitch hiker position. You could not be excused to use the bathroom until Tony gave you permission.
Household chores were completed after breakfast. In keeping with the “shit” theme, my job was to clean the bathrooms. There were two bathrooms for 40 residents. The septic system was pretty fragile so you could only flush toilet paper when you dropped a deuce. And so it goes, I had the delightful job of cleaning the bathrooms with the piss soaked garbage cans overflowing with used toilet paper.
After morning chores it was lunch time and once again you had to hitch hike to use the bathroom and endure whatever f*cked up confrontation came up. Afternoons were a little more relaxed. They included odd jobs around the farm, perhaps some tutoring (I was supposed to be in school) and maybe some kind of recovery discussion. There were a few days when I was sent to another local community to clean rooms or make juice from raw liver. I can’t remember the religious sect but the community had “cult” written all over it. I think that place scared me more than the halfway house.Before you knew it dinner was on the table and after that there would be an AA meeting or small group discussion reading Hazleton books. Lights were out shortly after 9pm and by then you were tired.
I shared a room with four other females we slept in a bedroom that housed three bunk beds on the lower level. I got along with one of the girls there her name was Sandy. The other three took turns crying, masterbating or talking in their sleep and none of them could be trusted. We were lucky in a sense because our room was close to the wood stove and people took turns throwing logs on the fire throughout the night. Everything was based on an odd/even schedule including showers. You could only shower every other day. Fire and sheep watch also rotated.
Oh wait what’s sheep watch? Glad you asked – in upstate NY temperatures get very cold in the winter and pregnant sheep need to be checked to make sure that after they give birth their babies can be kept warm. If a newborn lamb is left outside it could freeze to death if left exposed to the cold for too long. So we took turns checking on the pregnant sheep every two hours. At least that was the explanation I got but perhaps it was just a ruse to keep us sleep deprived, which was a constant.
I don’t think I can adequately describe the level of despair I experienced in this place. I felt so utterly and completely alone. I worried a lot about my twin brother. One time I had a dream that he killed himself and I had no way to process those emotions. I was not allowed to call or communicate with my family in any way. I could not even jot my feelings down in a journal. I didn’t want to die but I wanted out of that place so bad that I would fantasize about breaking a leg just to get to a hospital.
Sandy and I actually made a lame attempt at burning the place down. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt we just wanted the place to be inhabitable so we could leave. For a couple weeks Sandy and I collected matches on the sly. Late one night we put a handful of the matches along with some lighter fluid in the oven and cranked up the heat. Nothing substantial happened and the smell from the oven caused someone to investigate the kitchen. Nothing was damaged, no one got hurt and we did not get caught which was a relief…….but the disappointment of having to stay was unbearable. I had a lot of shame about this foiled plot in my early sobriety. It could have a been a horrible disaster and I am thankful that no one was harmed.
To be continued……………https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/06/1-out-of-37-part-6/