So in mid February of 1984 I found myself in an adolescent rehab (again). This time I was about five months sober. I was there because I had no where else to live. I was 15 years old and no relatives would take me in. My mother got married to a monster two days after I got out of rehab in December. He got violent shortly after the wedding so my mother did not want me (or my brother) to stay there. I stayed with a friend’s family for a short time, that didn’t last. Then I ran away from the halfway house from hell in upstate New York. It was not an easy time. I find it ironic that in AA they tell you not to make any major changes the first year of sobriety, yeah right.
I felt like I could exhale when I got back in rehab. My life was so intense during my short span of sobriety that the place felt like home. It was nice to be around other young people. Some even shared my desire for sobriety. The counselors were extra kind to me, they made me feel special. More important, they made me feel loved. I was so in need of that at the time.
The plan was to go through the 28 day program and then go directly to a halfway house in New Jersey. Rehab was crowded compared to the first time. There were a lot more people which meant a lot more families visiting on weekends. That was rough for me as I did not get a lot of visits. Infrequent visits created another issue, no clean laundry. The place did not have a washer or dryer so most families would bring clean laundry for their kids every weekend. I wound up doing a lot of laundry in the bathroom sink. It was not an esteem builder. I did not feel loved by my family.
Thank God there were people that showed me kindness. I had an excellent tutor named Max, he encouraged me to write. At that time I wrote a lot of poems and he gave me a beautiful bound book to keep them in. I got him hooked on blueberry bubblicious so it was a mutually beneficial relationship.
Some Sundays a religious couple would come to the rehab and offer a Christian Service for anyone that wanted to participate. The woman that came had a beautiful hair clip and I complimented her on it. Without hesitation she removed it from her long brown hair and handed it to me. I knew she wanted me to have it with all her heart. I also made a good friend there named Jen – we still keep in touch.
My counselor was named Laura and her husband Phil also worked at the rehab. They were both so kind to me. Many times Laura told me how much she wanted to take me in….to the point where I could visualize my own bedroom in her house. Phil told me that sobriety isn’t about a destination…it’s all about the journey. This time around the major lesson was love and kindness as I prepared for the next phase of recovery.
In early April I was released from rehab and taken to Crawford House in Skillman, NJ. I was scared. The place I had been to in New York was awful, truly awful. Thankfully Crawford House was different. When I was there in 1984, residents lived in a big old house and there were cows roaming around the front lawn. I was relieved to learn that we were not required to maintain the cows (unlike the first halfway house). This was an all female house (another sigh of relief) and I was the youngest one there. My room-mate was named Michelle and she was 17.
The first 15 minutes I was there another resident asked me if I was gay….that was a pretty big deal in 1984. I told her that I wasn’t and her response was “don’t knock it ’til you try it.” That was a little unsettling but if I could live with 30 male nearly convicts and not get physically assaulted, I was pretty sure I could hold my own in this place. I did find a vibrator in my bedroom closet that first night and I didn’t know what the hell it was….so clearly I had a lot to learn. I suspect the last girl left it as a welcome gift or perhaps she was severely disappointed when she unpacked…..but I digress.
This place was OK. There were about a dozen ladies living in the house at any given time. Everyone had chores and we all took turns cooking dinner. Cooking dinner for a dozen people was not a skill I came in with but I learned. In the summer I was able to get a job as a janitor cleaning a school which was within walking distance. I was happy to have a job that paid.
The services at this place were light years ahead of “The Family” in upstate New York. I had a counselor named Theresa and we had group sessions and regular AA Meetings. My favorite meeting was on Thursday Nights on Witherspoon Street in Princeton. It was a speaker meeting and there was an old timer in the group that would say “uh ha” every time he agreed with the speaker, it became comforting for me. I also got my first AA sponsor at that meeting and celebrated a long overdue 90 days.
I was so gullible I was always stunned when someone got kicked out for using. There were some interesting characters in that place. I wish I kept a journal. There were a few girls that resented me but honestly I didn’t know it until they confessed with an apology. I was upbeat most of the time. We had a chalk board near the phone (single phone with a cord,1984 y’all) and I always wrote something positive there – Sobriety First, Happy 24, stuff like that. I had some hiccups along the way too, the worst was my 16th birthday.
To be continued…………..https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/13/1-out-of-37-part-9/