Photos courtesy Alan Lewis – Photopress Belfast
A good rehab is essentially an anarchist socialist commune with one rule: Don’t get high. There are no cops, no bureaucrats and no squares hassling you about riding your machine. The people there come from every class and social stratum. There’re doctors (I actually referred my own dentist to a rehab), pathetic scumbags, best friends, police officers, drunk drivers that ran over babies—all sharing and caring like one big, happy, jonesing family.
A lot of people are grossed out by rehab. They can’t handle the cultlike over-niceness and the part where you’re supposed to talk about your feelings, but what’s healthier: the cult of recovery or the cult of Coors with its whole “drink six of us a night and you can fuck twins” shtick?
Not everyone needs to go to rehab. A lot of addicts just stop and are able to stay sober forever. I’m not one of those people. If it weren’t for rehab I’d be in a very, very, very, very bad place. Sound like you?
Here are the basics of getting sobes…
Adolescent Programs: These are a waste of time. Teenagers are supposed have fucked-up mentals. In fact, drugs will probably save them from committing suicide. Let them at it. My friend John got arrested for writing graffiti when he was in tenth grade, but he had never done any drugs whatsoever. His lawyers decided to tell the judge that he was “under the influence” when he was writing his nickname so that he’d get off easier. He ended up in South Oaks rehab for two months with a truckload of teenage junkies and trippers, all of whom described narcotics so romantically that when he finally got out, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on some PCP and methamphetamine. John never graduated high school. I have no idea where he is now.
Boredom: There is nothing to do in rehab. That’s the way it goes, and it goes that way for a reason. Boredom will drive you to participation, and the more you engage, the more you learn about sobriety. Most addicts are socially fucked to the extreme and can barely have a conversation, much less a friendship or a relationship. Boredom helps you get out of your room and make some buds. It’s either that or trying to stare a hole through your bedroom wall.
A typical rehab day consists of eating, AA/NA meetings, eating more, group therapy, smoking, more eating, more AA/NA, smoking and eating, and sleep. Getting crushes on ugly people is another activity (more on that later).
Caffeine: Coffee is not allowed in rehabs, but it’s always available as contraband. It becomes a form of inpatient currency. If you get on bad terms with the girl who has the coffee, your other friends will dump you because they’re addicts and really they have only known you for about a week, and, well, coffee has never really let them down, so… sorry.
Death: Contrary to public opinion, only two substances can cause death upon withdrawal: prescription pills and alcohol. Alcoholics get delirium tremens, or DTs. A lot of asshole doctors consider them a myth, but DTs are very fucking real, and they cause hallucinations (the bad kind), seizures, and can lead to stroke. That’s the delirium part. The tremor part is because your hands shake when you’re a drunk. DTs always make me think of Huck Finn’s dad. I’m just saying.
Withdrawing from pills is the gnarliest, because they are synthetic and designed to chemically fuck up your brain, and the withdrawal treatment involves even more pills, so you have two gangs of chemicals trying to tear your arms off in different directions.
Rehabs can treat a pill addiction efficiently, but you’ll suffer for a while from yeast infections and a poor immune system. And dear pillheads: It’s not like you can’t afford to go. You just had ten doctors all over the city writing you scripts, so I’m sure you can figure something out.
Eating Disorders: These go hand in hand with drug addiction, like two best friends who egg each other on. This is why they are often placed in the same facility (it’s also way cheaper for insurance companies to lump diseases together). In rehab, we refer to them as “Double Winners,” but in real life, we don’t. Most likely because they are always fat losers. This leads me to…
Food: You’ve been replacing your meals with red wine for the past eight years and now that you’ve quit, guess what? You’re fucking starving. You could eat a horse right now.
Junkies don’t eat anything at first, because they’re too sick, but once they can keep something down, they tend to develop yet ANOTHER disease, called chocoholism. (I am so glad that this is not a joke.) Maybe this is because chocolate creates endorphins that go to your brain and crank out pleasure.
Oh yeah, another “F” thing is Farts. Everyone farts all the time in rehab. People fart so much that the farts actually have their own conversations with each other. They have their own underground society and their own rules. Some farts even hate each other.
Gambling: Not allowed, in any form whatsoever. Even if you say something like, “I bet you it will rain tomorrow,” you might get kicked out. Just kidding, but seriously, you can’t gamble. Gambling is super-addictive. I once knew this kid who was addicted to gambling. He told me that he actually liked losing. Like, it made him feel really good when he lost. Weird, right? No gambling.
Hairspray: Not allowed in treatment centers. Hairspray contains 77 percent alcohol, and that would be enough to ease your delirium tremens.
Ice: One of my favorite rehab stories is about a guy who was addicted to “ice.” He called it ice because he was about 50 years old and a total dork. (It’s just speed, dude.)
He was an entertainment lawyer from LA and had never touched a drug in his entire life, not even during the 60s (because he was in law school). He represented a host of super famous people and felt really protected by all the powerful Jews who run LA. Then one night, he met his dream girl. “She was beautiful, an artist. Well, she called herself an artist, but most other people would call her a stripper...” Anyway, she introduced him to ice and before he knew it, he was ripping out drywall at the Four Seasons, convinced his room was wiretapped. He had moved all the furniture in front of the door, even the bed, and had taped garbage bags and aluminum foil over the windows. When his friends finally found him, he was ripping apart the minifridge, convinced that a bag of speed had been dropped behind it accidentally. He told this story on his second day of rehab. The next day he was gone.
Juicy Couture Sweatsuits: Yes, that’s right. Juicy. Bring more than one, because they were made for rehab days. Clueless JAPs wear them to the supermarket, women in their 50s buy them in cashmere, and Mafia wives get ones that say “New Jersey” on the butt. All of the above are completely inappropriate in the outside world. Even ghetto girls trying to look like J. Lo... no. You all look like fat, lazy slobs that are dying to get fucked in the ass. However, bring a suitcase full of these to rehab. You’ll look and feel like a fucking queen.
Ketamine: So many people are completely addicted to it, yet rehabs still don’t know what it is or what to do with its users. There is seemingly no physical addiction or even long-term side effects, so counselors usually say, “Umm…” and then dismiss it as a disassociative. Most likely though, K-heads feel self-conch around people who use “real drugs” and never make it to treatment or AA/NA, which is sad. This drug is heavy shit and totally, totally fucks your brain up.
Laziness: I knew a lady in rehab who was named Ingrid. She was an obese crackhead (I know, an oxymoron, but they exist) who had fully given up on life. When she entered rehab she was wheezing, smoking, sitting in a wheelchair, and eating a meatball sub. She was incapable of wiping her own ass, literally. I thanked God I was not a nurse, and prayed to sweet Jesus that she would NOT be my roommate. Her skin was gray. She beefed like a trumpet teacher, and you could hear her wheezing through the dormitory walls.
Once, during my methadone stint, I offered to wheel her around. I wasn’t strong enough to move her one fucking inch. She was total dead weight. Then one day, after a meal, a nurse told Ingrid she could not smoke indoors. She got right up out of her wheelchair, walked outside, and lit up a Kool. The nurses were furious. Ingrid could walk. She was fully capable of getting around on her own, but chose to wheelchair it because she “didn’t feel like walking.” The bitch was that lazy! Seeing her waddle outside to smoke that cigarette was the first time I’d felt an emotion in almost a decade (it was a little thing called anger).
Methadone: Is there a substitute for heroin? AA will tell you it’s a “higher power of your choosing.” Religion will say it’s God. Your brain will tell you it’s food, sex, and money. Every state hospital and social worker in the world will tell you it’s METHADONE. It’s an opiate that’s taken orally, so you don’t get the rush from shooting or sniffing it. Once you’re high, though, it pretty much feels like smack.
And methadone totally does cure your dope habit—by giving you a whole new addiction that is way, way harder to kick! I have friends who did heroin for 2 years and methadone for the next 12. You know when you see junkies on the street with their hair and teeth falling out? It’s mostly from methadone, not heroin. On heroin you’ll pick at your face and such, but it certainly doesn’t make your teeth fall out. Since doctors regulate the methadone high, you can stay hooked on it forever. Do heroin for too long, with its wildly varying quality from bag to bag, and eventually you’re going to OD.
Nicotine: If you aren’t addicted to cigarettes upon entering rehab, you will be when you check out. Smoking is how you make friends. But I think this goes for real life too. It’s perfect for self-conscious people who are used to stuffing all their feelings down in their guts and don’t know where to put their hands when they’re hanging out and everybody’s riffing and they don’t know what to say. [Or you could just get over it—Ed.]
Opiate Blockers: I’ve heard these can help withdrawal, but in most druggie communities they are known as something only pussy rich kids take. They lessen the actual pain, but definitely not the craving. Case in point: I once saw this kid spend $100 for ten bags of dope, shoot them all, and get no high whatsoever. He thought he could blast out the opiate blockers, but these fuckers are like a million microscopic Incredible Hulks designed to bar street dope from entering your brain. That kid was super-bummed!
Pit, The: At my rehab this was the place where we would meet every night before lights out to discuss concerns, problems, fears, and complaints. The first time I went into the Pit, it was “elections” night, and we voted on who did which chores that week (wake-up calls, sweeping, dishwashing, etc). To vote you simply had to raise your hand ONCE. When I say that it took about five attempts for everyone to grasp this voting method, I am not joking. Drug addicts, known for their longing to fail, don’t take direction very well. I couldn’t help but laugh when we were asked if there were any complaints about roommates and this lady Stephanie said she wanted to switch because her roomie was “keeping chicken under her bed! It stinks!”
Quitting: About 80 percent of inpatients do not make it through the full 28-day rehabilitation program. It’s too hard and intense, so they quit. It’s really funny when people “run away,” like Luke Wilson’s character does in Bottle Rocket, because unless you’re under 18 or mandated to be there by law, you can just leave on your own. One day the entire rehab was freaking out about this guy who’d been missing for about five hours. He was really well liked and good-looking, so it was the day’s hot topic—nobody wanted to see him go. Turns out he just jumped the fence and walked three miles to Starbucks.
Roommates: Roommates always suck. I had this one lady who everyone called “Tomato on a Toothpick” because she was really skinny but had a huge red face (broken capillaries from drinking). She also talked like a robot and asked every day if she could wear my clothes (just inappropriate—she was 55). Then I had this other lady who would never fucking shut the fuck up, and when anyone else spoke, did that annoying thing that people who don’t listen do — nodding her head real fast with her eyes closed, like “Yup, yup, I know what you mean.” She farted constantly in her sleep, and showered and shat with the door open. I even walked in on her masturbating! Ew!
Sex: All the staff wants at rehab are two little things: 1) for at least one person to stay sober and 2) for no one to fuck. They really push the fraternizing rules at the nicer rehabs, which only makes inpatients want it more. You will find yourself drawn to the most mediocre-looking members of the opposite sex because beggars can’t be choosers, especially while confined to a community as big as the Shire.
Your sex drive comes back with a vengeance, so don’t feel weird or guilty if you fantasize about doing it behind the laundry room with the 18-year-old pothead from Minnesota. If anything, revel in it! So you’ve always secretly wanted to eat out a skinny 60-year-old with flat boobs? Now you can do it, and you don’t have to call her or anything, and ignoring her the next day is strongly encouraged! Most likely, she’ll ignore you too!
Therapeutic Communities: TCs differ from rehabs because the people who usually enter these things don’t need to be rehabilitated back into life, but habilitated, meaning that they are usually homeless people, Bloods and/or Crips, single mothers, and the rest of society’s garbage who never knew how to live correctly in the first place. The system at these places often differs from the warm, cushy luxuries of regular-junkie rehab. For one, they use “tough love” tactics, which basically means you get yelled at and called names, like a tear-you-down, build-you-up approach. Sounds really fun while you’re in the middle of withdrawal.
In upscale treatment centers, they have one counselor for every patient. In TCs there is one counselor for every 11 patients. (But just FYI, both places have the same recovery rate: 8 percent.)
Urine testing: People sneak drugs into rehabs. Doye. These are usually the people who are forced to be there by law and are just trying to dry up so they can lower their tolerance. These people have been to rehabs and detoxes 30 times or more and are another reason why insurance companies are cautious. If they suspect you’ve used, you’ll get urine-tested. If your urine comes up dirty (and you’re a mandated patient), you’ll go to jail. If you’re voluntary, you’ll just get the boot. These tests are unannounced and a nurse actually stands there and watches you pee.
Vanilla extract: A woman told us a story about how she needed to drink so badly, and her husband had thrown away all the booze, so she drank an entire bottle of vanilla extract. It contains 35 percent alcohol. I thought that was a wive’s tale, but I guess it really does happen.
Withdrawal: They don’t call it “cold turkey” for nothing. I’m serious. The phrase comes from heroin withdrawal symptoms. You get goosebumps like turkey skin, even if it’s 90 degrees out. And “kicking” isn’t just a cute way of saying it either, because your legs really do this involuntary kick due to muscle spasms. It gets so hurty that you turn into a child having a temper tantrum. Counselors in rehab describe it as “musical chairs” because after you sit in one place and feel like you finally might be able to chill the fuck out, the kick starts creeping up and you move to another chair. After you’ve covered every chair in the room, you surrender to the toilet, the only chair that will open its jaws for the massive amounts of diarrhea you’re gonna get. Be sure to shit with a bucket in your lap, because all those years of dopamine reactors blocking the pain that you’re supposed to feel when, let’s say, you get a paper cut, are now coming out ten times stronger. It’s like there’s a barf-filled firehose in your mouth, pointing out. This is your body reacting to you being a total asshole to it.
But just wait until group therapy starts. That’s when the real pain kicks in. Barfing and shitting are nothing compared with taking a personal inventory (a written list of all the ways you’re a totally worthless turd). Physical opiate withdrawal only lasts five days. That’s a cinch in comparison.
X-tra special rehabs: Strictly for celebs. Promises is the one that Ben Affleck went to, and the price isn’t even listed on the website. I called and they said they would call me back and they never did. At Promises you get a personal chef, a room with a private porch or terrace, and specialized therapists who know how to deal with over-inflated egos and superstars without kissing their asses too much. At Cirque Lodge, where Mary Kate Olsen went, you get a private Jacuzzi, a sauna, hair salons, and massage rooms. (Plus something about it may or may not be circus themed.)
There’s also “Equine Therapy,” which they had at the Mötley Crüe rehab (Sierra Tucson). I guess that means petting horses to make you feel better, which makes sense because horses have powerful vibes.
Yawning: The first sign of heroin withdrawal is yawning a whole lot.
Zits: When you detox, it happens out of every pore in your body. You sweat like David Dinkins giving a press conference, and sprout mountains of acne overnight.
Quitting drugs blows. You turn into a fat, sweaty, zit-faced pseudo cult member. Your friends dump you because you don’t party anymore, and you realize you feel uncomfortable around most people, and most people feel uncomfortable around you.
But just walking around the real world after getting out of rehab is like a drug—it’s way more intense than acid. Your new life is cooler than any trip you’ve ever had, but definitely not as good as your best high. Wait, does that make sense? I can’t tell, I’m totally wasted right now. Just kidding.