Hello and welcome from beautiful, sunny Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital! I might have said just a few days go. Building 40 is a locked ward 14 stories high — the criminally insane are on the 4th floor — but most of the crazies are well enough to walk the grounds. Well, walk is a relative term, we’d be better off calling it the thorazine shuffle. You know the one: eyes fixed on the ground 2 feet ahead, a thin line of drool hanging off the lower lip, arms too heavy to swing, feet too heavy to pick up. Charlie Murphy can keep his yayo, most of the denizens of this compound would rather tell you, “Thorazine’s a hell of a drug!”
I remember the spectre of Creedmoor flitting across my adolescence, it was just a joke back then. Going to Creedmoor meant being a few cards short of a full deck, a couple squares short of a chessboard, diving into the soup course armed with a fork, sticking up 7-11 with a pop-gun. Then, this fall, I had the singular privilege of being interned for a full 28 days in Creedmoor’s exclusive Building 19, the Addiction Treatment Center (ATC). More than a hundred people apply to the ATC every month and only about 30 get in; heck, that’s almost as selective as my specialized high school! (No, it was specialized not special.) Needless to say the Creedmoor jokes take a new facet of — ahem — hilarity when you find yourself in the hospital-issue cot that first night inside.
But Creedmoor isn’t the first place I was never supposed to find myself in. Those who know me know at least part of the story. I was a good kid growing up, everyone told me so. I had tons of promise. I was gifted, they said. The sky was my limit. The only thing better than my grades were my SAT scores. I got a near-full scholarship to a top flight school. I was heavily involved in the church. I loved Jesus. My parents swore to me that bad things just did not happen to people who love Jesus. But life isn’t always what it seems to be. Nobody ever said a word about addiction or mental disease. Certainly there was no mention of jail or parole, locked psych wards, in and outpatient rehabs, electronic monitoring and the threat of deportation. Where did it all go so wrong?
Fuck. I look back over the last decade and a half and most of what I see is ruin. Blackouts, stealing, ending up on the bathroom floor with my pants around my ankles, lies, long vegetative periods while I cooked my brains, hangovers, pissing the bed, family and friends who mistrusted me, friends who were no friends at all, broken promises, soiled honor, cowardice. I look back and I realize I’m not looking back at all but rather looking down and the craziest part is that the vertigo is not just dizzying fear but also lurid attraction: I want to fall again.
So when I say I was privileged to spend some time at beautiful, sunny Creedmoor I guess the truth is I really was privileged. It was certainly a lot better than the maelstrom again, than the crucible between Charybdis and Scylla.
Along the way I even picked up a thing or two. I met some excellent and worthwhile people; people who I relied on and who relied on me; people who made me want sobriety for more than just myself; people who I already miss like hell. I found myself one day accidentally saying that I love — instead of hate — myself. I found myself in a position of leadership which still seems strange to me. And before I could prevent it I was suddenly having ungodly amounts of fun while perfectly, dead sober (please don’t tell my parents, they’ll think I’m up to something).
See, I was the kind of addict that never hit bottom. I’ve been in emergency rooms and ICU’s, jails, bullpens, central bookings, institutions of all types. I’ve seen the look on my mother’s face when she realizes that, horribly, I’ve done it again. I’ve eaten poisonous plants for cheap and painful highs and did it again a week later. None of it was bottom to me.
But one day in Creedmoor when I was suddenly happy again, one day when my heart got so full I that my voice croaked, one day when I wanted a friend to clutch desperately, that day I did find my bottom. That day I knew that I was done with jails. Done with rehabs. Done with institutions. Done with the emergency room and the ICU and the detox. That day I knew I was done saying goodbye to all the people I love whenever my problem took me away.
I never want to say goodbye to them again. That’s my bottom.
So instead, oh addiction of mine, please accept this, my letter of resignation. Take it to mean goodbye.