Turning to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital for damaged soldiers, I learned the hard way what the Stockholm syndrome meant. Feeling like Samson getting shorn by Delilah, I finally agreed to a six month boot camp rehab for my alcohol and drug problems. I was long overdue, since I was losing my wife and daughter, my job and pension, all my friends in the world and small press, books, money and clothes, none of it mattered except my wife and daughter. I needed my ladies like oxygen; they were and are my reason to continue. I’d failed civilian rehabilitation many times and AA. Serving three long years in the army helped me get a house and job, now I needed to get clean. There is no cure for alcoholism, my drug of choice, along with plenty of other seriously bad habits, but I discovered with training and perseverance, you can relearn how to be human a day at a time.
My first night I had nicotine withdrawals, there was no smoking until you earned that privilege. I could’ve used a few cowboy cigarettes rolled from butts or a bowl of smoke or snort to take the edge off. Nightmares of cartoons made me drip sweat, I felt like I was being rotated over a glowing fire, it was crazy and bizarre noises invaded my sleep. I’d lost everything I owned, what I did have fit in a brown paper bag. I woke up and couldn’t find my only pair of underwear; I’d washed them in the sink and draped them over the radiator to dry. I was sharing a room with three other guys. I saw this fat dude in the next bed wearing my thirty six inch waist boxers around his forty four inch tub of lard. The elastic was a goner and his crotch was all squished. Deciding to donate my drawers to him, I figured going commando was better than getting cooties off his nasty ass. He rolled over and I grabbed the back of my ex-Fruit of the Looms and gave him an atomic wedgie that looked like a man g-string. He was not a happy camper, but neither was I.
Having a few more hours to sleep, I dreamed of Libby Casper from the ninth grade. She was red haired with creamy skin and a great body and she loved to tease the boys. Libby must’ve watched a movie with Gypsy Rose Lee, because she knew how to bump and grind to the music. Her parents had this monstrous aquarium full of goldfish. After a hot make out session, Libby told me she’d do a striptease and remove an item of clothing every time I swallowed a goldfish. There was a tiny net and I tried to capture the little fish, they weren’t bad to swallow being all slick they went right down. A couple of them started squirming in my mouth and I spit them out and this got Libby even more excited. Her pancake sized boobs were topped with nice strawberries. When she got down to her panties, I thought our game was over, but she said if I ate a big goldfish and chewed it up, she’d go all the way. I started coming out of my dream, feeling something wet on my face, it smelled like gas and I thought Libby’s dad had punched me and was soaking me down to torch me. It was the fat boy wringing out my old underwear. I hit him hard in his two inch penis and tiny balls; they disappeared crawling right inside his body like magic. He screamed like Little Richard and went down like twenty pounds of crap in a ten pound sack.
We started our get clean classes run by ex-drill instructors. One hundred eighty alcohol, narcotic, and cocaine anonymous meetings in ninety days and some were pure hell. We had physical education, arts and crafts, lectures about parenting, about being a good civilian; we learned bridge, and played pool, dominoes, and chess. There were meetings with medical doctors, lawyers, musicians, nurses, and therapists. The program was five to six months and every aspect of the veteran’s life was under a microscope. You were treated with dignity and could smoke tobacco and leave the grounds after the first two weeks with a curfew. You were subject to random urine tests for any and all substance abuse, one failure and you were out of the program.
Most of the guys were black and they’d been sent north from Hines V. A. in Chicago, many were graduates from the Cook County Jail. They were real hard ass dudes that had lived under bridges and knew lots of hustles to stay alive. There were plenty of fights, but nobody wanted to go back to the streets, so they were over quickly. The job training programs were great. My job was waiting at the Post Office, if I could graduate and get clean and stay that way. I scored a temporary volunteer job in the old library built during the Civil War by Abe Lincoln. I taught men to get on the computers and helped those writing resumes and directed them to interesting books.
The pool room had the worst table I’d ever played on. It was nowhere near level. Five of the banks were dead, it had three sweet spots on the rails. The cue sticks were warped beyond belief. After a week learning the terrible table, using my skills I’d learned shooting snooker in my youth, I could beat anyone there. Mostly I just shot my B or C game never using my A game unless someone started showing off. The blacks all had nicknames. A small guy they called Dipstick said he was a sous-chef. Mouseface, Jaybird, Nickleye, Cheesecutter, Smoothman, and Loveboat, all teased Dipstick, saying he got his name from falling out of his mama’s butt all oily. They called me Slugger after I had my run in with Underwear Boy the brainless wonder.
When we’d take our pee tests, we’d be on video and watched by an orderly, to prevent all the scams invented. This lady with a Moe Howard haircut always seemed to be smiling at my One Eyed Willie, she sort of made me nervous. All of the ex-soldiers shared rooms and most nights I’d get up with a raging pee erection, we were on closed circuit monitor and she’d hurry and spotlight my erection with her flashlight. I wasn’t thinking about sex, I just needed to pee. I’m pretty sure she had something else in mind.
I made it through the program and got most of my life back together. I’ve been sober over nine years, I keep my life simple and don’t take anything for granted. For that kind of nervous melt down to happen at the age of fifty, is indescribable. People blame hording, murder, rape, incest, and all forms of insanity on being bipolar with severe panic attacks, it seems like it’s the popular disease now in fashion. I popped pills and did every drug there was and drank like a fish most of my life. I wrecked every car I’d ever owned for thirty five years. I don’t know if the acid, weed, cocaine, heroin, glue, cough syrup, peyote, and mushrooms robbed me of my brain cells. I make no excuses for all the self medicating I did. That’s just a fancy expression for liking to be wasted. Now I walk a razor blade and ask for God’s, my family, and your forgiveness.
When you are confused and mixed up and try suicide three times to escape your life like a coward and tell lots of lies, no matter what, until you die, some people won’t forgive you or forget. All they will remember is you were a big liar, faked your own death, and hurt their feelings. In the long run, it doesn’t matter what you do or that you were really faking life not death. You can pray, make amends, stop alcohol and drugs, and tell the truth. When you try to explain your mental disease, people won’t understand unless they’ve walked in your shoes. When you know you are closer to death than life and you no longer care what you own or owe and in your own mind you feel invincible, remember you will always be a pig wearing lipstick.
Catfish McDaris is an aging New Mexican living near Milwaukee. He has four walls, a ceiling, heat, food, a woman, two cats, a typing machine, and a mailbox. That’s enough for him. He writes for himself and sometimes he gets lucky and someone publishes his words. Check Lulu.com for his latest books.