The Intake

By Karen Collazo

He slowly removes the first item from my tan leather Cole Hann shoulder bag; the handbag that I had purchased as a gift to myself two years prior, when I landed that six-figure Account Director job in Chicago. He sets it gently on the desk; it’s a pair of Coach Aviator sunglasses.

“One pair of go-lasses,” he says, as he writes it down on the form in front of him. We’re sitting in a small 5 x 5 drab and grey room, off to the left side of the lobby. There’s one metal desk, one dusty old black computer, two plastic chairs and right below the cobweb-covered drop-down ceiling, a security camera points directly at me. He pulls out my iPhone, which is protected by a fuchsia Kate Spade case.

“One cell phone wit cova,” he says to no one in particular. He writes this down too.

“One wallet,” he says of my light pink Rebecca Minkoff leather wristlet from the Spring Collection. Sensing my anxiety in the quiet that hovered between us, he looks up and makes eye contact for the first time.

“Don worry. Ju don’t need tees tings inside and ju will get dem back when you are dischawged.”

How did I end up here? I’m not a drug addict. I have a successful advertising career, where I get to travel all over the world with my clients—to production shoots in Mexico, off-site meetings in Aruba and private concerts in New York. I have a brand new car that is current on its payments. I live in an updated 3-bedroom condo with marble counter-tops and stainless steel appliances. I get my hair and nails done every weekend. I have an Amazon Prime account. I have tons of friends and family… Where and how did it all go wrong? Do I even belong here, at a detox facility? It suddenly occurs to me that I may have made a huge mistake.

A blonde woman cautiously shuffles past the door of my new tiny hell. Her roots are darker than the night. Her eyes are dull and sunken and her frail body is hidden beneath an over-sized Miami Heat t-shirt and grey sweatpants. She’s wearing black socks with flip flops. Cigarette in hand, she reaches for the front door. A guard quickly catches her hand before it touches the door handle. I notice the track marks.

“You don’t have permission to go outside,” he says.

“Come on man, I just wanna drag of ma fucking cigarette,” she says.

I look back at the tech rummaging through my belongings. I wonder if I will have access to the outside world or am I just like her? After my purse has been emptied of all its things, a short mousy woman escorts me to the nurse’s station. As I follow her out of the room, I look back one last time to see all my stuff being dumped into Ziploc bags.

The nurse’s station is cheery by comparison. The walls are sky blue and there’s a healthy 4-ft palm tree standing tall in the corner. Along the right wall is a row of brown leather chairs. To the left is the registration area, an L-shaped counter with a sign-in sheet, one pen and a bell to alert someone that you are there. Three young blonde women and one man are waiting to be seen. Everyone is wearing pajamas and barely awake.

The mousy nurse motions for me to follow her through the doors directly ahead, which lead to a long sterile hallway that is lit with bright fluorescent overhead lighting. The floor is beige linoleum and the walls are painted a dull peach. We are in the women’s dormitory wing. We walk past several open doors that provide a sneak preview of what my home will be for the next few days.

The rooms are simple: one twin-sized bed with taupe bedding and a cherry wood headboard, one small matching nightstand and one brown leather chair (like the ones in the nurses’ station). Each room has a tiny 1 x 1 ft window at the very top corner of the back wall, reminiscent of windows found in most basements up north. Each room has a small flat screen TV. The occupied rooms we walk past are all empty. Scattered clothes on the floor and unmade beds give away that the rooms currently belong to someone. Everyone is eating breakfast in the mess hall. The small talk and laughter that travels back to the dorm rooms are barely audible over the sound of someone’s television, which is playing Cops. 

We turn the corner, pass the closed medicine window and enter a handicap stall in the women’s bathroom.

“We need a urine sample. Use this,” the nurse says, as she hands me a plastic cup. I nod and stare at her.  She says, “I’m not going anywhere. I need to be with you when you pee into that cup.” What the fuck? I’m not a criminal! I let out a defeated sigh and proceed to follow instructions.

All the tests come back negative. It’s been six months since I did molly, three months since I snorted coke, a month since I smoked pot and a week since I’ve had any alcohol. I hadn’t intentionally stopped doing drugs in anticipation of rehab. I was just going through one of my usual funks; a steady and progressive depression that spikes in intensity every few months, completely draining me and forcing me to check out from my personal life. After a few months, when my body has grown accustomed to this new level of hopelessness, I’m able to engage again.

The onsite psychiatrist meets me in her tiny office, next to the nurse’s station. She informs me that since I tested negative for drugs and alcohol, that I will be moved immediately into the treatment center. However, because it’s after 10am, I’ll need to spend one night in detox. It’s standard procedure. She asks a series of medical history questions and we discuss my dual diagnosis. I ask if it’s possible for them to give me something for anxiety. I’ve been short of breath since I walked through the front doors of the facility and I can’t stop fidgeting with my hands and shifting in my seat.

She logs in a request for a suppressant, which she assures will help me relax. On my way to my room, I pick up the two yellow pills at the medicine window and throw them back with icy cold water from the cooler, which is placed directly under a notice. It reads: Only over-the-counter, mood stabilizers, SSRIs, and anti-depressant medication are approved. A tall black male tech observes my every move. A few minutes later, I close the door to my room, crawl into bed and fall asleep to Cops.