The Day I Met Tina

By Karen Collazo   

The day I first heard Tina’s story was the day I learned the true meaning of hope and courage. Tina embodied the drug addict stereotype and while I initially felt that we may not be able to share anything in common, I was mostly terrified about exposing myself as someone who was undeserving of her own pain. In her sunken and dull eyes, you could see the years of abuse, hurt and heartache. Before she uttered her first word, I could tell that my story would pale in comparison.  In that small community of women who were seeking redemption, we were true polar opposites.

Tina’s looks betrayed her youth. She had saggy alabaster skin and black shoulder-length hair. She was missing teeth and always wore a pair of washed-out ripped blue jeans and a simple t-shirt. And when she spoke, a southern regional twang came out that stretched the a's and added r's to words that had no business ending in r.  She was rough around the edges; a don’t-take-shit-from-no-one bitch, with the aching heart of a lost little girl. She was lovely, as lovely as they come.

Tina had been molested as a child. Along with her siblings, she had been held captive in a dog cage and was only allowed inside the house when it was time for her father to throw himself on her. To make some extra cash, he rented her and her siblings out to the local men. She was a fighter, she said. But even if she hadn’t mentioned it while telling the story, I knew right away. I pictured her kicking and screaming and scratching the skin of whatever grotesque man was punishing her with his dick. She was probably loud too. Demanding that they stop and trying to run away until it was over. So because she was a fighter, Tina’s dad started injecting her with heroin. The heroin calmed her down and took her far away. It gave the men the ability to do what they pleased without walking away injured by the clawing of a six-year-old.

When she was ten, she ran away from home. She found a tiny hidden nook in the top corner of an overpass, under a quiet highway. There, she slept, ate, urinated and defecated for one year, while dreaming of a better life. An older gentleman from the neighborhood, who walked past her secret hiding place on a daily basis, noticed her and began to bring her food. Every day, the man would leave a bag on the sidewalk, without uttering a single word. At first, she’d wait for the man to leave before climbing down from her spot to retrieve the food. But soon, she mustered up the courage to wait for the man out in the open and eventually they began to talk. He took to the spunky ten year-old and invited her to live with him.

With nowhere else to go, Tina accepted and soon after found herself working for the man. He was a local dope dealer, but treated her with respect and loved her like a daughter. At ten years old, Tina finally experienced love thanks to heroin. She dealt dope for him for eight years. At nineteen, she decides to move to Arizona to start her own business. Dealing dope like a redneck gangster in the dry desert, she quickly rose to the top of her game. She grew her empire and bought a house with cash. Then, a man came along. He noticed this young girl with tricks up her sleeve and decided that he wanted in.

One evening, as she approaches her house, she receives a powerful blow to the head and gets knocked unconscious on her front door step. Hours later, when Tina finally comes to, she finds a strange man in her home rummaging through her belongings. Tina does what she knows best and puts up a fight. A neighbor who hears the ruckus calls the police. When the police arrive, the man claims to be Tina’s husband and insists that the noise was just the two of them having a marital dispute. Tina pleads with the officer. She tells him that this man is a stranger and that he had forced himself into her home. She wants him arrested. But it was the 1980’s and there weren’t very many laws protecting women from domestic violence. The cop, convinced that these two were just having a quarrel, eventually leaves the scene and Tina’s captor beats and rapes her until the sun comes up and she could no longer move a muscle.

The very next day, he binds her arms and legs with a metal chain and moves in. For years, she is held prisoner in the home she had worked so hard to buy. He takes her dreams and meager success and squashes them like a tiny insignificant bug. He terrorizes her, keeps her doped up and never allows her to go outside. She has six rape babies – all of them born addicted to heroin. Two of them die at birth. The one’s that survive don’t feel like anyone’s babies; Tina certainly didn’t see them as her own. They were just these things that cried and pooped all day. They distracted her when she was lonely and were a nuisance when she was high.

Then one day her youngest son comes crying to her. He tells her that his butt hurts. Suddenly, Tina’s maternal instincts kick in. Her blood boils at the thought of this innocent child suffering the same way she once did and decides it’s time to run away again. Over the next few weeks, she studies her abuser’s movements and patterns, and carves out an escape plan. She puts on the best act, follows all the rules and is on her best behavior so that he begins to let his guard down. One afternoon, he leaves to go sell dope and forgets to lock the front gate. When she is sure he has left, she grabs all the kids and runs over to a neighbor’s house for help. She makes it out of town with only the clothes on her back and a few days later finds herself back to where she grew up.

By then, her parents were both dead and most of her siblings had moved away – except for one brother. Living nearby, she tries to start a new life by pan-handling and prostituting herself and contracts HIV. Her children grow to become juvenile delinquents and follow in mom’s footsteps: stealing, dealing and committing crimes. One daughter is incarcerated for murder, while the other struggles with drug addiction. After years of being attacked by the hand she had been dealt, Tina decides it’s finally time to get clean. In her 50’s, afraid but still determined, she found herself at The Orchid.

Each chapter of Tina’s story started and ended with running. It reminded me of my running. We both had very different reasons for why we ran, but we shared one thing in common; we both had a light inside that so many circumstances could have blown out. And yet, through it all we found ways to keep the light aflame. We moved forward. We continued to hope that something better was about to come. Tina’s story taught me that there is always room in your heart to believe and try. If she could do it, so could I. I finally grew the courage to put my truth down on paper and tell it for the first time. 

Welcome to Orchid

By Karen Collazo   

As I passed the threshold into The Orchid Recovery Center, I braced myself for an environment that would contain hostility, anger and – most importantly, women I could not relate to. During my stay at the detox facility I had convinced myself that I was in for a very odd experience; one that would no doubt provide tons of stories to tell at dinner parties, but nothing like the positive life changing journey that was about to take place. Over the next two weeks, I lived with a group of twenty women who seamlessly took to their position in the social order, followed firm rules and maintained a very strict schedule. In that cocoon, we learned about ourselves, grew fond of each other and healed some of our wounds.

Orchid is comprised of two facilities. There’s the main office on the top floor of a 4-story building. This is where we spent most of our days, being split up and shuffled from one room to the next for: group therapy sessions, acupuncture, art therapy and one-on-one meetings with our individual therapists. It’s designed with a comfortable and soothing aesthetic in mind. Near the entrance there is a large bamboo plant. As you walk down the halls you feel the healing energies of the space and the people. The walls are painted in a muted mustard-tone and are tastefully dressed with inspirational quotes. The furniture throughout is dark cherry wood and you can find Hindu statues, Asian Zen décor and orchid flowers adorning the tables. The couches are soft, comfy and red.

The second facility is the apartment complex. Orchid owns an entire 2-story building, which includes: 18 one and two-bedroom apartments, two laundry rooms, a TV room, outdoor seating, a grill and a pool. Each apartment is simple and contains all your basic furnishings, appliances and kitchenware. They each feature ample living space, closets and bathrooms, and are all decorated the same. Apartments are supposed to be kept tidy, with beds always made and all personal items in their respective drawers or put away in the cupboards. Women, who stay for long periods of time, tend to put up pictures of friends and family to make the place feel homier. You’ll typically find loved ones taped to mirrors. If on Saturday you had a few dollars leftover from your grocery run to Publix, you might splurge on some flowers for your place.

The day started promptly at 7am. This was when prescribed medicines were distributed under supervision from a tech that stood on the other side of a glass window, in one of the apartments that had been setup as a small office/ storage space. Meds were handed out daily until 8:30am. If you had packed perfume or hairspray with your belongings, this was kept in a locker and you had to ask for it every morning. The techs supervised the use of these items as well. As the women gathered by the gated entrance, the staff would quickly check each apartment to ensure all maintenance procedures had been followed. More often than not, there was a dirty dish left in a sink or a bed was unmade. This would hold up the entire group and we would all wait patiently as the woman in question returned to her apartment to take care of whatever mess had been left behind. Then we’d all board the bus to head over to the office.

The two facilities are only five minutes apart, but the ride goes through a sketchy neighborhood. Every morning we were greeted by a despondent homeless man standing at the entrance of I-95 asking for change. Promptly at 9am, with all twenty of us sitting in a circle in the main room, we started the day with what was called “Goals and Gratefuls.” This was when all the women would go around the room and share where they were at in their recovery.

“Good morning ladies. My name is Karen and I’m an addict,” I’d say.

“Hi, Karen,” they said in unison.

“My drug of choice is cocaine and today I’m 12 days clean.”

Round of applause.

“Today, my goal is to not obsess over what time it is but to be here now, so that I can fully take in all the tools that are being provided. I am grateful for my family, friends and all of you ladies for helping me feel worthy of recovery. My defense mechanisms are rationalization, isolation and avoidance. Yesterday, I reached my goal of writing my life story, which I will be sharing later today.”

Once we’d all had our turn, we’d move on to participating in a group activity. We had a number of activities we engaged in. There was therapy, yoga, educational movies and classes on nutrition. At Noon we would get a lunch break. All twenty of us would return to the apartment complex in the white vans. An hour later, we were back at the office for our afternoon activities and sessions. At 5pm, we returned to the apartments for the evening and were allowed to relax and use the phone for two hours. If for some reason you broke a rule, your phone privileges were the first thing to be revoked. The day ended at 8pm with another round of “Goals and Gratefuls.”

“Hi, I’m Karen and I’m an addict.”

“Hi, Karen.”

“My drug of choice is cocaine and today I’m 12 days clean.

Round of applause.

“Today, I did not reach my goal since instead of looking at the clock I just went around asking everyone for the time.”

The room erupts in laughter.

“I’m grateful for Orchid, the techs who bought me cigarettes and my clean time. My goal for tomorrow is to stop judging everyone and focus on myself.”

On my first day, I was assigned a big sister. Your big sister is a fellow female addict who takes you under their wing to show you the ropes. My big sister happened to also be the matriarch of the group. She was known among the women as Mother Mary. She was very dedicated to the program and had a laser focus on winning back her family’s love and respect by completing a 30-day program. Every Sunday, my big sister took care of coordinating family potluck dinners with the girls and was a natural at policing the gossip that unsurprisingly took place among the women. Mother Mary was a former 911 operator and a current badass with short red hair, that had purple streaks in it, tasteful tattoos sprinkled all over and numerous piercings. Her DOC (drug of choice) was alcohol.

My roommate was the only other Hispanic-American in the program. She was an older professional from South America who had enjoyed a successful career in the field of psychology for 30+ years. Her accent was thick and she had long and curly blonde hair that she carried around like a crown. Every morning she would take special care to wash her hair and condition it and always wore it down. It was her pride and joy. My roommate and I connected like mother and daughter. We both shared an addiction to sugary treats and on our trips to Publix made sure to stock up on cookies, candy, ice cream and cake. We’d sit on the L-shaped couch in our living room, watching TV and devouring snacks, until it was time to go to bed. When you’re recovering from a drug addiction, you naturally replace drugs with food. She was intelligent and insightful and really believed that I was going to make it. As soon as we met, I let my guard down. It fell off like a chain-link cloak and remained gathered where I left it for the duration of my stay at Orchid. Her DOC was Xanax.

A few nights in, after dinner with my roommate, I made my way down to the poolside tables for a cigarette. I sat there thinking about the revelations I had made that day during therapy. I had learned that most addicts believed themselves to be unique, but we were not. We might be special, but were no different than one another. For the first time in my life, I could be Karen not just one side or aspect of her, because these women knew how I felt. They were like me. It was liberating. And when the women accepted me with open arms, it felt like home. Regardless of socio-economic background, educational level or race, we were all the same: individuals looking for love who at some point turned to drugs when we didn’t find it. I connected with each and every one of those women on a spiritual level that I could never fully put into words. Each one of us was a candle whose flame was slowly withering into defeated embers. Coming together turned the gas on high and reignited our value in the world.  

While I sat there, I was joined by Jessica; she was in her early 20’s and from New Jersey, the heroin capital of the country. Jessica introduced herself and told me all about her passion for music and the influence it had in helping her through her brother’s recent death. She had dark blue eyes, olive skin and the goofiest laugh. She had been through rehab before and had ended up in a flop house in South Florida. A flop house is a halfway house that has been neglected. There is typically very little supervision taking place and a lot of drug abuse. A halfway house or sober living house that is well-managed is where recovering addicts transition into life after rehab, by learning the skills necessary to integrate back into society. Halfway houses usually have rules and curfews, with 24-hour staff coverage. According to Jessica, there was a flop house epidemic in Florida and she and her brother had been victims of this horrible growing trend.  

A few months earlier, while both of them were trying to get their lives on track, her brother gave in to the disease and started using heroin again. One night, he overdosed and no one was there to help him. When the medics finally arrived, they didn’t bother to give him Naloxone (a drug that can reverse the effects of opioids) and he unfortunately passed away. He was in his early 20’s. This triggered a downward spiral for Jessica, which led her back into treatment at Orchid. She was lost, lonely and upset. While sharing her story, I was deeply humbled by her experience. My heart caved under the weight of her tragic story. I reflected on the fact that while I’ve had my fair share of traumatic events, I was still lucky enough to have my sisters in my life. In that very moment, I looked up at the dark sky to gaze at the stars and thank the universe for this gift, when suddenly a shooting star broke through the atmosphere. It was the first shooting star I had ever seen. 

Women Only, Please

By Karen Collazo  

When I began my search for a recovery treatment center, I had only one criterion: that it be a women-only facility. By then, I had learned that my disease had metastasized from drugs and alcohol to sex and shopping. I thought that if I admitted myself to a co-ed rehab center, I was most certainly not going to stand a chance. I found a women-only center that specialized in dual-diagnosis in West Palm Beach, Florida. After my 24-hour stint in detox, this is where I would spend the next two weeks. But before I could check-in with my sisters at Orchid, I had to survive the next night with a co-ed population. Survival meant not engaging with any of the male patients.

After a 3-hour nap, I tech knocks on my door. During detox, the techs are continuously monitoring your vitals to ensure a safe detox process. This entails taking your blood pressure every 2-3 hours during your entire stay. I woke up hungry and could tell by the chatter coming from the dining area that lunch was still out. I grabbed my grey hooded-sweatshirt, took a cue from the others, and slipped on socks and a pair of flip flops.

The dining hall is an open space that separates the men and women’s dormitories. The walls and furniture are all dressed in the same drab peach. On the right-hand side there is a glass partition that allows the techs to observe the common area from their station. I’m wondering if the glass is bullet-proof when a girl interrupts my thought by walking past the window. She’s tall, lean and tan with deep green eyes and beautiful straight auburn hair that reaches her waist and curls at the ends. She’s wearing leopard-print tights and a dark purple sweater. She’s seductively licking a vanilla soft-serve ice cream inside a small waffle cone. We exchange friendly smiles.

On the left-hand side is the buffet station, which is reminiscent of an elementary school cafeteria. A messy stack of plastic orange and blue trays greet you at the start of the line. As you make your way down the metal counter a fellow recovering addict serves you food. Tonight, we have a choice of Salisbury steak, chicken pot pie and Caesar salad. My stomach does a tiny flip.

“We have leftover baked goods and fruit from this morning if you want something lighter. Or there’s the cereal station,” says the server, as he points to a large dispenser in the corner filled with all the sugary cereals of my childhood dreams. There’s Frosted Flakes, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Raisin Bran.  

“I’ll take a raspberry Danish and a banana. Thanks.” I wait while he disappears to the back of the kitchen and scan the room, noticing that everyone is huddled around, either with new friends they’ve just made or sitting alone, curled up within themselves. It’s like a walk-in freezer in this facility and most patients are shivering, including me. A skinny guy with shoulder-length dirty blonde hair and a neatly trimmed beard jumps up from his lunch and rushes over to the large garbage bin next to the coffee station. He vomits violently and it echoes across the room as everyone has gone silent. I’m suddenly reminded that some of us may not be shivering from the cold.

When my snacks arrive, I make my way to an empty four-top table in the center. I pull a chair out and the red-headed girl approaches.

“Do you mind if I sit with you?” she asks.

“No, not at all. Hi, I’m Karen,” I say.

“What’s your DOC?”

“My what?”

“Your DOC? It means drug-of-choice. Mine used to be coke and then after my last trip to rehab, I went back out and tried heroine for the first time and now I’m here for both. So, what’s your DOC?” she asks.

“I guess my DOC is coke. How old are you?” I ask.

“I’m nineteen,” she says.

“And how many times have you been to rehab?”

“This is my fourth time. I started coming when I was sixteen,”

“I take that back. My DOC is whatever I can get my hands on at the moment. Sometimes it’s not even a drug. It’s sex.”

Back in New York, a therapist once posed a question that has haunted me ever since: why do you think you fuck like a gay man? When I first moved to Manhattan, I hit the dating scene like a category five hurricane. Every man I encountered was a potential object to destroy and therefore subject to being swept up by my destructive wrath. I had just left an emotionally abusive relationship with my fiancé of two years and thought men in general were now indebted to me. I would collect my dues by jumping from one anonymous dick to the other, under the guise that I was dating like one of the fabulous ladies from Sex and the City.

Most nights, I would walk into a bar with one goal: to get the guy. I’d scan the room, as I sipped my cocktail and half-heartedly listened to the conversation going on between friends. Then I’d spot him: the one I was going to conquer and take home that night. It was a competition; a game I played with no one but me. If I could get the guy to buy me a drink and take me home that night, I had won. I racked up quite a few points during my ten years in New York. And I thought I was fully enjoying my new-found sexuality after almost committing to a very sick man.  

But according to my therapist, I was promiscuous because I was trying to recreate the night of my first trauma. At fifteen, I was sexually assaulted during a night in which I had no control of the situation. And according to him, seeking sexual encounters with men was my way of regaining the control I had lost that night. This somewhat explained why once I was in bed with these men I lost complete interest in the whole thing. The formula made sense on paper, but it really disturbed me.

I thought of myself as a free-spirited woman with a unique sexual libido, which was unmatched by most of my female peers. In my mind, I was a woman with a modern point-of-view on relationships. However, if I was to believe what my therapist was suggesting, then I was nothing but a sad little hamster running on its wheel, trying diligently to attain something that would eventually get me nowhere. This was the first indication that my addictive behavior extended beyond drugs and alcohol. It also included men.

Back at the detox center, I’m fighting every desire in me – to interact with the male patients. For me, the longing is like a sick deep yearning that starts in the caverns of my gut. The disease starts talking to me. It poses an innocent question and responds with a staunch exclamation. And then, because it is a fact, I must set out to make it happen. It goes from thought to action in a split second. I think I need this: to survive, to feel better, to get something I must have. He was shuffling around the halls and common area anxiously, after throwing up back in the dining hall. Wearing the detox uniform: pajamas; a pair of red flannel bottoms, a long-sleeved white shirt, black socks and flip flops, he opens the door to the patio. Ten of us addicts were sitting out there enjoying a smoke, when he spots an empty chair and sits next to me.

He introduces himself and tells me his DOC is meth. He had been in detox for three days and was going to be released to Palm Partners soon, the co-ed treatment center down the street. He had a nice smile, even though he looked tired.

“You don’t look like you belong here. Is this your first time in treatment?” he asks.

“Yeah. Is it that obvious?” I say. And then, I turn on the charm. I smirk and bite my lower lip. I’ve been told that you can see it in my eyes, exactly what I’m thinking. I want to have sex with this guy.

“Don’t worry. You’ll do okay. You should get my number,” he says.

He writes his number on a napkin, after borrowing a pen from the tech that was supervising the smoke break. Since we’re not allowed to have lighters on us, the techs have to stand guard and light our cigarettes for us. When my new friend hands his number over, our fingers lightly graze each other and I feel a hot heat rising between my legs and slowly reach my face. Suddenly my mind is racing and I’m in planning mode.

How can I get this guy back in my room and on top of me? The TV room is across the hall so I could suggest we go watch TV together. We could steal suggestive glances and if we find ourselves alone I could give him a hand job under the blankets. How funny if we got in trouble for breaking the rules posted above the couch: No blankets allowed. Men and women are to sit on opposite sides of the room. A giddy tingling starts brewing. I imagine myself pulling him into my room, closing the door behind us and guiding his hand down the front of my pants, if only to kill the pain and sadness for just a few delicious moments. I’d hate myself afterwards and probably cry myself to sleep, but I never think that far ahead.

“Guys, smoke break is over so take your last drag,” says the tech.

I snap out of my racy daydream, put out my cigarette and smile at the guy as he hands over the napkin. On my way back to my room, I toss his number into the same garbage can where he had puked in earlier. I crawl back into bed and stay there until morning. 

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.