DEENEY: Scenes From My (Non-Celebrity) Rehab


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are excerpts from a longer piece that Phawker contributor Jeff Deeney wrote for the website The Fix about his own experience in rehab. The kind of rehab you go to when you can’t afford health insurance.


Four beds are crammed into a tiny room, their mattresses encased in bodily fluid–proof rubber and covered in thin, ratty sheets. Dusty dorm furniture in disrepair is shoved in a corner. The common area reeks of sweat and stale smoke. An antique television with a wire-hanger antenna plays grainy tapes from a comically outdated video library. Extra folding chairs are arrayed against the wall outside the doctor’s office, to accommodate patients during the winter months, when this place is filled to capacity.  A few feet away, crudely tattooed dope fiends in various states of withdrawal sit around a rickety round wood table, playing Spades while cooking up futile schemes for scamming extra doses of Subutex, a medication that eases narcotic withdrawal.


One of the three empty beds in my room is soon occupied by a frail skid-row drunk who hobbles in from the bathroom, cautiously lowering himself onto its edge. The clothes-filled garbage bag is his. His hair is thin; the skin hangs from his face as if it might slide off, exposing his sorely aching brain. He has barely any color, as if his body doesn’t have the strength to pump much blood. When he sits on the bed, the nurse reappears. The nurse kneels and grabs the man’s oil-stained construction boots from under the bed. Apparently he was a tradesman before succumbing to alcohol. His hands are shaking too hard to take the boots from the nurse, let alone tie his shoelaces, so the nurse slips the boots on his feet and ties them for him.


The smoking pit is a narrow concrete slab where sick addicts congregate in tight circles lighting and smoking one cigarette after the next, snubbing and saving half-smoked “shorties” for later, hoping to make well-hidden tobacco stashes go as far as possible. Bummed smokes are shared, passed around like lit joints by those reduced to begging for them. The pit itself is a rectangular space between buildings not large enough to be worth adorning with benches or bushes. Its sole purpose is catching flung cigarettes; there are probably a thousand butts suspended in the January ice. [via THE FIX]

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