Q. How is the program going so far?
A. I personally am getting a lot out of it. This is not a treatment facility, rather, it's more of an educational program focusing on deterring addictive behavior. The classes range from physical affects of alcohol (i.e. diseases and consequences from drinking) to the more insidious complications from abuse, such as moral and spiritual deficiencies. There is a strong lean towards AA. We have a Big Book reading and discussion class every night, as well as evening meetings from 8-9. Commitment groups come in from all over to share and take questions. A lot of people here are in serious denial, and it's quite obvious. That said, there are a good amount of people who have been in recovery for months and are quite familiar with AA and its proven track record.
We are kept busy with group therapy twice a day, three or four classes, movies, meditation, meetings and more. At approximately $68 a day, I would call it a good deal.
Q. How is the Food?
A. The food is not very good. This is a State run institution and it shows. The irony is not lost on me that much of the food that we eat is stuff that people crave at 3 AM after a long day/night of boozing; roast Beef and instant mashed potatoes smothered in salty gravy with canned corn; Dinty Moore beef stew atop minute rice; spaghetti and Ragu with white bread and butter (yes butter. I couldn't believe it myself). We were served plump, chopped franks and beans on our first night here. As the server was spooning heaps of the mess into white Styrofoam bowls, he would say choice snippets like: "Your roommate's gonna love ya!" and "It doesn't get better than this."
Q. Do you work in the kitchen?
A. No. Due to me requiring meds before breakfast and dinner, I was disqualified from kitchen duty. This is more than OK. The kitchen crew seems to have a lot of work to do. It is unfortunately thankless work as everyone blames them for the food being terrible.
Q. So, what chores DO you have?
A. I am part of a seven man crew whose job it is to sweep and mop the kitchen/dining room. It is a breeze; ten minutes and we're done. Then, we stand around while the guys on trash detail complain that their shoes are soaked with gravy, chocolate milk and Ragu. Mmmmm Gravy. Assessment: Freddy Wins
Q. What is the make up of the group?
85% white and middle aged with a few teens and a few 65+ rounding it out.
Ooops. I forgot about the one Ukrainian and the one Pole.
In Closing, I must say that this is not nearly as harsh as I had expected. I definitely belong here, as do the other 70 people. (One guy got sent home for medical reasons) I keep hearing the same story..."I was so close to my house when I got pinched. I could have almost walked there." Well, now we're all getting the chance to make that 'almost' a reality. Besides the lack of privacy and the food, it's a well run program with a staff that actually cares about the people here. Today we have "Nine days and a wake up" left, as they say. Sunday between 8 and 10 AM I'll get to go home and continue on my road to recovery.
I keep seeing little reminders of what I'm missing everywhere. Like yesterday. I was flipping through the weekend section of the Boston Globe. I saw out of the corner of my eye a picture of a group of singing senior citizens; people that I knew, in full color. It was my buddies in the Young At Heart Chorus, of course. The small but significant article mentioned how the movie had premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and unusual bursts of applause. The only unusual bursts of applause here are when they tell us they're giving us an extra smoke break. I'm glad I quit. Yuk.
I've got to get the hell out of here. I've got to get ready to Rock. I've got to get ready to live again. But first, I have to get through...Nine days and a wake up.
Thanks for Reading
F. Alex Johnson
PS. Thanks in review, and thanks in advance to all of you who sent mail to Ol' Jailbird Johnson. Each day during the 3:15 class, a counselor comes up and writes the evening schedule on the dry erase board. Next to that they list the names of who got mail. Seeing F. Johnson makes me giggle like a schoolboy. Thanks again. You know who you are. And if you don't, you should definitely see a specialist.
(transcribed by Muskrat)