Watching My First Connection in Recovery Almost Die in Front of Me

Note: This may be a story worth a trigger warning. It may also be exactly what you need to hear, so viewer discretion advised.

Bob was the best counselor I had at either of my rehabs. He wasn’t medically trained or have 15 groups of letters after his name, but he had risen to run the two small properties in Palm Springs (really just former adjacent motels probably used in the Hollywood heyday of Palm Springs) and he was tasked as my caseworker.

Since they were understaffed, Bob was most people’s caseworker. I started my time at the main property, where about 20 patients lived. That property was overseen by Jackson, who had once been a patient at the rehab. For some reason, Jackson went to rehab 14 times and it never clicked until the 15th time. Now, he was a model of clean living. This 26-year-old didn’t have much of an active role in running the rehab except as the overnight intake person, should one be needed.

Once you completed 30 days, if you were staying, you were moved to the adjacent property, where only about 8-10 people lived at any given time. These people were the “interns” who just did the occasional bed checks and kept attendance at the four daily group sessions, although they only had to attend three. Sometimes you’d also be asked to do additional tasks, like make breakfast, or bring a patient to the nearby “real” hospital if they had a minor injury. I once took a guy for a nasty spider bite. Bob lived at this property, although he kept to himself in his room.

Meet Bob

Bob was around 60 years old. Born in Iowa, he moved to Chicago as a young man and become either an investment banker or high-end stockbroker. He ended up married, had a couple of sons and a brutal, brutal alcohol problem in his late 30s/early 40s. That problem only came under control when he admitted to himself that he was a homosexual. This epiphany tore his family apart and sent him packing to Palm Springs, which at the time (and still to some degree) was a safe place for homosexuals to live their lives openly compared to other places in the U.S. at the time.

Bob continued working in the financial sector for many years. After giving it several years, he tried to rebuild the bridges with his sons, but it was a very rocky road. Bob settled into a steady relationship with a man, but after several years, the man left. With his relationship with his kids still in tatters, Bob was introduced to meth.

While he didn’t have the length of time being a meth addict he did with alcohol, it floored him once again and he sought professional help. Something clicked while he was there, and he decided he’d get certified as an addiction therapist. Along the way, he met another man in recovery who he started a relationship with, and they decided that they’d open a sober house, which was an aftercare facility for addicts.

This went fine for a couple of years, but inevitably, the duo broke up. His partner kept the house and he took a job with the rehab I attended. A friend he met in recovery, Amy, was the day intake person and also led one of the group sessions. They’d just lost their lead and were looking for another. Bob took the job. I arrived about eight months later.

Forming a Bond

Bob saw me almost immediately when I arrived and welcomed me graciously. I attended a couple of his group sessions before we had our first real one-on-one where he told me parts of the story I just explained. Others helped fill in the gaps along the way.

I had told myself that I wouldn’t tell anybody about the charges I had unless they needed to know about them. Probably 97% of the people at the rehab never had any idea that less than two weeks before I got there, I was arrested for possession of underage pornography.

Bob made it clear quickly that he knew I did, but also shared he’d known several men who had the same issue and what happened to them, ranging from nothing to 10 years in prison. We didn’t dwell on this part of my story because he didn’t have the training there. We talked a lot about my drinking, but mostly we just talked.

He had red hair and striking sea green eyes that looked they could see through you, so you shouldn’t bother telling a lie. I opened up to him about my drinking more than any other person I ever had to that point and as a former alcoholic with around 10 years of sobriety, he could relate. I felt a connection with him as a fellow addict that I’d never made with anybody in my professional or personal lives.

When I made it to the smaller property after 30 days, I thought we’d hang out a little more, but Bob kept to himself in his room. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get that “down time” chance to bond, but it was what it was.

The first time I was ever asked to lead one of the groups was when Amy had to intake a client, so she couldn’t lead the late morning group and Bob had called in ill that morning. Aside from Jackson, another office worker and a maintenance manager, that was it for the staff. They should have had at least two more counselors and another staff person there.

After a few days of calling out sick, and not seeing Bob at the adjacent property, Amy pulled me aside and asked if I’d take over the late morning group as a permanent thing. The reality is, anybody can do the job of a group therapy counselor. You just have to be able to keep the ball rolling and get people to talk. My training as a reporter was perfect. When I asked why she wanted to do this permanently (and if it would knock anything off my bill since I was now functioning as a part-time employee) she told me that Bob relapsed and had been asked to leave after a confrontation with the owner of rehab who also owned and operated two other facilities in Florida and further north in California.

Never Saw It Coming

Bob’s relapse really hit me and a few other people who had been there for a while hard. I was probably 40-45 days into my 70-day stay at that point. If he could relapse, it was clear anybody could. A lot of us spent the next few days comparing notes and agreeing he’d had a difficult road in life, but for someone who preached asking for help, he couldn’t follow his own advice.

A new manager named Autumn was hired within a couple of days. She was young, probably in her late 20s and asked me to continue running the late morning group. I liked her and we developed a relationship that was more like co-workers than treatment provider-patient. When Bob left, so did my one-on-one sessions. They closest thing I had to that with Autumn was in the almost daily patient rundown when I’d report was happening in my group and around the properties when she wasn’t there.

At around probably my 62nd or 63rd day, Amy approached me early one morning.

“I knew how much Bob meant to you and we have to help him,” she said in a whisper.

I asked her to explain what she was talking about and she launched into a story of how after Bob left the adjacent property, he went to live with his sponsor. After four or five days of heavy drinking and refusing to go to meetings, his sponsor kicked him out in fear of his own safety and sobriety.

She said Bob then went to live with a friend, but that person kicked him out too after a couple of days. Amy had seen him the morning before when he called to get his last check and she agreed to meet him in a Walgreen’s parking lot. He revealed that he had been living out of his car, spending his days in the park drinking and sleeping in his car in various parking lots, drinking, at night.

Amy worked the phones calling nearby detox and rehab centers and was able to pull some strings to get Bob into one of those facilities if he agreed to go. She finally was able to convince him to go to detox and offered to pay for a night at the Motel 6 down the road so nothing would happen to him.

The problem was that the van that was going to pick Bob up and bring him to the detox center about 20 miles away was not going to pick him up until 4 p.m. and he had to be out of the hotel by noon. She had to stay at the facility, but she said that Jackson had secretly agreed to pick him up at the hotel.

Now, understand that bringing someone from the outside who was using – which describes Bob accurately at the time – was the worst thing you could. Nobody from the outside was let in without prior approval, and certainly not someone with a problem. Jackson couldn’t hide Bob in his room for 5 or 6 hours to wait for the van since it was the main property. Amy asked if I could let him stay in my room next door since nobody monitored that property closely. I was a little hesitant, but she said she’d thought he’d just sleep all day and I could just hang out in the room watching TV or by the pool while he slept.

About an hour later, Jackson and I headed to Motel 6.

Addiction is Real

Jackson had known Bob much longer than me and said he had no idea what we’d encounter at the hotel. I think even he was shocked when Bob opened the door.

I’ve seen peoples in the throes of alcoholic benders, but this was beyond what I’ve ever seen. Bob had been drinking around the clock for who knows how many weeks at that point. He’d lost about 15-20 pounds since I last saw him and his fair complexion was completely sunburned from those days in the park.

He limply motioned to us to come into the room. We entered to a mess of empty Listerine bottles. He took a half-full one from the dresser and downed its contents.

“Do you know why I have so much Listerine here?” he slurred at me.

“Because of the alcohol?” I asked, knowing that was the answer.

“Of course, but here’s the secret. You can’t go to a bar or buy liquor after 1 a.m. But you can go to a 7-11 and get Listerine in the middle of the night and it’s 80 proof,” he said. This was one of those things you only learn through the rehab experience.

Bob immediately turned into a sad, regretful drunk.

“Look at me. Look what I’ve become. You guys are doing great and look at me,” he said.

We tried to let him know he’d picked us up when he was down, and this was our turn. After assuring him we weren’t judging him and everything would be OK, we told him that he’d be coming to my room to wait for the van to bring him to detox. I gathered his stuff while Jackson let him polish off another half-full bottle of Listerine by the nightstand, then helped him outside and into the back seat of the car.

As we drove the two miles back to the rehab facility, Bob kept talking down about himself and saying that we were pieces of shit when he met us but that we’d turned it around and wondering why couldn’t he do the same thing.

In the middle of one of his pity-party sentences, he stopped talking and simply fell to the side.

“Did he pass out?” asked Jackson?

I turned around and saw him face down on the side seat with a disgusting, thick liquid coming out. As I tried to lift his head, we pulled into the small parking lot next to my facility. I ran and opened the gate while Jackson worked on getting Bob to sit up. He just kept slumping backward into whatever was in that puddle.

“He just needs to sleep it off in your room,” Jackson said. “We may have to carry him.”

As we pulled him toward us from him slumped position again he vomited what was clearly Listerine, blood and who knows what else onto himself and Jackson’s backseat.

“Dude, that’s blood, he needs to go the hospital,” I said.

At that moment, Amy called from next door.

“We’re bringing him to the hospital,” I said. “He’s puking all kinds of whatever including blood.”

“But he’s going to lose his chance at detox and rehab,” she said.

“Amy, we need to take him. I’ve never seen this come out of somebody before,” I said.

Jackson grabbed my phone.

“Amy, he’s seriously in trouble. We’re going to the hospital.”

He hung the phone up and gave it back to me. I ran to the other side of the car and jumped into the passenger’s seat.

Thankfully, the hospital was only about three blocks away. We pulled into the emergency room entrance and I ran in, telling the person at the desk we needed a gurney and a couple people to help lift this guy who was OD’ing onto a stretcher.

They were out there within 10 seconds, pulling Bob out of the car and putting him on the gurney. He’s stopped vomiting, but as he lay back on the gurney, I saw his eyes roll completely backward into his head. They whisked him away leaving Jackson and I standing there.

“I probably know more about him, so I’ll stay and try to answer his questions. You should go back. You’ve got a group to run,” he said.

I walked back to the rehab, trying to make sense of the last half hour.

The aftermath

I ran the group like nothing happened. Shortly when it was over, I walked into the courtyard area and saw Amy leaving with her stuff. I ran to catch up with her and she told me that Autumn had just fired her. We exchanged email addresses and I went into Autumn’s office.

She was crying and asked me to shut the door.

“This isn’t how a rehab is supposed to operate,” she said. “I went to three of them myself. I’ve worked at four. This is all wrong. I can’t do this.”

She told me that the owner of our facility got a call from the owner of the facility Bob was supposed to be heading off to had the day gone as expected. When he found out, he called our facility and Amy fessed up to him what was happening. He then asked to speak to Autumn and told her that she had to fire Amy for getting Jackson and I involved since it could have been a liability.

I sat with Autumn for 20 minutes trying to calm her down. I explained to her that this was her first rehab as the facility leader and since it was kind of a bottom-of-the-barrel place, all she could do was move up.

“Do your year here and then find a new job. You have to look at this as just a great line to have on your resume. Someday you’ll be running the facility you deserve,” I said.

“One of the patients who is paying to be here shouldn’t be running the most effective group and soothing the director of the place because she can’t stop crying,” she laughed, realizing the absurdity of everything going on that day. She assured me that I wouldn’t be in any trouble and she appreciated what I was trying to do, but also told me not to be an accessory to any schemes again.

I visited Bob at the hospital the next day with Jackson. He told us that the doctor said if he’d have had that episode in his hotel room and we arrived 30 minutes later, he likely would have died choking on his vomit or the internal bleeding might have caused things to go far worse than they did.

When Jackson and I walked back to the facility I asked him if he thought everybody could be saved from addiction. He said no, the statistics proved they can’t.

“Bob’s one of those guys,” he said. “The bottle is going to kill him. He’s not done with it.”

I preferred to believe those people who died just didn’t get help in time and not that they were incapable.

About 18 months later, I spoke to Bob a few days before I went in front of a judge to be sentenced. He agreed to write a letter of recommendation for me, but it never came. He said he was sober at that point and ironically serving as a counselor for the same company, just at their location further north.

I haven’t talked to him since. I know how to reach out through Facebook, but am not sure I want to do that. I don’t want to find out something went bad, and I don’t want silence, because I’ll assume the worst. I prefer to believe that Bob is still in California, doing well and helping others. I would rather live in a world where Jackson’s conclusion is wrong.

 

Brody Stevens Made Me Feel Better About Myself When I Needed It

Lost in the news of the oversexed (R. Kelly, Robert Kraft) on Friday, there was a small celebrity news item that if you blinked you missed it. A minorly famous comic, Brody Stevens, took his own life in Los Angeles at the age of 48.

In early June 2014, I was only two days out of a 70-day stay at a Palm Springs rehab center for my alcoholism when my brother, who lived in L.A., suggested we go to The Comedy Store to see that night’s showcase.

One-by-one, the comics (including Marc Maron and SNL’s Leslie Jones) did their sets. Brody Stevens came on as the last comic of the night. I knew him from The Hangover and little things he’d done on Comedy Central, but mostly from having read about him recently having had a meltdown on a Twitter, scaring those in the comedy world for threatening suicide via social media.

I knew the tradition at The Comedy Store was that the last comic was allowed to go as long as they wanted. By the time he took the stage, probably only 40 people were left in the crowd. By the time he left the stage over an hour later, shortly after midnight, about 10 of us were left.

He did the most non-traditional set I’d ever seen in that he didn’t tell a single joke. I don’t think I laughed in that 70 or 80 minutes once.

Instead of telling jokes, he acted as a sort of group therapy facilitator for those of us who were left in the crowd, asking questions about people’s lives and providing feedback.

I was one of the people who he talked with first, when I hesitantly raised my hand after he asked who was on medication for their mental health. In most scenarios, opening yourself up like that to a comic on stage is license for ridicule.

Instead, he shared what medication he was on at that point and how it was affecting him. After learning I was from Maine, he asked what I was doing in L.A.

Now, keep in mind, I’d just done 70 difficult days at rehab, having left home after getting arrested in a major scandal. To say I was fragile and still processing things was an understatement. I didn’t know if I wanted to open myself up, but I figured they preached living an honest life in rehab, so I should do it in front of this small group at a famous L.A. comedy club.

“I just finished two months at a rehab in Palm Springs,” I said.

“Congratulations! That’s awesome, my friend! My mom lives in Palm Springs!” he said, excitedly. “I’m going to visit her on Thursday and get a massage at Massage Envy while I’m there. You see, we have more connections! That’s what this is all is about. It’s about connections.”

After another minute he moved onto others, playing a game of invisible catch with one young audience member and counseling a fellow comic who was having a rough, drunken night to name but two of his other interactions.

When the show was over, my brother and I agreed it was the most unorthodox, yet extraordinary set we’ve ever seen. It has stuck with me like few other performances I’ve ever seen, even to this day.

Brody Stevens was right about life being all about making connections. He was able to make a connection with every person who stayed in the room that night. It didn’t matter there was only 10 of us around at the end. It was something special to behold.

While I now am pretty much an open book to people who ask about my story, I wasn’t back then. I didn’t know how to deal with my issues in a public forum or what I should tell people. Brody Stevens was the first person who made me realize I didn’t need to be afraid to share my story.

It really made me sad to see that, according to reports, he’d told comics he’d pulled himself off of his meds not too long ago because it dulled his creativity. It clearly also reawakened the mental health demons he wrestled with. He hung himself on Friday, unable to cope any longer.

I was struck by how many very famous comedians told stories about Stevens in the day or two after his death on social media. Despite not making it to those levels of fame, he clearly entertained and touched those who did get lucky in a way few of their fellow comics can.

I’ll never get to see Brody Stevens perform a second time. I’m just grateful I got the first.

 

The Sad Reality of Addiction and No Hope

This is much longer than most of what I write, but I think it illustrates the all-or-nothing mindset to life most addicts have. The only alteration to reality is that I changed people’s names.

Aside from the rotund early-20s-something Brackett, I was the longest tenured primary patient at Spencer Recovery Center’s Palm Springs location, with 52 days behind me to that point. I was running the morning meeting and it seemed like Sam, the program director and Allison, the office manager, both leaned on me when they needed help. Sam asked me if I wanted to be an intern just as I was coming out of the morning meeting.

It meant I didn’t have to attend one of the three group sessions every day and there was more leeway when visitors came, but I had to make sure the primaries — what we called the patients who had been there less than 28 days — were behaving for an eight-hour shift, six days per week. I didn’t understand what the upside was and he said, “You’ll be helping out.” I asked if it reduced my costs at all and he said no. He said the fact I was in my mid-30s made me accessible to both the younger patients and the older. I told him that if he needed me to do anything, I’d be happy to help, but I didn’t want to be an official intern until the 60-day mark, when it was mandatory. I was very comfortable and saw no reason to take on anything extra.

The van from Laguna Beach, where the detox and main Spencer facility was, would show up twice a week, dropping a few people off who were deemed to have the demeanor for Palm Springs. I was lucky in that I only spent my first 8 days in Laguna Beach.

The calmness of Palm Springs did catch up to many people. Laguna Beach was a den of drama where drugs and sex were rampant. Palm Springs was not. I don’t think anybody was having sex and it seemed like any time someone did drugs, they were found out quickly. We would max out at 30 patients in Palm Springs where Laguna Beach had about 50. It was much healthier for my recovery from alcoholism.

I made an effort to get to know everyone’s name, but I’d guess I only became close friends with one out of every six or seven people. You could spot from a mile away who was going to get kicked out or simply walk out the door, and with those people, I never got too close.

We had our fair share of “hot messes” as Brackett would call them, meaning girls between the ages of 18 and 21 who seemed like on the outside that they were from lower-socioeconomic homes, yet had a sense of entitlement that the world owed them something. They were clearly promiscuous, with many having their first kid around 16 and some with two and even three kids. They were often loud, enjoyed swearing at the top of their lungs and among the most rattled by the calmness displayed by those of us who lasted more than a week in Palm Springs.

While I didn’t make friends with the “hot messes” it bothered me when they would get kicked out. Usually it was for drinking, which I couldn’t understand because I know it wasn’t about satiating their addiction. It was about looking cool. How much fun could it be to get hammered at rehab? What are you going to do? Get tipsy and watch Family Guy? Either these girls had the worst judgment (something that was hard to argue against) or they just needed to be rebellious, which seemed to be the real answer. When they would get kicked out, they would usually be given anywhere from two-to-six hours additional on the Palm Springs property to figure something out. Those who lived in California were usually able to get a friend or family member to pick them up. Those who were from other parts of the country could usually get family members to wire them money to get home. Sometimes though, their first, second and third plans fell through and despite being young girls who constantly postured that they were “bad bitches” in control of their lives, they broke down crying, not knowing what they were going to do because they were hours away from homelessness if a plan didn’t come together.

My daughter was turning 14 in a couple of months and while to the best of my knowledge she had never touched drugs or alcohol, nor could I ever see her engaging in the kind of stupid behavior most high school teens did, you never know what’s going to happen and the idea of her ending up in a rehab facility in a few years really scared me and broke my heart. Despite the fact these hot messes were not people I socialized with, when they dropped their “bad bitch” acts, they were young, frightened girls and I’d seen my daughter frightened before.

One of the girls I rarely talked to, among everyone’s least favorite, was a 19-year-old called Tawny. She’d been caught drinking for a second time, freaked about it when confronted during our morning group and was kicked out. Told she had only a few hours to leave, she joined us in the van to go to the Friday night AA meeting at City Hall in the City Council chambers. She thought her sponsor would be there and could help her plan what to do next.

The first half of the meeting was typical AA business and mantras. At the 30-minute mark, they would take a short break. The last 30-to-45 minutes was a speaker, who would talk about how AA saved them. I would sit there week after week and think it was some kind of karma that I had to sit in the room where the City Council did its work whereas back home, it was being a City Councilor that contributed to my demise. At least Sonny Bono was never the mayor of my town.

Devising a plan

At the break, I was sitting on a bench about 20 yards from the front door, smoking a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but there was nothing to do in rehab so I took up for the habit for three months. Tawny came over and asked me if I had another, so I gave her one. Never be the asshole who won’t hand out cigarettes in rehab. Nobody likes that person, and they’ll tell you so.

She was a pretty girl, but you could tell the last several years had not been kind to her. When she did her hair and makeup, she was presentable, but without, she looked somewhat haggard. Of all the girls at Spencer, she also seemed to gain weight the fastest. She had to put on at least 20 pounds in the three weeks she’d been there, but it didn’t stop her from wearing the same bikini, which couldn’t hide her growing butt and stomach. She should have been tossed multiple times, but throwing a full bowl of cereal during a process group at Sam when he briefly checked in to ask her about the bottles he found was the last straw. She was given until 9 p.m. to get off the property.

She was told she’d have to be off the Spencer property 30 minutes after we returned from the AA meeting she was hoping to find the absent sponsor at. I knew she lived in California, but didn’t know her plan and wasn’t going to ask.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. My sponsor isn’t here and isn’t answering my calls,” she said matter-of-factly sitting down next to me. I felt bad, but she didn’t seem to care. She had been caught drinking the first time about a week earlier. They put her on a “behavior contract” which stated she had to follow all the rules. She stopped attending some of the group sessions three days before she finally got kicked out and when she did attend, she often brought food against the rules or was a distraction. It was certainly not a surprise to anyone when she was told to leave.

“At 9 p.m. you’re on the street, I heard.” I said.

“I know.”

“Well, what have you tried to do?”

“I tried calling my Mom. She lives in Long Beach, but she doesn’t want to talk to me. Neither does my grandma in Manhattan Beach.”

“Everybody in your family live at beaches?”

“Pretty much,” she said.

“What about friends?” I asked.

“None of them are going to drive 100 miles to Palm Springs,” she said.

“You do realize there aren’t many homeless shelters in Palm Springs, right?” I asked.

“Yeah, I heard Sam say that in a meeting the other day,” said Tawny.

“So what are you going to do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, this time more seriously. We stopped talking and smoked our cigarettes. A few minutes later, a bell rung letting people know they needed to return to the auditorium.

“Ready to head in?” I asked, but noticed she had turned away and had tears coming down her face.

“What am I going to do?” she said through tears and threw her arms around my midsection for what others saw as a hug, but what I could tell was more clinging to hope. I put my arms around her and she started bawling into my chest.

“You’re strong. You’re going to be OK,” I said. “Keep crying, it’s OK. We don’t have to go in.”

She cried for another two or three minutes then pulled herself together and sat up.

“Sorry I got your shirt all wet,” she said, wiping the snot from her upper lip.

“We’re in the desert, it’ll dry in five minutes,” I said and she laughed. “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to come up with multiple plans and we’ll figure out the best to the worst, OK?”

She nodded and looked incredibly vulnerable, like a little girl. “OK,” she said sheepishly.

“Do you know anybody around here?” I asked.

“Not really,” she said.

“And you have no family, no friends who are willing to come pick you up…none?”

“I don’t think so. I called everyone on my phone that made sense,” said Tawny.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t want to call someone who is just going to get me fucked up. I want to stay clean,” she said.

“That’s commendable,” I said.

“And I don’t want to go back to being a prostitute,” she said.

“You were a prostitute?”

“Yeah, for a year. It was the only way I could pay for a place for me and my son. I couldn’t stay with anyone else so I did what I had to,” she said, sniffling and still trying to pull herself together. “If I could get to Laguna Beach, I have some friends there.”

“I’m not judging. We do what we have to,” I said, realizing I now knew a teenage prostitute. I was becoming more like a character from a Lifetime movie every day at rehab. “Would anybody at Spencer be willing to sneak you back into their room late at night?”

“I don’t think so,” she said. There were only a handful of girls at Spencer and I didn’t think any were close with Tawny. There were a couple of scuzzy younger guys who might, but the odds of them not getting caught were non-existent and she knew they’d expect something in return.

I checked my phone (yeah, it was one of the rare rehabs that let us have our cell phones. We can debate the merit of it another time) and found Mickey’s number. He lived in the desert nearby with his girlfriend and had left Spencer before Tawny arrived, which was probably to her advantage. He didn’t know what a pain in the ass she could be.

“I’m going to call my friend Mickey. He was at Spencer before you got there. He’s probably about 30. He and his girlfriend Sharon are pretty cool. They’re clean and they did like 90 days each here. I’ll see if you can stay with them one night, but tomorrow you have to figure something else out,” I said.

“I can probably get a friend to come tomorrow,” she said.

“OK, and if they say no, we’ll ask Tom if you can sleep in his truck tonight. If he says no, when we get back, I’ll say I forgot something in the van that brings us here and I’ll leave it unlocked and you can sleep in there.” I said.

Tom was a patient my age who I bonded with quickly. He was a member of the Hell’s Angels who drove himself to the facility, so his truck was sitting in the parking lot. While I know he enjoyed the party lifestyle, I also had a suspicion he was hanging out in rehab because it was a safe place to hide from the police.

“Thank you, Josh. I’m sorry I was such a bitch to you,” Tawny said.

“You were never a bitch to me of if you were, I just ignored it. Promise me that you won’t be so defiant in the future. You would have a bed there tonight, your bed, if you didn’t break the rules,” I said.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

I called Mickey and explained the situation, trying to play up the fact she was a scared, young girl and playing down the mouthy teenager I saw far more often. He asked Sharon if it would be OK and they both agreed to take her for a night. Mickey said they were renting a house near Joshua Tree National Park, so it would take him about 40 minutes to get to Spencer. Since we weren’t going to be back for a half hour, it was good timing.

Tawny gave me a hug and again apologized for everything. I didn’t tell her that I liked problem solving, especially other people’s problems, far more than I enjoyed listening to someone talk about how AA saved them. We sat on the bench for another 20 minutes waiting for the meeting to finish. We talked about her son, my daughter and what she pictured her future looking like. She wanted to eventually get to Hollywood to do hair and makeup for movies and TV shows. She said she’d taken half the cosmetology courses she needed to get her license. Her grandmother, who had custody of her son, said once she finished that schooling, she could live with them. I tried to tell her what great choices those were and how she should strive for that dream. I told her to imagine 10 years from now, when she’d be making good money and having a son who was proud of her. It seemed to perk her up.

When we returned, Tom and I helped Tawny take her bags out to the parking lot area. He was given access to his truck after 30 days and mentioned he had to go to Laguna Beach to sign paperwork at that facility and he could give her a ride there the next day.

“See, everything does work out,” I said.

Tom and I waited a few minutes with her before Mickey and Sharon showed up. I thanked both of them and they said they were just going to watch videos that night and Tawny seemed very grateful. I hoped she could pull the gracious houseguest act for at least a night. Tom said he’d pick her up very early at Mickey’s house, like 6:30 a.m. and take her to Laguna Beach. Tawny once again thanked me, gave several people seeing her off hugs and left with Mickey and Sharon. I felt good that I came to her rescue, even if only for a night.

Happily never after

I got a call from Tom shortly before the 10:30 a.m. group meeting the next morning.

“So, we’re on the way to Laguna and she asks me to stop at 7-11 so she can get coffee. Instead of coffee, she comes out with a handle of vodka. Before she even gets back into the car, she’s drank half of it. I told her she couldn’t drink when I was driving, so she drank another half of what was left. I have brothers in the Angels who are drunks that can’t drink in an hour what she drank in three minutes,” he said.

“Where were you?”

“We hadn’t even got out of Joshua Tree yet!” he said. “Then, we start to go and she starts begging me to take her to that hotel down the street in Palm Springs so she can get dope. And I asked her what money she had and she said she could just blow a guy to get what she needed.”

“Jesus Christ,” I muttered into my cell phone.

“I told her we didn’t have time and about three minutes later, she’s asleep. She wakes up like after 40 minutes and sticks her head out the window and pukes all over the side of my truck. So we had to get off the highway and wash the side of the truck at a car wash. She pukes like two more times while we’re there and then said she’d be OK,” said Tom.

“Did she get fucked up at Mickey and Sharon’s house?” I asked.

“No, Mickey said she was great. They watched a movie and she fell asleep halfway through.”

“So what happened then?”

“Once she was done puking, we got back in the truck and kept going. She’s on her phone the whole time and like five friends of hers all said she couldn’t stay with them. I don’t know what the fuck she’s done to her friends but she doesn’t have any fucking friends. Once she tried that, she called a guy and told him if he gave her a place to stay, she’d work for him again.”

“As a hooker?”

“Yeah. She said she fucked guys for anywhere from $50 to $200 and if she was lucky, she’d get half the money,” Tom said.

“So she’s going back to being a prostitute?”

“I dropped her off in front of what looked like a crack house in Laguna Hills,” he said.

“There are crack houses in Laguna Hills?” I asked.

“There are crack houses everywhere,” Tom said.

“That’s disappointing,” I said.

Her time at Spencer meant nothing. She was drunk again and planning on selling her body, something she had told me less than 24 hours earlier she didn’t want to do. The optimist in me said that it was the booze talking and once it wore off she’d come to her senses, but the realist in me knew it wasn’t true and her bad upbringing and addiction had not been conquered, and probably hadn’t even been affected by her time at Spencer.

“You can only save yourself,” Tom said. “Anyway, I’ll be back this afternoon. Talk to you later. Bye.”

“Bye,” I said and hung up. Tawny was on my mind for a few minutes, but my daughter was the one really on my mind. I know Tawny’s parents were not helpful, but I didn’t know if that mattered. Most of the people who were young at Spencer had parents visit who seemed like great people. How do decent parents, like I’d like to believe my wife and I are, keep our children from using? Whoever figures out a foolproof plan could make a lot of money.

I walked into the office before the meeting and told Sam I was ready to be an intern.