I was 2 months in to my incarceration at the hands of The Priory (as in the rehab clinic; not the Priory of Sion. That would have been a whole other story.) when Christmas rolled around. Christmas which was previously spent in a drunken stupor with family was now to be spent in rehab, in Surrey, with a bunch of total strangers. All there because of various addictions that had taken hold and ruined ‘normal life’, how were we going to cope with the season most commonly associated with excess? Quite well as it turned out. But that may have been due to the nurses and therapists banning any sort of fun or even slight merriment. Music? Banned – although as a treat we were allowed to watch Top of the Pops on Christmas Eve; I nearly wet my pants in excitement at hearing music for the first time in nearly eight weeks. Twister/Party Games? Banned – there were sex addicts in there don’t you know & physical contact could be assumed to be sexual in nature as if your hands brushing as he passed the salt meant ‘Take me now Big Boy!’ Good food? Banned. Alcohol? Definitely Banned. The city traders and hooray Henry’s languishing in there weren’t even allowed a cheeky line of coke off the back of the toilet to celebrate Christ’s birth. I now thank the Lord that the nurses were so strict as I can only imagine the carnage if we’d been allowed any freedom. 20 young strangers in a manor house, no responsibilities or appreciation of any consequences? I make that casual shagging and snorting lines o’clock!
I should have realised that my stay was not going to be all that normal when upon arrival they stripped me of all my facial wipes in case in a moment of alcohol fuelled desperation I decided to suck on one – blech! Little did they know that alcohol wasn’t my problem and so I felt quite smug, puffed my chest out in pride and flicked them the imaginary ‘V’s’, thinking of the day I’d be able to suck down a Juicy Lucy in peace. It soon became apparent that having to ask the nurse to unlock my cleanser and toner from the safe each morning was a royal pain in my behind.
Christmas Eve hailed a visit from a uni friend who dragged his parents down all the way from Twickers bringing daffodils from their garden. Imagine an ideal scenario in which to meet a friend’s parents and I wonder whether it would involve one of you being in rehab and the other one having been dumped literally hours before? If you said no, then you’re probably far saner than I am. To this day I do not know what possessed me to agree to him seeing me stripped of my dignity and having to offer up the daffs to a nurse so she could check them over for contrabanned goods (true story). We sat in the smoking room as I surreptitiously tried to give them all the gossip about the other poor sods spending Christmas locked away and knew that my compadres were doing the same about me. Anything is better than having to talk about yourself god forbid! Besides we did enough talking about ourselves in the seemingly endless hours of daily therapy.
After visiting time at the zoo had finished a quiet calm descended over the place as we all went back to dreaming about drink/drugs/sex/food and trying to cop off with one another out of sight of the ever watchful head nurse. I decided that the very best way to occupy myself other then doing my 12 Step work was to call the man that at that precise moment in time seemed like my knight in shining armour who could in just one call make my day seem slightly less insane. Huddling in to the very public payphone area I dialled…. I’m wishing I could go back to my 20 year old self and smack me upside the head until I put the phone down! Why on earth I thought it was a good idea I will never know but he answered (swoon) and we exchanged festive pleasantries. He, being a year younger and so much more switched on than I will ever be was a true gentleman and if he was weirded out by me calling didn’t let it show. He is still one of my favourite people to talk to as his voice is like melted chocolate, rich; deep and filled with promise and he has an enthusiasm for life that I’ve never encountered before. Now we have fallen into a higgledy piggledy friendship but at the time I was arse backwards in lust with him and could feel my heart taking a beating as he told me that he’d met someone and even though he didn’t vocalise it I could tell he was very much in to her. It was that bizarre moment in time that I realised that as much as I wanted something more, he and I would only ever be friends. The realisation hit me like a lightning bolt that I was 20 and a uni dropout from a dysfunctional family in rehab and he was 19, at uni and destined to be a success. Although geographically at that moment in time we were quite close (16.7 miles) metaphorically we were light years apart; a gap too wide to bridge.
My Christmas experience continued full throttle, from opening my presents with family in front of a therapist so I could ‘express any feelings or emotions in a safe forum’ and so she could check my parents weren’t slipping me a wrap of coke inside each book cover to the most erotic experience of my young life (I still blush at the thought even though it’s strictly PG!) via a table fire and having my much desired Christmas day lunch turn in to a washout as someone threw a jug of water over it. I ended up watching Lord of the Rings in front of a roaring fire with the motley band of strangers, now firmly bonded together by our experiences at the coalface of addiction.