I woke up just before six this morning. I always wake up around that time these days. I don’t use or need an alarm clock anymore. I don’t stay up late often and I haven’t been hungover in five weeks because I haven’t had a drink in five weeks. I usually look forward to climbing into bed sometime between ten and eleven, reading for a bit and then falling asleep either to music or a podcast.
The person sharing my room is not my wife but my room mate in the rehab facility where I currently spend my days and five nights a week. He doesn’t say much, which is okay. I’ve gotten used to it. He’s much more accustom to sharing a room with a stranger than I am seeing as he recently told a group of us he’s been in jail thirty-three times in the last eight years. And he’s heading back soon. Maybe it’s okay that he’s quiet. I don’t want to disrupt his style.
Today, Friday, is typically an easy day in treatment and an easy day to look forward to because it’s the day when I can go home for the weekend. Like every day, breakfast is at seven-thirty and then it’s chore time. This week my duties included cleaning all the classrooms, a TV room, a weight room, a meditation room and a small bathroom. Each room requires vacuuming but because it’s done every day, it doesn’t take too long. Maybe forty minutes for the whole thing. Then I have to make my bed so that it looks crisp, sweep and mop the floor of my bedroom, wipe down all the bureau surfaces and empty the garbage. I do this every day. Somehow, I almost enjoy it. Or maybe I just enjoy completing the tasks more than the tasks themselves but after a while it all amounts to the same thing.
Next, we all take our turns blowing into a tube for our carbon monoxide test. If you smoke, you are expelled. We also take periodic urine tests. If you drink or use, you are expelled.
The fifteen residents then gather in the family room, read a couple of passages from AA-type books and then go around the room and share our thoughts and feelings about yesterday’s experiences and today’s coming challenges. We then gather in a circle, recite the Serenity Prayer, group hug and then we’re free to go for the weekend. We sign out our phones from the office, grab our gym or book bags and head to the bus for points unknown.
I’m one of the few residents who has a home to go to. For that I feel lucky every day. And so I bade farewell to my housemates and headed home. But before I could get there, I needed to get some blood work done at a nearby clinic and then I had to pick up dinner for my wife and myself. Braised chicken with a creamy leek sauce and Lyonnaise potatoes. One of my favourites, though it doesn’t taste quite the same without the white wine called for in the recipe.
I also went to the liquor store and bought some supplies for my wife. It wasn’t a chore by any means but visiting a liquor store isn’t as much fun when you know cranberry juice is all that awaits you.
My trip was going well. The first bus was on time, the blood work took only ten minutes to complete, the second bus was there right away, all my shopping was in the same spot and my bus home arrived almost immediately. I actually texted my wife to tell her how great things were going. I was happy and light-hearted and I knew I would be home for lunch in about half an hour.
But then my bus started smoking and we passengers were forced to evacuate. Some were actually running off the bus and shouting with panicked fear. God dammit, I thought. Things were going so smoothly. As I later sat stewing in the cold bus shelter, ladened with my groceries and the wine I wasn’t going to drink, waiting for another bus, which took thirty minutes before it arrived, I started to feel a bit sorry for myself, upset by the circumstances that had unfolded. And then I began feeling angry with myself for being so easily frustrated. God dammit, I felt stupid and petty.
But then when my bus did come, and I wasn’t cold anymore, within twenty minutes I was on my street, walking to my home with my front door key in my hand two hundred yards and two minutes too early. And I had already stopped feeling sorry for myself. In fact, I was feeling very fortunate. Even grateful.
I felt grateful that I have a home to return to whereas many with whom I share a roof during the week don’t. I felt grateful that I haven’t been to jail every season for almost a decade like my room mate has.
I felt lucky that I didn’t get arrested as an eleven year old while robbing a drug dealer with my father as my twenty-six year old addict housemate did. I felt fortunate that I didn’t find my alcoholic father in a barn after he hanged himself like my housemate who cooked me breakfast this morning did a few years ago. No, my frustration was triggered by spending another thirty minutes on public transportation that was taking me to a home that provides me with safe shelter and to a woman who loves me. What more could I want or need and what more could I justifiably ask for?
So that was my Friday morning. I spent three hours trying to get home. But really, I think I’ve spent my whole life trying to get home. I think we’re all mostly trying to get back home. And the fourteen other men I now often share a house with, what we most have in common are not the walls and the roof that shelter us. It’s not our chores or our testimonials. It’s not even our different addictions. What we most have in common is our desire to somehow find our way home. And today, on this first Friday in March, I was able to find my way home.
We should all be so lucky.