Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chapter 20 ~ Wait Listed

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

Project 60 had no openings that day—a Sunday. If Eddy wanted a slot in their program, they said he would have to show up for an interview on Tuesday. They also recommended a 72-hour stay at Palm Avenue Detoxification Center, which would provide proof that the client was clean and sober. Palm Avenue was not a requirement for admission, but it could create a recommendation, smoothing the way into a program that was currently full. No one would be admitted to Project 60 unless they had at least three days clean and sober, the man on the phone told us. Palm Avenue, unfortunately, was also full.

Once we were all home, we developed one focus: get Eddy into this program as quickly as possible. We were told to continue calling every six hours or so, to see if a bed opened up at Palm Avenue. “People are free to go whenever they want here. It’s not a locked facility,” the woman on the phone explained. “So you never know when someone will decide to just get up and quit, which opens up a bed for a newcomer.”

I called them back every six hours.

We wanted Eddy to go into this particular program for a few different reasons. One was, we’d had success with it in the past—or at least with its close relative. It was the male counterpoint of the Women’s Recovery Center, the place my sister Francine had gone for 60 days and emerged a well woman. After 25 years of progressively more drunken and self-damaging behavior, Francine had agreed to seek help at the residential center during a intervention we’d planned with the help of a professional (“you sit there,” “you say this,” “you hug her and swing her around when she enters, into the middle of the circle, away from the door”). Miraculously, Francine had been clean and sober ever since. Even six years later, she sometimes cried with gratitude for the sisters who had pushed her into the program, for the life that had been restored to her there.

Her boyfriend Dan had graduated from Project 60, located on the same San Mateo street as the Woman’s Recovery Center. We called them now to see if they had some advice on how we could get Eddy in. Dan said he would call some of his buddies and pull strings.

Once we’d heard the confession in Santa Cruz, Eddy’s addiction to drugs seemed so obvious. How could we not have recognized it before? “Of course he’s been on drugs. That’s why he lost so much weight,” Lawrence told me.

“That explains the glassy eyes,” I added.

“That’s why his behavior has been erratic,” Lawrence said.

“A crying jag is listed on this Internet site as one of the symptoms of coming down from crystal meth.”

We nodded together in our newfound knowledge, and waited for a rehab slot to open up for our son. But none did.

Two days later, Eddy went to the interview. Afterwards, a man called to tell me he was on the waiting list. Mostly, the program paid for itself by enrolling its members on General Assistance and then taking their checks, he explained. Since Eddy was 18 and unemployed, this plan would work for him. But if we could also make a donation, he might be bumped up on the waiting list and be able to enter the program sooner.

“What kind of donation?” I asked him. “How much?”

“$3,300 would probably do it,” he said. “That would probably get him in.”

“I think we can afford that. We can agree to that,” I told him. “We’ll find it somewhere.”

“Let me talk to my supervisor. I’ll call you back.”

“I’ll be waiting to hear.”

When I told Dan what the man on the phone had said, he was outraged. “That isn’t right,” he said. “This is supposed to be a free program.” But I remembered that we’d had to pay for Francine’s rehabilitation. And $3,300 to reclaim our son didn’t sound like too much, now.

Meanwhile, I looked on the Internet for other options. Thunder Road in the East Bay sounded like a good program for teenagers, but as it turned out, after I made the phone calls, they didn’t really want an 18-year-old crystal meth addict. He might prove detrimental to the younger kids.

“The Farm” was a possibility in the Santa Cruz mountains. The man on the phone said we could bring him in that night. There was a 24-hour admission policy. But the description on the web site sounded more like a resort than a rehab center—swimming pool, hot tubs, tennis courts—as did the price tag, $18,000 a month.

Another rehab center in the Napa Valley had a similar feel and pricetag, as did multiple options in Southern California. Some outpatient programs, which required attendance 8 hours a day, five days a week, could be had for $5,500-$7,000 a month. But I wasn’t sure that an outpatient program would be effective. I wasn’t sure of very much.

I called our insurance company to ask about an inpatient program offered at our local hospital, and was told that residential drug treatment wasn’t covered on our plan. They would pay for one, perhaps two, one-hour counseling sessions a week.

“You’re kidding,” I told the poor receptionist angrily. “Two counseling sessions a week just isn’t going to work for a drug addict, now is it?”

It seemed like Project 60 was going to be our best bet. Lawrence and I talked quietly together about how we would pay for it. Even the $3,300 donation was going to be hard to come up with. Lawrence had decided he liked his new job as a part-time bookkeeper for a small company in San Mateo—but it was a job he’d landed, in part, by agreeing to start at a low rate of pay for a three-month trial period. I was a schoolteacher. We didn’t have that kind of money in our checking account.

We did have, though, a college fund for our three children, money stashed at a brokerage house that Lawrence had inherited and we had been adding to each month. We agreed that we would pay for it out of Eddy’s college money. “If he doesn’t kick this habit, he won’t be able to go to college,” we reasoned. That seemed fair to us. But we knew it wouldn’t seem fair to Eddy, who cherished that money. We worried over the confrontation that would eventually ensue when we told him.

Meanwhile, as we waited, Ed got more and more agitated. He began making the phone calls to Project 60 and Palm Avenue himself, which we thought was a good sign. He pressured the people to let him in, but they were unresponsive. Even our offer of the requested $3,300 donation didn’t gain him an opening. And as more days passed, he lost enthusiasm for the plan.

The atmosphere in the house was tense. I thought he shouldn’t ever go out alone. “Right now, we’re acting like Palm Avenue—watching you. How will we be able to prove you’ve been clean and sober for three days if we haven’t been constantly watching you?” I asked.

Then one day, Eddy walked out the front door when I wasn’t looking. Lawrence sat passively on the couch and shook his head at me as I rushed out in search of him. I got on the bike and cruised up and down the streets around the house, finally spotting him walking quickly away from me, his light blue U.S. Postal Service shirt open and blowing in the wind.

“Eddy,” I called out to him, pedaling quickly to catch up.

“What do you want?” he scowled. “Go away.”

“I was just worried about you. I wanted to know where you were going.”

“I’m going for a walk. I can’t stay cooped up in the house all the time!” he yelled out me without slowing his pace.

“Are you going out to do drugs?” I asked pathetically.

“No, I’m not going out to do drugs, Mother,” he said acidly, as if the question was ridiculous.

“But how do we know for sure? What will we tell Project 60?”

“I don’t give a damn what we tell Project 60! They aren’t letting me in anyway.” Eddy cut quickly to the left and began running to get away from me.

I stopped my bike and watched him recede down the street, shirttails flying, before turning around and pedaling dejectedly home.

When I sat on the couch next to Lawrence, I got no sympathy.

“What are you doing, chasing after him?” he said angrily.

“I don’t know what I’m doing! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do! Project 60 says we have to prove he’s been clean and sober for three days before they’ll let him in. I guess I’m just trying to watch him. Watch him so I can say he didn’t do any drugs and they can let him in.”

“Well you know what, even if he was here in the house, you couldn’t watch him 24 hours a day anyway. You can’t watch him when you’re sleeping. You can’t watch him when he’s sitting in the back room with the door closed. It’s just crazy and neurotic to go chasing him down in the street.”

“I guess you’re right,” I admitted. “I just panicked when I realized he had gone out. I just instinctively wanted to go after him to bring him back.” Lawrence shook his head.

When Eddy did come back, much later, he told us he was leaving the next day to go camping with his friend Charles.

“But Eddy,” I protested. “What about Project 60? Don’t you think getting into a rehab program takes priority over going on a vacation?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I thought so a week ago when Dad brought up the idea in Santa Cruz. I thought so five days ago when I went to the interview. I thought so yesterday, when I called Project 60 and Palm Avenue three times, trying to talk one of them into letting me in. But now, I’m not even sure that’s what I need any longer. I think what I need is to be out in the forest. To be homeless. To meditate. To be alone. I was telling that to Charles online last night and he invited me on this three-day camping trip.”

“I don’t want you to go, Eddy. I think we should talk this over with Dad.” I turned to Lawrence for support, who hadn’t yet said anything.

“Well, you two can talk it over all you want while I go pack.” Eddy turned on his heel and left the room.

“Dammit!” I said. “What is with that fucking program? Why can’t they just let him in right now?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you think of this idea of going camping?”

“Well, I’m pretty sure Charles isn’t a crystal meth addict.”

“That’s true, I guess. But we were pretty sure Eddy wasn’t, either, and we were wrong.”

“It may be Eddy’s right. This may be what he needs. Charles is a reasonable, sober boy. He’s not a drug addict. This might have a good effect on Eddy. In any case, the program isn’t letting him in, and the way he’s acting, if he doesn’t go camping, he might just disappear anyway—then we’d have no idea where he was. Besides, there’s no way we’ll be able to stop him from going, so we might as well wish him a good camping trip.”

Come back next Sunday to read the next chapter, or buy a paperback copy of the whole novel HERE.

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