I made it to my first outpatient appointment. I was anxious. I was ready. I was going to kill this interview! It was late fall in a small town outside of Lake Placid, NY. The Adirondacks are beautiful any time of year but especially in the fall. The 45 minute drive was peaceful, almost meditative. I sat in the waiting area for about 10 minutes by myself. I found myself straightening out the throw rugs strewn about the carpeted room. I could tell they were trying to capture the “Adirondack” feel but missed. With the old carpet and wood wall paneling, it felt more like my grandparents summer camp by the river. Nice to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there.
I met with a 30-something young lady who came off as enthusiastic and passionate. “Lets get started. I just have a few questions to ask and log in our system.”
“That’s cool. I am anxious to get started. Thank you for meeting with me today. I really appreciate it.”
“How many days a week do you drink?” She asked.
“Well… everyday. Thats why I am here. My drinking is out of control.”
“When you do drink, how many drinks do you have?”
“I don’t measure my drinking by drinks, I measure it by liters. I am part French Canadian, I try to use the metric system when I can.”
“So, that’s a yes”. She ignored my attempt of levity. She was committed to the list of questions at hand. “Do you often drink alone?” she asked.
“I prefer to drink alone. I do not like people judging me. When I am out with other people, I like to pretend that I am not a drinker. Do you know that song ‘I drink alone…’ ?”
“So, that is a yes. Do you miss work because of drinking?”
“I am missing work now, talking to you, because I drink too much.”
“So, that is a yes”
At this point I had pretty much given up at making this fun. For the next 20 minutes I answered questions that seemed pointless. At the conclusion of the questioning session she asked “What is a good time for you next week to finish the intake process?”
“What?” I asked. The ‘intake’ is not over?
“We need to finish the questionnaire”
“What is the purpose of the questionnaire?”
“To properly assess if you have an addiction problem or not”
“I am telling you I have an addiction problem. I am here because I am about to lose everything.”
“Its just part of the process. We will dig into it once we are done with this.” she said.
“You realize I wanted to go into inpatient last week.” I said.
“You should try outpatient first. We are very good.”
“I need to stop drinking now. I can’t wait. I am about to lose my job. Can we just finish the questionnaire now?” I was getting nervous. Anxiety rising again.
“We can’t now. Insurance wont allow it. We have to finish next week and then we can start counseling. Oh…and do not stop drinking. YOU COULD DIE if you do” she was really trying to wrap things up. I could tell she had another appointment and needed me out of her office.
“Before I leave, can you tell me where I can detox? I really need to stop drinking.”
“You can go to Potsdam. They have the only facility in the area. Here is their number.” she handed me a card with their address and telephone number.
I called from my car before I left the parking lot.
“Thank you for calling Scott. We will log that you have called. Please keep calling every morning so that we accurately log your attempts.”
“What?” I said. It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement of bewilderment.
“You have to call every day so that we know you are serious.”
“What?” Again, not so much a question.
“If you call every day for two weeks, we can get you in here. If you miss a day, you drop to the bottom of the list again.”
“We have 6 beds. There are about 50 people trying to get in. If you are serious you will call everyday and you will get in. Oh… and DO NOT stop drinking. YOU COULD DIE!” He said and hung up.
This was a challenge for sure. I was up for it. I played sports all my life and I know a challenge when I see it. This was going to take discipline. Commitment. Aggressiveness. I am going to KICK ASS!
I missed the morning call about 5 days into it. Just before my next appointment to finish the questionnaire.
“Do you have any family members that are alcholics?”
“Let me think. Brother. Father. Grandfather. Grandfatherssss. Uncles. Aunts. I am pretty sure my sperm are alcoholics.” Ok. I didn’t say the sperm thing. But you get my point.
She pressed on “Do you ever experience ‘black outs’. Where you don’t remember what happened the night before.”
“That’s pretty much my goal every night!” I smiled. That was a good one.
“So that’s a yes.” She pressed on.
At the end of the questioning I explained the situation with detox. She had an excellent solution. “If you simply show up at the emergency room with withdrawal symptoms, by law, they HAVE to take you.”
I whished I had that information 3 weeks ago. I drove straight to Potsdam to the emergency room, another 45 minutes away. I wasn’t exactly sure what withdrawal symptoms were, but I was sure I had them by mid-afternoon if I had not drank that morning. Shakes. Sweats. Nausea. Headache. By the time I would get to Potsdam, I was sure to start having these signs.
When I arrived at the ER, I was in withdrawal. I felt a sense of relief. I was finally going to get some help. The ER sent me straight up to the detox facility. There seemed to have been only one person on the floor. He instructed me to have a seat and would get to me when he could.
After about 20 minutes he approached me “You are Scott? You started calling last week, right?”
“Yes. Yes. Thats me.”
“I told you, you have to call every morning. There are no shortcuts.” he told me. He was obviously angry.
I remember thinking “You son of a bitch. You freaking ‘detox nazzi'” He was obviously on a power trip. He enjoyed controlling the precious six beds. He was the gate keeper. The troll under the bridge with the 3 riddles.
“Go home. Have a few beers. Keep calling. DO NOT STOP DRINKING.”