My mom had not budged an inch since making her decree: if I wanted to live at home, I had to go to and complete rehab.
She had been able to force me in the first time, in the middle of my senior year of high school when I was seventeen. I stayed an eventful two weeks. Over those fourteen days, Kurt Cobain killed himself after escaping a rehab he too had been forced into, and my roommate (who had a habit of fucking fruit after lights out) had a full on frothing at the mouth withdrawal- related seizure in the pool.
But most importantly to our story, I turned eighteen. In order to absolve myself of personal responsibility (and hopefully garner some let me come home wiggle room with my mom) I forced the rehab's administration to kick me out by refusing to attend all groups and daily activities. I was putting all my early release eggs on the sophist idea that if I was ejected from the facility, that was, say, different from just up and leaving the facility. Perhaps, my con cried out, Mom, I tried. Perhaps, my con kvetched, but they just wouldn’t let me.
But Mom slice said no dice and stuck to her enabler-free guns. I would not be allowed anywhere near our familial homestead until I completed a thirty day inpatient program.
No sleep (at home) till rehab.
So I finished my senior year of high school living at a house where my friend Marie was trying to finish hers, due to similar circumstances. I just barely graduated, getting my good night's sleep with my head on the desk between final exams. A hunka hunka of burning mess, I was eventually banned from participating in my high school’s graduation ceremony for coming to the practice high and nodding out in what would have been my stage seat at the ceremony. If there was to be any silver lining to this debacle, it was the sweetness shown to me by my closest alphabetical neighbor in class roll call. He and I had never gotten along, but trying to get me to come out of my heroin- induced stupor, he showed an endearing side of himself I’d never seen during all our years of school together.
“Wake up, Fiona!” he said, grabbing my hand and then squeezing it. “You have to open your eyes!”
His actions that day wiped clean a slate filled with twelve years of accumulated hallway dickery.
Baring a miracle, my original post- high school plan of attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City was out of the question, though at this point, it really held no interest to me anyway. The whole trajectory of my life had changed with one snort of heroin off the floor of a reasonable clean Subway Sandwich shop bathroom. Here I was, only a few, scant months later, homeless, baring rehab.
And I kind of thought it was great.
Making the best of my situation, I pandered to my punk rock identification and its off -shoot sensibility of dirty, smelly transience as a revolutionary act. I indulged myself, allowing myself to believe there was actually something insurrectionary about making your place of residence a sidewalk and letting your day start whenever you said it did, regardless of the sun’s place in the sky. The delusion I was stickin' it to the man sustained me, as I partook in what was essentially the same hippie lifestyle from the 60’s, but with darker clothes, different music and distain for hippies.
That summer, I traveled to California and stayed in Berkeley, a place I’d read about and wanted to visit for years, mostly because of a fascination with the decade that I denied my lifestyle emulated. Spending about five minutes in the hallowed People’s Park, the rest of the trip was spent mooching food, bumming change and fighting with the people I was traveling with. The trip sucked and I was mentally and physically exhausted- in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I did harbor ambitions’ for my life besides living off of other peoples generosities’ and then ranking on them for the choices that afforded them the ability to be generous.
Though not done with drugs, I was done with the chaos of that summer’s unstable living conditions and that big, empty feeling that came from knowing I was not doing an iota of what I could have been with my life.
I wanted to come home.
Mom, I will go to rehab and I will stay.
My mom played her tough love role to the hilt. She had been well- schooled by her Love The Addict, Hate the Disease self- help books and the Al-Anon support group meetings she had attended in my absence. She wouldn’t even pick me up at the shopping center I was living behind (sleeping on cardboard boxes with two other destitute romanticists) and dispatched my uncle to ferry me to the rehab.
“That,” he said, after we exchanged luke- warm pleasantries as I boarded his truck, “is a hair don’t.”
My friend Theo had attempted to give me a Chelsea girl haircut earlier in the month but I had opted for the only ‘do choice remaining- a completely shaved head- when I hadn’t liked the results. My Manson family post Charlie’s conviction coif was then jazzed with haphazardly applied random black spots- the concept being leopard print, the reality being sloppy, haphazardly applied random black spots.
There was a Rorschach test on my head.
“Shut up!” I said, like the brat kid I was. Though I was acquiescing to my mother’s demands I was still resentful about them and made sure my family knew it.
As things stood, all I had to wear over my impending 28 day stay was the effluvium rich clothing on my back- A Die, Die, Die my Darling Misfits t-shirt and pair of cut off black thermal shorts with one other every third day rotator t- shirt in my bag. The rehab I was going to was in close proximity to Rhode Island and a popular beach area. My mom, thinking ahead to cover any reasons I might later concoct to justify going AWOL, had given my uncle a shopping bag containing new shorts and shirts, shoes and a beach towel. Digging deeper into the bag, I could feel something made of stretchy, clingy material. Considering the towel, I had a feeling as to what it was. I pulled it out.
A fucking bikini.
Blue, with black polka dots.
“Goes with your hair,” my uncle said, raising his eyebrows as he spoke.
© Fiona Helmsley