“Can I see your ID?”
I pulled my driver’s license out of my wallet and dropped it on the counter in front of the young woman.
She looked at it and said, “Okaaaay, thank you.” She wrote my name down on some bureaucratic form. Then she asked, “And what’s your phone number?”
I gave it to her.
“And this bag is for this person?” The woman told me the person’s name.
“Now, what do you have in the bag?”
“Uh, clothes hangers, feminine hygiene stuff…”
My wife interjected, “Lotion.”
“Yeah, and cigarettes. I’m not sure what else…”
The young woman cut me off, “That’s good enough. I just needed some idea of what you all brought in. Thank you.”
My wife, Karin, and I took our seats in the waiting area while the girl put the bag somewhere in the depths of the office.
As we sat, I noticed a sign above the counter. It read: “Color of the Day/Color de Dia”
Below that was written: “blue/azul”.
The sign confused me. What was this “color of the day” thing? Were the residents of this drug treatment center supposed to wear certain colors on certain days? Was it some kind of way for the patients to show solidarity?
I hadn’t read far enough. Below the color, it said, “If your color is posted, you have to drop before noon on that day. No excuses!”
Suddenly, it was all clear to me. Each resident was assigned a specific color. When that color was posted in the morning, every resident with that hue had to take a random drug screen. The person we were visiting at the treatment facility no doubt was assigned a color.
Anybody who is in residential treatment is required to be clean and sober. That seems glaringly obvious, but patients still want their fix, and some try to beat the system. That makes no sense, but if a person is in treatment for an addiction, they by definition aren’t thinking clearly. Some folks just can’t do without the drug, even while they are trying to get away from it.
The people running the treatment facility try to stop contraband from entering the facility. If something does slip in, then the random drug screen will show when it’s going out. My experience with these treatment centers is that there is zero tolerance for smuggling, or for using. If a resident is caught doing either of those things, they leave, immediately.
It has to be like that. The fact is that all the residents are battling an addiction, a life-threatening disease. Most of them are probably there because they damn near died. They overdosed on something, wound up in the ER of a hospital, and then went to detox. A person who is using in a treatment center is like somebody with COVID in an old folk’s home. That person has to go. Lives are at stake.
When my wife and I first entered the building, we met a group of women residents who were coming for their afternoon therapy session. Almost all of them were smoking. That’s pretty standard. If a person can’t get the drug of choice, then they go to the next best thing. The cigarettes will probably kill them eventually, but not nearly as fast as meth or smack. These people don’t need to be completely drug-free. At this point, they just need to survive.
It’s easy for me to observe the residents and think, “Damn, they look rough.” Of course, they do. People getting chemo for cancer look pretty damn rough too. Anybody who’s fighting a chronic, debilitating illness is going to look rough.
I saw something else when I looked at the residents. I saw courage. These people are hurting. There is no doubt about that, but they are also fighters. They haven’t given up. The person we were visiting has not given up. These folks are trying to rebuild their lives, and the odds may be against them. They still have hope. They keep going.
I admire that.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.