My first night in rehab, I was put in a room with a heroin addict. I was groggy from the medicine the nurse had given me to soften the cut from alcohol—for an alcoholic or for any kind of addict for that matter, immediately quitting could cause some internal issues dealing with the heart, and that was why the nurse gave me a pill.
He paced back and forth in the room, in the dark, grunting. With the light coming in from the gap under the door, I could see his silhouette—he looked muscular. I was terrified. Luckily, the medicine settled in, and I slept until the middle of the night when I was woken up by the nurse, who had taken my arm and strapped it with a monitoring band to check my vitals. They had to do this for the first five days. As I went back to sleep, I looked at the bed next to me and saw that it was empty. I looked around the room, and he was no longer there. I felt cold.
The next day I found out that the heroin addict jumped the fence. He didn’t need to, one of the counselors had mentioned. He could have left at any time through the door—anyone could leave whenever they wanted.
That night, I was alone in the room, and again, I was given the pill, but my anxiety—my fear of so many unknowns fought against the sedative effects. I didn’t want to be with my thoughts—I had let so many people down in so many ways. I was so scared and depressed, the guilt—all of it, made the room darker. I didn’t know how to cry that night.
I was already missing the heroin addict. Even though we never said a word to each other or acknowledge each other’s presence in any way, he was company. He kept me from thinking. I stayed awake until the nurse came in to check my numbers. It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to really sleep again—I had slept the whole day, not even realizing that the nurse had come in a few times to monitor my vitals.
I would think about him from time to time—he would randomly pop into my head. I was surprised how much he consumed my thoughts, for someone I had never interacted with aside from sharing a room for one night in rehab without any communication, I can still hear his grunts and the sound of his pacing. I wouldn’t recognize him if we were to cross each other’s paths—I hope, every day, that he made it—that maybe he was able to find help again, and that he was able to become clean. That’s what recovery is all about—hoping, praying, wishing that we all will make it whether we know each other or not because no matter what, we all share an addiction—a burden that no one else would ever understand, and that was what brought us all closer, an understanding of each other’s brain.
I remember, during one of our sessions, hearing that only 1 out of 10 of us won’t relapse within the first three months of leaving rehab. I remember we all looked at each other—who knew what we all were thinking, the statistics were against us, and I remember hearing that roughly 60% of us won’t make it through a year without giving in. Sometimes I think about how far I’ve come, sometimes I think about how far I have to go—either way, it’s one day at a time—and the heroin addict’s silhouette in the room that night will always be a reminder, a reminder that no matter what, if you look close enough, there can be a little light coming in from under the door and into the darkness.
Shome Dasgupta is the author of i am here And You Are Gone (Winner Of The 2010 OW Press Contest), The Seagull And The Urn (HarperCollins India), Anklet And Other Stories (Golden Antelope Press), Pretend I Am Someone You Like (Livingston Press), Mute (Tolsun Books), Spectacles (Word West), and a poetry collection, Iron Oxide (Assure Press). His fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction have appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Hobart, New Orleans Review, Redivider, New Delta Review, Magma Poetry, and elsewhere. He is currently the series editor of the Wigleaf Top 50. He lives in Lafayette, LA and can be found at www.shomedome.com and @laughingyeti.