With the appearance of the November issues of women’s magazines on the shelves, the December issues cannot be far behind. As always, the November covers focus on being thankful and on losing weight while eating holiday meals. I’m sure that, as always, the December covers will use the word, ”gift” to refer to something that money cannot buy. And losing weight. Of course I am thankful for my family (unless I am irritated by them) and the best gift I have ever received really was something that money cannot buy. Which surprises me, I love things that cost money!
In 2005 I went to rehab. Now called Las Encinas Hospital, the facility I went to was originally, The Southern California Sanitarium for Nervous Diseases and was described as, “a general medical sanitarium for chronic conditions including the psycho-neuroses and for fatigue states,” Much as I wish I’d just stopped by to rest up and get out of a “fatigue state,” I was there for thirty days with the idea that once those thirty days were done I wouldn't drink anymore. If you stop a moment to picture a mental hospital (I mean, let’s call a spade a spade here) that was built in 1904, that big, creepy Vincent Price-type building you’re picturing is pretty dead on. Also, I was there in January and it poured rain the entire month! Okay, most of the month but it felt like it rained the entire time.
After “detoxing” I was moved to one of the “bungalows.” I was supposed to have a roommate but the girls they kept assigning to live with me couldn't stay sober long enough to get out of the lock-down building and into a bungalow so I had the place to myself. There’s a lot of “togetherness” in rehab what with all of the groups and activities and meetings and all so I liked the solitude of my creepy little bungalow in the rain.
My husband visited me every day and my children came by often. My parents came to see me once and when the front desk confiscated the glass vase my mother was carrying and handed her back the naked, dripping flowers I had to explain to her that I wasn't allowed anything I could harm myself with. Because she was still confused as to how a small, glass vase could be harmful I elaborated, explaining that I could break the vase and use the shards to slit my wrists. My mother spent the rest of her visit peering into desk drawers and looking under lampshades, afraid that I’d become suddenly and creatively suicidal.
One night while I was in line for meds at the nurses’ station, my husband appeared and told me to come to my bungalow. He had a surprise for me. I told him he’d have to wait a few minutes, I wanted my meds first. I was an addict, after all, if I couldn't drink I certainly didn't want to miss an opportunity to ingest a mind-altering substance no matter how weak and unsatisfying it might be. I could sense his impatience with me but he waited until I got my meds and we ran through the rain to my bungalow. (In case you think the whole rain thing is hyperbolic, it was actually raining that night. It’s totally part of the story.) Inside my bungalow was a damp cardboard box and lying on my bed was my equally damp cat! Icky Cat and I cuddled together, both of us grateful to be together again. Although my husband sneaking a large, wet yowling cat into Las Encinas probably sheds light on how my potential roommates kept relapsing on meth even though they never left the grounds, I have never loved him more or received a better gift since.
So, yes, November magazine covers, I know what I am most thankful for. And when December hits the newsstands, I’m ready to reveal the greatest gift I have ever received. And to learn how to lose weight over the holidays.