In other narratives like this people often say, “I don’t know how we came to this point,” or ask “How could we end up here?” But as I glanced around at the people and the building, which tried hard not to be, but so obviously was a rehab clinic, I didn’t pretend to be stupid. It doesn’t make me feel better.
Their eyes are tired. Tired from long nights of crying, worrying or the anticipation of the return of somebody they thought had all but died a long time ago.
At the end of the hall, there’s a table. None of the gifts are wrapped, because they would have to be opened by the wrong person anyway. Sterile, gloved hands search for contraband: stuff that can be torn apart and used by the patients to harm themselves, or get high. Why anyone would think to bring those things is beyond me.
After checking in we walk through some double doors into the cafeteria. There were drink machines, potted plants, plenty of natural light coming through the windows—the only stark reminder of where you are is a giant poster about “The Twelve Steps” screwed into the wall.
People shuffle in and out. There’s more crying, hugging and awkward pauses, because no one really knows what to say. We end up making small talk with someone we love.
As we sit, I look around some more at the other people. They huddle around their table and chit-chat.
We talk about everything else except the reason we came to see him. We talk about what I’m doing in school, what the soccer team looks like this year. The closest we come to discussing it is when we ask him how he’s feeling, how the group sessions are going, how long he has to keep going to meetings once he leaves.
Outside it was sunny, but the mood was no different. We try to stay under a shady tree and talk about all the things there are to do outdoors. He asks if we can bring his disc golf bag and some cigarettes next time.
As we get ready to leave I’m told not to look at him or wave goodbye— some rule they told us that I still don’t understand—but I can’t help myself. We see him smoking on the porch. He waves and so do I, only to have my hand yanked back down.
Years have passed and I consider myself lucky to have come away from that place without having lost him when some of the other people there that day were not as fortunate.
Maybe you can control smoking marijuana. Maybe terminally ill people need it to ease their pain. I don’t buy the legalization arguments enough to let it slide for the sake of any one person who decides to destroy their life.
Whenever I hear about people getting into crazy things just because they were high out of their gourd, my stomach churns. I just want to sit down and tell them they don’t need it. People are worth so much more than they give themselves credit for, but they let themselves go to waste while their friends and family stand around and watch.