The Stripper and Fur Elise Part 3

It’s called your Hot Seat. You sit down with a jury of your peers and your counselor hands you a list of Assets and Liabilities for staying sober once you’ve left the comfortable womb of Valley Hope and ventured into the Outside World. The entire patient group has written down on a piece of paper, anonymously, a particular asset or liability of your character that might be an aid or a hindrance in your efforts to stay sober. I’m fairly certain this occurs at many treatment facilities across the country, so I don’t think I’m letting any cat out of the bag by writing about it. It occurs your fourth week of a 30-day program (that is, unless your insurance company feels that you’re sufficiently “cured” of your addiction and you get shuffled out the door at 3 weeks. My parents, God bless them, ponied up for the extra week of rehab, so I got to “graduate” on time). By that time, everyone in the entire patient group has had the chance to encounter everyone else in an individual or group setting and the natural dynamic of your character shines.

Michaela was handed 2 sheets of paper for her Liabilities. That’s a lot. Most people, at least when I was there, were handed one sheet of paper for their liabilities and one for the assets. And the list didn’t even necessarily take up the whole sheet. You then read, out loud to the group, the contents of each sheet. Many of the suggestions advise against “hanging out with old playmates” and “playgrounds” or how your job might necessarily lead to “going back out.” Valid points, certainly. I mean after all, a couple guys in the group were bartenders, so do the math on that. But a good chunk of them pertained to intimate details about the person and posited valuable insights. Truly it was a valuable tool for rehab and recovery.

Now, I should interject here, by the time it was time for people to write down my liabilities and assets, I was curious to see just how closely those pieces of paper were screened before someone typed them up (If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I have a penchant for trying to find the “funny” in most situations. Sue me) So when it came my day for folks to write down my liabilities and assets, I took a couple sheets and for Assets (again, it was anonymous) I wrote something to the effect of “I honestly can’t tell why this guy is not the President of the United States yet” and for my liability I wrote “None as far as I can tell.” I then dropped both pieces of paper into the bucket along with everyone else. Well when I read out loud my sheets, I got a fair amount of laughter from the group when I revealed that I had written those. My counselor Jim didn’t laugh. So there, Jim, I admitted it was not funny and this was a serious process that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Okay?

Anyway, Michaela started to read aloud her list of Liabilities. I don’t wish to get too detailed on this, so I’ll just say the phrases “bragging” “not taking this seriously” and “obnoxious” were mentioned and mentioned often. Then Michaela was allowed the chance to defend herself. I guess she was taken aback enough with the volume of criticism that she simply didn’t talk at first. Though I do remember she said “Wow” a few times and there were a couple halted attempts to address the group. I don’t know if that was the first time that she had heard all of those things before, but I think the group certainly made a few significant points. And to her credit, some of the assets commented on her natural intelligence, which she clearly had, and it seemed a universal thought that she let herself get bogged down in the quagmire of addiction, something every person in the group was guilty of to some degree, but Michaela to almost epic levels.

“Now,” her counselor said to all of us, “I want Michaela to walk up to each member of this group and I want that person to look her in the eye and say something positive.” By this time, I had pretty much resorted to fleeing anytime I saw her coming, so it was definitely not easy for me to do this. But, when she got to me, I looked her in the eyes and said “You’ve talked about how you’ve been in and out of rehab for so long. I just really hope this time, something sticks.” And I gave her a little smile. And perhaps best of all, she did graduate from Valley Hope, something else she had said was most definitely not her modus operandi.

I wish her well.

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