By Angel P. Vermicelli
To satisfy this publication's request for elaboration on my Asylum ordeal (mentioned in Tubular Tales), a request in turn prompted by a tsunami of reader's clamoring "Guestbook" queries-I, Vermicelli, will reveal some very small first parts of my experience at Dazenhel, Asylum for the Chemically Undependable.
Upon arriving, haphazardly packed bag in tow (remember I was in some rush to check-in), I was shown to my bunk in "intake". "Okay, open'er'up!", a rather congenial looking young orderly directed, nodding towards my suitcase. "We gotta check it out, standard procedure!"
Nonplussed at least, I asked why I should allow this invasive action. After all, I was voluntarily acceding to this Treatment, had just charged $16,000 to an already bursting credit limit to be allowed participation in the Treatment, and was not just a little depressed and frightened. Most other times this happened I'd at least had the right to demand to see a warrant, or else was under arrest and handcuffed.
The orderly rolled his eyes. "Where are you?", he sighed as if he'd had this discussion sometime before. "Well, I BELIEVE SIR that I am standing in a small room before a small orderly, in front a small bunk, in the "intake" ward of the Dazenhel Asylum for the Chemically Undependable." "So what does that make you?", he asked. I wasn't prepared for that question, and it rapidly expelled the helium from my rhetorical balloon. Cornered, I got testy. "Well SIR, I suppose that you are going to tell me. And then, perhaps you'd like to probe my anal cavity?!"
He did...tell me, and in a maddeningly calm fashion. "If you are 'probed' it will be by the Nurse. Notwithstanding that, you my friend, have just admitted yourself to the Dazenhel Asylum for the Chemically Undependable. That makes you, sir, chemically undependable. You see, we here at the Asylum are experts and know everything there is to possibly know about you. The most important thing we know about you is that you are chemically undependable. That means I can't depend on you not to be carrying all sorts of illicit syringes, bags of power, bags of weed, bottles of pills, pints of booze, oil vials, and nose dropper bottles filled with opiate solutions."
Opiate-filled nasal spray bottles? "Yes sir, the search is for your own good and the welfare and safety of the other patients." "But, I'm just a drunk-I don't know anything about all this crazy other stuff!!", I exclaimed now on the defensive. "Yes, well sir, I actually believe you. To me you look like an average, garden variety, pathetic alcoholic in desperate need of our Treatment. But, even though I am pretty sure about that-can't you see that I can't DEPEND ON THAT!!??
I was beaten. The infuriatingly circular logic of the exchange had exhausted my will to resist. I allowed the search, and it turned out to be the first of the many such resignations leading, paradoxically enough, to my ultimate victory and salvation.
My first assignment in treatment was to make out a written list. List every single drink or drug you ever took in your entire life in chorological order and write down beside it how much it cost you in monetary terms. Multiply unit drink or drug prices by the quantities for an extended valuation. Include your expenses for lawyers, bail, fines, car repair, and temporary driver's licenses. Include the opportunity of cost of your missed days of work multiplied by your hourly rate at the time, include the cost of all previous treatments, include the cost of this treatment, include emergency room visits, in short, calculate the total sum (monetary) cost to you and society caused by your sick compulsion.
As I am pretty good with spreadsheets, figures, and other financial analysis-I figured this little exercise would take no time at all. But first (ha, ha), I was going to see if these people KNEW anything about what they were really asking. I poked my head into my counselor's office and disingenuously inquired, "Do you want me to take into account the time value of money? And, if so, what pray tell would you advise me to use for a rate of discount to obtain a 'present value'? What time granularity do you advise for the discounting process....?" "Not necessary to do that Angel, I get asked that all the time, unadjusted absolute values are acceptable as I input all this into a program that calculates the fully discounted NEGATIVE cash flows quite automatically. Now, go back and get to work."
Four hours and one pencil stub later, drained but proud, I returned to the counselor with my seventeen (17) page analysis. By the way, the figure was $177,529.13-modest for a drug addict, but very respectable for a middle-aged-middle-income alcoholic.
"Tell me what you learned from this experience," he began. I was quite prepared for this one, and was able to go right to the heart of it. "First of all, I have learned that my mind and recall is every bit as good as it ever was-as you can no doubt see by the minute amount of detail registered here and going back for 25 years by month. Secondly, I have seen the awful impact of inflation on the prices of liquor, not to mention the increasing onus of the 'sin tax' imposed by our candy-assed liberal legislatures. Third, I observe my proclivity towards drinking higher and higher priced liquors in more and more high-toned drinking establishments as demanded by my rising social status and enabled by my ever increasing income due to my phenomenal success in business. Should I continue?"
"That won't be necessary," he said. "You can go now, back to join the others on the unit as it's just about 'Meeting Time'".
Later that afternoon, after thinking and thinking and thinking about that very strange session, it hit me. THAT BLOODY PIECE OF PAPER ACTUALLY WAS SAYING THAT I WAS TOTALLY OUT OF MY MIND AND WAS IN THE GRIPS OF A PROGRESSIVE ILLNESS THAT HAD ME DOWN FOR THE COUNT AND WAS, FRANKLY, OUT TO KILL ME! I rushed back to the counselor's quarters to report on the epiphany.
"Thank you, Angel", was all he had to say.