The Exit Interview

I.  The Nurse

“Do you know how much longer he’ll be?”
The Patient had come to the nursing station to check on the Psychologist.  The Nurse knew that the man was already 15 minutes late for his appointment with the Patient and that it would be at least another 20 before he arrived.
“I’m sorry baby, he’s running late.  Sometimes it takes him awhile to get from the Evaluation Center back here to the Women’s Center.   I’ll come get you when he arrives.  Where are you waiting?”
“I’m in the Day Room. “
The girl seemed anxious and the Nurse wanted to tell her not to worry.  She’d spent three days with the Patient during her evaluation and, in her opinion, the girl had nothing to worry about.  The Patient had been warm and open with the other girls at the Women’s Center.  The girls who came in for evaluations were usually mad at the world and kept to themselves.  They never made friends with the other girls who were there for treatment.  And treatment was expensive!  $40,000 for three months of rehab was a lot to pay, but the Nurse knew that the kinds of girls that came to the Women’s Center could afford it.
The Nurse had been working at the Women’s Center for a few years now, and she thought she could tell who needed help and who didn’t.  And this Patient just didn’t seem like a girl who needed help.  She’d talked to the girl herself and, in her opinion, the girl’s five months of unassisted sobriety should speak for itself.
The Nurses got to see how the evaluation patients interacted with the residents of the Women’s Center, how– and if– they followed the rules, what they were like at meal times, and whether they were engaged in the activities they had to participate in.  And the Nurse had watched this girl.
The Psychologist finally arrived.  “She’ll be fine,” she thought to herself as she went to fetch the Patient.  “She’s got nothing to worry about.”
II.  The Director
She greeted the Psychologist, late as usual, as he met her in her office.  He’d asked her to sit in on the exit interview with the Patient, the interview he was more than thirty minutes late for.
The Director made a comment to the Psychologist as they walked past the entrance to the Day Room, which she thought was empty.
“Bringing those prescriptions here was a red flag for me.”  
The Patient had brought prescription bottles of three controlled substances to the Evaluation, which was only three days long.  The Patient explained that although she knew that she wouldn’t be allowed to take the prescriptions during her stay at the Women’s Center for the Evaluation, she had brought them in case the Evaluators needed proof that she was taking the narcotics pursuant to a valid prescription.  
The Psychologist nodded and murmured in agreement.  He had spent the most time with the Patient and was confident that his recommendation was warranted.  Even though he had only spoken to one out of the five references the Patient had listed, he told the Director that he didn’t think that hearing from the others would change his mind anyway.
The Nurse brought the Patient in.  The Director wondered if the Patient had been waiting in the Day Room.
“I wonder if she overheard my comment to the Psychologist.  If I had known that she was in there I would have been more careful, or at least more quiet, about what I said to the Psychologist,” the Director thought to herself.
The Director noted that the Patient looked anxious.  “As she should be,” she thought.  The Director knew what the Psychologist was going to say and was attending the meeting as a silent symbol of her support of the Psychologist’s recommendation.
She watched the girl as the Psychologist rifled through his papers, preparing to read his recommendation.  She was sure that the Psychologist’s recommendation was warranted.  She hadn’t reviewed the file but, in her mind, the fact that the Patient couldn’t even go three days without narcotics was proof enough that the girl needed treatment.  Wasn’t that why she brought the prescriptions with her?
“I’m sure she was full of excuses,” she continued to muse.  She kept her eyes on the girl, who was fidgeting nervously as the Psychologist straightened out his papers and prepared to read the recommendation.  “She should know what to expect,” she thought to herself.  “The past speaks for itself.”
III.  The Patient
The Psychologist was late and I was overdue for my exit interview.  I was beyond anxious as I waited in the Day Room of the Women’s Center.  I had brought my sketch pad and doodles to try to distract myself but as the minutes ticked by– 2, 4, 16, 20, 26, 31– my anxiety overwhelmed my ability to distract myself.  
By the time the Psychologist finally bothered to show up, nearly 35 minutes had passed since our appointment was supposed to begin.  I sat in the Day Room, too anxious to draw, ears peeled for any cue that he had finally arrived.
“…bringing those prescriptions here was a red flag for me….”
Her voice wasn’t far away.  She was probably in the hall, a few feet away from the entrance to the Day Room.  Her voice was familiar but I knew I’d never met her.  I pegged her for the Director of the Women’s Program, and I could hear the Psychologist speaking behind her.  They didn’t know I was in that room and they didn’t know I could hear them talking.  Talking about me.
The Nurse called me into the room and the Director introduced herself to me.  She had decided to attend my exit interview with the Psychologist.  I did not think this was a good sign.  Her presence and the comment I had overheard made me fear for the worst. I was not getting good news.
Going into the evaluation, I had been confident that I would leave with a favorable report.  I’d been clean for five months and was obviously stable. In my mind, this was all that mattered.
But as I sat through endless meetings with different doctors, nurses, therapists, and psychologists I began to feel the tide turning, and I did not like where it was carrying me.  No one wanted to hear about my progress, about how long I’d been clean, about why I stopped doing drugs.  
The Evaluators were interested in the past to the exclusion of the present.  I rehashed my drug history ad nauseum, telling the same stories over and over. And I got tired of telling those same stupid stories.  I started to fear that Evaluators were only listening to those stories and were ignoring my description of the present.   
“We’re recommending that you enter a 90 day residential rehab treatment program.”
My heart stopped, my stomach dropped, my neck and face got hot, and I immediately had to fight back tears.  
I had been wrong about everything.  My months of sobriety were discounted and waved away– I hadn’t gone to treatment to get clean so my sobriety didn’t count.  The controlled substances I took pursuant to valid and legal prescriptions– those were a problem, they were addictive, and I shouldn’t be taking them.  The glass of wine I had a few times a week– not allowed, I was an alcoholic. 
I sat in the room with the Director as the Psychologist read off the rest of his report, tears streaming silently down my face.  I’d been sentenced to 90 days.


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