I’d never been so excited to go to Walmart. After the 15th day in rehab, you’re eligible for a new weekly privilege: the Sunday morning Walmart excursion.
But the powers that be make sure that you never forget that you’re still a prisoner sentenced to 90 days of mind numbing repetition, group therapy, and endless rules. And the Walmart rules do a great job of degrading what would otherwise be a normal yet freeing adult experience.
First of all, we go at the ungodly hour of 8:15 a.m. on a Sunday. And you only get a strict hour to shop, including checkout time. Everything you plan on buying has to be approved by your therapist in advance. And there’s a specific procedure in place to govern even this special task. You go to the cubby holes next to the nurses’ station and grab one of the “Walmart Shopping Lists.” You list the items you plan on purchasing, which can’t exceed ten. Next, you bring your paltry list to your therapist during your weekly one-on-one session. The therapist combs through the list and approves the items deemed acceptable. And there’s a $50 spending limit.
When the time to board the prisoner vans arrives, your list must be in tow. Forget a purse, only wallets are allowed. We bump along the country roads until we arrive at the local Walmart.
Finally, you truck back to the prisoner van waiting to shuttle you back to prison: the gated women’s facility.
Even the taste of freedom afforded by the shopping trip’s escape from the house is tainted by the stain of rehab. You never forget that you’re there on a limited release. There’s no rush of exhilaration in this kind of shopping trip. There’s something about the trip that dehumanizes you and reinforces the spirit crushing oppression of rehab.
When you’re back in rehab you’re not a person. You’re a patient. You’re not to be trusted, you’re an addict. You shrivel under the bright lights shone in your eyes by the powers that be. Even the alleged privileges are poisoned by rules.
I was beyond excited to go to Walmart. But by the time I returned to the house, I just felt like an inmate. Welcome to rehab.