Monthly Archives: January 2014

Peppermints and The Lights

An old lady is passing out peppermints.  

“Oh, I don’t think I can have that.”

“Oh, do you have a young child?”

“No, it’s just me.”


I didn’t refuse my peppermint.  When I passed by the old lady, I saw the bag of peppermints. I glanced around furtively.  Was there staff nearby?  Was there someone who would see me?  Was I breaking the rules? 

She offered me a single peppermint.  I hesitated.  And then I snatched it up.  I tore open the wrapper and tossed that peppermint into my candy deprived mouth.  

Bliss. It had been four weeks since I’d so much as tasted candy.  I’d been fantasizing about it almost daily, dreaming of skittles and kit kats while longing for freedom.  And peppermints aren’t that great.  But that peppermint on that night was fucking delicious.  

We were on a rare outing — seeing the Christmas lights in the less-than-glorious town I’d landed myself in.  The peppermint fear was wide spread.  After passing the peppermint point, a group of us huddled together.  We were afraid to speak louder than a whisper.  The wrong person might hear.  Maybe we’d get in trouble, maybe we’d be forbidden from going on all outings.  Rehab makes you paranoid.  Trivial things are magnified and made scary.  That’s life when you’re living under a microscope.  

Some girls hadn’t been brave enough to take that peppermint.  The peppermints were a point of great concern.  People on the outside can’t fathom the power that a peppermint, a five cent candy, can formidably wield over paranoid and powerless patients.  

The staff member who was supervising us found out about the peppermints.  She didn’t give a fuck.

At least we could rest easily that night.  The peppermints had lost their power.  But we held on to our paranoia, we prisoners, sentenced to 90 days.  



We’re sitting in the TV room.  Me and a fellow patient.  I’m knitting and she’s working on assignments because it’s not TV time — TV time starts at 7:00 and it’s only 3:00 in the afternoon.  As I’m knitting away, only sort of miserable, she gets up and starts moving around.  She’s looking for something, checking behind the couch.  

And then she finds it.  A crumpled up cracker wrapper.  It’s a townhouse wrapper, made of translucent plastic, the brand name in green and red.  It looks dusty and the creases in the crumples look like they’ve been there for a long time.  This wrapper means trouble.  

She approaches me.  We don’t know what to do.  In anywhere but rehab this wouldn’t warrant a moment’s thought.  But this is not anywhere, it’s here.  In the tiny microcosm of rehab; where the walls have eyes and snitching is the standard.  In rehab, the rules are tyrants.  Break them at your own peril and fear the consequences.  And one of the rules, the many, many rules, forbids all patients from so much as thinking about taking food outside the kitchen.  We eat at meals and taking a morsel of food an inch out of the dining room door triggers the penalty.  

Therefore, in rehab, taking a package of crackers beyond that door is almost criminal.  And, as a finder of the evidence of such a heinous crime, you have to snitch or be snitched.  No secrets are sacred — they can be exposed by the confidante or confider at any time, in any group.

We decided that we had to tell.  We had to report the evidence of the crime — the lone crumpled and dejected cracker wrapper.  Once discovered, this inconsequential bit of trash had power over us.  It’s discovery demanded disclosure.  The wrapper taunted us and we were torn.  In our regular brain, the idea of doing anything but throwing it away, seemed ridiculous.  But our tyrannical rehab brain screamed that this was a crime, that someone had broken the rules.  And, in rehab, breaking a rule means you’re on the slippery slope to the dreaded Relapse.  

So we told.  I drank the Rehab Kool-aid.  And that shit is spiked with something strong.  Maybe it’s time to stick to water.  

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