Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unclean Beast

I'm on the phone right now with my old psychiatrist. Today was my visit and interview with outpatient addiction services at a hospital in Boston; it did not go well. The first bad sign was the total lack of any sense of humor by anyone on that floor. It seemed to be sucking the life out of the other floors. It was dark, and not as clinical as one might expect. Many of the offices seemed to be empty, but there were plenty of people. I kept hearing Narcotics Anonymous (NA) euphemisms like, "One day at a time." I understand that saying that is supposed to make sobriety seem possible, day by day, instead of an impossible life change. It's very good. By all means, let repeat it. But it reminds me that, indeed, life is going to do whatever it's doing to do, one day at a time. It feels like a threat, like when a terrorist says, "We will cut off your fingers, one finger at a time."

That was nothing in comparison to the rest of my bad day at OAS.

After getting a ride to the hospital from a cute and funny friend I met in hospital (Thank you, B!), the familiarity of the building spoke the past to me. Several years ago I saw a therapist in this very building, but we had to end our working relationship when I asked her out during a session. We did not date, though. Regardless, life went on and now I'm back to this clinic. The elevator took me to my destination, and I sat is a malodorous waiting room which was equipped, for reasons unclear to me, with a sink and vanity mirror. Almost every pamphlet, book and poster in the waiting room was in Spanish. I received and completed several pages of questions from a vaguely attractive black female receptionist. She had, and probably still has, a sexy and humorous quality about her. I retreat from her presence, as I am in a foul mood. From a nearby vending machine I purchased an extremely hot cup of coffee. The machine did not have a little jacket for my coffee, so I burnt my little fingers. I poured some of my scalding coffee out in a potted plant. I began to feel like running. At that point, a paunchy, balding pity machine was asking to talk to me. We sat down

"Daryl, I just had a question," he started. "It's Darren, not Daryl," I said, smiling. He over-apologized and then quickly changed the subject. "Derek, " he said, "I'm concerned about your response to one of the intake questions." I figured it was a good time to look worried and a bit perplexed. So that's what I did. It worked! "The question about suicide. You circled the highest number, 4, and indicated that you think about suicide all the time. Is that true?" I decided on honesty. "Yes, but I'm not planning, it's just an option, one that I'm too fond of considering for my own good." He looked unconvinced, and would not leave me alone with my Rice Krispie bar and coffee, until I changed my answer, from 4 to 2. "Thank you," he said, "if you ever need to talk I'll be right in that office, Daryl."

Eventually I met my social worker. I'll just say that she was quite attractive, and her fearless but slightly self-conscious way of asking questions related to sex was just so cute. The sex lecture was related to the question of sexually transmitted diseases, which many heroin addicts have from dirty needles. Naturally. She referred to ejaculation as "spraying." When I said I'd slept with many women in my life without a condom, she told me that my "spraying" inside all those women could really spread disease. It's a lovely euphemism for ejaculation. "You need to be tested right away." She insisted ominously. I was going to let it go, but I felt like some sort of unclean beast. So I told her, "A couple of years ago they took my testicles out. Before that surgery they tested for all of that." So then we had to talk about my ball surgery, my gastric bypass, low thyroid, sex addiction, testosterone shots, suicide attempts, seizures, migraines, childhood sexual assault, sex life and current drug use.

It was the current drug use question, and my answer, that caused a bit of a brouhaha. More on that later.

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