You meet a lot of interesting people in rehab. Sure, there's a large contingent of spoiled frat boys who partied too hard for too long, and there's a particular group of house-husbands who all seem to come from the same place (hello, Kentucky!), but there are doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs too. Real estate agents, college professors. Welders, writers, waiters. All types, all sizes, all of whose very best thinking led them to addiction and then to rehab. Me included. But during my time out at the ranch, one gentleman rose above them all: Tony the Enforcer (name changed to protect anonymity. And maybe my safety).
There was a lot of lore surrounding Tony the Enforcer, a lot of whispered hubbub. The general consensus was that he had been an, um, employee of a certain type of capital-F Family, if you know what I am saying. He was intimidating, terrifying and completely charming. He became the Den Mother to almost everyone under the age of forty and for those of us longer in tooth, he became a very bizarre and unlikely role model. We all either wanted to be him or be close enough to him that we could steal some of his stories and pass them off as our own. (By the way, remind me to tell you about the time I had to get rid of an eighteen-wheeler full of hot potted meat. Oh, wait, uh, ssshhhhhh.) He could remember everyone's name and that's saying something for a drug addict in a room with sixty-five other people. But if you were very very lucky, he would bestow a nickname on you. On Day 8 of my stay, my nickname was granted: Señor Bashful. (Bashful, eh, I know. Hey I didn't say he was a genius at figuring out personality traits accurately). For the next week, I could rely on a hollered "Hallllo, Señor Bashful" echoing across the common spaces at all hours of the day or night. Getting a nickname from Tony the Enforcer was the second-greatest thing I accomplished out there.
I collected my 30-day chip today. I had delayed picking it up for a day so that I could do it at a meeting along with some other people from my time in rehab who have stayed in touch and helped each other with meeting attendance. I really wanted to get the chip in front of people I knew...or rather, people who knew me. I met my friends outside and when we walked in, there he was! Tony the Enforcer! Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, he walks into mine. And best of all, the part that made me almost explode with happiness, was that he was getting his 30-day chip as well. Just the two of us! Entwined forever, Tony the Enforcer and Señor Bashful.
So don't fuck with me. I know people now.