The 7 People You Meet In Rehab

girl interrupted

1.) The Girl, Interrupted

Insert {Lindsey Lohan/Britney/Amanda}

This is your hot mess. Your James Frey memoir.

This is the girl your counselors warn you about; the one who has been there for so long that she has her own room.

This is the patient who wears the same outfit for 3 days in a row, and when sitting on the couch, puts her head in your lap as you run your fingers through her mated hair.

This is the patient whose clothes are streaked with paint because when she’s healthy- she’s a brilliant artist-  and she often spends her free time  in the art room when she can convince a counselor to accompany her.

This patient is the type to give herself a tattoo from a safety pin and ink while you’re at snack one day.

Is that the word DIRT, you say- eyeballs bugging out of your head-  when she shows you her fingers. Dirt, you say again- running your hand over each of them. You’ve got to be kidding.

It’s a song, she says- her hair hanging in pieces near her face. It’s a good song.

You hold back when you see that she’s serious.

This is the girl who is delicately beautiful- you find yourself eerily drawn to- but know to remain cognizant and weary of her mood when she’s near.

You will spend hours with on her good days only to forget that she’ll turn the next and set fire to her bedsheets.

Did you take your meds, the nurses will ask her every morning.

Sure did, she’ll say- smiling at you as she drops the pills in the secret pocket of her skirt.

Take it, you hiss at her.

They’re trying to change me, she’ll say- on the days where everything is a conspiracy.

This is the patient who greets her parents with a “Fuck You” as they walk in for visiting hours- but minutes later is on the ground sobbing as she holds her mother’s skirt in the fists of her hands.

She is completely predictable in her unpredictability and often you wonder if it’s on purpose.

She is dangerous, uneasy, and charming.

There will always be one of these- though you’ll lose track of her the moment she’s gone.

2.)  The Debbie + Penelope

SNL- Debbie Downer

Okay, so I combined them… but who doesn’t love a good SNL reference?

This type of patient is your Debbie Downer; the one who has no intention of getting better. Who sits in the corner with her hood over her head and when called upon to talk- gives the finger.

This is your patient who talks in group and everyone sighs because they know it’s about to be a rambling vile of negativity.


This patient makes it known when they don’t receive mail, consistently reminds everyone that she’s been in rehab more times than she can count, says ”shit” when asked how her day is going- and often chooses to sit alone in the community room.

This person is exhausting. Tiring to the point that you start to keep a daily tally of the negativity for no other reason than to drive yourself mad.

This is the person that all new patients make their mission to “fix” while you watch- smirking- from the other side of the room.

Sure, go ahead- you think- you were once innocent to Debbie’s ways too, but eventually you lost hope.

Sulky betch, you think when she slinks by in the hallway.

But then one-upper Penelope rounds the corner and you are suddenly stuck – frozen in place- deciding which is worse.

You see, rehab is a club all in its own. A sorority hierarchy of sorts where one is- at times- competing with another.

One-upper Penelope is just shit at playing into the blanketed social subtlety.

This is the girl who lets you know that her anorexia is more severe than yours. Her physical health in worse repair, and her bulimia more efficient.

This is the patient that walks down the hall while you’re waiting- wrapped in your medical gown- for your 6am morning vitals. Shivering in the hallway as the dew rests on the grass- you’re rubbing crusty sleep out of your eye as she tells you animatedly- borderline excitedly- that her heart rate is worse today than yesterday.

This is the girl you nod at and say ”oh shit” when she tells you- but are secretly signaling to your friend across from you to add this to the list of annoying crap this girl has said.

This is the girl you grow weary of quickly, but then feel bad later because you realize that eating disorders, in fact, make you bat shit cray.

This is the girl who revels in being sick, and in the end, you feel sorry for her.

3. ) The Cool Hand Luke:

Tried to decide between aforementioned caption and ‘El Chapo’… and if you haven’t heard of either of them, then I give up.

This patient is the Paul Newman of escapism.  This is the patient who is often quiet, incredibly bright, and will say anything to get what she wants.

This is the patient that has been in rehab so many times that the state took away her rights and handed them over to her parents. This patient is incredibly ill and you wonder how she is still surviving.

You like her, this patient, she’s thoughtful and she’s talented. A beauty too, in spite of the tubes hanging from her nose. She’s the type you trust to talk to- and almost find yourself believing when she says her parents are cruel for keeping rights on her…

And then she steals a Golf Cart.

She steals the bloody golf cart one day right under the security guys nose.

Her long legs galloping across the field -you’re all crouched over a window watching her take flight behind the wheel.

No she didn’t, you hear someone squeal.

But she did.

She’s taken the golf cart- she’s firing up the stalled engine- knocking a suitcase off the back- and before you know it the alarms are sounding- the counselors are scurrying- the director is out of her office throwing her hands in the air-

And this patient is fleeing down the gravel path, dirt trailing behind her- taking a hard right at the exit.

Where’s she going, you ask someone, when the commotion dies down.

Who the fuck knows, Jill snorts. But she’s bookin’ it.

Race on, girl, race on.

And three hours later, while dinner is being served, you’re sitting in the cafeteria (that was once a horse barn) when you hear the doors open behind you.

Shit, someone whispers- nudging you with their foot. It’s her.

Head lowered, she’s reappeared, entering the room at the accompaniment of 3 counselors and a bored-looking psychiatrist.

The room halts for a moment.

The patients gawk.

Gayle, you hear somewhat shout behind you.

What up y’all, she says then- looking up and flashing her mischievous smile.

I’m back.

Quietly, a slow-clap emerges- and you can’t help but join.

You got some gall girl, you tell her later.

I just wanted to be free, she grins.

Touche, you think. Touche.

4.) The Alex + Piper:

Because, honestly, what else is there to do during free time but play 7 minutes in heaven in a phone booth?

Love happens in rehab. Maybe this is the candidness no one wants  to acknowledge, but footsy and handsy games under the table were a fairly familiar sighting.


Well, we’re human. That’s the whole sum of it. Throw a ton of people in a room together every single day in and out- coupled with crippling self-doubt, loneliness, and fear, and likely you bond closely with who is around you.

While some were closer to others, as it goes, we all still inherently bonded together through a disease we ourselves couldn’t figure out why we had. There’s a vulnerability there.

Perhaps it’s budding sexuality, perhaps fluidity- I don’t try to decipher it and I didn’t then.

Tender relationships of all nature unfolded before my eyes over those 6 weeks. More than once, I opened the phone booth to two pair of glistening lips and weak eyes.

I love her, Grace whispered one day- as we laid on my bed (breaking rules) and pretending to nap.

Spooning her as I often did when days were hard- and Grace did have such a terrible time following rules- it was familiar for us to lay on my bed and talk well into the evening.

Inevitably, we were made to part and Grace would begrudgingly slink her way back down to her more controlled room by the counselors–

But that day in particular, we’d been left undisturbed for what felt like hours, and I was stroking her hair with my free hand as I asked what she meant.

I love Tessa, she said- her mouth muffled by my pillow. I’m going to be with her when I’m out of here.

I smiled then, though she didn’t see it. If you say so, Grace.

I love her, she said. When we’re out of here I’m going to go to her.

Does she know? I asked.

She loves me too, Grace said. We’ve been writing each other letters. Every day, she writes me one and sticks it in my mailbox.

I knew you two had a thing, I snorted. I knew it from the first day I saw y’all.

She’s everything, Grace said.

But I quieted her.

Grace, I whispered. Be everything to you- and then find her.

Truth be told, it wasn’t that I had any right to dole advice. But I’d been in enough co-dependent relationships in my life to be able to sniff one out.

Obviously, sexual relationships were forbidden- but I suppose think that’s why people might have found it all the more tantalizing.

At the end of the day, we wanted love. Pure and simple. Our bodies were changing, our perspectives, our accepted way of being- we sought comfort in one another, sexual or not.

And there were many nights we laid on blankets and pillows- feeling as though we were children- and I being one of the older ones would fall asleep with a cheek on my heart- and my arm going numb- tingling underneath the head of someone not a day over 15.

5.) The Amy Winehouse:

“They tryna’ make me to go rehab, I say no, no, no.”

This is generally every patient in rehab who is under the age of 18 and still under parental consent.

This is the patient who is 15 years old, and when you meet her immediately notice the perfectly carved scars on her arms and legs. 5 x 5 you think looking them up and down.

She smiles at you. You’re pretty, she says.

Thank you, you say.

And you wish you could save her.

This is the patient who is 43-years old and in rehab because her ex-spouse will only let her see her kids again if she completes it.

This is the random woman you see at dinner one night, only to see her leave in the morning after signing a 72.

These are the people you know are starting a career here.

You don’t really get to know them.

6.) The O’ Captain My Captain + Pornstache:

Dead Poets Society

Changing gears to account for the other side of the rehab mill… the counselors and nurses.

There’s a delicate divide here between the medical professionals. While you’ll come across plenty of counselors and nurses that display the generosity and empathy of a Robin Williams character, there’s a notable amount of mental health professionals that often seem to be there to fulfill some academic requirement or- worse- thrive on whatever little power they have in controlling a group of people.

This is not meant to discredit the staff who are great. There were many “Mr. Feenys” roaming those halls at 3am making sure we weren’t bench pressing our roommate in a quick attempt to burn a cal.

In rehab, you rely on these people to guide you. Hell, these ladies (primarily- though some male) are running your life. These are women who are forced to stand outside bathroom doors and listen to you count while you pee. Women who have to be constantly on guard to your manipulations and your moods.

It’s a really fine line- but some do it with empathy and ease. These are heroes. These are counselors that can read your face and understand when you need to talk. These are the people that treat you like a person- that remind you you’re human even though you’re in a facility. Who swap you a piece of chocolate pie instead of vanilla even though you’re only supposed to eat whichever one the cook decides to put on your tray.

These women know that you’re trying to get better, and that if you are- they can reason with you like anyone else. They don’t belittle you for your addiction. Instead, they help you build trust in them so that when you are being manipulative, you’ll go to them instead of hide.

These are the counselors that leave  notes in your mailbox when they see you making progress – and they reason with you by being blunt.

So often there were times we all felt imprisoned- it was an ongoing joke.

Where’s the cattle bell? Josie always said whenever the dinner bell rang.

In a moment of assertiveness, I remember losing it on one of the counselors when she asked us to line up in a ”straight line,” and then snapped at me to  straighten up.

Yo, I said to her that day- my feathers ruffled. You do realize we’re not a kindergarten class, right? We are real women; people. We have careers and lives just like you do outside of here. We’re not a confinement camp.

She rolled her eyes- but I got a few pats on the back and had no regrets.

These are the counselors that will look bored when you speak. Who will ignore when someone’s having a bad day. These are the counselors that make you realize you’re in rehab, and they have no business working in the field.

7.) Your Mother

This is your mother-

Who packed your lunch every day with a napkin and spoon. Who rocked you to bed when you cried.

This is your daughter-

Sitting on the toilet counting from 1-100 while a counselor stands outside and barks at her “louder.”

This is your best friend-

Who waits every night for the mail to come; perched on her chair while the counselor calls out names.

This is your wife-

Who is so incredibly far from her child. Who holds her picture in her hand every day that she’s sitting in the cafeteria trying to eat that donut.

This is your partner-

Who knows they’re losing you to this disease, and can’t figure out why they’re letting it happen. Who cries in group after they get off the phone with you.

This is your worst enemy-

Who knows you hate them, and wishes they could make it better but doesn’t know how.

This is your boss-

Who feels anxious without their phone; guilty for leaving; and wondering if their job will still be there when they get back.

This is you.

And you could be the one in the cafeteria line on Christmas Eve-

Your family in the hotel down the road.

Far away from your life-

Being served 1 cup of mashed sweet potatoes, and some ounces of Turkey on a tray.

This is real life. These are real people-

And we’re all just learnin’ how to live again.

4 thoughts on “The 7 People You Meet In Rehab

  1. Pingback: “I’ll Never Let Go, Jack… Er, ED”: Is Anorexia Your Forever Love Affair? – I Haven't Shaved In 6 Weeks

  2. And of course I’ve cried heart wrenching tears as well. I Love the bold documentation of this journey and how true it rings having a best friend and sister go through the same journey to freedom!

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