Dopefiend Excerpt: Sunday Celebrations at Rockford


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Each week at Rockford, there was a Sunday celebration: families brought home-cooked meals, girlfriends appeared in tight jeans and teased hair, and sons mended family ties.

Aaron (not pictured) and I (pictured, far right) never participated.

He had a girlfriend in Manhattan, but she was ignoring him while he was in treatment. I occasionally wrote my mother carefully composed letters that never asked for anything, or even posed any questions she might feel compelled to answer. I didn’t want to pressure her. In prior treatment experiences, I had pushed for the organized reconciliation, the weekend visits. I couldn’t imagine going through all that again.

As the summer wore on, counselors began to disappear, with little explanation for their absence. Juan was gone. Rick was gone. A few others were gone. Aaron pointed out that they had actually relapsed and then had to be let go. When I suggested they might have gotten better jobs, Aaron laughed. He was shrewd.

“They’re junkies,” he said. “You can tell they’re in trouble, if their caseload suddenly gets cut.” This appeared to be true.

Miguel, who had pale yellow where the whites of his eyes should have been, had his caseload cut to a third of what it once had been. A few days later, he took his remaining charges into the courtyard, and then nodded off in his folding chair during group. One-by-one his clients stood, folded their chairs and then wandered off, until only Miguel was left in the courtyard, his chin upon his chest. News of the counselor’s relapses terrified me. It was exactly the kind of thing I could see myself doing.

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