Ryan Donnelly's Blog

You Get What You Put In

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July 30th 2009. I’m at my fathers saying my goodbye’s to the love of my life. The strongest girl I know. The person who stuck with me through hell and never turned her back. I’m leaving for rehab this day, I will be under what is called a 21 day black out period. I will have no contact with anyone except for letters. So this goodbye, though it is only for 21 days, is very tough for jess and I. We have not gone more than 1 day away from each other the past 2 and a half years. It was time to say goodbye. Her mother came to get her and as I saw her crying in that car riding away I realized, that was the last time she will ever feel this due to my selfishness.
As soon as she left, my mood changed. I knew that she was in good hands with her mother, that she was protected. I then in a way told myself it was time to get real. I went in my father’s bathroom and shaved my head, as if getting ready for battle. I was heading into darkness more dark than anything I’ve ever imagined. It was time to learn what I was REALLY made of. First thing in the morning, I’m heading to the Big City. Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center of Manhattan to start my life.
My mother met my father and I on the parkway to go up together. For these two people not to kill me by this point is a miracle after the hell I put them through. But they love me, and they only want me to wake up. And that wake up call was soon to arrive.
My parents walked me into the ARC, we were met by a tall handsome well-put-together black man named Felix. Felix is a very warm person with a deep deep voice and a huge smile. He told me to say goodbye to my parents so I hugged and kissed both of them and told them I loved them very much. Felix then put his arm around me and brought me inside. I felt very safe, and in good hands in this place, like good things were happening here.
Felix brings me into his office and starts the interview. He was feeling me out, seeing if I was dangerous to anyone or myself. I have to be honest at this point, this place cosmetically does not look very nice. It has a jail like look with every door being magnetically locked. Very barren, lot of brick, not much of anything on the walls. So I started getting a little nervous and then Felix snapped me out of it. He looked into my eyes and smiled and said, “You’re safe here man.”  ”This is a good place, it may look like hell, but this place saved my life.”  Now I’m looking at this well-put-together guy telling me it saved his life. He started explaining to me that he has been clean for 11 months. He was in the same seat as me 11 months ago? He was a heroin addict.
After the hour-long interview he told me to grab the large garbage bag on the floor (my cots linens) he handed me a bag of liquid soap and a towel, with a standard tooth-brush, paste and some deodorant and said, “Let’s show you around my palace.”  Felix had such an upbeat attitude, he always made me laugh with his humor. “Palace?  I was thinking, This place is a dump.”  Of course I kept that to myself.
The building was pretty much empty, see Salvation Army isn’t your ordinary rehab. It is free, but you have to work for a place to eat and sleep. So during working hours, 99 percent of the 120 residents are at the warehouse working their tails off to earn their keep. So Felix shows me around all 7 floors of the building. It was about 110 degrees in the building, I was starting to realize that this place didn’t have air conditioning.
The higher the floor, the hotter it got naturally. My room was on the 6th floor, Felix joked, “At least you’re not on the 7th floor.”  He led me to the room where I saw 3 cots, one naked and two nicely made. He said, You have two really good roommates, but they aren’t back from work yet. Also the rules are, no one on residential floors during working hours without staff supervision, so I will stay with you till one of your roomates get back. The only reason is because cats steal shit like crazy around here.” I laughed and told him, “I came here with nothing, they can take everything I have.”  He laughed and handed me a voucher. The voucher was for the Salvation Army store. Since I came into this place with only the clothes on my back, he would have a chaperone escort me over there to get some clothes. You know, clothes to work in, and of course used underwear and socks. Haha oh that. Think survival people. :)
He sat with me in my room for another 30 minutes till my first roommate came back from work. Felix then told my roommate Frank who I was, and Frank said “I got him from here.” Felix came over and we slapped hands and hugged, and said, “If you needed anything, I’m here for you man, you’re gonna know why it’s a palace soon.”  He then smiled big and left the room.
Now I am in a room with Frank. Frank is about 6 feet 2 inches tall but built like a brick shit house. Thick Puerto Rican twang to his voice. He looks at me and says, “Yo, don’t go nowhere, I gotta shower, I will be right back.”
So I’m sitting in this sauna of a room nervous and waiting for this giant Puerto Rican dude to come back. He walks back in about 10 minutes later in his towel and changes into clothes. He then sits on his cot and starts asking me questions. I can tell that this isn’t the first time he’s had a new roommate, he seemed very suspicious of me and was trying to read me. He had a very high guard up for the first hour, then I started telling him my story. After he realized how fucked up I really was he warmed up very quickly. It’s like his first impression of me was,”This white boy with all his pearly whites thinks he has problems?”  But by the time I was done telling him everything I did the past 8 months, he too was surprised I was alive. I was accepted, and not knowing it now, Frank was going to change my life.

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