Without much effort I found the application online that Bull would need to fill out if he truly intended to be considered as a candidate for the NewLife Recovery System’s method of rehabilitation. After reading the literature and background on the program I was beginning to wonder if the lengthy prison sentence being stubbornly insisted upon by the state’s attorney wouldn’t sound more appealing to Bull in light of his devout agnostic persuasion. In reality, I thought Bull might actually be just the exact type of personality that a place like NewLife specialized in recovering from our specific folds in the underbelly of society. Furthermore, after familiarizing myself with their proud success rates for turning the most hopelessly addiction-stricken individuals into productive and God-fearing members of society, I have to admit that I was more than just a little bit curious to witness how Bull’s prospective handlers would fare when faced with the challenge of taming and reeducating my fiercely stubborn friend. With passing amusement and fleeting apprehension I printed out the five-page, tiny-type application and opened the word-processing program to write a letter that I would include when I mailed the thing to Bull.
I hope this letter finds you in reasonable spirits despite your current surroundings. Just a few words from me in the form of a letter, since it seems rather half-hearted (in my humble opinion) to mail you something as cold and impersonal as an application for THIS particular ‘rehab’ without including my own thoughts at this very moment about what it is that I believe you intend to do.
NewLife is not simply some hard-nosed, boot-camp style drug/substance rehabilitation clinic… although, by their own set of standards and practices, an ‘applicant’ is not allowed into one of their facilities without first suffering a life-altering, substance-induced setback similar to that which you have recently been exposed too. By their own claim, they do not offer ‘rehabilitation’ to drug-addicts, but what they do offer is “a structured and proven method of introducing the spiritually damaged and culturally crippled ‘applicant’ to a 'New Life' which is available only to those who have been reborn of spirit in the truth of Christ the Redeemer.” It appears to me that the one thing they require before accepting an ‘applicant’ into their program is that person’s ability to prove without question that they have come to a point in their spiritually vacant life-so-far where they are vulnerable to the idea that Jesus Christ is their only salvation…
Now, I realize that in my passive association of you with the aforementioned ‘applicant’ that you might take offense to how I seem to presume that YOU might be ‘spiritually vacant’ and ‘vulnerable’. Rest assured that nothing is further from the truth of my own thoughts. I think very differently. On the contrary, never before in my life have I met a person like you who has presented himself to me at every opportunity as nothing less than impervious to the allure of a life guided by the justified hypocrisy and binding, emotional chains of some religious experience which I feel mostly prevents the vast numbers of scripture-spouting zealots in this world from willingly acknowledging their deeper humanity. That being said, I want you to contemplate the only thing that this journey (if this is the journey you intend to embark upon) will require you to bring with you…
You have very rarely, and with reasons I have never questioned, humbled yourself in my presence. The rare occasions when humility threatened to creep into something you and I were engaged in were merely expressions of how you saw yourself for exactly what you were in that moment. In my opinion, those occasions wouldn’t even be considered humility by most men’s standards, as they were more simply matter-of-fact observations, complex ideas, and total acceptance of how you view yourself. You have an admirable abundance of self-awareness. The people who you might soon be obligated to surrender that confident awareness to will undoubtedly demand far more than that if you are to succeed in this program they have to offer, which will quite likely avert the alternative option of you having to spend the better part (if not all) of the rest of your life in prison. I believe this with my entire being.
If you opt for the NewLife program, I feel it will be far more difficult a challenge for you than any amount of time in prison. You have already successfully navigated the challenges of that environment on at least two occasions. You have already honed the skills required to survive there… and it would probably be like riding a bike for you. This program is something far more challenging. Prison required only that you surrender your freedom and comply with the established system for a predetermined period of your life. NewLife will require you to adjust your values and beliefs and prove it daily if you wish to walk away from there a free man. They will offer you freedom to return to society only when you sacrifice, or at the very least compromise, the person you have become at this point in your life. If you are accepted into the program it means that they believe that they have seen somebody in a worse situation than you. Their success rate is more than double that of conventional programs, and gets better with every passing year. In my opinion this speaks to their desire and ability to learn from experiencing previous failures with a particular type of personality or situation. If they accept you into this program, it means that they intend to succeed. Your acceptance by them signals their confidence that they feel they can fix whatever they feel is broken. I am suddenly aware that the odds of you returning to freedom with any resemblance of character to the man I have come to know and love as my brother grows slimmer with every person who comes and goes from their program in the meantime. I want you to know that I feel the chances of them changing you are much greater than I would gamble on.
If you wish to change your life brother, then this is the time to do it. These are the people who intend to carve that path out for you. I want to tell you that I believe you can bullshit them… I wish I could find comfort in the idea that our lives will pick up where they left off when you do, but I don’t think that’s in the cards for us. Most importantly, I want you to reassure me that whatever decision you make is the optimal decision for YOU. I want to believe that everything we’ve done, and all that we’ve lost in the process has not been lost in vain. Whatever decision you make, and whatever path you choose to walk… I will always try to keep pace with you.
I am… as I have been… as I always will be…
Through impending darkness or comfort of the sun…
I printed the letter and stuffed it into an envelope along with the application. After addressing it to Bull at the jail, I scraped some change from a dusty, disheveled drawer in the computer desk and walked the letter to the mailbox at the end of my driveway. I raised the red flag on the dented, black mailbox and deposited the letter and the change towards the front. The last burning embers of the day’s sunlight glowed pink and orange on the horizon in front of me. The brightly luminescent colors blended seamlessly into the twilight majesty of blues and violets just above the horizon and faded to a void of starless, pitch black above my head.
I returned to the house and navigated the darkened path into the kitchen with the negligible assistance of the computer monitor’s fluorescent glow. I opened the refrigerator and retrieved three cans of beer with one hand. As the weight of the fridge door allowed gravity to bring it to a closed position without my help, I utilized the rapidly diminishing light it was offering to negotiate a direct route out of the kitchen as the computer monitor’s illumination guided me the rest of the way back to where the last bits of dope from Rhonda’s little gift were beckoning me. I sat down on the chair in front of the computer, put the beers on the floor at my feet and emptied the powdery remains of the baggie onto the piece of tin foil I had been using to smoke dope from. I turned the bag inside out and stuck it in my mouth to suck it clean. The sharp taste of meth woke my taste buds immediately, and I suddenly became aware of the ridiculously foul flavor of my filthy mouth. I hadn’t seen the likes of a toothbrush in days, nor had I consumed anything but booze or beer in just as long. I didn’t care.
I retrieved the baggie from my pasty tongue and tossed it onto the floor, while reaching for a can of beer. The sound of the can opening and releasing the pressure of its carbonated contents echoed through the empty house behind me. I drank deeply then sighed and belched loudly, laughing spontaneously at the sound.
“Well… looks like it’s time to call Rhonda here in a couple of minutes, huh?” My voice had regained some of its steadiness. I retrieved the foil and the lighter which was close by, but apparently my tooter had made an escape from the desk. I turned around to examine the floor and found the remnants of the pink straw which had been the instigator of my wife’s retreat from her home days earlier. Without much more than that brief thought crossing my mind in regards to the events that had transpired since then, I rolled my chair backwards, picked up the straw and proceeded to finish smoking the dope I had emptied onto the foil.
As I exhaled and watched the yellowing puddle of dope run from one end of the foil to the other as it cooled, I replied to my own previous inquiry through the smoke pouring out of my mouth.
“Yep, we’re definitely gonna have to call Rhonda here in a few. We need a rescue…”
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo