I Went To Detox So You Don’t Have To

Unless you need to, in which case, don’t be shy about getting help

Addicts run the roost on Vancouver's East Hastings St.

Did you shit yourself on the bus? Did you call your mom a whore on Mother’s Day? Don’t fucking tell me you blew the rent on blow!

. . . again . . .

If you’ve become an alcoholic, drug-addicted piece of shit extraordinaire—more of a piece of shit than the literal piece of shit currently staining your tighty-whities—there’s a place for you, bud, and it’s called detox.

I really wish I could party like a normal dude: take the hangover, take ‘er eaze. Not in my genes unfortunately. I’m a punk rocker not of the NOFX skaterfag variety, but of the lowest: the GG Allin kind. But I’m 29 now, and doing blow in your 30s isn’t a good look, at least in my case it won’t. 

So I packed ‘er in, swallowed my pride (which is hard to say as a PB) and checked-in to one of the gnarliest detoxes in North America, on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where overdoses killed over 1,400 people between January 2016 and March 2017.  

Mural by street artist Smokey D. about the fentanyl and opioid overdose crisis in Vancouver, B.C.

The last straw was waking up one morning in a world of piss and delirium tremens with zero money and infinite bullshit coming down da pipe. All for the gazillionth time. After doing laundry the night before, I piled my clothes along with the rest of my possessions on my $10/night hostel mattress in a stupor and passed out. Then! for the passed-out-de-résistance, I proceeded to urinate on everything I own. A couple calls later, I arranged a detox bed for later that night, and spent the rest of the day staving of tremors and pink elephants and temporary blindness with high-percentage beers.

Arriving with only a backpack reeking of peepee, I did my intake in a fog that got thicker as they medicated me until I became Mr. Burns from that Halloween special.

The sweating, the nausea, the diarrhea, and any other ——eas, were all fairly tolerable since nurses waited on me hand and foot, taking my vital signs every hour while pumping me full of Seroquel and Serax. My paranoid withdrawal convinced me they only cared about my bed and about getting me better ASAP so they could change the bedding afresh for the next fuck-up to walk through their medium-security doors. An assembly line of fuck-ups getting unfucked up.

As much as I hate flip-flops, and as much as it pains me to say this, I really wish I had a pair when they tossed me in the shower. Detox is a zombie containment unit. I know catching hepatitis C and HIV through naked-and-nude footsies in shared showers is just a myth, but it sure seemed like a very real possibility with everyone around me twitching, scratching meth sores, and puking their innards to their outers.

Typical morning scene on the Downtown Eastside.

What’s not a myth is the fact that hangovers cause horniness (detox is a 5-14 day potentially fatal hangover after all). What’s also not a myth is that the universe never provides so many opportunities wa-aa-ay out of my beer league than when I already have a girlfriend, or when I’m just “unavailable”; in this case, trembling, incapacitated from the DTs. Murphy’s Fuck-law. The first babe to hit on me was friggin’ stacked. In line for lunch the second day she asked where I was from while conspicuously adjusting her bra strap, testing to see whether I could sustain eye contact. I did. Pure business. No bricklaying. I knew if I got kicked out for going with her to the handicapped bathroom or the weird corner closetevery detox has these kinds of shady nooksI might die outside on the street. It would be like getting kicked out of the hospital in the middle of a medical procedure because the doctor caught another patient blowing me. Actually that’s not what it would be like, that was precisely the case. Also, getting kicked out might jeopardize my pricey rehab afterward. Her stupid tits were about to sign my death warrant with a gold-plated pen. Those tits haunt me even now at the time of this writing. At least I won’t be haunting them as an emaciated ghost.

For the record, putting your life on the line for sloppy knockers is the kind of shit I fully stand for.

Detox is similar to jail. The first person to come up to talk to you is invariably going to be a pariah. In my case it was a guy with a mullet and an earring and a tendency to hit on all the girls 30 years his junior. He said hello while putting his hand on my shoulder like a creep and I burped in his face and walked the fuck away. He stayed fucked off after that.

Also: don’t trust anyone. Protect your food. Protect yourself from the bodily fluids of others. Watch your back. Keep your area clean. Don’t tell staff a single syllable more than necessary.

Heavy foot traffic in the alleys on the Downtown Eastside.

Every aspect of the day is tightly scheduled. Breakfast at 8. Snack at 9:45. Outdoor walks at 10:30 if the staff aren’t understaffed, which they were. With about four to five people in B.C.’s Lower Mainland dying each day from OD’s, it was all-hands-on-deck mode. Asking for things like deodorant or toothpaste got you dirty looks from the reluctant nurses. Complaining that there were no outside walks would likely get ‘em mad enough to toss ya.

I stayed in that skylighted panopticon for six-and-a-half days (daze). There was a central nurse command-station in the centre, and hallways outpouring from there. Each hallway was a mini ward, and they put the Fentanyl addicts with the Fentanyl addicts, and the drunks with the drunks, as much as possible. By the way, guys coming off Fentanyl, or the “beans,” reek a hell-stench four-hundred-and-twenty times worse than the acetoned piss-monster I was when I waltzed through them doors.

As the fog began to fade by Day Three, I watched fresh fish come in and suffer hard through those first 24 hours. An old East Indian guy with a bloody gash across his forehead admitted to a bed across from mine kept telling the nurse, “I can’t close my eyes, I’m afraid I’ll die.”

For the same reason I avoided detox default-hos for fear of getting booted, I backed down from a scrap. Lemme tell ya, it hurt NOT to fight. A guy my age called me a “miserable fuck” after I accidentally sat in someone’s “saved” seat. I left the dining room without saying a word, unsure whether I’d let it roll off my back or if I’d come back with something pointy. I ended up bursting back in the dining room yelling, “IS THERE A FUCKING PROBLEM, BUD?” and we were RAPIDLY separated by some ex-con meth-heads who saw it brewing the whole time.

Potty break during N.A. meeting

Everybody calls the slippers you’re issued upon intake, Detox Reeboks, and they were still better than my doctor’s footwear: flip-flops. When he tried to prescribe me an alcohol and opioid inhibitor called Naltrexone, I thought, No thanks, Dr. Sprinkle Toes—I’ll do sobriety old-school by drinking watered-down coffee in a church basement with bikers and truckers.

Weened off the meds, completely bored out of mind, I participated in daily activities like acupuncture and other faggotry. Fuck-all else to do. Getting poked with tiny needles helped me go to sleep, which is all I really cared about. Not being able to sleep for days on end is one of the most agonizing parts of drying out, and feels like what I would imagine it would feel like to be a terrorist bombarded 24/7 with Napalm Death cranked to 11 as the C.I.A. tried to crack you on a black ops site. And that’s coming from a guy who thinks Scum is one of the greatest albums of all time.

I spent the rest of my stint ruminating about the warpath I’d forged while finger-painting in art therapy class alongside freaks, drunkies and junkies. (My tribe.) Or, sitting alone, stewing in the guilt and the shame and the sun in the only outdoor space we had access to—a 12’ by 12’ cracked concrete slab ersatz patio. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in PARTY ‘TIL YOU PUKEin theory. The problem is, in practice, I party ‘til I puke blood. 

Some may consider sobering up a bitch move but fuck it, that’s where I’m at right now. Glad to be here, glad to be anywhere. I couldn’t be more grateful and optimistically relieved that my hell-train has finally derailed.

Have a Bud for me, buds.

Follow Greg Pike, One Tweet at a Time, on Twitter @realGregPike

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Written by Greg Pike

Greg Pike

Greg Pike is an editor and writer at PBM. Credits include Noisey, VICE, Cult MTL, Thought Catalog, Street Carnage, Weird Canada, CTV Television, legally unmentionables, randoms, others, assorted, and a nearly-completed book.

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