In March of 2011 I entered my 14th treatment center for heroin, cocaine, and alcohol abuse. A week before “checking in,” my brother and sister had picked me up in Harlem. In a blackout I had boarded a bus from Boston and decided to reinvent my life in New York City. Within days my money had gone into my arm, I was homeless, and trying to sell my last possession: a dead cell phone that I had found on the street. This falls on the mild end of the spectrum of disasters I had been responsible for over the years.
At the new rehab, I left my unopened Dollar Store packages of white t-shirts, boxers, and sweatpants on my bed and immediately went outside for a cigarette. The most authentic and genuine expressions of rehab patients can be found in the designated smoking area. Nearly a decade of shuffling around the country at a wide range of treatment centers had taught me this. There is the mother who extravagantly laments losing custody of her child due to drug charges during group, who then asks a client to cheek his or her meds for her that night. Or there is the husband who cherishes the unconditional love of his wife, and then brushes arms and bats eyes with females in between puffs of his cigarette. And then there are those whose behavior is consistent. They seem to do better.
I smoked off to the side and silently judged my peers for the roles they were playing, many of which I had engaged in at some point. I spoke when spoken to and never volunteered much. “ What’s the point?” I figured. “ No one will keep in touch, most will relapse, and a few will die.” I wore a smile but behind it was a bitter contempt for the life I had been living, and for the people who reminded me of myself.
In steps Dave with his Marlboro Reds, big Jew nose, ear-to-ear smile, and general likability. It was the worst. He puked the details of his life upon me, unaware that I had established myself as the silent observer. Or maybe I was the only one who would listen to him. As he cycled between stories about his shitty job, rehab exploits, and heroin addiction, I started to enjoy our conversations. Dave could look at his life with an ironic sense of humor, smile upon his idiocy, but not lose sight of the gravitas of addiction. I reciprocated with my own stories, and we enjoyed long belly laughs over topics that would repulse the average person. I felt better. I got better.
One might say Dopey was born in those conversations, however they have been happening for decades in the common areas outside of 12 step meetings, in the smoking pits of rehab, on the street between active addicts, or in chance encounters between two like-minded people. As the saying goes, the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is unparalleled, and for many of us the means to that therapy is comedy and identification.
Five years after meeting Dave, I brought my laptop over to Dave’s Lower East Side apartment in Manhattan and pushed record. Preparation was nil. What came out was a typical no-holds-barred smoking pit conversation: dialogue rife with using stories, open-ended drug discussion, and debate over addiction philosophy. Even with minimal promotion and personal anonymity, we started to get emails from a diverse group of people, from convicted bank robbers to people in long-term recovery. Everyone had a story to tell, and the uniting theme was humor. We quickly realized that our darkly comedic and non-judgmental format held a space that other recovery-centric shows couldn’t fill…. So tune in if you want to hear some funny, fucked-up stories from two degenerates (and others) who probably should be dead.
– Dave and Chris