I had six months of sobriety and was frustrated. I was struggling. I was a disaster mentally, physically and spiritually. Old time alcoholics told me that what I was going through was normal. My life was a shambles and since I was sober, I was looking at the disaster I created through clear eyes for the first time. That made sense to me except that my friends from rehab seemed to be doing much better. I can’t say their lives were all that great, but at least they had jobs and were in apartments while I was jobless and living in a sober living home. Because I was jobless I attended a lot of AA meetings…and I mean a lot. Typically about three times a day. I filled out job applications in between meetings.
One evening in the summer of 2003 I was attending an AA meeting and made some comments to a friend. I have no idea what I said, but it deeply concerned him. He left me for a few minutes, came back, took my arm and informed me he was taking me to the hospital. Apparently, when he left me, he went to speak with a psychiatrist who also was attending the meeting. I was being taken to a hospital because of the concern that I was suicidal. I made no effort to stop him. I was scared to be alone and wanted to go.
Once in the car I called my therapist who told me to have them take me to the Thalians Center at Cedars Sinai Hospital. My second call was to my AA sponsor who said he would meet me there. We left from the San Fernando Valley and the hospital is near Beverly Hills so it was a pretty long trip. Most of the drive was silent as I grew more morose by the minute. When I arrived at the Thalians Center, my sponsor was there as promised.
As it turns out, I’d come to the wrong door. Apparently I was supposed to go to the hospital emergency room first, rather than directly to the center. The receptionist had us wait while she could get a doctor to come out of emergency to interview me. It took a while, but finally he showed up. He was strikingly handsome so my sponsor joked that he thought I was going to be very happy there. It was the first time I laughed all day.
The interview was extensive, but I don’t recall hardly any of it except random questions about my mood. Then came the biggie…those of you out there who have spoken with a doctor while seriously depressed know what I’m talking about…He asked, “Do you have a plan?” I told him that I indeed had a plan (to kill myself) and I gave him the full details. That clinched it. It was a done deal, I was being admitted. When a well-armed security officer arrived to escort me to the psych ward my sponsor burst into laughter again. I joined him. It was the absurdity of it all that helped us both release some tension.
Before I was escorted away, the doctor informed me that there were no beds on the third floor where I should be admitted, so they were going to place me on the seventh floor and move me as soon as possible. I had no idea what that meant, but I thanked him. At the entrance to the psych ward I was required to turn nearly everything over. No wallet, no phone, no belt, no shoes. I think we were given the option to either wear the shoes with no laces or wear hospital booties. I chose the booties. Then they opened the double doors and it felt like a Spielberg movie – the whoosh and wisps of smoke as the doors cracked apart and huge rays of light ominously shooting out from within. Of course, that’s not what it was really like, but it felt that way. When I walked in and the doors shut it was like I could hear a dozen deadbolts lock behind me. I was officially on 72 hour lockdown.
In tomorrow’s article I will share what life was like in the psych ward behind those double doors.