From Bad to Unbelievable
Part One, Fiona Russell Powell entered rehab to overcome her long-term
problem, but discovered she had more than one battle on her hands: jilting
against an oppressive regime. Should she stay, or should she go?
The new girl left after three days, which wasn’t a surprise to
anyone. She shouldn't have
points of this week: been to the gym every day apart from Thursday,
I haven't got off scot free: I've become spotty, which I'm mortified about: never had a pimple even as a teenager, but they reckon it’s all the toxic rubbish coming out of my system. The best thing is that in five weeks I’ve only had the desire to use heroin once, and that was more of a whim I toyed with briefly.
I feel fairly sure I’ve knocked the smack on the head. It's
the alcohol I'm worriedabout now, because a lot of former junkies become "cross-addicts”.
The alkies who come here
weekend was mad on Saturday it was compulsory to attend the local
Darren said, "I could have had a dead body in there and he wouldn't have noticed". Then, as it was a hot afternoon, we went in Billy's car to St Albans Park - me, Jog, Darren and Gilbert. Billy had taken some spicy poppadum crisps for the ducks, even though we'd all pointed out they wouldn't like them. Sure enough, the ducks turned up their beaks at Billy's offerings and Gilbert and I remembered that we'd just walked past some bread left on a wall nearby. After asking permission, we got it and returned, feeding it to the ducks, who gobbled it up enthusiastically. Gilbert and I were enjoying ourselves, taking photographs of each other with the ducks, when Billy suddenly announced that I was on restriction for walking further than the 100 yards he had given permission for. I said I didn't know how far 100 yards is. Which is true, but we hadn't gone far and why wasn't Gilbert being punished too? Billy then accused ' certain people" of taking the piss and announced we all had to go back to the ca- and 'return to the rehab, after having just arrived at the park. I exploded, having been c-s~ec beyond the limit, and stood in front of him, screaming my objections and told him he was "crap" at his job. Stupidly, I prodded him in the chest with my forefinger to make my point, whereupon he yelled, "That's it. you've assaulted me: you've got to go".
I was amazed and appalled by the unfairness of the Situation and. as we walked to the car, Gilbert and Darren voiced their disapproval, calling Billy a "cunt", for "always digging you out". When we got back, Billy followed me to my room and ordered me to start packing, but I refused until I'd spoken to the manager. Billy shouted he was sick of hearing me complain and that I had to leave as I'd "struck” him. which is an utterly pathetic excuse. I am a non-violent woman, whereas all the other events are ex-cons with a history of violence. I only poked him with my finger. Billy was adamant, but I was equally determined and stood my ground until the manager returned six hours later from playing cricket. It was touch and go for a while, but the upshot of it all is that I'm staying, with a meeting arranged for tomorrow between me, Billy, the manager and Tom Bell. So, due to my persistence and refusal to be intimidatecd by Billy, I have won a reprieve. It should also be clear now just how out of hand the situation with Tom has become. In a way I can't blame him completely, as it is the staff's responsibility to tell him that persecution, harassment and sexism towards a resident is not acceptable. I'm not even sure someone like Tom has any understanding of conventional mo-al codes - he certainly shows no remorse for allegedly beating up an old man in his own home during a burglary, for which he's due in court soon. Nearly six weeks of living under the same roof with a "nonce" like that is not an experience I would recommend. Now I'm not even sure if I want to stay here any longer. I will have to weigh up the good against the bad and make my decision tomorrow. Meanwhile, with perfect timing. Darren's radio is playing the Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" Exactly.
Well, we had the meeting, and it was a bit of a joke really, but not
in the least
Now that I am staying, Billy insists on having a key
session with me every time he is on duty. I suppose this is to see
if we can repair
the damage that's been done, though he hasn't explained his reasons.
I said I hoped we could work together, but challenged him on various
things, most of which he refused to answer, referring me to acting
manager Nick McEwan. When I asked why he keeps touching me, he said
he'd been told to, as it was "considered by management" that
his approach was "too cold", but now I had raised my objections
to it, he wouldn't do it again. When he started patting the sofa and
stroked my hand about two hours later, I was gobsmacked. Is he taking
the piss or what? After a few days of total silence from Nick. I eventually
requested a meeting to talk about happened in the park last Sunday,
but he refused to discuss anything, referring me either to the previous
manager or citing 'client confidentiality' when asked why he did not
deal with the Tom situation. God, this is all so wrong and frustrating.
Thank heavens for Radiohead and Skunk Anansie, whom I listen to non-stop,
particularly when feeling upset or angry. I don't think I could have
got through the last few weeks without The Bends. which is what this
all feels like, coming back up to the surface of reality. But Ascension
House isn't real life, we live in an artificial bubble which fails
to prepare clients for the harsh cruelties and mundanities of modern
English existence when they leave. The relapse rate here is pretty
high, but I am determined to stick it out 'til the end, and there's
no way I'm going back on scag after enduring six months of this shit.
Even though I have a key-session with Billy nearly every day
now, they still continue to be a fiasco. Recently I stepped
up my request for
an outside counsellor but again to no avail. (Billy's definitely
an oddball, even coming in on his days off).
During afternoon group, Billy and Silly Sally 'incidentally,
the daughter of the acting manager's common-law wife -
keep it in the
appealed to us to "help" Tom "through the loss" of
Jog and bring him back into the fold. It's ridiculous, as he ostracised
himself in the first place. He's like the school bully who wants everyone
to like him again. The staff never accept responsibility for a client's
premature departure, always blaming the "client's inability to
accept his problem" or that they weren't "ready". The
fact that Ascension House could have failed them in some way does not
seem to be a possibility. Or if it does, they certainly won't admit
The start of the week was lovely, when my boyfriend came to see me and we fooled around on the railway bridge. It wasn't until afterwards that we noticed the "Smile - you're on camera" signs all over the station platform. Ho hum, how slack of us, but there's nothing like an alfresco knee-trembler to cheer you up and nine weeks is a long time. Although my partner is aware of the Billy problem, I am playing it down because I don't want to worry him too much. Besides, he'd go up the wall. Another good thing is that the manager finally agreed to let me see an outside counsellor - it's been arranged for Wednesdays. Hopefully, now Billy will cool off. Three new guys arrived: a 32 year old glue-sniffer who looks like an Indian Elvis; a rotund Mick with a florid boozer's face who fl riches when anyone goes near him; and a timid, withdrawn, self-harming neo-Goth who's 22 going on 16. He's supposed to have a drink problem though we think it's probabiy the east of his worries.
Wednesday was also my 'Johari’s Window' - named after two 70s Californian hippy therapists, Joseph and Harry (sic) - which , is when an entire group meeting is focused on one client. You stand in front of a board which has four compartments drawn on it; 'open', 'closed', 'secret', summary'. The rest of the group tell you what they think of you-, what you accept goes in 'open', what you can't see goes in closed', what they have missed or don't know goes in 'secret' and 'summary' is a general summing up. I have often voiced my dread of this group because it gives the individuals the opportunity to be nasty if they want, but the men were very sweet. The only person to use it as 'open season day on Fiona' was Billy; not even Tom sunk so low. Of course, being me. I questioned and tried to debate his points, which degenerated to insults; everyone said he ended up looking rather foolish and added how blatantly vindictive he was be -g as well as commenting on the way he's always provoking me and "winding me up". I'm pleased that Teddy was in charge of the group. He is a new member of staff (the most decent one, who respects residents' rights) and now he has seen how Billy treats me. which he is normally careful to hide in front of his colleagues. Absolutely no-one likes Billy, he is universally unpopular, as was Hitler before she left. Unfortunately, the majority of the clients come from uneducated backgrounds or environments of disempowerment (prison, where they don't know their rights, or are afraid to speak up. I have no inhibitions, so, though I've clashed with the same three people everyone else has, including ex-residents as well as current incumbents and even some staff. I stick my head above the parapet wherears the others keep theirs down.
As I am the only person in the house with an alarm clock, I lend it to whoever the House leader is and they return it after waking everyone up. This week it was Fingers' turn, but on Thursday morning, he forgot to return it. I nipped up to his room to get it, and was only in there for a minute, but long enough to open the door and find Billy lurking behind it. Obviously he'd followed me.
and I already know he hides round the corner eavesdropping whenever
I do his physio). Billy refused to believe I was collecting
my alarm clock and sent Fingers to my room to give me the message
to go to tr.e office to speak to him and, "if I didn't speak to him
with respect. I would be thrown out". Apparently he feels I was "disrespectful" to
him at my Johari's Window yesterday. Fingers told me to "hold
it down 'cos he's waiting for an opportunity to chuck you out".
I went to the office, where he alternated between doing an impression
of Nice Cop and Bad Cop. One minute being reasonable, then threatening
me with exclusion the next. When he asked me if I felt we could work
together given his new role, now that he is no longer counsellor. I
said I couldn't see why not. provided he stop his weird behaviour towards
me and treated me just like the others. How did I mean? he asked. Sighing
heavily, as this is the fourth time we've had this conversation, I
said, "you know already: stop playing head games with me, stop
winding me up and stop touching me, you know I don't like it".
Billy smirked and said, "It's the word of a |unkie and a troublemaker
against mine -I think I knew who'll be believed".