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I would have thought I could find at least one more joke, yet another gag along the Dean Martin, Foster Brookes line of humor, that oldest of joke butts since the prostitute and/or lawyers: the drunk. As many times as I have been in rehab, hospitalized, de-programmed, and 12-stepped, it would seem a natural to have at least one more riff when it comes to me and my history with booze; one more extended metaphor about Dracula Meets Keith Richards or something in that vein. In a desperate (no accidental choice of words) bid to mine that old standby of humor, that is, irony, I went to the Yellow Pages to try to find some ironically guffaw-propelled and newly named sorts of places like Serenity Stairway to Heaven or the like. But humor escapes pretty thoroughly here at my age, and even if I had the desire to make jokes at the expense of those in the recovery game -- and I do not -- I am incapable. Though I did find one possibly wry lifting at the corners of my mouth -- the phrase Home Detox.

Such a concept surely must be a joke in conventional circles, but I was not laughing as I dialed "Mike's" number. In too bad a state to take in even the most rudimentary information, I gathered that (a) they are serious, and (b) it can work if one desires it badly enough. Mike would drive over that afternoon, take me in to the doc's office, evaluate my Addiction Severity Index, take my vitals, leave me with a stock of Banquet frozen dinners, begin me on a five-day course of what seemed only the most desultory supervision, and leave me with instructions, medications, and hearty best wishes.

The entire proposition put me in mind of a recent Nick Nolte film in which Nolte plays a heroin addict who runs out of dope and money and states flatly to a French narcotics officer (as Nolte's nose runs all over the fellow), "I feel a confinement comin' on" and proceeds to handcuff himself to a brass bed. Nolte succeeds in this self-imposed withdrawal partly because it is theoretically possible but mostly because he is Nick Nolte.

The early stages of alcohol withdrawal involve shakes with a danger of seizure, a pitiful anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and a plotting that resembles the cunning of the insane to somehow, some way, re-introduce alcohol into the body's depleting stores. Hallucinations or DTs are quite possible, and while they might appear harmless, they can be devastating if severe enough.

The dreams during detox or withdrawal can be something akin to Gogol or Hieronymus Bosch. I dreamt of men with deformed noses and women with phallic dugs, all the while listening to what I thought was the soundtrack to a long-forgotten Cream album that turned out to be literally 11 hours of a neighbor's video-game soundtrack.

During this home program, theoretically an MD checks in on you periodically, but I saw only Mike the nurse with his pill charts, his envelopes of vitamins and Valium, and a muscle-relaxer. You must answer the phone when he calls at, say, 2:30 a.m. or it's assumed you are out buying liquor. I was asleep (under enough tranks to bring down a rhino) when he called, and the next day he explained to me that twice before with clients this had happened and he had them cuffed off to jail for 60 days. Scared straight, I slept little the following night during which time he did not call and I waited like a ditched lover.

One can also run afoul of law enforcement by not sticking strictly to the med chart and schedule. One too few of these or one extra of those and one is in violation again and facing possible jail time. This sort of negligence on the part of his clientele jeopardizes Mike's license and that of the whole enterprise. Its observance keeps Home Detox (619-683-2738) in business and out of trouble with the Physicians and Nurses Association at their various other incarnations.

Integral ingredients to any detox would involve sensation. A writer for the television show House, about a physician addicted to Vicodin, put it well: "It's like having a million little paper cuts all over your body at the same time." To that might be added the ancient Oriental shame of a "thousand thousand generations of fathers returned upon them unto their sons."

At the end of the five-day course, you are detoxed. Even they don't say cured.

"And how might you be feeling?" Mike would ask. Like shit! I could swear I detected a primal satisfaction on his face, though it was likely just gratification at another irresponsible clown gone off the deep end and then retrieved. But then another part of the whole deal is paranoia. Did I mention that?

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