- Chapter One -

"Burning Bridges"

It's Friday.

Nothing wonderful about that. We get one of those every week. But today has one thing going for it: I'm outta here!

My bag is packed and leaning against the wall by the door. I said goodbye and good luck to everybody who was instrumental in turning my miserable existence around and getting me off the drugs and into a better life.

Lucky me!

That was a joke … in case the mild sarcasm passed you by!

Discharge time is noon. That's thirteen minutes from now.

They're having group therapy in the dayroom. I can hear them mumbling through the Serenity Prayer and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and the Preamble. I could recite that shit in my sleep. Six weeks is a long freaking time to sit and listen to the same crap over and over and over again, every single day.

I fought them and fought them and told them over and over again that I'm not a damned addict. I said I wasn't. They said I was!

It finally got to the point that I stopped arguing. Screw it! Let them be right. Let them think I finally accepted the First Step. And all the other shit …

"My name is Gregg, and I'm a drug addict and an alcoholic."

And the twenty-voice chorus in front of me says:

"Hi Gregg!" And I cringe.

I did six weeks, and then opted out! I did the rehab that Cuddy insisted on and Tritter insisted on … and even my best friend … yeah, right! … Wilson … insisted on. My insurance paid for the first twenty-eight days. I paid the rest.

Today I'm free. Today I get the fuck out of here, and they may … or may not … ever see me again.

Tom W. asked me awhile ago if I wanted to go to my last rehab meeting today. He wasn't happy with my answer. He's not happy with me in general. Screw him! He's an alcoholic and a drug addict. A bona fide loser. I'm not.

But one thing's for sure that I am … and that's gone!

Somebody put a Big Book in my backpack … but there's a garbage can right outside the front door of the hospital. I'll dump it in there when I see my taxi pull up out front.

Admitted to ourselves, to God, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs …

They call it "getting a sponsor." A what??

They wanted me to spill my guts to some other asshole four times as screwed up as me. Don't hold your breath!

Loudmouth Tom just called out the door, then came over to shake hands and grin at me with a stream of platitudes. Says my taxi is out front. I turned around and walked away from him. For the fiftieth time.

Grabbed my cane and backpack and got the hell out of there as fast as I could.

I told Cuddy and Wilson I wouldn't be leaving until the end of the workday. Not til after all the bleeding hearts packed up their opinions and their curiosity and gone home.

Wilson thinks he's giving me a lift back to my place with him tonight. He knows my mobility is shot and my leg feels like there's a red-hot poker jammed inside it. He and Cuddy want to make sure I get home okay … because the hospital is still liable until I make it there in one piece.

Screw that! I can still walk well enough to do it myself. I don't need his puppy-dog eyes, or his hand on my shoulder. I don't need the bastard to tell me again how he did it for my own good.

What I do need is to get the hell away from this place for awhile.

For six weeks, while the rest of those sorry assholes sat in group therapy and whined about their disadvantages and miserable lots in life, I was making plans to hit the road and get lost where nobody will find me until I'm damned good and ready for them to find me.

I have about three hours to get stuff packed up, get on the bike and hit the road. Got a lot of thinking to do.

There's the taxi. Nobody in the lobby … it's lunchtime. Guess everybody's gone to stuff their faces.

Leg hurts like hell. Move a little faster.

There's the trashcan. "Big Book … you're history."

As they say on your last day of rehab: This is the first day of the rest of your life!

Ninety days and ninety meetings, they say. One day at a time, they say.

Right! Watch me!