(This is another fictional account inspired by people, conditions, and situations I encountered during my stay in the hospital.)

Trevor’s Story

            “Pick a card—any card!”  Like any good huckster, Trevor called to the passersby around him and fanned the deck smoothly and beautifully before him.  The others in the hall ignored him, but Cindy and I stepped over to see what he was doing.  Anything to offset the boredom.  The receptionist frowned disapprovingly at the cards on the counter of the nurses’ station.

            Trevor went through the motions with a flourish, making the cards we chose appear like magic at the top, middle, or bottom of the deck—wherever we wanted.  After a couple of minutes, I tired of the game and decided to head on down the hall.

            “Pretty good trick you’ve got there,” I said, “but I’ll catch up with you later.”

            Even as I walked away, he said, “I can do it every time—nothing to it!” and when I didn’t comment or turn back, he called out, “What’s next on the agenda?”

            Well, since Trevor was new on the floor and seemed to want somebody to talk to, and since I was standing right in front of the white board where the schedule and announcements were updated twice daily, I stopped and waited for him to catch up with me.

            “It says here there are ping pong and checkers tournaments in a few minutes, and then snacks.”  I pointed to each item on the board so that he would know where to look next time.  He spent a moment scanning the schedule for himself. 

            “When’s the poker tournament?”

            I looked at him and shook my head.  “They haven’t had one since I’ve been here.”        “Maybe we can start one.  I’d get in on the checkers tournament, but everybody has their own set of rules.  You have to know the rules if you’re going to play the game, I always say.  By the way, my name’s Trevor.”  And just like that it seemed I had a new best friend, at least temporarily.

                        Over the next several hours I heard Trevor’s story.  I don’t remember all of it, and I can’t tell it like he did, but it went something like this:

            “I don’t know why you’re here, but I’m here because I’m a drunk.  I don’t go to meetings and I have no interest in stopping.  Drinking is my hobby, and I can’t wait to get out of here and have the next one.

            “They tell me the police brought me in last night.  I don’t remember what happened, but know I was just drinking at home, and I must have said something to somebody, because the next thing I know, the cops are there, and they say I blew a blood alcohol of .44, and it was either jail or the crisis center.  I would rather have gone to jail, because I’d be out by now, but as it is, I’m here on “involuntary” admission and I have to wait for the doctor and a judge to agree to let me out.  I didn’t see the doctor this morning, so hopefully he will sign off when he does his afternoon rounds, and get the process under way.”

            I didn’t tell him my experience was that the doctor only came by in the morning.

            “In the meantime, I’ll play the game by their rules.  I’ve done it before, you know.  Not here, of course, but four years ago I went into a rehab facility upstate, and I went to their meetings, and followed their instructions, and did my chores, and graduated from their program.  I even have a certificate saying I’m fixed!  I stopped at the first gas station I saw and bought a case of Budweiser on the way home.

            “My wife—my ex-wife—made me go to rehab that time.  She said my drinking was ‘just getting to be too much.’  That’s nonsense.  I never drove drunk, I never hurt anybody, I never lost time from work (I was working at the bank back then), and I was home every night.  What it really came down to was she wanted kids and I didn’t want any part of that.  I turned 35 while I was in rehab, and she came to see me on my birthday.  I thought she would be happy to see me clean and sober, just like she wanted.  But no—she served me with divorce papers—just like that!  On my birthday!

            “I didn’t fight her.  I finished the program and came home and got an apartment and let her do her thing.  I had some friends in NASCAR, and they got me a job on one of the pit crews, so I was out of town most of the time and didn’t even have to run into her at Walmart.  I could drink to my heart’s content and never have to listen to her complain.  One thing changed, though—I started drinking more of the hard stuff and less beer.  I’ll still have a beer or two to be social, but I’ve graduated to vodka these days.  Not the cheap stuff, either—I always said, if you’re going to have a hobby, you’ve got to be willing to spend some money.”

            As it turned out, the doctor was not inclined to recommend Trevor’s release until he had “gotten some benefit from the program”; and once Trevor knew that, he became a model member of the community.  He attended every meeting and activity.  He met daily with his therapist and his social worker.  He opened up and told his story in group session, admitting that he was a drunk, and that his drinking had gotten out of hand recently.  And then he began to share the issues behind his addition.

            “My parents are both gone, and the only family I have left is my sister.  She and I are best friends, and she lives just down the street from me, so we see each other every day.  I have dinner with her and her husband Stan two or three times a week.

            “When she got pregnant, she was thrilled, and so was I.  She had a difficult pregnancy, and Stan had to be out of town quite a bit, so I spent a lot of time helping out.  So when my nephew was born, it was almost like having a son of my own.  I wanted to make sure that he had all the world could offer, and I was the best uncle any child could have.  For 18 months, I was happy and had everything to live for.  And I never drank if I knew I was going to see him.  Then, three months ago…he…he…”

            At this point Trevor broke down and started sobbing.  Eva handed him a box of tissues, which he used thoroughly.  No one spoke as he wept in anguish and utter despair.  Minutes passed.  Then he spoke again, through the tears.

            “One morning, he just didn’t wake up.  They said he had a heart defect.  Even the doctors hadn’t known about it.  One day he was there, the next day….We were all devastated.  My sister tried to kill herself—took a bunch of pills, but they didn’t work.  I started drinking more—a lot more.  Even today…I don’t know how…I can go on without him.”

            The tech in charge of the meeting made sympathetic noises that were meant to give comfort, but Trevor wasn’t quite finished.

            “His name was Ethan…Trevor…he was even named after me…. I don’t remember much about the last three months.  I know Stan came to check on me once, and took away six or eight bottles of vodka, but he didn’t know about the case in the trunk of my car.  And here I am.”

            “Are there others of you who have lost a loved one?” the tech asked.  More than half of us raised our hands.  “There will be a group session on Bereavement and Grief this afternoon at 1:30, right here.  I encourage you to come and listen to Angela—we share her with the hospice program, and she’s really good.  I think it would benefit you, Trevor, and some of the rest of you, too.  Thank you for sharing.”

            “I’ll be there,” Trevor said, dabbing his eyes one more time.

            And he was.  He never missed a meeting, session, or activity, and he never missed the opportunity to tell us that his daily goal was to get clean and sober to honor little Ethan’s memory, and to be there to help his sister deal with her own grief.

            On Friday the order finally came through for his discharge.  I went with him as he had his vitals taken, he was given his med list and prescriptions, and he got his belongings back from the secure room.  As he stood by the nurses’ station and put on his belt, he said to me, “See?  I told you they’d let me out of here—piece of cake.  No jail time, either!  You just have to play their game.”

            The receptionist hung up the phone and told him that his taxi was waiting downstairs.  That struck me as odd.  He pushed a button on the elevator, and as he waited for it to reach our floor, I asked him a question.

            “Why’d you have them call a cab?  I thought your sister would be coming to get you.”

            The elevator arrived and he entered it and turned to me with a smile.

            “Sister?  What sister?  I don’t have a sister.”

            And the elevator door closed.

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