"The Carolina Incident" was the big moment in rehab where I realized just how idiotic the people there truly were.
When you hear the name "Carolina" what do you think of?
If your first thought is a 250 lbs dude that looks like Jay-Z on steroids, then clearly we aren't on the same page. But that's who Carolina was. His real name was Joseph, but he preferred Carolina. If a teacher called him by his real name he wouldn't answer. You know when a child decides they want to change their name, so when you call on them they wont acknowledge your existence unless you call them "Captain Poopypants" or whatever? That was Carolina. A grown man at around 6'5 who would stare at the ceiling or the walls and refrain from giggling while the teacher called "Joseph.... Joseph..." until finally she would cave in and call "Carolina?" His head snapped at attention, "Oh yes mam? Were you speaking to me?"
This always resulted in fits of laughter, knee slaps, and high fives from his fellow comrades. Boy they got the teacher good, let me tell you. There was more giggling coming out of that group of men than a room full of prepubescent Justin Beiber fans. This is the age regression I mentioned before. I was right back in high school and it drove me up the fucking wall. In fact, comparing them to high school students might even be giving them too much credit.
Janessa was one of the few female Yellow Tags in the program. She was appointed "Class President" or whatever for our opening class every morning where she would get up, make the morning announcements and all that jazz. Janessa was referred to as "Janessa the Hutt" by her fellow Yellow Tags due to her size. Every morning, EVERY MORNING, for the 27 days I was in attendance, this poor girl would stand up and walk to the podium to make her announcements and every time she would walk she would be treated to loud "Moooooo's" from the Yellow Tags as they stomped loudly on the floor to make the room shake. It was clear that it was happening before I got to rehab and Im sure it continued on well after I left.
So maybe best to compare them to 8 year olds...
While the Yellow Tags were cracking jokes that Kindergarteners would find to be absolute gold, I was sitting back and laughing at the sheer absurdity of everything they do. Carolina, the self imposed "Leader" of the pack, would casually "stroll" into class late EVERYDAY with that "one foot must be cased in cement" kind of strut, grab a chair, drag it all the way to the back wall away from the rest of the class. And every single time the teacher would have to tell him "Put the chair back where it belongs and sit with the rest of the class" and every time he would act like a child who's just been told he has to clean his room so all his actions become slooooow, heavy, and drawn out. Watching this once a day would be annoying enough but we had 7-8 classes a day so you do the math.
If I didn't mention already Carolina was in his late 30's to early 40's but I'm sure you already put that together.
My other favorite thing about Carolina was his constant bitching outside of class.
"Man this food tastes like my asshole" "Man, it's so boring here" "Man, it's too fucking hot outside"
Nobody, myself included, ever had the balls to just tell him the reality of it all. That he should be rotting in a prison cell for 9 years instead of being outside playing basket ball every day in the beautiful weather like he was. But whatever...
There was only one time he and I actually interacted one on one and it's when I denied him a cigarette. Much like prison, cigarettes are like gold in rehab, and since the Yellow Tags think they run the joint they don't feel the need to buy cigarettes like the rest of us do. They can just bum them off of all of us because everyone is scared to say no. Everyone, that is, except me and my friend Big Dan, a 60 something Vietnam Vet.
You see, with every passing day my mind became more and more clear and I felt like a million bucks. After a few "test runs" with some of less threatening Yellow tags (they often looked like skinnier versions of Eminem), I found I could "train" them much like I trained my dog. Through repetition. I only kept a few cigarettes in my pack at a time, the rest were stashed in my room. So whenever someone would ask to bum one I'd open the pack to reveal the few. As the days went by I would be asked less and less til it reached the point where not a single person ever asked me for a cigarette my last week and a half there. It was bliss.
So anyway, back to Carolina. One day I hear, "Hey yo Steve. Lemmie get a cigarette."
I know he's talking to me but I don't turn around.
"Steve what are you deaf? Im talkin to you"
I continue talking to my friend.
He grabs my shoulder and spins me around, "STEVE let me get a cigarette."
It's at this point I become genuinely scared since he's a full head taller than me but I still don't say anything. I just look down at my name tag. He reads my name tag and says, "I said what I said STEVE. Now give me a cigarette."
Now I have no idea what was going through my head. Maybe it was a combination of feeling so amazing for the first time in over a decade mixed with the inner anger of being in my late 20's and I'm actually being bullied like a high schooler but whatever was going through my mind I CLEARLY wasn't thinking.
All I said was "I don't think so... Joseph."
Mere seconds after his name left my lips I was slammed up against the wall, my head hitting the brick.
"What the FUCK did you call me?"
"Nothing," was all I could whisper as he pressed harder against my chest, immediately regretting everything I did leading to this point.
"The fuck nothing, WHAT did you call me??"
At this moment I am holding in tears with every fiber of my being, both emotionally and from the pain. I don't know what would have happened next but lucky for me "The Missing Link" (our nickname for the counselor Joe) came to my rescue and broke us up. What felt like an eternity being pinned against the wall was barely even a few seconds. Needless to say my whole body was trembling for a solid 20 minutes or so afterwards. I asked The Missing Link if I could go to my room and calm down which he was cool enough to allow and had me excused from class. In the privacy of my bunk I clutched my chest and tried my hardest not to cry. It was one of my weakest moments in rehab and the first time I truly missed home.
I debated on whether or not to even mention that part of my experience because it doesn't exactly make me look particularly good, but I feel if I want people to get a real taste of what my experience was like I gotta tell it like it is. Just typing it out made me relive the whole experience all over again and I still have NO IDEA why I would even talk back to someone like that. It was so stupid and no matter what sort of issues I had with Carolina I should have just kept my mouth shut. But I can't go back and change what I said.
All I can do is thank Carolina for his OWN moment of weakness because that brief encounter he and I had took place the day before "The Carolina Incident."
(I know I know, "That wasn't the Incident??" Sorry, but I get side tracked. A lot happened in rehab)