If you were to thumb through the book "Life in detox", you might stop on any number of stories, including;
One night a disagreement broke out between 5-6 patients who had been here awhile and were fairly cleaned up, cliquish and feeling a little cocky, and a patient who had just came in the day before, and was definitely NOT feeling the same.
She was arguing with everyone, over anything. She had already had an altercation with a nurse. Finally she got mad at a 'blonde' joke I made. Not to me directly, but after I left.
Other pts came and told me. She was saying it was racist. What if she told a black joke?
They told me that they had told her, no, that's just Charlie. He is the tech that'll make you laugh at 3am when your awoken for vitals.
She wasn’t listening. She was yelling at all of them. Could I get her away from them?
I went outside and asked her to come into the office.
We sat and I talked. I told her I was sorry if the blonde joke bothered her. I explained to her that the joking was not aimed at her.
She said it was. So I told her the following;
I told her I had lost a daughter, a brother, & a wife, spent over a decade in prison, and then lost a second wife and my house, before finally getting clean.
I told her I had not been happy in over twenty yrs until I finally got a sponsor, worked the steps, and met God.
And now that I was, I didn’t know how to express that happiness.
So I do it with jokes.
Lots of stupid jokes.
I told her I understood why she was so defensive. That she was protecting herself from hurt. She looked at me & sneered, I'm not worried about being hurt.
I took her hand and looked her in her eyes and told her, "Yes, you are, but these people are not out to hurt you. They are hurting too."
She said, "They were mean to me."
I asked her, "Were you mean to them?' Maybe they were defending themselves from being hurt by you, by being mean first?"
"You've been lashing out at everyone since you got here, and I understand. You are in a new environment. We are naturally apprehensive when we go into an unknown."
And you can't get high here to numb these feelings.
"I know. I felt the same way when I came here."
I told her, "If you are nice to them, I bet they will be nice to you. But YOU have to be nice."
"Want to try something?" I asked. "Whenever you talk to one of them, imagine you are talking to someone with a broken heart, because most of us have had one at some point."
Before I could say any more she slipped out, "Yeah, I know what that feels like."
'SEE!' I said. 'You understand.' "And I promise it will help you to get along with people."
"That's a nice way to see things. she said. And the blonde joke was not for me?"
"Promise", I said. Then,
"Hey. you want to break the ice with them and start over? You go out there and tell a blonde joke! They'll love it!"
"You think? I don’t even know any blonde jokes." Her eyes were twinkling a possibility, then, "I know a dirty joke!"
"Ah..no. I'm sure it’s funny, but a blonde joke they'll relate to you with because of what happened."
So I told her a simple blonde joke.
She went to see the nurse, and while she was gone I went outside to speak to the Cool Kids Club.
As soon as I stepped outside, their righteous assault began.
"Charlie, keep her away from us!" "What IS her problem?" etc..etc..etc..
"Easy, easy," I said as I sat down at the table with them and asked them to listen for a second.
I told them about personal defenses. About walls.
About putting themselves in her shoes and remembering how they felt when they came in those doors.
This particular Cool Kids Club (A new one forms every week or two, as 'friends' leave and new ones enter), was a middle class group.
They didn't know how to relate to this new person, who was NOT middle class.
"Hey guys, take it easy. Listen, let me ask you something. Do you think she was born this way? That she came out of the womb bitching at the doctor?"
The response was 50/50.
"I promise you, she wasn't. She's detoxing, uncomfortable, and scared."
I'm going to tell you something my sponsor told me, and it's made my life so much easier, "When you meet someone like her, someone that is really getting under your skin. When you deal with them, deal with them as if you are dealing with someone who has a broken heart, because you probably are.
You feel me?"
I look at each of them.
They're quiet now.
They understand broken hearts.
I've talked with each of them at one time or another, telling them my story and listening to theirs.
While I have their attention I tell them something else.
"Guys, listen to me, and I promise this will make you all members of the coolest Cool Kids Club.(A name I give the new cliques). When someone like this gets on your nerves, not just here, but in life, don't just think 'What an ass.'
Think to yourself, 'What has happened (I emphasized this to them because so much has happened in their lives) to this person in their life to make them so miserable?
So.. whatever it is, that is getting under your skin.'
"It will make you look at that person in such a different light.
It will make life so much easier for you, and you a better person."
Then I add, "How do you think I stay so nice to you guys? You'all drive me nuts sometimes!"
They are cracking up, laughing. (And the crowd goes wild)
"You guys understand?"
"When she comes out here, she is going to tell you a blonde joke. She's trying to make up? ok? Be nice.
They are excited. They are excited about being nice!
How cool is that?
The new pt. comes outside at that point (Don't think God has perfect timing?).
The Cool Kids Club all invite her over, "Sit, sit."
She looks at me, I nod to her, smiling, she sits.
Then, the president of the Cool Kids Club, a Jewish kid almost ready to leave, asks her;
"Hey —-, Do you know what canoes and Jews have in common?"
She looks at him, she knows he's Jewish, "No."
"Eventually, they will both tip!"
Everyone laughs. She looks at me, then him. "That doesn't bother you?" She asks.
"Naw." He says, "It's funny." (I could kiss him).
She looks at me.
"Didn't you have a joke you wanted to tell them?" I ask.
"What," She starts. Then stops, then starts again, "What do you call a blonde who dyes her hair black?"
EVERYBODY asks, "WHAT?"
"Artificial intelligence." She finishes, looking exhausted, apprehensive, and excited, all in one beautiful expression.
And the crowd goes wild!
George Carlin would not get a vote if this were a contest.
The look on her face.
They are all talking now, laughing together. The Cool Kids Club has a new member.
I get up and go back inside to my desk, feeling pretty good, to be honest with you.
So many damaged people.
So easy…to make it easier.