General Fiction posted August 12, 2017


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A man tries to change his life.

One Week In

by Thomas Bowling


“Mr. Halbert, have you found a facility that will accept you as a patient?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Is it on our list of approved treatment centers?”

“Yes, Your Honor. It's Well Springs in Fort Meyers.”

“In that case, I withhold adjudication until you've completed their program. You're aware that if for any reason you don't complete the treatment that this offer will be revoked, and you will be looking 
at one year in county jail. We don't condone repeat drunk driving offenses.” 

“Yes. Thank you, Your Honor.”

That was the beginning of Charlie Halbert's rehabilitation. He almost didn't get it. His high-priced attorney didn't help him find a facility. He said most places wouldn't take a three-time loser. He didn't even try to find one. He told him it was a waste of time to look. Just accept the one year and be glad he didn't get Judge Bruney. Bruney would have given him two years.

Charlie's wife, Carla, wasn't a quitter. She searched the internet until she found Well Springs. They said it was unusual, but they would accept Charlie as a patient. It was expensive - $15,000 for three months, payable up front. If a patient violated the rules, he would be thrown out with no refund. Then, he went back before the judge and a year in jail.

Charlie didn't have that kind of money. He had to get it from Carla's parents. He promised to pay them back, but they knew they would never see it happen. They didn't give him the money because they had faith in their son-in-law. They knew he was a loser, but they hoped it might actually work, and they wanted to rescue their daughter from an abusive relationship.

Charlie was a bum. They knew it and he knew it. He had never been able to hold a job. He spent all of his time in bars either drinking or fighting. Some drunks are easy to get along with. They turn mellow as they get drunk. Not Charlie. He was a mean drunk. He would have a few drinks and immediately start a fight. Charlie couldn't fight when he was drunk. He was always getting beat up. He was barred from more places than he was allowed in.

No more, he said. Bars have made their last dollar off of me. It's clean and sober from now on. I've learned my lesson. How stupid was I? How could I take so many dumb chances? I thought I could drive drunk and no one would notice. If no one noticed, why did I keep getting pulled over?

I drove so many times with Carla in the car. I put her life at risk every time she got in the car with me. What if I had killed her, or someone else? How could I live with that?

Call a cab. No one wants to call a cab. Around the holidays, the bars advertise free taxi cab rides, but no one accepts them. Bars get advertising and it doesn't cost them anything. The cab sits in the parking lot all night. The bars get a discount because a driver isn't needed. It's like the empty cop car parked beside the road to warn drivers to slow down.

I almost ran over a cop one night. He was untangling a fender bender at an expressway on-ramp. He was standing in the middle of the road directing traffic. I, as usual, was blind drunk. I was actually driving with one hand over my eye so I wouldn't have double vision. I didn't see the cop until the last minute. I swerved just in time. As I went by, I heard him yell for me to pull over. I kept going.

What about my friends? I was so drunk one evening that I couldn't put the T-tops on my car. A few of my buddies came outside and put them on for me. They laughed as I pulled out, scraping a concrete post. Another paint job ruined. Then there was the time . . .

You know the story. One screw-up after another. What an idiot. Carla's parents begged her to leave me, but she stuck it out. Good old, Carla. On long trips, we kept a cooler in the back seat. Carla would mix drinks for me as I drove. By the time we got to the motel, I could barely see the parking lot. Good old, Carla. She was right there by my side.

Finally, I was going to get the help I needed. I'll never drink and drive again. Hell, if this program works the way they say it does, I'll never drink again. That would be nice. No more Friday night fights. I could hold a job for more than a couple of months. I could come home with money in my pocket.

That's the new life for me. I should have wised up years ago. Think how far ahead I would be. Oh, well, better late than never. Three months sounds like a long time, but not when you consider a lifetime of being on the bottle. Time to give up the bottle and be a big boy. No more shirking my responsibilities. Carla's parents would see. I'm going to pay them back with interest.

I can't believe a week has gone by. When I was admitted, a counselor went over the rules with me. Patients are allowed one fifteen-minute phone call a day. If no one answered on the other end, too bad. You could try again tomorrow.

No visitors except on Saturdays. On visitation day, you could leave the facility, but not the county. You had to be back by 9:00 PM. You may get a random urine test on your return. If you had a drink or drugs, you were expelled from the program.

There were a lot of other rules with varying degrees of punishment. The purpose was to control people who had proved they had no self-control. They wanted to get you strong enough that you could beat your demons.

Charlie made it through his first week. Friday evening, he called Carla.

“Hello, baby.”

“Hi, Charlie, I can hardly wait to see you.”

“I know. I thought Saturday would never get here. I've got a surprise for you planned. I can't tell you until you get here. I think you'll like it.”

“I know I will, Charlie. Just being with you is all I need. My parents said they're praying for you.”

“That's nice.”

“Don't you have anything to say to them?”

“Your parents know what I think of them.”

“They think you hate them.”

“All they know about me is what you've told them.”

“Do you really want to do this tonight? Let's not fight for once.”

“I'm sorry. I guess being off the sauce has made me a little grumpy. You wait. In three months, I'll be a different man. No more sour puss. I'll change. You'll see. Your gonna like the new me. Tell your parents I said hi, and thanks for the help.”

“That's more like it. I'll see you tomorrow. What's my surprise?”

“You'll see. I've been planning this all week. See you tomorrow, honey.”

Charlie's surprise was he had made reservations at a motel on the beach. He used the one credit card that still had room on it. He and Carla would spend the whole day in their room, making up for lost time.

On Saturday, Charlie got up early and packed a few things. As soon as Carla got there, he would jump in the car and they would go to the motel. He was going to keep their destination a secret until they pulled into the parking lot.

He had told Carla that he couldn't leave until 10:00 AM. She said she would get there at quarter till. 9:45 came and went. 10:00 came and went. 10:30 came and went. 
The only thing that didn't come was Carla.

By noon, Charlie wasn't watching TV, he was sitting on the couch staring at it. Charlie started working on a project. When he was finished, he tacked it on the wall. It was a count-down calendar.

He looked at it and smiled. Eighty-five days until my next drink.


Recognized
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.


© Copyright 2017. Thomas Bowling All rights reserved.
Thomas Bowling has granted FanStory.com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.