Something of a Fresh Start


The only time it didn’t absolutely suck visiting Rob in the hospital was the day he was born. All the other times were some version of hell, and the last time, at BHC Alhambra in Rosemead, was no exception.

Rob was in on a 5150 hold, which meant he’d be their guest for at least 72 hours, and also meant that I would be bringing him a chipotle chicken sandwich from a nearby Subway each and every day.

If you google BHC Alhambra, it says:

BHC Alhambra is an acute care treatment facility providing behavioral health services for children and adults.

And maybe that’s true, but it wasn’t true for Rob. To be honest, I didn’t really care about his care. I was only interested in his safety. That’s how it always was whenever he was hospitalized. We knew that for at least those few days and nights, we didn’t have to worry about him, that he would be okay.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of the second day that he finally saw the main shrink, who told him the unsurprising news that he was depressed and prescribed some meds. Otherwise, Rob just hung out with a bunch of other despondent people who smoked cigarettes, sat silently in a few rudimentary group therapy sessions, and basically just waited to get the fuck out of there.

The problem for us was where Rob would be heading next. Caryn and I wanted him to go to a rehab facility to help him dry out and maybe set him on the right path, whatever the hell that meant. A friend of mine had recently done a 30-day stint at a no-frills, 12-step recovery program in the foothills of Virginia that he highly recommended. I called them up to see if there was a bed available. There was and I thought we were all set. Just one small catch—convincing Rob to go.

I brought it up on his second day at BHC Alhambra—actually it was night, visiting hours were really just visiting hour, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM—and let’s just say that he didn’t take the suggestion too well.

“I’m not going to fuckin’ rehab, Dad. I don’t need to go. End of discussion,” Rob said. He took a bite of his sandwich and threw the rest in the garbage to emphasize the point.

“Then where are you gonna go, Rob?” I asked, trying to remain calm while ignoring the knot in my chest. “You can’t stay with us. You have no money. Where are you going to live?

“I don’t know,” he said, and then walked away from me and down the hall back to his room. Like I said, circle of hell.

I called Caryn on the long drive home (they were always long drives home), and she told me about a friend of hers who was living in a sober house in Los Angeles. He knew of another sober house in Torrance that he thought might be a good fit for Rob, and passed along the name and number of the guy who ran it.

The next morning, I called up Brendan Baltimore at Harbor Rock Recovery and explained our situation. He said that they usually need to interview a potential resident before accepting him into the house, and I said that Rob had no other place to go and that we’d swing by once he was released from the psych unit and take it from there. Brendan was cool with that. Again, there was just one small catch—convincing Rob to go.

Rob called about an hour later and said that they were going to discharge him some time after 3 o’clock, so I did what I always did and raced right over there. I remember sitting in the waiting room with a Spanish family of five who were there to pick up their eldest son, and a prim and proper older woman who was there for her adult daughter. We all just sat there quietly, looking sad and hopeless, waiting for them to call out our kid’s name.

As always seemed to be the case, they called Rob last. I went through a very locked-looking door and saw him sitting alone in one of the visiting rooms.

“Yeo,” he said, sounding slightly friendlier than the last time I’d seen him.

“Yo, what’s the story?”

Rob explained that they would only discharge him to a rehab or a sober living house. He still wasn’t going to rehab, and the sober house they wanted to place him in was like an hour east of where we were, which was already close to two hours from where I lived.

Then it was my turn to explain that that was too far for me to visit him on a regular basis. I told him about the other sober house option in Torrance that Caryn’s friend recommended, and we went back and forth for a few minutes until he finally agreed to check it out. So we packed up his stuff, which wasn’t much more than a change of clothes and cigarettes, and made yet another long drive back in the opposite direction to meet Brendan Baltimore.

Harbor Rock Recovery turned out to be a nondescript, ranch-style house with a big bay window in the front, right in the middle of a pleasant looking suburban block. It’s not like I was expecting there to be a big sign that said “No Drinking Allowed Here,” but I guess it wasn’t as depressing as I thought it would be. We knocked on the door and a big guy about my size with a bald head appeared.

“I’m Brendan Baltimore, the house manager,” he said, and we all shook hands. “I have to grab a few things from my truck. Why don’t you guys look around for a minute and meet me in the backyard and we’ll talk.”

And that’s what we did. The house was nothing fancy. It had a small kitchen and dining room, a living room with a big TV on the wall, three small bedrooms and two bathrooms. It looked like all the furniture had been donated, but it was fairly neat and clean.

“This place doesn’t look so bad,” I said, trying my best to sound encouraging.

“It’s all right,” Rob said. “Maybe I can hook up my PlayStation to the big TV.”

We went to the backyard. There were some free weights on the lawn and lots of junk, including a few rusty old bikes piled high in the garage. Rob and I sat down in some weather-beaten Adirondack chairs and then Brendan came and joined us.

He asked Rob how he was feeling and what brought him to the hospital in the first place, and Rob gave him uncharacteristically honest answers. He then asked Rob if he was an alcoholic and if he was willing to go to AA, and that was the first time I ever heard Rob admit that he was.

Right after that was when Brendan got into this whole faith-based recovery rap, with lots of stuff about God doing what only He can do to bring freedom and abundant life, and Rob and I just looked at each other like what the fuck is this guy talking about? But we went along with it until Brendan mentioned that going to church on Sundays was mandatory because the place was run by a pastor named Daniel Bradford.

“Well, I’m Jewish, but okay,” Rob said. I could see that Rob liked Brendan and I knew that this was the best chance for him to restart his life here in sunny California. I also knew that Rob needed to do whatever he needed to do to survive.

Brendan went through a bunch of rules—Rob had to go to daily AA meetings, find a job and there was a curfew—and he’d also be sharing a room with an older Mexican man. Rob was cool with all of it.

After that, Brendan gave us some papers to sign and asked Rob for some form of ID, which Rob didn’t have because he had “lost” his wallet (he actually threw it away on Venice Beach the night he came to my house) and would have to go to the DMV to get a new card. Caryn and I had decided that we’d pay his rent for the first few months until Rob got back on his feet, so I gave Brendan a check for $650 and it was a done deal.

“You can move in tonight, Rob,” Brendan said, and we all shook hands again.

We then went to Ralph’s for some groceries, and also stopped at RiteAid to fill Rob’s prescription for Lexapro. There was a SuperCuts next door and we ducked in there to get Rob a fresh cut. I was hoping that this whole sober living deal would be something of a fresh start.

After driving back to the house, we unpacked the groceries and I told Rob that I’d come by that weekend and bring him his clothes and other belongings that I had stored in my garage. I gave him $40, and then we hugged and kissed like we always did.

3 thoughts on “Something of a Fresh Start

  1. I read his “yeo” in his voice and immediately got the chills and began to cry. I remember him talking to me and telling me about this place when he lived there. He was doing surprisingly well for a while, going to the daily meetings. I was so happy for him, until the inevitable happened and he fell back off the wagon.

    Liked by 1 person

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