Three years have passed since Hindy was discharged from rehab.
“Nu, are you ready?”
Asher stood in the foyer waiting for Hindy to gather her things.
Hindy replied, “Asher, for the last time, there is no reason for you to come with me tonight. It’s no big deal.”
“Three years clean and sober is no big deal? I beg to differ.”
Hindy had to smile at how Asher had finally adopted the NA lingo. He had fought so hard against it; “Stop with those stupid slogans!” he’d say, not unkindly, just in a frustrated way. Following vigorous persuasion from their marriage counselor, he’d started attending Nar-Anon meetings. These meetings were for the spouses and children of addicts. Once he started, Asher attended faithfully, often accompanied by Sruly and Tzippy.
Hindy’s two youngest children had turned into her fan club and cheering squad. It seemed as if whenever she was down or felt herself starting to falter, they’d whisk her off for frozen yogurt or a trip to the bowling alley, and she’d return home recharged. The two of them had grown so close and, partly because of their mutual encouragement of each other, they had grown beautifully, like straight, fine, graceful trees. They met one night a week and learned machshavah sefarim together. Considering where they had been just three short years ago, Hindy sometimes had to pinch herself to believe it was true. Both of them were in the parashah now, and she had a feeling they’d go one right after the other.
It had taken a long time for Hindy to create a new life for herself after rehab. She and Miriam were still on shaky ground. Hindy felt it was more because Miriam’s husband, Zalman, kept fanning the flames, but Hindy saw it as a way to practice acceptance. She had complete faith that Miriam would return when she was ready; meanwhile there was nothing Hindy could do to speed up the process. She could still daven for Miriam’s well-being, which she always did. In the past, she’d have leaned hard on Miriam to toe the line and poor Miriam would have done it. However, the stored-up anger and resentment was like an infected wound. Healing would take time and patience, like everything else.
Hindy went once a week to eat dinner with her parents on her own or with Asher, a luxury she’d never allowed herself. She had always looked after them and taken care of whatever they needed, but she hadn’t given herself the opportunity to actually enjoy their company. Looking back, she was mortified by what she’d put them through, but through hard work and persistence, they’d emerged on the other side of it, even closer than they were before.
There’d been some shame to live down within the community. While she was eternally grateful to Suri Kleinman for calling Hatzolah, thereby saving her life, Suri had undergone some trauma of her own. She apparently felt the need to share her burden with several members of their community. Most of those she told hadn’t believed her, and Hindy would neither confirm nor deny the rumors, which left everyone in a state of limbo. No one knew what to think, so they erred on the side of believing Suri’s account.
There were those who laughed at her: “Tylenol? Is that for real? It must have been something much more dangerous.” If only people understood how dangerous these innocuous-looking, over-the-counter pain relievers could be, Hindy thought. She wanted to take out a public service announcement, but she was afraid of calling more attention to herself.
She’d officially dismantled her business, which had disintegrated in her absence anyway. She sent out notices to her former clients with warm wishes to share many simchos together. She was looking forward to attending as a guest, and not as the frazzled event planner.
And, to everyone’s utter and complete surprise, she’d gone back to school and was now an LPN, a licensed practical nurse. She worked two nights a week in the Emergency Room at the hospital nearby. Her family and friends thought she’d really lost her mind, but Hindy found that she loved the high intensity, combined with the knowledge that she was doing something useful. It was the last thing anyone thought she would do, but then again, no one thought she’d become an addict, either.
Addict. She still had trouble with the term sometimes. Part of her still didn’t believe it pertained to her, but the facts didn’t lie. The most surprising thing she’d learned about addiction was that the seeds for it were planted long before picking up the first drink or drug, like a gas leak bursting suddenly into flame.
“I’m ready, Asher,” said Hindy.
“I’m glad this is an open meeting. It’s good to see what happens on your side of the fence from time to time,” Asher mused as he opened the door of the car for her and waited until she settled herself before closing it gently. Hindy felt like a queen. It was an unfamiliar feeling, but she reveled in it. Marriage counseling, while hugely difficult, had had its benefits. Every now and then, one of them would change for the better.
They pulled up in front of the Community Center and then descended three flights to the meeting room. The air was thick with smoke — they’d had to get special permission to allow smoking in the building — and the smell of hot, acrid coffee. It wasn’t pleasant, but it had come to signal sobriety.
“Welcome to the 9 o’clock meeting of Narcotics Anonymous,” the secretary began. She ran through the preamble and then introduced Hindy as speaker. The group applauded as she stood behind the podium.
“Good evening,” said Hindy, her voice strong and clear. “My name is Hindy, and I’m an addict.”