Ryan Donnelly's Blog

Rehab Morning 1 (continued)

I was so nervous my first full day. It was like starting a new school in the middle of the year and all of the kids already knew each other. Who would I eat lunch with? Hang out with? Talk with? Sounds petty, but when you are put out of your comfort zone, and in the extreme way I was, these were some of the little thoughts circulating around in my head.

Frank led the way out of our bedroom and down a large dingy hallway. I was asking him all sorts of things about what to expect during my stay, and what it was like to work in the warehouse. He explained to me that my first week of work would consist of me sorting through all of the shipments that the Salvation Army Manhattan branch had received and going through all of the clothes and home goods, while prepping them to be sold in the SA store. Sounded easy enough in theory to me. I was just happy to have a bed.

We made our way down the stairwell on our way to the third floor cafeteria. The only thing on this floor was the eating area and our two counselors’ office.

The “Caf” was extra clean and was by far the happiest place in the entire building. When you walked in you were immediately greeted with a line, and followed suit. While I stood in line with Frank I noticed that one of the consistencies on every guys face was this huge smile. Everyone was hungry and they were about to eat.

While I was standing there people watching, I was once again reminded of how well I had it at home. Even when I was using, food was never an issue, and it always surrounded me. Many addicts chose drugs over food because they can’t afford both. But, in my case the more drugs I used the more I indulged in unhealthy food.

In the background I could overhear the cafeteria workers joking around and singing to the radio. I’ll never forget the sweet sound of Ray Charles singing, “I got a woman,” blaring out of the speakers. I would soon come to know that this was an every day occurrence. The food staff was given this CD by the warehouse supervisor who told them that it was donated ages ago.

To this very moment, whenever I hear Ray Charles I think back to sitting down and breaking bread with complete strangers. Complete strangers who all had one thing in common… the desire to live.

My first morning in the cafeteria I mirrored everything that Frank did, grabbed silverware, a tray, ect. I quickly noticed the light mood in the room and that everyone seemed to be in good spirits. I also realized that all of the kitchen staff were all men that were actually in the rehab. However, instead of being assigned to the warehouse, they were assigned to kitchen duty. And I can’t tell you how happy I was that they were. That food was amazing.

Each of the staff was dressed in donated white clothing. White aprons, pants and hats. Each one of them serving their fellow rehab members with food and a smile. It was apparent that everyone knew each other and the feeling was that of one giant family.

Frank was directly in front of me, he introduced me to the kitchen staff of six guys. He told them, “This is Ryan; he’s my roommate and my new homeboy.” I felt accepted right away, mostly because Frank was one of the biggest, baddest dudes in the entire place and I felt safe.

Each one of the guys removed their serving gloves and shook my hand. I was amazed, they had more manners and couth than anyone I had ever met in my everyday world of New Jersey suburbia. They looked at me directly in the eyes and spoke with integrity, told me their names and welcomed me.

It was becoming extremely obvious that this place wasn’t dangerous. All of these men that I found myself surrounded by were just happy to be breathing. We all shared a common bond. No matter what our paths that got us to this spot, we were all the same.

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