Walk Down Misery Street



The manager of the sober house was a man of about forty years old by the name of Jim. He was a former patient and resident of a sober house. Jim had recently completed treatment and started his professional career in this field.

This was an angry, defiant man who, after long years of humiliation, was given power over his own kind, those just like him only yesterday. From rags to riches. Jim was disgustingly ingratiating toward the clinic personnel, whereas he was cruel and rough with the patients, humiliating them. He reminded them every time that they are nothing and no one. He’d yell at them and hurry them out quickly into the van, as if herding cattle. He acted like a tough boss over the patients, appointing as his assistants (called sergeants or captains) those he liked and who were power-hungry. Jim was in charge of expelling from the sober house those who were caught using drugs or violating the rules. Such expulsions he executed harshly and with great pleasure.

Francesca appeared to keep her distance from her faithful servant Jim because he was horrendous, and she did not want to be associated with him. However, I suspect his work was so satisfactory that she privately valued his dedication and readiness to serve.

The patients hated Jim. Their slightest infraction towards him, however, was considered a rebellion, and rebels were kicked out onto the street without delay. Patients often complained about Jim’s arbitrariness and the horrific living conditions in the sober houses. Without enough beds, they slept on mattresses or box springs on the floor. The heating and air conditioning didn’t work. Countless cockroaches and other insects lived in the sober houses. Mice, too.

I no longer trusted my ears. But the patients would sometimes lift their sweaters and t-shirts to show bloody bites from bedbugs. I believed my eyes.

Theft flourished there. Residents stole money, music players, and cell phones from each other. Everyone suffered from lack of privacy and lack of personal space. Not all of them practiced good hygiene. Some took strong psychotropic drugs prescribed by doctors, and these medications caused a particular unpleasant odor. All this was in addition to Jim the power abuser and his sergeants and captains overseeing the facilities. This was one hell of a treatment.