Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mr. Cool, Chocolate Addictions and a Paradox of Insanity in Today's World - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 4

So now I realized that my plan to break out of the hospital ward was a wash out. I had to abort the mission. But was it too late? Was I about to be caught and sent back to solitary confinement at the cooler?

I had five teaspoons that I had to quickly find some way to put back into the cafeteria dirty dish tray for washing without getting caught. For every tray of food, the cafeteria staff gave each patient one spoon, one fork, one butter knife. That meant after washing, they should have, for every tray they had washed, one spoon, one fork and one butter knife. It's pretty basic math. But suddenly, over the span of a day or two, five teaspoons had suddenly gone missing. Surely, they had noticed. Of course they did! Because the next day when they put out the same number of trays, bowls and utensils for the same number of patients (it wasn't like people were coming in and out of that place) they'd notice that something was missing.

The first day, when two spoons were missing, they might think it was just a coincidence, like socks missing in the dryer. But when it happened repeatedly, after a couple of meals and for more than a day, they had to have become suspicious. Especially when the number of missing spoons was increasing. Now I'm sure that would be a real head scratcher for the cafeteria staff (or as they do in Japan, cause much air to be sucked between teeth!) and they'd report strange goings on to the doctors and nurse station.

Brilliant! "One million dollars...."

I had taken those spoons to use as shovels in my own version of the Great Escape in order to dig through 2 feet of solid concrete and reinforced steel. It was a brilliant plan excepting for the fact that it wouldn't work. Why wouldn't it work? Well, being the criminal genius mind that I was, I had thought through the plan from beginning to end. Every little thing was considered. In the scenarios run through my mind, everything went perfectly like clock-work; we'd tunnel under my cot in my room, through the floor; we'd take the extra dirt we took from the tunnel and "do something" with it (we'd figure out what exactly later on - minor detail);  We'd take care not to get too dirty tunneling because we could only take baths twice a week; we'd then tunnel out across the hospital compound grounds and out to freedom at last.

Like I said, it was a brilliant plan created by the mind of a marvelous, yet dangerous intellect. A tribute to my genius. A virtual triumph of the will! And, on top of all that, it was an okay idea! But, it wouldn't work. Why? Because I realized that I had no idea where we were in the hospital compound and most likely neither did any of the other patients that I'd have to depend on. If we were to tunnel our way out, who is to know that we wouldn't tunnel our way out onto a busy freeway lane? Or out into the middle of the doctors lounge? Or even out into a cooler holding a patient who really was violent, deadly dangerous and had the strength of a grown male baboon?

Just your typical friendly neighborhood baboon

No, that wouldn't be good at all. 

So realizing that my idea probably wouldn't work also made me realize that I had to get rid of incriminating evidence! I had to get rid of the spoons quickly! Instead of returning them one by one like how I took them, I decided that I had to get rid of the booty all at once. At the next meal time at the cafeteria, I had the spoons in my pocket ready to dump them at the first good chance I got. 

Usually at meal time, the doctors didn't sit with us when we ate, but today, there were 4 or 5 doctors sitting around the cafeteria. They were watching us and taking notes. 

I began to get nervous. Why were they here? Were they watching us to see who had taken the spoons? Was the sting on? Surely they didn't suspect it was me? I watched them as they watched us. I tried to act nonchalant, as they tried to act nonchalant back. 

Three of them seemed to be peering out of the corners of their eyes watching me. I'll bet their notes said:

Doctor 1: "Patient Rogers seems fidgety" 
Doctor 2: "Patient Rogers seems nervous about something."
Doctor 3: "Call the wife and ask about groceries."

I kept my eye on Mr. Halloween sitting right in front of me and tried to time my eating to finish right when he did. The very second he was done, I stood up and said to him, "Oh? I'll take your tray for you!" He smiled and showed me all those teeth he used to have but were now a periodontal black hole. "OK!" he said as bread crumbs flew from the holes in his mouth. I grabbed his tray with the hand that had the five teaspoons in it and quickly threw the trays and the spoons into the dirty dishes tray in front of the cafeteria window and gave out a hearty "That was delicious!" to the ladies. They looked at me smiling and said, "You're welcomed!". With that, I was two steps out of the cafeteria and two steps away from any definitive proof that I had ever stolen the spoons.

I was lucky actually, the timing was very good, the lady that usually watched the return of trays and utensils took her eyes off the return tray for the moment I stepped up there.... I'll bet it was because they thought that it certainly couldn't be that nice Mr. Rogers who was stealing those spoons!... It had to be one of the other evil doers in D-41.

Guys! Former D-41 patients! Sorry about that. Sorry about making the doctors and nurses suspicious of you! I promise that it will never happen again! Honto ni gomen nasai!

I suppose here in the story, I should take a moment to explain about the rules and schedule of D-41. It is because of these rules and schedules that one is able to make plans such as escaping, stealing and then returning spoons. It is that way because everything is so scheduled that it is predictable down to a few minutes. Everything has a schedule and a time limit... Even brushing your teeth...

I will try to state the schedule as I best remember it at D-41:

Lights on at 6 am in the morning. 
6:00 ~ 6:15 am get up make your bed
6:15 ~ 6:30 am line up for medicine
6:30 ~ 6:45 am medicine
6:45 ~ 7:00 am line up for cafeteria
7:00 ~ 7:45 am breakfast
7:45 ~ 8:00 am clean up detail (Cafeteria & living area, ashtrays, etc.) 
9:00 ~ 10:00 am Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, shower time 
10:00 ~ 10:30 am Free time
10:30 ~ 11:00 am Walk in enclosed compound (surrounded by a extremely high wired 20 meter fence like a soccer field)
10:45 ~ 11:00 am line up for medicine
11:00 ~11:15 am medicine
11:45 ~ 12:00 am line up for cafeteria
12:00 ~ 12:45 pm lunch

I think you get the picture. The schedule above would just basically repeat until lights out at 8 pm sharp; no ifs and or buts. After lunch, there would be doctor & patient consultations but that was only for some patients. The ones without consultations had to watch TV or read books (hard to do when you're doped up all the time) or play chess to pass the time. I'd spend all my time climbing the walls trying to figure out a way out of that place. 

The other thing that I looked forward to every day was the daily visitation by my wife. Visitation hours were from 2 pm ~ 4 pm daily. They were the highlight of my day. 

You may notice in the above schedule that there are times set out for lining up. Yes, they did that. The patients lined up for everything; we lined up for medicine time, we lined up for meal time at the cafeteria; we lined up to take a shower; we lined up to use the bathroom at night so that we could brush our teeth; we lined up so that we go get in line to line up for whatever it was that the people in front of us lined up for. I asked a doctor why they made us line up for everything and he told me that,

"Rogers san, most patients here cannot even do the most basic things like close doors after they use them or close the lids to toilets after use (hell 95% of all guys on the outside can't even do that!) We require lining up as a way to start to teach simple rules." He then went on to tell me how most patients stay for several months, and if they are deemed, "better," they go to stay for a weekend at their parents home. If, while at the home, they show proper manners like being able to line up their shoes correctly at the front door (a strong traditional Japanese custom and basic manners) and closing doors, closing toilets after use, cleaning up after themselves, then after consultations with the parents, they may be allowed out of the hospital for more than a weekend. If they keep improving then, the times are extended until one day they can be released. 

Nevertheless, before the doctor had explained this to me (it made sense upon explanation) It always struck me as odd why it was that we had to line up for the cafeteria. At the shower, yes. There were 60 of us and only six shower stalls. To brush our teeth? Yes. Only four sinks or so... But the cafeteria? Why? There were always a set number of meals for the exact number of patients. Not one more, not one less. Why did we have to line up? Most of the patients would be lining up for food at the cafeteria, as scheduled, fifteen minutes (or more) beforehand. I did line up sometimes too, but only because I was so hungry most of the time and I wanted to eat as soon as possible. It soon became apparent to me why Mr. Halloween was almost always first in line and always taking so much sliced white bread back to his room; at about 190 + some centimeters the guy must have been starving all the time.

Still, there were times I wouldn't want to line up for cafeteria. That was when I  wasn't hungry. When that happened, then I'd hear my name called from the nurses station, "Rogers san! Rogers san! Please get in line for the cafeteria." Oh, I hate waiting in line... If I am starving and there is no other choice, well then, okay... But otherwise, no way. Still, at the hospital you had to line up. It was the way it was.

The hospital was very careful about our meals health wise. The food wasn't greasy or salty. It was very much like "hospital food" bland and healthy. They  monitored our calorie intake as, of course, they didn't want us getting fat while we were there. They (and we) already had enough trouble with our lives without obesity being one of them. Even so, while in the hospital, I think I gained 7 or 8 kilograms... Probably from the chocolate I ate while I was there.

I got so fat from eating chocolate because my wife would come to visit me like clockwork everyday at 3 pm. Everyday at 3 was visiting time whereby loved ones could visit patients. It soon became apparent to me that most of the poor guys in D-41 rarely, if ever, had anyone visit them. Maybe it was because they had been in there so long that their families had moved on with their lives or maybe because when they were high or drunk, they had done something really bad and their families had disowned them. Poor sods.

My wife would come to visit and I'd pester her to pressure the doctor to let me out of that place. Sometimes the doctor would stay in on the visit and I'd try to reason with him.

"Look, doc. These people are all nuts. I shouldn't be in here. These people can't even hold a conversation. You gotta let me outta here, doc." But it didn't work. I think the more I begged, the more I pushed myself away from the door.

For these visits, my wife would, at first, bring a reward for me for being a good boy; she'd bring a few chocolates for me. Chocolates are a big favorite for former drug and alcohol abusers as chocolate, like chemicals or alcohol, cause an unnatural release of Dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the natural "feel good" chemical that your brain produces. Do lots of drugs or alcohol? Your brain releases an inordinate amount of Dopamine. Stop doing drugs or alcohol? Then you can get almost as good a high with massive dosages of chocolate. 

Take that to its logical conclusion and you'll know why some obese people who are chocolate fiends actually have an addiction problem. Chocolates don't just taste good, they release addictive chemicals in the brain. So when some people jokingly tell you that they are "chocolate junkies" they might laugh, but they probably don't realize just how close to being a junkie they really are!

My wonderful wife would visit daily. She'd bring chocolates daily. As I mentioned, most of the guys didn't have anyone visiting them so I really felt sorry for them. I started asking my wife to bring party bags of chocolates instead of just a few pieces. She did and, soon enough word spread around the ward that Mike had chocolates to pass out to everyone and they would, as if it were written on the schedule for daily activities, all be lined up at the exit of the visiting room where I would return to D-41.

As they stood in line, I'd walk down the line handing each one of them a piece of chocolate. Poor guys. I really felt very sorry for them. 

When many people say that they are "Addicted to chocolate"
to people like me, isn't a very funny joke.

I didn't pay so much attention, but I didn't really see too many people sitting in the visitation room at other times. My wife came everyday so I noticed. I think I saw other folks only three other times. Of course, there must have been more. But the lack of visitation demonstrated to me just how lonely these poor folks in D-41 were.

Daily, I'd get my chores done and visit with my wife and eat my chocolates. I got to where I felt very safe at D-41. Oh sure there were some scary looking people there, but that was it; they were just scary looking; they weren't dangerous in the least bit. Once you got to know most of them, they were an alright bunch of guys... Some from rich families, some from poor... One guy that I got to know pretty well was the son of a guy who was the president of a very large and extremely well-known video and CD rental chain!

That was one of the big problems I suppose; one couldn't really get to know these guys all that well; everything was so transient and temporary it seemed. The reason for that is because if you were in that place for drug rehab, you'd know that the mental patients and the rehab patients were all thrown into the same wards, so you couldn't really tell by looking at any of them who were the crazy ones or who weren't. Either way no one knew how long you'd be in your ward. In just a few days I went from the cooler to D-40 to D-41. Was my next stop D-42? 

I thought it was amusing that the former drug, and now recovering, addicts looked the craziest of them all due to their loss of teeth from sniffing glue or their full body tattoos all the way up to the sides of their heads.

There is this fine line, you see....

Doesn't that seem like a contradiction to you? The supposedly healthy individuals who became druggies did stuff like get tattoos and piercings all over their bodies and faces and huffed paint thinner so that their teeth and gums fell out and looked like a regular freak show; while the mental patients didn't do anything to destroy and vandalize their mind and bodies and looked normal. Of course, I am an old fuddy-duddy, but it seems that there something wrong with that picture: the "normal" people look like they are crazy and the "crazy" people look like they are normal? Don't you think that is a curious situation to say the least? I do.

Thank god for the modern world! 

So you couldn't tell the crazy people in the hospital from the normal people or well, I should say, you couldn't tell the crazy people who were in the hospital because of some sort of physiological or psychological disorder from the crazy people who were in the hospital because of some sort of addiction problem just by looking at them.

As, on the outside world, you can't tell the crazy people from the normal people just by looking at them. But the paradigm on the outside world is different. I am reminded of two very astute and clear-eyed sayings about insanity in our supposedly "normal" society:

"Be normal, and the crowd will accept you. Be deranged, and they will make you their leader." 


"Every great man was thought to be insane before he changed the world. Some never changed the world. They were just insane." 

Not being allowed to sleep through my days, I sat in the lobby. I sat and waited. I did that everyday for most of the time like everyone else did. Since I was like everyone else, I didn't know if the other patients around me were crazy or recovering drug addicts. And, in turn, they didn't know if I was crazy too. I realize now that, because of this lack of confidence and fear, very few of us would have the courage of any sort to strike up a conversation even with someone we'd seen everyday. Usually, it seemed to me, that the people who would walk up to you and start speaking to you and showing you some sort of human kindness were the mental patients. 

"Once again, a curious note." I thought. The particular point that it seemed the people with the mental disorders were the ones who would show more care and concern towards others than the supposedly normal people would was most certainly a cruel indictment of how indifferent and lacking in compassion people are to each other in today's modern so-called "civil" society.

Are "normal" people inside or outside of an insane asylum?

There were two large areas to sit on comfortable chairs and sofas. One area was in front of the television. About 15 or so people could sit there comfortably. The other area was by the ashtrays in the smoking area. I couldn't stand the incessant noise and prattle of TV with the game and cooking shows so I always sat by the smoking area. That shows the disdain I have for TV; both TV and smoking are bad for you and, at that time, I had never smoked cigarettes yet even so, I still chose to sit by the ashtrays.

While the rest of us patients, myself included, might have seemed calm and collected on the outside, inside we were tearing ourselves apart. We were always climbing the walls trying to figure out when and how we could speed up our release - if even by one day. It was a massive frustration that engulfed our entire being and it seemed to grow longer by the second... It grew longer by the moments, by the seconds - that we spent counting them go by... And go by extremely slowly they went.

I had a few conversations with some of the other patients and those invariably would always turn to why we were there; how long we had been there; how much we had messed up; and when, if ever, we expected to get out. Even the topic of our conversations in order to pass time would lead us back to the cause of our frustrations. Everything was a cycle that returned to D-41 in some way.

For most patients, not knowing when they would be released seemed to be very good for a sort of Buddhist training as many of the patients meditated in their rooms or in the study area often... The ones who didn't "meditate" per se did their meditation through smoking cigarettes. 

It was there near the smoking areas that I met a guy who I called, "Mr. Cool." Mr. Cool looked like he played guitar for the Japanese Rolling Stones. He was about 40 some years old, skinny and had long hair. I was to find out later that he worked in a pachinko parlor and was an alcoholic. 

Mr. Cool always hung around with one of my room mates and smoked cigarettes. I liked him because he never seemed to be upset or worried about getting out of D-41. He never seemed in a rush for anything. This dude took it all in stride. He was way cool. Hence the name. 

And after all, why shouldn't he be cool? Why be in a rush? He wasn't going anywhere, I surmised. Neither was his food or his time to brush his teeth, wash or whatever was scheduled. Mr. Cool was always the last one in line. He was last for everything. So, of course, he was last to the cafeteria to get his food too. Even so, the nurses would never get mad at him or call his name on the loudspeakers. I thought that was strange because they'd always call my name and there'd still be a few guys standing in line. I'd find out soon why they never called his name on the loudspeakers too.

Even though the nurses would get frustrated at Mr. Cool at times, they would never get angry and speak loudly at him because, when push came to shove, Mr. Cool would always do as he was told, in his own good time, of course. 

Watching Mr. Cool helped me to greatly calm down and to realize that worrying about getting out of D-41 was a total and complete waste of time. I needed to grow more spiritually for myself and for my family to get out I thought.

One day, when Mr. Cool was standing by himself at the smoking area, I decided to get some wisdom from this wise and great enlightened priest of D-41. I said to him,

"May I ask you a question?"

"Sure!" He drawled as he toked on the cigarette.

"You know, everyone here is going crazy in this place wanting to get out of here as soon as possible. But you! Look at you! You seem so calm and collected and at one with the moment. You don't mind it here?"

He paused as he took a drag on the cigarette, "Sure, I want to get out of here too."

I was surprised that he said that! I never expected it. I reiterated, "But you seem so calm and collected. How do you keep from going crazy? Don't you want to get out of here?"

He said, "What's the point of getting out of here? You're just going to wind up back in here in no time anyway."

Now that answer really blew my mind and frightened the hell out of me!

Why get out? You're just going to wind up coming back.

Later on I'd find out from my doctor that the chances of going into Matsuzawa hospital for drug or alcohol rehab and fully recovering and being released and becoming a productive member of society was about 3 in 100... If you were readmitted after being released after the first time, your chances of a full recovery were about 1 in 10,000. If you were readmitted again, a third time, your chances for a full recovery are nearly zero.

Mr. Cool had been in and out of Matsuzawa hospital's D-41 ward a total of nine times up until that time. He was truly a "regular customer." I knew that I never wanted to be like him.


Andrew Joseph said...

This is the most informative look I have ever read of a mental hospital.
You really blew my mind at how only the crazies (should have been in quotes) will talk to you, but the 'normals' wouldn't really... total contradiction of how the world should be.
Eye-opening, Mike. Truly.
3% chance of not going back. Owtch.
These blogs take great courage to write. Writing about the past, as I have discovered opens one self up to vulnerabilities, that I never knew I had at the time. I guess I had my own addiction... to delusions of grandeur.
More medicine, please.

Anonymous said...

I was left hanging from your previous post,... - who shot JR? - it captivated me, however, for some reason (the beer?) I scrolled through this post. ... I didn't want to know more about this particular version of hell.

Hope I never do.

I glanced through some though,... it was funny you were turned into a chocolate food-pusher for just a bit.

Off topic, I saw this on the outside of a convenience store the other day and thought of your blog post about stores not wanting to be robbed, I wrote it down so I didn't get it wrong... thought you'd find it interesting too, maybe it's common in Chicago and L.A.,... but not here. I guess it is now:

"All hooded jackets & sweatshirts must be worn down at all times in the store.

Hats must be worn back away from face."

I didn't understand that last bit, away from the face? What does that mean? I guess they don't see many farmer types during inclement weather.

Geeze, and only One student in the store at a time? You'd think they'd find ways around the sorta problems they face,... or are they stuck in a time warp like so many other companies are these days, unable to adjust and adapt to things?

- clark

Anonymous said...

I was left hanging from your previous post,... - who shot JR? - it captivated me, however, for some reason (the beer?) I scrolled through this post. ... I didn't want to know more of this particular version of hell.

Hope I never do.

I glanced through some though,... it was funny you were turned into a chocolate food-pusher for just a bit.

Off topic, I saw this on the outside of a convenience store the other day and thought of your blog post about stores not wanting to be robbed, I wrote it down so I didn't get it wrong... thought you'd find it interesting too, maybe it's common in Chicago and L.A.,... but not here. I guess it is now:

"All hooded jackets & sweatshirts must be worn down at all times in the store.

Hats must be worn back away from face."

I didn't understand that last bit, away from the face? What does that mean? I guess they don't see many farmer types during inclement weather.

Geeze, and only One student in the store at a time? You'd think they'd find ways around the sorta problems they face,... or are they stuck in a time warp like so many other companies are these days, unable to adjust and adapt to things?

- clark

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Huh, my posts don't seem to be going through.


Anonymous said...

oh, that's embarrassing,... big time lag tonite. Sorry for the mess.

mikeintokyorogers said...

Thanks Clark,
Happy New Year to you! ""All hooded jackets & sweatshirts must be worn down at all times in the store." Another sign of the rapid decline of western so-called civilization