Memoir Excerpt from episode 3: “The Ivy Leaguers”

In stark contrast to her patient, ass stuck in an old chair, head in his hands, his eyes suddenly leaden, Dr. Laha is a ball of goddamn energy. She fidgets and flops and adjusts herself in the chair and flips through the file on the table that must be my chart. Even though her dark eyes burn with intelligence, I size up her floppy figure, her clothes, her manic demeanor, and wonder what kind of quack they’ve stuck me with. An Indian doctor. Probably went to med school in the Black Hole of Calcutta and they let her in the states on quota. Whoever takes call for a place like this must be a fucking loser. Whatever.

“I’ll be your doctor,” she says. “I’m a board-certified addictionologist. I graduated Harvard Medical School and did my residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as a fellowship at Johns Hopkins. I’m also a certified yoga teacher.”

Ok, so I was wrong. I try to feign a condescending attitude. Well of course, I don’t belong here with this riff-raff. Shouldn’t we grab lunch and discuss neurology and our shared pity for addicts, those horrible patients. I try to rally my strength for the pretend insouciance of a fellow Ivy-leaguer, “Color me impressed,” I say, my body stiffening in a show of faux-formality. That’s all I have. One last rep in the gym of being a fake human being. I sink back down, re-defeated.

“How much do you drink a day?” she asks. Suddenly I can’t find the right words. My brain, which I could always rely on, seems to have forgotten how to process language.

“I don’t…I mean…I don’t drink every day…” I don’t know how to answer her question and I don’t know how to explain I don’t know how to answer her question. She can see me sputtering and her voice gets louder.

“How much does it take to get you drunk???!!” she demands, like a parent who has caught a child doing something naughty. But somehow I know she must have seen my type before and she is doing her job, asking emphatically since my brain is stuck between the fog of war and trying to invent a minimizing lie.

“A pint,” I say. I know that answer. I told the truth. For the first time in a long time I told the truth.

I feel my brain coming online again and I begin pleading. “This other drug I’m on…this stuff Corpaxon…you don’t know what that is…it’s an opioid but it has other properties…the withdrawal is worse than heroin.”
She waves off my impromptu lecture on pharmacology. “How much opiates does it take to manage your withdrawal from this stuff?”

I know the answer to that too. I might be the star junkie. “A gram or two of heroin. Or two Oxy 80s, snorted.” She notes something in the chart. I thought this would impress her but she looks totally unfazed.
The adrenaline of last night is completely gone now. I feel the defeat overtake me completely. I surrender.
“Do you have any questions for me?” she asks.

I rouse my head a little. Speech has become a great effort again. All my beautiful, magic words, all my lies, have abandoned me. “You do see people recover from this?” I ask humbly. What is she supposed to say, no? I already know the answer, but I need to hear it. I need my surrender to be acknowledged.

“Yes,” she says. “All the time.”


“I’ll be out of town tomorrow but Dr. Lynn will see you. He’s the head of psychiatry here.” Again, she has my number. I’m not any old junkie, I need the top people on my case. At least she isn’t some stupid quack as I had thought when I was admitted.

She says nothing else and continues writing in my chart. I assume we’re done, so I extricate myself from the broke-down chair and reach for the door. “By the way,” she says, without looking up from writing, “we found the drugs you hid in the trashcan.”

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