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Unfiled December 15, 2006
Surviving hospital No17
By Vlad Impaler Browse author

I was supposed to die in the now-infamous Moscow rehab hospital #17, the one that burned down last week and killed 45 people. When I heard the news all I could say was, "Fuck me!" Just mentioning this place makes me shiver. That's because I stayed there twice before. So I know what a house of horrors it really is.

I've been to God knows how many rehab clinics in my life, but Hospital #17 is the worst. The first time I went there was in 1996. At some point I just found myself unable to come off scag on my own and naively thought that rehab is the way. I charged myself with a nuclear speedball, hid half of gram in the seam of my Levi's and went there. Mark Ames came along with me for moral support-he's the one who helped find it.

The first time Mark and I went together, we were met by this charming gray-haired doctor who was oozing competence. He asked me a few questions and reassured me I'll be fine. The doctor even said, "Well, we're very strict about who we let in, but since you have this American friend helping, okay, let's try."

I felt relieved, almost euphoric, thinking my problem was solved. After all, the clinic was free. If only I knew...

The rehab clinic itself is not that different from a prison. Alcholics and junkies were held together in one shitty ward. But the ratio of alkies-to-junkies changed over time. When I checked in my first time in '96, most of the patients were smack junkies. It was hellish even then. Holes in the walls, cockroaches, rats, unbelievably horrible food.

But the worst part is the treatment itself. The doctors and nurses treat you like a piece of shit. You actually have to beg them for a sleeping pill although on the first day they just load you with seriously heavy doses of bad tranquilizers, so that you won't bother them while you're going through the worst part of withdrawals, when you're trying to get the hell outta there. Most of the medication you're getting there came straight from the days of punitive Soviet "psychiatry" and do nothing but wreck your already fucked-up health. Pure toxic shit.

My first day, I heard one scary story. The boys I met in the clinic ward were happy to tell me about the guy who occupied the crappy army bed I was sleeping on before me. It was some kid who died from toxic hepatitis caused by the medication given to him by the doctors just a couple of days before. Nice welcoming story. I felt like running away but it was too late, 'cos I was already pumped full of their cheap toxic neuroleptics, such as Haloperidolum and Amenazinum. I was drifting away into a sickening dream, wondering if I'll ever see the light of the day again.

I went into a coma for two days. I woke up on the third day suffering from horrible back pain. There were eight guys in the ward including me, playing cards, reading newspapers and shooting the shit.

Right when I opened my eyes, some guy with a beard looked at me and said, "So did you bring anything into the clinic with you?"

I said I didn't.

"Because a friend's supposed to bring some here to sneak it in," he said. "If you give me a hit now, I'll fix you up later."

"Really, I don't have any," I said.

Somehow I made it to the toilets, and I snorted a bit from the stash I brought. It was a lunch time and I went to the cafeteria feeling much better. But once inside the cafeteria, the stench nearly made me puke and I quickly decided against eating there. I wouldn't be surprised if they cooked that dead dude for lunch.

When I got back to the ward, all the guys were trying hard to avoid any conversation or any eye contact with me, letting me know that they knew I was holding out and weren't happy about it. One of them, the bearded fellow said, "If I was holding I'd share with the rest of the boys 'cos it's no fun getting high on your own." Typical junkie piss-in-the-ear crap.

Finally they had me figured out by swearing by their mothers lives that they'll share with me everything that their friends bring here. I caved. I gave them the wrapper I had, all that was left of the scag. I was drugged up and neither had the strength nor the will to argue with them. Mind you, this was some fucking show they put on! Imagine, 7 junkies, seven guys just whining and begging and pleading and bullshitting you.

One of the guys, an old and weathered Georgian dude, produced a 5ml syringe from under his mattress and mixed the shit I'd given them with Sprite. All seven of them gathered around his bed stupidly. It was stupid because they thought they were being coy, but really by doing this, they were giving themselves away to the nurses. It was fun to watch them fighting over it like jackals. The Georgian fellow managed to shoot up his share, but the next guy was caught by the doctor with the needle still stuck in his arm, and he was thrown out of the hospital in half an hour.

On the fifth day I refused to take their medications. They didn't even notice or care. For a day I was sweating and puking like fuck. Then a new guy came and brought some more smack with him, and the whole shooting-up story repeated itself. Only this time I managed to get me a nice fat line for myself.

Finally on the tenth day I got released for "repetitive hospital rules violations." They threw me out without doing the fucking thing. I was still addicted. The only difference was that now I had a few more connections in Moscow's drug scene.

Three years later, I was back in Hospital #17. It was after the time I threatened to kill my ex-girlfriend, which I wrote about last issue. The gray-haired doctor was pretty nice to me this time. But the story repeated itself, only this time the ward had a lot more alkies than junkies. Ten days after I checked in, they threw me out. I was still the same junkie I was when I entered.

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