Maxine, a tall, striking woman with long, silky blond hair, sits in the corner of the room. She is large-breasted, small-waisted, and wears a hardened smirk on her face. The room is crowed with its six other patients, the primary therapist, and me. I am running a primary group at The Meadows. In groups, the goal is to help others gain insight into their behaviors and trauma histories by listening to the experiences of their peers. Each person will share in groups with each member giving feedback.
Patients' artwork adorns the fabric walls, along with large posters delivering reminders of lessons to be learned on impatient treatment. The lighting is soft and warm. I start the group with Maxine's story.
"Are you ready, Maxine?" I ask.
Maxine's hardened expression fades away, replaced by one that is vulnerable and sad.
"Yeah, I'm ready, but I am a little nervous," she says in a high-pitched voice that I have to strain to hear.
"That's okay." I say.
Maxine takes a deep breath and, when she exhales, she resumes the weary, hardened posture.
"I began drinking in high school," Maxine begins, "And then I started using speed when I moved in with a girlfriend who, of course, was a dealer."
"How old were you?" I ask.
"Sixteen." Maxine says, almost prideful.
"Where were your parents?"
Maxine chuckles as if mocking the question. "My parents were where where they always were: traveling, working, or getting stoned." She shrugs her shoulders, off-loading a heavy backpack.
"Living on my own, money was always tight," Maxine continues, "So, to get extra cash, I became an official party girl, which was great, 'cause I also got free drinks," she says, almost as an after thought.
"What is an 'official party girl'?"