The Puzzle

The Puzzle

When I was in rehab, we had to wake up at sunrise for a full day of workshops and encounter groups and Trust Fall carnivals, and some namby-pamby “feelings” bullshit for the price of our insurance money, and I hated that crap. I went to rehab to escape from responsibility, not to bathe in it. I didn’t really need to be there, anyway. I was just trying to get away for a bit.

One morning, at the crack of dawn, the counselor, who obviously hadn’t done her job and planned anything for the session, just broke us into stupid groups and had us work on stupid puzzles. Like children. I was irritated. All this money to work on puzzles like some sort of imbecile. We were supposed to work together in groups, but I decided I wasn’t going to be any part of it because I’ve never been good at puzzles and games and maths. So, I hung back until she told me that if I didn’t join a group, she was going to alert my insurance company that I wasn’t participating and I’d get booted and stuck with a bill. So, then I just decided to let the people in my group do all the work.

The anti was upped when the counselor told us that, when we finished the puzzle, we could have the rest of the day to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. I wanted that day to do nothing. So, I started participating.

It became immediately clear to me that the people in my group were stupid. No one could figure out this puzzle. At first, it seemed funny. It was all a joke. I laughed at them, and I laughed at the activity, dismissing it as puerile and a waste of time. I called people stupid to their faces. “Well, if you’re so smart, Brian, do it on your own!” they retorted.

So, I took over the project. It got harder and harder. I really started to feel the pressure when other groups around me were finishing their puzzles and leaving, giving each other high fives. I asked my group for help and, even with their help, we couldn’t get it. Sweat was running off my brow as people just kept leaving, and it became clear that I was too stupid to finish a simple puzzle. Then, I told this to the counselor. She just stared blankly at me and didn’t help at all. This made me manic and frantic until ….

All of a sudden, the puzzle was airborne. It took me a second to realize it was me who had thrown it with all my strength up against the wall where it crashed to the floor. I punched the wall several times. I told the counselor it was her fault for not preparing for the
day and giving us this bullshit busywork. I spat in her direction. I kicked over chairs. I stormed out. … and I have never wanted to get high so badly in my life.

When she came out into the hallway, where I sat crying, the look on her face told me that today’s activity had nothing to do with solving cardboard puzzles, and everything to do with getting at the heart of one of my many flaws. She put her hand on my back and I cried for forty minutes.

I have thought of my life as a puzzle ever since, and try to make it through, even on days like today when the pieces don’t quite fit together. No tantrums. No blaming. No snide laughing at people who are “stupid”. No trying to make other people do the work for me. None of my old coping mechanisms will do.

Just get on with it. Cry if you have to. Be thankful. And keep working with the pieces until some sort of picture shows itself. And, if I don’t like the picture, grab a new puzzle and start all over again.

Authored by Brian Broome

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