All Photographs + Text Copyright 2012 Christopher Keeley

Chris at rock bottom 02.24.1983

I have had some significant coincidences in my recovery. When I was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I was being thrown out or discharged because I was found with an empty Bacardi bottle under my sink. This was a locked psychiatric ward and after being detoxified for five weeks they, the staff let me wander to the gift shop. I snuck out and bought a 1/4 pint of Bacardi. When I snuck back in I mixed it with some ginger ale. Now I bought this bottle from the corner liquor store that had bullet proof glass downtown Baltimore. I had a hospital gown with Jeans and the hospital band on my wrist, I am sure I wasn't the first patient to sneak out and purchase booze.

Previously, I should say that I had come from Zimbabwe, Africa and placed in this psychiatric hospital for what was an insane attempt to get better, but my cunning mind was that I wanted a geographical cure. The situation that I was leaving from was one of desperation. My Wellconal connection was gone, meaning the two or three doctors I was scamming wasn't given me a script and I had no veins. Even with a legitimate prescription some of the pharmacies wouldnÕt bust my script. I went to a most respectful doctor, Dr. Gelfand, who had previously given me the drug Wellconal for my alcoholism. Soon I was asking for more pills than the 30 a month he was given me and caught on. He initially stated what is this and why do you think it will help you? Well he cut me off when I mistakenly photocopied his prescription, used some one else's name and the chemist didnÕt like the feel of the photocopied script and phoned Dr. Gelfand.

At the time I was limping, from a poisonous spider bite, had a black-eye from a bouncer in a bar hitting me because I was carrying a fifth of whiskey in my hand attempting to bring it into a bar and got belligerent. I ended up in jail. This was a few days later that on my lunch break, from my temporary job at the USIA office doing clerical work. At the time the South Africans had blown up the gas lines in Mozambique, which created gas lines in Zimbabwe where they would only let you buy 10 dollars worth of gas on specific days, so there was this pharmacy in a little shopping mall that hadn't been hit yet. My friend pulls up in to the gas line to fill up on the 10 dollar limit, I run into the pharmacy limping, the chemist doesnÕt like the look of me or the script and calls Gelfand. I sense danger and run out leaving the chemist and script. Now my friend Eddie was a manager at a coffee factory. We used his employee's names on their sick notices on our scripts and also their doctors. Also Zimbabwe didn't have too many photo copy machines in 1982 and the one from The USIA office worked fine. One time I left the bogus coffee sick slip on the copy machine glass. Came back and it was still there because in those days people would go out drinking at lunch for two or three hours. It was not unusual to consume four drinks during lunchtime. Everyone was doing it.

The Chemist gets word from Dr. Gelfand, who is eighty something years old, the he doesnÕt recognize the name on the script but he does know one individual who takes Wellconal. And this individual is an American. The chemist probably also said the culprit was limping with a cane. Gelfand put two and two together. He cut me off.

The Chemist runs out of the pharmacy seeing me hop in to Eddie Green Renault 4 and records the license plate. We are still three cars to the pump and are blocked in so we can escape. Eddie freaks because his hand writing is on numerous scripts and we have used his employee's names and doctors on our scripts. Even though I was getting Wellconal legally from about three doctors a month this wasn't enough for my daily habit. The spider bite from a poisons spider ended me up in the hospital and another good supply of what we called Pinks, (Wellconal.) My leg almost had to be amputated because I was so high on pinks, LSD and alcohol that I didn't feel anything. I do remember pulling this stinging spider off my leg. A few comatose days later I had to be hospitalized because the poison spread.

The next day after the pharmacy fiasco, Eddie's house was visited by the C.I.D., (Drug Squad.). The police found some marijuana in Eddie's fiance's purse. They took handwriting samples of EddieÕs handwriting. Eddie fled the Zimbabwe the next day to South Africa, leaving the great Coffee Factory Manager's job and his huge party house that he was renting for very little money. Now I was scared because I didnÕt know what Eddie had told the CID.

More on these stories, but to get back to the coincidences, I was detoxed at Phipps, Johns Hopkins, I had snuck the Bacardi into my room, by my third trip to the Liquor store, I was enjoying my 4 pm drink, Bacardi mixed with Ginger ale, My last alcoholic drink of my life May 25, 1983. Patients were coming back from shock treatment not knowing their own name and I was detoxifying with them. I was telling them not to worry about depression, that I was doing great and life was good. I was sipping on my contraband drink. During this six weeks I avoided all therapy groups because I was sleeping all day and staying up all night. I was given this drug called Serax. When I first showed up at the hospital, the doctor had his medical students come look at me because I was a junkie with two swollen hands the size of boxing mitts and two swollen feet. I don't know how my feet got in my shoes or if I was wearing shoes and my groin area was swollen too my bad injections. Also in the hospital on our floor besides the depressed patients receiving shock therapy, there was an anorexic ward. These group of people included one kid who smuggled Marijuana to me because he was allowed out on passes to Winchester for the weekend. My last puff on a marijuana joint was also in this psychiatric ward May 23, 1983 supplied from that anorexic boy. I was so paranoid from the marijuana high because everyone in the hospital is observing you at all times. I had my own luxurious hospital room equipped with a bathroom and bathroom fan. Why I am bringing up the anorexics is because there was this girl who drank two cases of beer a day, my kind of girl, and she was anorexic. Why she wasn't in the alcoholic ward or myself puzzles my mind. So I offer this girl I fancy hooking up with in the hospital a Bacardi drink. She actually had already been to AA meetings unlike myself. I was somewhat familiar with AA and was court ordered to attend 4 years prior but never made it to a meeting.

This girl also has a bunch of anorexic buddies also in treatment with her on our hospital floor like 6 or 7 and they are a group. So when she is drinking this cocktail concoction that I made her of Bacardi and Ginger ale, Ginger ale being the only mixture available by the hospital. Her Anorexic group hospital member takes her drinks and freaks. She squeals and rats out on me. So the Head Nurse searches my hospital room and discovers not only the empty Bacardi bottle but a syringe I stashed behind a family picture, an adrenaline ampoule and a whole set of Hospital keys that I had lifted from the night nurse. The hospital staff freaked, assuming I was shooting up Bacardi and adrenaline. Now I had stolen the syringes to make easy for when I was discharged so that when I returned to Zimbabwe I could shoot up the remaining 9 wellconal tablets I had stashed in my room awaiting my return from detox.

My initial plan leaving Zimbabwe, even though I asked my dad for help, pouring a tall glass of straight bourbon stating I have a problem, that I really need help and maybe the Johns Hopkins Hospital that I escaped from in 1976 that diagnosed me as a manic Depressive may be able too help me. I was home sick for America. I was a legal Junkie. The doctors gave me Morphine. I was an Alcoholic. I was suicidal and had attempted suicide. Almost successfully a few times. I had no veins. I truely believed I would get drugs; a catheter put it like a diabetic so I could maintain a Morphine drip at all times. I was sick and I was asking for immediate help. The bourbon on the rocks wasn't enough. So my dad acted quickly, called Dr. Galen and amazing Psychiatrist that helped me when I was pronounced dead from a suicide attempt. My heart stopped for a few minutes. I was in a Coma for three days. More on that story later. So my intentions were asking for help out of desperation because I was embossed at my situation, I was now exposed as a junkie, because earlier I had gone to Dr. Gelfand's office and refused to leave the office until he gave me a prescription for Wellconal. He wouldn't do it. Dr. Galen set it up so that I could fly to Washington DC to be admitted to Johns Hopkins on a psychiatric ward. My mother flew back with me. That is also another story.

So here I am being expelled from Johns Hopkins and they phone my parent's and everyone is agreeing that I need drug addiction/Alcoholism treatment. I have a plane ticket back to Zimbabwe and all thatÕs on my mind are the nine pills of Wellconal stashed in my room. I am thinking, I will fly back, grab my tent and do a safari in Southern Africa. I am 25 years old and I am on my own. The hospital and my Parents tell me that my choice is a Half-way House, Drug Rehabilitation Center at Shepherd Pratt Hospital or AA. My parents are willing to disown me if I refuse to cooperate. I tell them that I am going to die in the gutter on the streets of Baltimore and its all their fault. The hospital sets up an interview at Shepherd Pratt for the next day and I have two days before discharge. I refuse to hand over my plane ticket to Zimbabwe. That night I am planning on returning to Zimbabwe and refusing the orders to seek treatment. I am reading an Omni magazine where there is an article about a clinic in Southern England where there is a hospital and the treatment uses this black box on the head to reproduce endorphin stimulating electrodes. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones used it to Detox. So I am going to stop by their clinic in London and walk around with this box stimulating my endorphins. The night Nurse e told no it wonÕt work for you it's a scam. YouÕre detoxed already; you need other alcoholics to help you. The nurse was English and she coincidently worked in that same clinic. It blew my mind. The next day I went on the interview to Shepherd Pratt. A day nurse that heard I got busted and had some sympathy for me deposited some AA literature on my bed. She knew I was alcoholic and tried to convince me to get help in an alanon manner meaning offering me help but it was my choice. She was pretty much detached and didn't discuss my dilemma with me other than leaving the literature on my bed, some pamphlets about AA, What is an Alcoholic and even a directory for AA meetings in the Baltimore Area.

The interviewer Holly Best asked me questions about what drugs I used and how often. I used everyone she mentioned and I gave her a list of many she had never heard of. This A-12 drug rehab was 60 days long and one of the best in the world in 1983. However it was a program that required total and complete abstinence and a willingness on the participant to be clean Š drug free. In spite of my denial and dishonesty I was miraculously accepted into the program. Thank God Holly; a social worker gave me a chance inspires of my self. She was so tough and could see through my deceptive ways. Holly herself was recovering and never let anyone know about this fact. The two counselors who broke down our denial were recovering addicts. You can't bullshit a bullshitter.

Chris arriving after buying (Bhangi, Mashata, Mashaba),
Marijuana at the New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. 1976

The first step in preventing suicide is to identify and understand the risk factors. A risk factor is anything that increases the likelihood that persons will harm themselves.

However, risk factors are not necessarily causes. Research has identified the following risk factors for suicide (DHHS 1999):

* Previous suicide attempt(s)

* History of mental disorders, particularly depression

* History of alcohol and substance abuse

* Family history of suicide

* Family history of child maltreatment

* Feelings of hopelessness

* Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

* Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

* Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)

* Physical illness

* Easy access to lethal methods

* Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or suicidal thoughts

* Cultural and religious beliefs for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma

* Local epidemics of suicide

* Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

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