Saturday Night Live alum Darrell Hammond has been talking a lot about the crazy amount of drugs he did during his comedy career. In an excerpt from his new book God, If You're Not There, I'm F*cked, he talks about how rehab can be even worse than addiction.
I was sent to the Sanctuary, a few miles north of New York City, via ambulance in the fall of 2010 after getting drunk and trying to cut my arm off with a large kitchen knife. It is one of the best psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities in the country. I was put in the "celebrity ward," which drew its share of boldfaced names-award-winning actors, sports stars, European royalty-but there are also wards for specific mental illnesses-depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders-and a criminal unit filled with dealers, streetwalkers, thieves, and assorted other miscreants who were there by order of the court.
Deprived of my freedom, separated from my family, I was one of the lucky ones being given yet another chance. It sucked.
I've been hospitalized or shipped off to rehab so many times that I've honestly lost count. But each one had its own particular brand of hell. The program at the Sanctuary proudly boasted of its success in bringing addicts back to health while generously providing all the butter-laden cookies and cream- filled pastries we could cram into our alcohol-starved, sugar- craving mouths. Hell, I put on twelve pounds in the first three weeks trying to get "healthy."
Meanwhile, the ferret-faced floor wardens were always looking to bust us for any infraction. There was one nurse there, an attractive, muscular woman in her forties who we called Strap-On because she was constantly reaming someone for some petty crime. She and one of the "tough love" counselors busted us for smoking numerous times. Each room had its own bathroom, and when she caught me hanging out the window of mine with a lit cigarette, she announced it loudly to all within earshot, "He's smoking in the bathroom!" as though she'd discovered Satan carving his initials in a church pew.
So to avoid her wrath, and if it wasn't too cold or snowing, the smokers would wander out of the building, down a flagstone path that wound across the finely manicured grounds, to The Tree, the worst-kept secret in the place. An ancient cedar encircled by a layer of dead butts like some weird white-and- tan mulch, it was wide enough and tall enough and just far away enough to hide a grown man getting his nicotine on.
By Thanksgiving Day, I'd been in this rehab for three weeks, and I'd run out of cigarettes. My family wasn't speaking to me, and my friends were all doing their own thing for the holiday, so no pumpkin pie and stuffing for me. Some of the other patients were spending time with their loved ones in the glassed-in sunroom, awkwardly trying to act "normal." I figured I'd take a stroll by The Tree to see if any of the other smoker derelicts were there, so I tiptoed past and out the door.
Bingo. Annabelle, a stunning mocha-skinned hooker from Philly, was sucking on a Marlboro Red. Annabelle's lawyer had convinced a judge when she got done for possession that she needed a doctor more than a jail, so she wound up here instead of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, where such lovelies as Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita who shot her lover Joey Buttafuoco's wife in the face, have done hard time. Annabelle had been at the Sanctuary about a week.
"Hey, Joe." Everybody knew me as Joe. I hadn't been on TV in a while-my last appearance on Saturday Night Live, a cameo as Arnold Schwarzenegger on "Weekend Update," was a year earlier-but I wasn't in the mood to be recognized while I got myself sorted out, so I checked in under a false name. Unlike certain celebrities who like to share their meltdowns with Matt Lauer or TMZ, I prefer to bring the heavens crashing down around me in private.
"Hi there," I said. Gorgeous as she was, I couldn't take my eyes off her cigarette.
Annabelle caught me looking. "You want a drag?"
I took the butt from her extended hand. The cherry red lipstick on the filter was definitely not my color, but I didn't care. Those two puffs were about the best I ever had.
"Thank you," I said. "I owe you." I noticed her hand was trembling when she took the cigarette back from me. From the cold or withdrawal, I couldn't tell which.
"No problem, Joe," she said. Then, smiling, "Now say it like Bill Clinton."
Excerpted from "God, If You're Not There, I'm F*cked" by Darrell Hammond with permission from HarperCollins.