By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Back in the trenches at New Place, Emilio, Scott, Natasha, and Greg listen quietly as their counselor explains how in the next week they will be split up and assigned to new treatment centers. They don't know yet where they're going or whether they'll get the care they need. All they know is that their lives have been put on hold.
Greg, the crack addict, scans the faces on his feelings poster to find the one that captures his thoughts about Northstar. Some of the accompanying words -- uneasy, tense, bitter -- come close, but none is quite fitting. The word he's looking for actually isn't on the sheet, but it should be listed somewhere between "frustrated" and "hurt."
The word is helpless.
"I feel like we're just a cog in the system," Greg says, fixing his eyes upon his counselor. "How long is it going to take me to trust another person like I trust you? It's getting to the point where there is no outlet. Who's to say that the next place we go isn't going to shut down?"
"I'm disappointed," Emilio adds. "It's like breaking a family up. Everybody knows each other."
The other addicts nod their heads in agreement. The room grows silent as they contemplate their fate. Their family is breaking up, and there is no one to say that the same thing won't happen at the next place they go. Sensing that the news is dragging the group down, counselor Gerald Strickland adopts a drill sergeant's demeanor.
"What they want to do is lock ya'll up. They're setting you up for failure. I'm real pissed off about this situation," Strickland says, pausing as if to check his own emotions. The drill sergeant takes a deep breath, using the air to swallow his rising anger. He tells the group not to give up, not now, while there's still hope.
"I know it's gonna be hard. Tough. It's like somebody dying," he says. "What you gotta do is be smart. Take advantage of this treatment stuff, because, as you can see, it's fading away. Pretty soon, Texas won't have nothing."