It was a freezing-cold December and I was trapped in a rehab center in the middle of Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The facility was nice enough, but still, it was WINTER in where-the-hell is WERNERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA.
I had already been to two 30-day inpatient programs and relapsed, so clearly there was something I wasn’t getting. But I was still horrified when faced with the fact that I had been recommended for “extended care.” Thirty days was one thing — 90 more on top of that seemed INSANE.
In hindsight, it was the best decision I ever made. I needed that time to really understand how sick I was and how much work was involved if I truly wanted to stay sober.
But I wasn’t happy about it at the time. None of us were — quite a few of the friends that I made in primary care were subjected to the same fate, and we were all terrified of what the next three months had in store for us. Would torture be a part of this new phase of treatment? Would four months of rehab food kill our insides just as badly as our diseases had? Or quite simply, would we all lose what we had left of our minds?Personally, I really needed the Nude Pooper ornament on that Xmas tree; otherwise I just cried when I looked at it, wishing I were home.
Thankfully, none of those things happened, and, instead, we bonded in our misery. It’s your peers that get you through it all at the end of the rehab day. They share your struggles, comfort you when you cry, listen to your fears and never ever judge. They also make you a laugh. HARD.
So it was holiday time and naturally, none of us were feeling the spirit. Being in rehab during Christmas SUCKS. But during some down time one day, a friend started telling us something quite interesting — and intimate — about her ex-husband. Apparently, he had a very specific pooping problem. Or perhaps “problem” is the wrong word. Rather, he had a very specific method for pooping: He always had to do it in his own home, and he always had to be buck-naked. Every. Single. Time. He worked close to where they had lived, and he’d go as far as to come home every day, in the middle of the day, to take off all of his clothes and take a big dump.
It seems his mother was a bit loony — instead of putting him in diapers she had him poop in paper bags when he was a baby. And they were telling us we had issues?
Anyway, this story, which can only be properly told in its true hilarious form by the storyteller herself, had about four or five of us all doubled over with laugher. Like little kids, we kept asking her to tell it again and again. It was a wonderfully silly anecdote that made us forget, for a few moments at least, that we were in alcoholics and addicts in rehab.
Then came the comics. Another brilliant friend decided that this story needed to be illustrated. She created stick-figure comic strip after comic strip chronicling the misadventures of the Nude Pooper. They were dirty, gross, sophomoric, stupid and the best thing ever. We looked forward to new “issues” every day. We passed them around — stealthy, of course — so that everyone could get lost in the ridiculousness.
Next came the merchandizing. During arts and crafts, which was a truly awful activity that made us all feel like dysfunctional four-year-olds, I came up with the idea of turning a wooden, snowman-shaped Christmas tree ornament into the Nude Pooper with some paint and stickers. We affixed it to our sad little rehab tree and it stayed there — we all hid it as needed to keep it from getting confiscated. Personally, I really needed that Nude Pooper ornament on that tree; otherwise I just cried when I looked at it, wishing I were home.
We would talk about our marketing plans for the Pooper: action figures, calendars, maybe even a movie. Had we not had some more serious issues to attend to, I believe that this could have gone on to become a great modern comic — a kind of Spongebob-South Park hybrid hit. We all knew none of it would happen, though, and that once we got out of this place we wouldn’t need the Nude Pooper anymore.
But while we were all stuck together in that rehab, wrestling daily with our demons, the Nude Pooper was a much-needed relief. It was the hit comedy that probably would have bombed anywhere else.
But to us, it was funny as shit.