Thursday, October 20, 2011
Are You Afraid of a Rehab Center by Becahi?
... an alcoholic!
What do you see? To most of us, it would be a grimy old man, maybe wearing a tattered raincoat and carrying a brown paper bag, leering at us. It's an unpleasant image.
And that's the image that Attorney Blake Marles, representing Abe Atiyeh, had to contend with during a five hour long hearing before Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board over a residential treatment facility for alcohol and drug additions, at Dewberry Avenue, right by Bethlehem Catholic High School.
The place was packed with at least at least 90 people, including City Council members J. Willie Reynolds, Eric Evans and Dave DiGiacinto. But they were in the peanut gallery with the rest of us. Zoners Gus Loupos, Ron Lutes and Bill Fitzpatrick have the unenviable job of deciding whether to grant a special exception for a treatment center to be run by the Malvern Institute, perhaps the most prominent drug rehab center in the state.
There's no question that the location of this facility, which actually is next to a baseball diamond at Becahi, is very unpopular with mothers and students. Hope Cotturo, whose daughter attends Beca, came all the way down from Pen Argyl to make her concerns known. Nearby neighbors are very upset, too.
After all, the place will be full of ... alcoholics. Addicts, too! Someone in a drug-crazed frenzy might attack a cheerleader.
I'm going to have to put off writing about the testimony until later on Thursday because the hour is late, even for me.
I listened to an airline pilot whose wife mentioned she was an attorney about forty times. He was tired, having been up since 4 AM, but nevertheless suggested that "those people" might lurk outside the facilities, just waiting for an opportunity to sell drugs to kids or ravish one of them.
I had almost forgotten, but it suddenly hit me. I am one of "those people." In 1985, when I first quit drinking, I did a 28-day stint at St. Joe's. I am one of those dangerous alcoholics. In fact, the sliding board story at the beginning of this little essay was presented to me when I was there.
We couldn't picture ourselves as alcoholics or addicts because we were pretty much the same as everyone else, at least on the outside. Nobody there was wearing a wrinkled, old raincoat, or carrying a brown paper bag. But every single one of us is an alcoholic.
Alcoholism affects nearly every family, and there are really no local treatment centers for this disease. When people object to it right by a high school, what they are really doing is evoking that sliding board stereotype.
I understand the fear. I realize how a mother, especially, might feel threatened. But I think it's misplaced. Greg Zebrowksi told me that I don't care because I don't live there. I do care, but I am one of "those people" who terrifies everyone. I can't handle booze, but that doesn't mean I'm likely to go streaking across a high school campus or that I'd sell kids drugs.
Before I go into details with a factual narrative, I'll ask you - what do you think? If you were a zoner for a day, how would you rule?