Rehab Stories: Knives Through Hearts

By: Aramie Louisville Vas

Art: Jessica Price Webb (after Edvard Munch)

Last month, I entered a rehab center. It was everything you’d’ve expected it to be. Wait: what did you expect?! My bad; they are all so different. Ok. Let me start at the beginning. In April I left my current relationship and went to live at my parents’. My heart broke every consecutive day after that. Broke this morning, in fact. Cried so hard I retched and shivered under cool, clean blankets. But I digress.

(Each musical quote you see down here by Louisville band called I Have A Knife – IHAK – is relevant, and from the latest album Criminals Into Kings. More on them later. If you’re reading this, you’ll like ‘em. Give ‘em a gander.)

In April, 2017, I was a MONUMENTAL idiot and went to go hang out with someone I thought I knew but didn’t, really. There were some important things happening over there that I was naively unaware of – I’m an artist, drawn to other talented artists. And with that comes a teensy bit of consequence. Lemme give it to you straight: I ended up with a DUI. My first. It was handcuffs, the police station, the whole deal. I was shaking in my little boots. And blew, what 3x the legal limit? Oh. My. God. ME?! Yeah. Me.

I ended up having to call my PARENTS to come get me – oh, yeah! at the age of 36! -, shivering on a cold, metal bench in some kind of private cell. All in all, the police were actually quite nice to me. I overheard the arresting cop saying “I don’t know who let her get behind the wheel of that car in this condition. But they are certainly no friend of hers. Because she seems like a really nice person.” And cop or no cop, I was touched by this. Then practiced a month or two of self-hatred, wondering how and why I could be so smart and yet so dumb to trust what was essentially a complete stranger/acquaintance of mutual friends with what was my Entire Life and the lives and feelings of those around me.

Then something else happened … I began to heal. Every time I began to fall and spin out, someone came to my aid. Just the way I’ve always come to everyone else’s aid and side, all my life. Every time I woke up with a nightmare, someone was on the other end of the phone or the even the godforsaken Facebook. And I began to cry from the overwhelming amounts of love, and not the pain. And I went to court, and faced the judge, surrounded by all manner of people. Shaking, once again, but holding it down like the little martial arts and weight lifter that I am. It was so goddamn scary.

“Shit got real. You sealed the deal.” – I Have A Knife

The police kept a constant discourse about how we’d be taken into custody for talking, phones going off, or food. And I’m looking over going (internally) “SHIT I’VE GOT SKITTLES in my bag. CUSTODY?!” Eep. No lawyer, nothing, no idea what to do. Then my father magically goes up to Assistant D.A. who turns around and turns out to be a dude I know from another walk of life. Without knowing who this man is, barreling up to him, he puts together everything in an instant and counsels us exactly what to do. I squeak out his name and immediately shut up, spending the next hour wondering if I should be horrified or grateful that this human has seen me in the courtroom. Wincing. It was wince-worthy. And humiliating. Do not do what I did, y’all. Stay the fuck home, okay? I am here to tell you. Here I am, thinking I’m about being goddamned handcuffed and shot, that’s the wildness of my imagination at THIS point.

“Homocide by cop/this shit has got to stop” – I Have A Knife

Anyway, the entire reason I was so raw in the courtroom was that I had JUST gotten out of rehab the day before. I put myself there, voluntarily. I knew there was an issue. I was in there for 6 long days and Jesus Christ: I LOVED it. Or, more accurately, I loved the people. I saw everything their mothers or fathers or guardians must see, and didn’t give two shits if they were there for heroin or pills or alcohol or suicide or complete, absolute, psychosis. I hopped in there wearing a shirt from a hard-hitting classic hardcore band called I Have A Knife, from my hometown of Louisville, KY. They’ve recently disbanded, but two albums are out and it’s fronted by Sean Garrison who was in a different band called Kinghorse back in the day. Kinghorse was produced by Glenn Danzig of all people, and I’d have to consider Sean part of the older brother crew I never had growing up. Always there for others, and there for me no matter how damn crazy I got. The IHAK shirt featured a rendering of Bobby Hill (as in King of the Hill) holding a bottle of something with XXX in one hand, and a bottle of Xanax in the other. Around his visage are the words “I Have A Knife/We’re here to party.” Almost immediately, my roommate Erin begged me to tell the story of what the shirt meant, then begged me to draw her a copy of it. It was adorable. I couldn’t curl up in bed on anxiety meds without her hopping around: “Didja draw it yet?” “Aw, girl. Not yet!” I eventually did though. She was cute as a damned button. She had been beaten by a steel pipe by her boyfriend. Black eye. Hurt shoulder. I shuddered through the entire description. Then we sat on the bed and cried together until dinner.

“No one is lazy/No one is trash/Just driven crazy/Stinging from the lash/A hellish childhood of endless shit/You couldn’t carry a single day of it/Oh, you must always stay on guaaaaard …” – I Have A Knife

When I got home from rehab, all I could do is gallop around the heavy bag at the gym, minding my form. Throwing goddamned heavy hooks, for a tiny person. Walking into the gym crying on lots more days than not. Going “Welp. Here it is.”

“And there you go/And here you are.” – I Have A Knife

And then there were the seemingly endless moments of not being able to STOP punching. Heavy bags. Walls. Door jambs. It was what it was … hurt fists, and all.

What does it take to live this life? Sheer guts and stamina? Mayhem? Chaos on top of fear with whipped cream, and a cherry on top? Singing your fucking heart out in too-hot shower with someone else on the phone, making you giggle like crazy over something ridiculous?

How about some sheer belligerence?:

“Evan, do you think you could slow down on this take?”
“Uhh … do you think you could go fuck yourself?”

There you have it, folks.

*I Have A Knife, in all its glorious crashiness;
Sean Garrison (Voices)
Gabrielle Kays (Bass)
Evan Wallace (Drums)
Greg Livingston (Guitars)
ihaveaknife.bandcamp.com