I don't think I've ever seen a greater percentage of tatooed smokers anywhere than in A Forever Recovery (AFR) drug and alcohol rehab. By the time I left we had three non-smoking clients out of about sixty. Even all the nurses smoked! And I saw some of the nicest ink work I've seen anywhere. I did not check to see who all had tats. Most people had them quite visibly dispalyed, some had them in less obvious places that one caught a glimpse of occasionally. Since we were all together all the time in one building, we saw each other in jammies and tank tops and shorts, covered up in sheets(for massage) and towels( for sauna). Eventually we all saw most of the tats.
The first impression upon entering the lobby of AFR is 'nice retreat center', spacious lobby, huge windows overlooking a lake; the first impression upon seeing the clients in the smoking room is 'co-ed, minimum security prison'. This could be pretty disconcerting, I suppose, for someone from a more sheltered, upper middle-class background. But that impression is quickly dispelled by the friendliness and openness of the people who are there for the same reason you are, to heal and transform their lives.
I wish I could tell you more about some of the people and some of the wonderful changes I saw even in the short time I was there, but those are not stories for me to tell. We all come with an expectation of privacy and rightly so. We all shared deeply private things about our lives trusting that we would respect the trust we placed in each other, and so I shall. What I can tell you in this final piece on my rehab experience is that I met a lot of sincere, wonderful people, staff and residents. I really found myself caring a lot about them and their stories and struggles. If I never see any of them again, I will never forget them, and I will always consider them more than friends. We were life sharers and life savers for one another.