I was told, “Stand up.”
Then I was escorted from the glossy wooden bench in the front of the courtroom and escorted towards my counsel.
After positioning me before the judge, my appointed attorney leaned close and whispered in my ear.
“The judge is going to read off the charges against you and then he is going to ask, ‘How do you plea,’ understand?”
I nodded yes.
“After he says that, you are going to respond, ‘Not guilty,’ and he will either set bail or release you on your own recognizance. Do you understand?”
“Well, which one is it,” I asked. “Is he going to release me, or is he going to set bail?”
“I’m kind of curious to find out myself,” said the attorney.
As the judge spoke, I could hear his voice. I could hear his words….but none of them made any sense to me. Then the district attorney spoke. He mentioned different dates and numbers, and then he carried on about my different offenses.
I felt dazed.
I tried to process what was being said, but everyone spoke so fast.
Then my attorney spoke.
He introduced himself to the court and rambled on, referring to me as, “my client.”
Everything was a blur until I heard the judge ask, “How do you plea?”
Moments before, I waited in the underbelly of the courtroom. I was surrounded by drunks and thieves. I waited inside a large, foul-smelling cage, with the worst of our society.
We began in one pen, and then we were moved to another cage, and then another. We were moved like cattle, and the closer we moved towards the door upstairs, the closer we moved to our individual slaughter.
“I don’t know how I’m going to make it,” I thought to myself.
“I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.”
Everyone asks, “Why?” “Why would you do that to yourself?”
My answer was always, “Because it feels good.”
Of course, it feels good.
One minute, I felt the weight of everything heavy; I felt the weight of the world, and the pressures of home. I felt the pressures of those I loved as well as those I hated, and then suddenly, I felt nothing.
Suddenly, or almost magically, I felt nothing other than disconnected as I slid through the warm seclusion of an overloaded rush.
Mike passed the small mirror over to me. On it, the two small lines were imperfect and flaky, but the aftermath was incredible.
“They say if you do it once, you’ll do it again,” I told Mike.
Then I took the piece of drinking straw, which I had cut down to size, and I placed one end inside of my right nostril.
I leaned down, noticing my reflection as I moved above the small, handheld mirror. I gently placed the bottom end of the straw at the start to one of the two powdery lines. Then I quickly snorted the off-white flakes into my system as hard as I could. I finished my share; then I lifted my head and held it backwards, allowing the damage to seep into my body.
I mentioned to Mike, “This stuff doesn’t go down the same way. It doesn’t numb the back of your throat like coke does.”
Mike followed by emptying his small folded packet onto the same handheld mirror. He then took his turn with a straw of his own, and the rest became a waiting game.
We waited for the cocaine bugs to hush as the junk flooded through our system.
I watched the expression on Mike’s face slowly transfer into a different version of lifelessness.
Within minutes, Mike’s eyelids fell to halfway. His jaw hung open as if he lost the strength to close his own mouth.
And then it hit me….
I fell into a trance and buckled to the ground. After moving through my nasal passages, the chemical dissolved into bloodstream, causing a chain-reaction, like soft explosions which blossomed throughout my body.
Within minutes, I forgot about time and space.
I forgot where I was and what I was doing
I forgot about my awkwardness and insecurities
I forgot about everything….
Within minutes, I was introduced to an incredible vibration, which ran along my spine and removed the tension from the top of my neck.
Within minutes, I was introduced to a new form of anti-gravity; I felt perfectly weightless and separated.
Within minutes, I found myself withering as the flood overtook my body.
I told Mike, “This must be what everyone warned us about.”
And the next thing I knew….
it was Sunday.
As a favor, I took a drive out east to pick up a young man in his early twenties. He had just completed a short stay in an inpatient facility and the leftover fogginess was still in his speech.
His eyes were sunken, just like the junkies on line at the methadone clinic near 35th Street. His words garbled and he spoke too slowly.
“I guess it’s gonna be different when I get home,” he said. “I guess that’s what you came to get me instead of my mom and dad.”
This was not the young man’s first trip into recovery. He spent time in an adolescent facility at the age of 16. But after his stay in an upstate rehab, the young man returned home to the same places and behaviors that kept him sick. He stayed with the same friends and dodged the occasional drug tests. He managed to stay out of trouble until his arrest one month before his 18th birthday.
However, this being his first time in the precinct, the young man agreed to one of the offered drug programs.
This time, he went to another short stay program in the Midwest.
The young man’s father told him, “This is your last chance.”
He said, “You’re on your own if you do this again.”
Of course, the boy agreed. He apologized and played the part the way most addicts will.
Along the way, the young man learned the language. He learned what to say and how to sound convincing. Upon his return, his freedom was only slightly limited to monthly visits to his probation officer. He was leashed to drug tests; however, the young man believed alcohol was not a factor in his case.
At 21, he spent a week in detox. At 22, he spent 90 days in jail, and at 23, he found himself on the east end of Long Island in another 28 day program
(I call them 28 day wonders. People go in and 28 days later, people come out as if they were healed.)
The young man promised, “It’s gonna be different this time.”
He swore, “I don’t wanna go through this shit again.”
I could feel his mind working. He was looking for the right words to say. He wanted to sound as if he truly grasped it this time.
He quoted literature to me. He told me about his plans and how he was grateful to be going home.
After my last stay in rehab, the last thing I was is comfortable. The last thing I sounded was good.
Want to know why? It’s because I was being honest.
I wasn’t trying to win anyone over with speech.
I was 28 years-old then. I lost touch with the young man’s parents after he died.
I suppose they saw their end in his addiction.
I suppose they understood why it is said that addiction is, in fact, a family illness.
Thankfully, in my case, I was held accountable for my actions.
Had I been enabled, I would have been no different than the young man
dead before 25…..