why I stay sober

I was under the influence of something more than just a mild chemical reaction. Someone, and I was never sure who, suggested I try a bag.
“It will help you come down,” they said. “It’ll stop the fiend [or urge] from getting to you.” But what no one explained was the trade of one evil for another.

The weather was warm and the sweat beaded down the bridge of my nose. The long strands of my hair were clumped together with sweat and blood sped throughout my body as the cocaine soldiers marched to the drum of my heartbeat. I was several hours into the binge and almost near the end of my stash. My sick routine had consumed me, and the imaginary whispers of paranoia had me looking for the voices I couldn’t see.

The hard part was finding someplace to setup a small workstation and keep away from the world without interruptions. One of my regular places was inside the concrete tunnels of an underground sewer system. The tunnels were hardly ever filled, unless it rained, and there were rarely any visitors.
There was no real light besides the glowing edge of my cigarette, or the flickering spark from my lighter.  There was never any wind, but there was a strange and eerie echo whenever I made a sound.

I sat inside the bottom of the gray cement tube. The tunnel was not tall enough to stand, but I could hunch down and easily make my way through it. My knees were propped up with a small stream of stagnant rainwater beneath them. My back leaned against one side of the tube, and my feet braced against the other to keep my body from slipping.

Depending upon the time of day, glimpses of sunlight fell in from the scattered storm drains in the road over my head. The drains fell into a shaft, which dumped into the sewer. But light from the shaft was too distant and too dim to act as a reliable source. So I often used candles; I used them as a source of light as well as a means to cook small batches of free-base in filthy, a bent-up spoon. I kept the routine going for as long as I could, but the cocaine soldiers never understood the terms of retreat. They only know what it means to want more and their howling war cries rang out like an alarm at the top of my neck.

I tucked my hard pack of cigarettes inside the front pocket of my jeans. I hid some of my stash inside my sock, and one inside my right sneaker. My shirt hung loose on my thinly-framed shoulders, and the sweat from my underarms had leaked into the fabric of my t-shirt.
My jaw clenched and grinded back and forth; the muscles at my jawbone flexed, and each and every nerve I owned was on heightened alert.

The incredible numbness came until it subsided to a terrible crash. All I could do was try my best to duplicate, or recreate the first speedy flash into euphoria.
But after all was gone and the tiny paper packages were empty; after all the batches were cooked in my spoon and the glass pipe was finished with nothing left to smoke, I unfolded the bag with blue lettering on it.
The word “King” was printed below a crown on the folded package. The contents were small. It would seem unthinkable that such a small amount of powder would have such a tremendous effect. It didn’t look like much; the amount of flaky powder in a bag was barely a small fraction of the amount of sugar in a packet. But make no mistake; that little dose was enough to softly crumble anyone beneath the tides of the heroin gods

I never used needles—I never liked them, but then again, I was never in the position to find myself a set of works (or syringe.)
Once the cocaine soldiers finished their march, I placed one end of a cut straw into the package of King, the other went in my right nostril as I sniffed back as hard as I could, and then I waited for the heroin gods to soften the war cries from the cocaine soldiers and rescue me from their fast-forward search.
The high was not instantaneous, or as quick as it would be from the prick of a needle. But when it came on, it was like the world suddenly paused into something more bearable. Snorting it left the high to come in like wave, and then suddenly, I felt a warm surge flush through my body. My pounding heart slowed down and the world around me took on a gentle feel, as if the wind was velvet, and I was cloaked in a soft cocoon.

It was easy to understand how anyone would become addicted to such a wonderfully suspended chaos. The world became weightless; all the stress and concerns were rinsed from my mind, and any of my pains, whether they were mental or physical, were cured.
I would slip into mental nods, which I can only describe to be similar to slow-moving candlewax dribbling down the side of a hot, lit candle.
I saw myself lost inside the mixture of color. I saw myself as relieved of body and thought, and after the high took its hold, I felt as if I had been reborn in the spirit.

But there was a price to this heaven . . . and its price seldom involved the money I used to get my score.
After the spirit settled; after the synthetic wings melted away and upon my return to gravity; I was left with a sickness that only grew.

I took the trade and accepted the tax. I paid in full for a debt that could never be settled.
The Bible says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. He cannot serve God and mammon.”   (Matthew 6:24)
And as it is in Heaven, it was the same in my version of hell. The cocaine armies and heroin gods know how to extract their price of admission; however, the beast is always looking to negotiate. After all, that’s how he collects his interest.

It feels good to be debt free.
I’ll be sober 24 years this April 1, 2015.

And if I can do it . . .
So can you

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