On the way in, I never knew what to expect. Each trip was different and nothing was ever guaranteed. But this was part of the ritual. This was part of the rush and part of getting high. There was the act itself and then there was the ritual that goes along with it. This is the romantic part everyone relates to, which is the crazy because the romance is not only poisonous —it’s also contagious.
On some occasions, I found myself down in a basement of a neighborhood bar on the corner of fronts and Merrick. I would sneak in through the back and hide in the cellar. The floor was covered with a layer of dirt. The ceiling was low and the room was mainly used for storage of old boxes, which I used to create a surrounding for myself so I could hide.
I kept a few candles with me for light. I used them to cook my batches in a bent-up teaspoon and smoked them in my pipe before switching to something, which I saw as the best alternative to appease the cocaine demons.
I tell you of all places, this was one of my darkest and dingiest hide outs. And I’m not sure how I found this place. I think I found it in the rain one night after returning home from East New York, Brooklyn.
It was cold and rainy. My partner and I needed a place to go and somehow we ventured through the rear gate behind the 7-11 and noticed the doorway that led down to the dark, shallow room.
I was not always alone in this place but at times when I had no place to go and whenever I needed to hide from the world, I found myself here, hiding between the boxes, and cooking up my next batch to blast off and keep my head in another atmosphere.
I would hear the sound of music playing from the jukebox coming from the floor above. I could hear the commotion of people upstairs, laughing, drinking, and having a good time. Meanwhile, I was the painfully alone, sickly and skinny, longhaired kid, paranoid and wired with eyes that took on a demonized glare.
Often times, the paranoia would cause me to blow out the candle —and I would sit there in the dark until I could identify the imaginary sounds. Then I would light the candle again, only to blow it out shortly after. And it went on this way.
I could hear the squeaking of mice; sometimes, I saw their shadows moving across the wall from my glowing reflection of candlelight against the dirty, cinder-block wall.
It went this way until the batches were done. It went this way until I switched from one brand of euphoria to another. And to me, this was a good idea. This was my way to beat the demon and calm the overdrive of post-freebase insanity.
It was all gone and before the nerves took over with the dreadful despair and before my cocaine slavery fell to a more desperate measure, I chose another route. Heroin . . .
I used to smuggle a few bags home from work. The bags themselves are small and the contents were nothing short of tiny doses of death. These packages came from a place over near 134th Street.
The name on the package was King and to me, the contents were a remedy to take away the anguish and settle me into a perfect,soft-shell glaze, which I saw as my cocoon.
Upon ignition, I felt myself comforted by a beautiful rush that I could feel flush through my body from underneath my skin.
Suddenly, I forgot myself. I forgot the reasons why I chose to hide. My eyes shut slowly as my mouth dropped open. I felt just fine. I was detached and unhinged and free to take on my state of weightlessness without worrying what else might come my way.
I never really saw what I looked like. I never saw my nods from the outside in. I just knew what I felt like from the inside out. And here’s the crazy part; I could have died a thousand times and that would’ve been fine.
I could have slipped away and never knew it. And that would have been fine. I could have lost it all; the world could explode, there could have been a nuclear fallout, and that would be fine because I would have never known it.
To me, this was my ultimate send-off. To me, this was my perfect form of cancellation. I could postpone the inevitable here without concern. I could withdraw me from the ranks of discussion and place myself in a loft where no one could touch me, nothing can hurt me, and find myself anesthetized, or more accurately, numb to the touch.
There is a reason why this is addicting. There is a reason why people come back and there is also a reason why people say things like, “The first hit is always free.”
Of course it is because they now you’ll keep coming back.
In fairness and full disclosure, I was very small in size and baby-faced. I was far from tough. I usually found myself over paying for my brands and often found myself robbed or beaten. I had guns in my face. I had half my town looking to kick the shit out of me because of something I said or did (or stole.)
And I could never defend myself well. I was as thin as a wire hanger and only half as dangerous. And sure, I thought about killing myself. I figured this would be best if I died. Then again, I figured I would die anyway. Whether I died by the chemical, a bullet, or a noose or slit wrist; either way, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I found myself in a box.
My best of friends were my worst enemies. They stole from me too. But that was fine. As I saw it, this was supposed to be my position. This was my place. I was supposed to be here in the underbelly of the cycle.
It was explained to me that what goes around comes around.
Okay then, fine.
This is where I was supposed to be. As I saw it, everyone had a slot to fill in this world and since my preconceived and subconscious programming led me to believe that I was worthless, my behavior acted as a reflection of how I felt about myself.
Maybe this is why I found myself in dark places. Maybe this is why I found myself in the basement of that bar. Or perhaps this could be why I would hide in the underground sewer over on Glenn Curtis Boulevard, cooking up batches to get high and using the parasitic water in the sewers to cook my batches to create my cure because, who cares? What’s the difference? What does it matter if I’m going to die anyway? Besides, no one really cares, right?
I was a blemish to my family. I was a virus to my community. I was sickly and wasted and worthless. What would it matter if I died? As I saw it, if I had to endure, at least let me endure this my way.
I never asked to feel as I did. I never wanted to be learning disabled or emotionally ill. I never asked to feel insecure or uncomfortable. I certainly never asked for the pain or the feelings of rejection. I never wanted to be the disappointment I was to my family, but since I already was, what would be the difference if i just kept falling forward? It would just be more of the same, wouldn’t it?
I was never popular or exceptionally well-liked. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I was bullied half the time and the other half, I pretended to be tough, which was obviously just pretend because I was far from tough.
I had these voices in my head. And before I go onward, please let me explain; I always had this internal argument within myself. I never thought anything was real. I always thought there was something wrong with me. I knew that I could never see the world the way anyone else did.
Through my eyes, I was mentally and emotionally handicapped. Any time someone gave me a compliment; I saw this as pity or almost condescending. I saw this the way one would applaud an infant for not going to the bathroom in their pants.
The same as one would applaud a child for tying their shoes or one would complement someone with lower mental capacity for learning how to count to six; anytime someone told me, “Good job,” I swore I was like that special needs kid being pat on the head because at best, this was all I was capable of.
Yes, I was disturbed. I was “Emotionally disturbed,” is what someone told me. And how do you do that to a kid? How do you tell a kid, “You’re emotionally disturbed,” and leave him with this label?
As I saw it, everyone else knew. As I saw it, the whole world around me was in on the joke, laughing, and there I was —always last to get the punchline, and as I saw it; there I was, the punchline, himself.
The joke was on me. It was always on me. But that’s fine; if this is to be the case and this is to be my place in the cycle; then what goes around comes around. And anything I did to you or anyone else was just the cycle coming through to extort what you owed.
I was just acting as the hand of God (or the devil,) and spinning the wheel from the underbelly because in my head and in my heart, this was me at my best.
The hardest struggle we have is the internal programming we listen to. If someone were to come along and offer friendly and helpful advice; sure, I would have thought this was kind of them but I would have also blown this off because the biasness in my head would say, “I’m not capable.”
My thoughts always came a certain way. My mind always used the same math; it always added by assumption and speculation. As a result of my subconscious programming, I believed with all my heart, this was the best I could be.
It was not only hard for me to comprehend a different lifestyle; it was also intimidating to consider how the one thing that protected me in the worst of time would be removed from my life. How would I be able to handle m anxiety now? How would I find a way to feel comfortable in uncomfortable times? And what will I use to defend myself? What am I going to do to soften the voices in my head and quiet the arguments I hear in my thoughts?
I remember the first time I sat in front of a counselor. His name was Sal. He told me, “You’re never going to have to do that again,” when explaining about my drug use. He said it like this was supposed to be comforting. But it wasn’t comforting. To me this was not only unrealistic; it was painful and intimidating.
Admittedly, cases like mine are rare. I got out young. I did not have to suffer as much or as long. Admittedly, I am a deviation from the norm because the numbers are astounding with regards to those who do not make it. To say what I have is a blessing, nearly 28 years clean and sober.
I have heard arguments that my problem was not a problem at all because if my problem was true; I would still be high.
But I disagree. The reason I disagree is although we are each individuals and all are unique, many people find their stories relate to mine. And when I say this, I mean this from a feelings point of view. We might not have lived the same war or had the same disadvantages, but the feelings and the recollections of our though patterns run along the same lines.
In fairness, when broken down to the painful truth of honest emotion and when the descriptions are gone, rather than define where I was in the cellar or in the sewer, anxiety and despair are very relatable things.
Out actions may differ and the amount we suffer may not be the same or as long; however, the romantic part of addiction is far from romantic. But yet, for some reason to the-down-and-out, to the fallen, to the depressed, to the downtrodden, to the beaten and abused, to the traumatized, the rejected, the suicidal, and to the frustrated; the term pain killer has meaning. And the ritual, as dark as it seems, the end result is so promising that the temporary relief overwhelms the ability of better judgement.
So what do we do about this?
We need to rewire the thought process. We need to reprogram the subconscious programming and address the personal biases.
There are certain advancements in the medical field that help block the receptors in the mind, which will allow the brain to accept new direction. This will allow the disbelief to quiet the internal argument and allow thought to travel along different neuropathways.
At this point, we have been treating addiction the same way for decades now with the same results, which is funny to me because when I first learned the definition of insanity; I was told insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
If this is
so, then why are we still treating addiction the same way?
Consider the treatment for cancer. First thing we think of is chemotherapy. And sometimes chemo works. But sometimes it doesn’t. However, it is found that when treating a patient and learning about the patient’s individual chemistry rather than treat them with a “One-size-fits-all” method; the chances of survival improve immensely.
I never had the benefit of medically assisted treatment. In fact, when I was brought upon my program and taught about the 12-step model, the idea of medically assisted treatment was frowned upon. But why? This would have been helpful to me.
Imagine if there was something that could block the fear and panic receptors. Imagine if there was something that could remove the urges. Consider of there was a blocker that could be introduced to the mind so that rather than think along the same neuro pathways, we could create a sense of neurogenesis and create new pathways to think, feel, and live life to our best possible potential.
We are losing people at a record rate. Rather than treat people the same way and rather than the blanket, one-size-fits-all treatment, instead of repeating the same thing over and over again, which is exactly what they tell us addicts “Not” to do, why aren’t we attacking this life threatening problem from different angles?
And you know what?
I’m all in.
I say the time for complaining and explaining is over. I say too many people have died. I say that we need to make changes. And I say the change begins with us.
Are you with me?
I hope so because the life you save might be someone you love—