I was in the back of a truck with no windows, handcuffed to a man that was drinking the night before. He was handcuffed to another man and him to another and then so on.
I was afraid. I was hungry and my stomach was growling, but yet, how could I even think of food in a time like this?
I hadn’t eaten in a while, but like I said, food was not my top priority.
I had just come from a tiny room with a caged door. I sat on a hard wooden bench, contemplating the next few hours, which would dictate whether i go home or instead, be remanded into custody,
I thought abut the bullpens, which are the bigger cells beneath the courthouse and how we were all soon to be shuffled in before being shuffled upstairs.
The place smelled like body odor mixed with cleaning solvent. There was a man a few cells down from me was screaming throughout the night about his rights and shouting at the correction’s officer about his rights, screaming how he wanted a glass of water, but meanwhile, there is a water fountain in the cell.
Mind you, however, the water fountain is located atop of a stainless steel structure that built up from a toilet. I heard a man asking for toilet paper or a tissue to blow his nose, but the guard just laughed and him and said, “Use your fuckin sleeve.”
At the time, I subscribed to a lifestyle where this was considered to be an occupational setback or hazard. Jail was part of the game. So was dying, by the way.
But you had to play it off. You can’t be scared. You certainly can’t cry. No, instead, you had to be stoic about the entire process. You had to be indifferent, as if the courts could send you to the electric chair and the news would be the same to you as if someone told you your breakfast was ready.
I knew I had to play this off but the truth is I knew I didn’t have a “Doing time,” kind of mentality. I was sickly and skinny and weak at best.
I knew there was no way out. I knew that my decisions had led me to where I was, in the back of a wagon, and heading over to see a judge, first thing in the morning.
I knew what would happen to me if I went inside. I knew I couldn’t survive. but I also knew I wasn’t surviving outside either. At least now, there was a way for me to get out of my own way. At least now, maybe I could find help, which is what I wanted; I just never learned how to ask for it.
I knew this was part of the life, but somehow, I never thought this part of the life would catch up to me. I figured I could play the angles. I thought I was smart and the cops were stupid. I thought I was being smart; and meanwhile, I was leaving a trail like breadcrumbs, which eventually led me into a trap.
There was a helicopter in the air. There were spot lights and cop cars and a black wrought-iron fence, which I was slammed into.
There were people watching. There was me and Mikey L. There was a car door, which two uniformed officers led me to; except, when one of the officers opened the car door, i leaned back and lifted my feet, pushing the car door closed and explained, “My mother told me to never get in the car with strangers.”
Mikey L. got off.
I was sent away
In my head there was my side and the other side. And me, I had to do whatever I could to protect my side.
I had to protect my reasons why I behaved as I did. I had to keep my wits about me.
I had to keep my attitude because as fragile as the masks were, I used my masks to hide the cracks in my façade.
I used my image to hide the fact that I was literally afraid of everyone and everything. And look at me now, tough guy, trying not to cry and trying to act like I wasn’t afraid. But no, I wasn’t afraid. No, I was not afraid at all. I was worse. I was petrified.
So now the sane mind would ask me what would make me do the things I did. Why would I position myself with certain people, places and things?
My answer is simple. As a matter of fact, my problem was simple. Instead, the complication was me.
I never considered there was a simple solution to my problems because everything was so complicated and convoluted to me.
In my mind, there was something wring with me. Why else would I think the way I thought or act the way I did? There had to be something wrong with me. it was not possible that the problem was as simple as the word depression and and anxiety disorders. In my mind, I was mentally defective and hopeless.
Decades later in my adult life, I was walking with a few people that did not know much about me or my past. We saw a man dangling near 35th Street and 8th Avenue.
The people I was with never knew anything about the nearby methadone clinic. They hardly knew what methadone was.
I remember listening to someone remark about a man that was nodding off. His eyelids were like shades of a window fallen down nearly all the way, but opened slightly, as if he was trying to stay up, but he couldn’t.
His mouth hung open in a semi-conscious sort of way. He looked like a dead man, a zombie, dangling from invisible strings; he was the stereotypical junkie, pasty skinned, shaggy haired, red bandana around his forehead, tall, skinny, and lanky. His faced appeared as if his charisma had been chemical castrated, rendering him impotent of life.
said, “Who would want to live that way?”
Meanwhile, I recall thinking about the first time I ever saw someone on the nod. I remember thinking how frightening this looked, but yet, once my culture changed and once my intention switched to a new dynamic, I saw the nod and thought to myself, “Man that high must feel so damned good that you don’t care about anything else.”
To me, the life made sense because my real life made no sense at all. Take for example, my ride in the paddy wagon. To me, this made sense because the needs and the wants in my life at the time were geared towards a temporary fix to a long-term problem.
It has been said by fellow members of the 12-step community that the disease of alcoholism and addiction is a spiritual disease. This is inaccurate from a clinical standpoint. In fact, from a clinical standpoint, there is a buildup of T.H.I.Q. cells in the mind, which leads to being obsessive/compulsive addictive behavior.
This is not an opinion. This is clinically proven; however, let’s be clear; not everything is literal in this world. Instead, we will look at this description of addiction as a spiritual disease in a more figurative way.
What is spirituality?
Spirituality is just balance.
This is not God or prayer or meditation; no, those are only vehicles towards a spiritual peace. But to be spiritual means to be balanced.
Okay, so let’s get back to the disease concept that addiction is a spiritual disease.
When getting high, the idea is to find that perfect spot. I used to call dope my special cocoon. I used crawl in my little cocoon where I could hide and feel warm. Nothing else mattered. Nothing hurt. And no one could bother me.
This was how I tried to find balance and cancel out the heavy weights of my anxieties. However, this was only a temporary fix. Therefore, the scales would tip in the other direction, which meant I had to run to the other side to balance the scales.
The back and forth was constant.
All I wanted to do was find that right spot so I could shut own and feel that soft rendition of weightlessness. But the highs were only fleeting. The lies were the counterweights and me, I found myself running back and forth to balance a life that was further becoming out of my control.
This is addiction; always running, always looking to score, always looking to gratify the mind enough and feel that moment of temporary ease.
You want to get out of the life but the idea of living any other way is unthinkable and impossible.
The shame is another issue. The years you’ve lost and the family that won’t speak to you act like a knife in your heart. So you procrastinate the lies and put off your apologies to a later date.
The wreckage of your past is always on you, like a collar, which, in fact, is what they call a criminal record. They call it a collar. And collars like this weigh heavy upon the shoulders in our mind.
No one is ever going to hire me. No one outside of this life is ever going to understand me or accept me or like me or trust me. So why bother? Might as well keep moving from one side of the scale to the other to try and find balance.
I can’t make it.
I can’t do it.
I can’t play the game straight.
I need an edge . . .
Can’t catch a break?
Okay, just let me slip one in, one last time, and I swear, I’ll come in tomorrow and I’ll kick the habit.
Just let me get my head straight.
Just let me get my balance.
So . . .
If active addiction is using an outside source to find balance in an otherwise unbalanced life in an off-balance world, what would it mean to be personally and emotionally sober?
In my opinion, personal and emotional sobriety is achieved when we are able to find balance from within instead of using an outside source.
I remember the ride I took to see the judge. I remember thinking I knew what I was doing until reality hit and showed me that I had no idea whatsoever.
I went through a lot of twist and turns since then. I would love to tell you that I got it right away.
But I didn’t.
In a short while, I will prepare to speak at a memorial event for a young man named, Eric.
Eric passed away from an accidental overdose.
Fentanyl took him.
See, all the warnings and all the awareness events and all the statistics in the world about dying, jail, and all that goes with the life of drugs are not actually a deterrent.
Truth is, somehow, this is more attractive. This is marketing 101.The news creates temptation.
Call me crazy. Call me whatever you want but still, if I am wrong, then explain why the number of overdoses and deaths continue to increase?
I think the hardest thing to help someone do is believe in themselves when they believe all they can do is fail or die.
There needs to be a new angle of empowerment. We can’t tell people this is the only way to attack an epidemic. We can’t behave like certain programs do when they say my way is the only way.
No, we need to attack this at every angle.
Keep in mind, this is a fight. This is an ugly, bloody, street fight. And street fights are a lot of things but one thing they are not is fair.
So why are we trying to fight fairly against an unfair battle?
We need synergy. We need to find cohesion and work together. It can’t be my way or your way. It has to be our way.
There is no spotlight here. This isn’t sports spectacular with highlight reals and instant replay . . . this is the life of our country which is dwindling due to chemical dependency.
I have been hearing for the longest time that it takes a village to raise a child.
But where is the village?
I don’t care about the politics. I am not arguing about law enforcement or the politicians and asking them, “What are you going to do about this?”
I am saying what am I going to do about this?
Better yet, what are we going to do about this?
As of last April 1st, I have been clean and sober for more than 28 years. And sure, I got out young. I got out and got off easy compared to countless others. But do you want to know the truth?
You want to know the hardest part about my 28 years?
I’ll tell you one thing, there are times when this was lonely
The hardest part was watching people I knew and loved go back to an old lifestyle and never come back from it.
The hardest part is the friends I don’t speak with anymore. The hardest thing was to seeing an old friend from my days in rehab days while he nodded off on the corner of 8th and 35th Street.
I remember passing him with a bunch of people I worked with and hearing one of them say, “Oh my God. Who would do that to themselves” and passing by like my friend was a total stranger.
I don’t know
what the answer is.
I don’t know what the missing ingredient is to this trick we are trying to pull off.
I just know I don’t like what I see in my community.
So today I am going to speak out.
Today, I am going to honor a mother that lost her son. More accurately, today, I am going to fight back.
And even if I fight alone—well, then at least I fought for something.
PS: to my man from the rooms, I am sorry I didn’t say hello that day. Besides, you were in no shape for a friendly hug or a handshake.
Not sure where you are in this world now
But wherever you are . . .
Just know if I had the chance to walk by you again, I’d have silenced my coworkers. I’d have given you the hug of your life and told you that I love you.
Because I do . . .