I walked inside the main doorways to an upstate facility after a long car ride. I was still sweating out the demons of my last ride, so to speak. I was in a fog or, should I say was making my reentry from my last trip out of the atmosphere. As I was coming down from my high, time moved like a stop action film, one caption after another, and the trip I was on was destined to lead me to someplace I didn’t want to go.
All I wanted to do was turn around and go back to where I came from. I wanted to leave and quit before the ride even started. But either way, there was no way to go back.
There was no way to turn around. I lost that right the minute they put the handcuffs on me. I gave up my freedom the moment I signed the deal, which was my choice because either I played ball, which I didn’t do, or I did time for one year plus 90 days, which I couldn’t do, or I chose to go to treatment, which is what I did do.
I had to do this because I couldn’t see me lasting inside a jail cell long enough to keep a noose from hanging around my neck. Either way, I signed the deal to give myself away to a process of something I never thought would take.
The deal I signed was the kind that comes with fine print and hidden fees. And oh, yes, I had to pay for this.
The problem was I never paid attention to what would come in the back end. Then again, I never thought that far into the bigger picture. Besides, no one really thinks this will happen to them. No one thinks they’ll find themselves here, on their ass, and facing time in a drunk-tank somewhere or at a facility to dry out and get the poison from their veins. No one thinks this will happen to them until it does and by then, it’s too late.
I knew the risks when I started this game. I knew what was at stake but I never thought this would be me. This is what happens to other people.
I never thought I would be caught and I swore I would never fall in this deep.
My guess is I thought I could beat the odds, which is what everyone else thinks too. But no one ever does it.
I thought I could find the angles and get away. After a while, actions were just action and the unthinkable just became a way of life.
In the simplest way, I thought I could get high and still manage my life. Only, the deal never works this way.
Meanwhile, there was a counselor somewhere telling me that I was powerless and that my life had become unmanageable.
But I swore I could get by. I swore that no one else understood. No one else knew me. How could they?
How could anyone else possibly understand the ideas in my head when I couldn’t understand this myself? That’s why I took the deal.
After all, the devil is always open to negotiations and he’s always sure to give enough rope for one to hang themself.
The problem with this is you get used to the pain. At least, I did. This is not to say that I enjoyed the downfall. This just means I knew the rules of engagement.
I began this journey because I liked the high. Then I depended on it. Then I needed it. And then I was stuck.
I was young and stupid. I was high. I was in the belly of a beast and about to learn what happens to punk kids like me.
More accurately, I was going to learn more about the rules of engagement and face the fire.
I had no idea what happens in treatment places like this. Rather than take the time in prison, I chose to take a program, which was literally like kindergarten when compared to jail.
I was in a room and not in a cell. I still had freedom. I could walk around and most of all, there was no fear of rapes in the shower or physical altercations.
Yet still, I admit it. I was scared.
I was scared of what they would ask me to do. And who knows what they would have me do?
My guess was they would have me in hospital attire/ I imagined me, walking up and down their sad little hallways in pajamas and a robe.
I envisioned a locked ward with zombie-like patients, all tranqued up on Thorazine, and shuffling down the corridors while drooling on themselves.
No different from the heroin junkies and their nods on the street, I figured the powers that be would sedate their patients into chemical submission, which to be honest was fine with me.
Maybe they would medicate me. Maybe they would drug me good enough so that I would be mindless, or better yet, maybe they would put me on something that changed the way I thought about me or the rest of the world.
As I saw it, maybe they would drug me properly enough to the point where I found everything else in my life to be mute and unobjectionable.
This was rehab. I knew that. I knew there would be rules. I knew that too. My guess was they would probably medicate me so I would go to sleep.
I thought this was the same as flight deck in the psych ward.
I figured if I was bored enough, I could freak out and have a bunch of orderlies toss me to the ground and bang a needle in my side.
I would try to fight the thorazine to feel the drug flooding through my veins but I knew the thorazine would take over. Then I could sleep for a few days and pretend to be a really good boy from then on. Up until this point, all I had was a wile imagination of what treatment would look like. However and fortunately, I had no idea how wrong I was about to be.
I was told about this thing they call A.A. which stands for Alcoholics Anonymous (in case you didn’t know.)
I knew what an alcoholic was and I knew what the word anonymous meant. I just never knew what happened at meetings like this.
No, I suppose my idea was only slightly inaccurate. My guess was this was a sad little room where drunk people sat and smoked cigarette at round tables with dirty ashtrays, overflowing with crushed cigarette butts, and mainly empty shot glasses rested on the table by their side with tiny remnants of scotch or whisky in a shallow pool at the bottom of the glass.
I thought this is where drunks go. I figured I could go here to and join the sad ranks of those who could not drink or function in society like the rest of the world.
I had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t know what the other patients would look like. Of course, I figured the worst.
I never thought I would see the basic, everyday people that looked like regular moms or dads. I never thought I would see the basic guy-next-door type or the soccer moms that drove their kids to school in minivans. I expected street bums and winos and junkies. I expected homeless and poor, destitute people with no hope and nothing to live for. But once again, I was wrong.
More than anything, I never knew there was a great big world out there that had nothing to do with me.
I only knew what I thought or what I saw.
I just knew how I felt; I never thought much about anyone or anything else. I never dared to take myself out of the equation or be selfless.
All I knew was how to protect me to the best of my ability. The only problem with this is the way I protected myself was slowly killing me.
I was high. This was for sure. But more to the point, I was afraid. I was always afraid too.
I was painfully afraid of people. I was afraid of love and afraid of sex because of a boundary violation during my younger years, I swore I had to prove myself. Plus, I lost the understanding for the most basic concepts of human interaction. Since my boundaries were crossed then why would anyone else have a boundary? People in my life had a pawn like appeal to me. Everyone was a game piece and everyone was expendable.
I was afraid that no one would ever really like me, let alone love me. I was afraid to be exposed and afraid of public humiliation.
I was afraid to laugh because, God forbid, what do I do if I laugh and it turns out the joke is really on me.
Besides, why smile if the smile will inevitably fade and there I am, back to my misery?
And I knew I looked bad. I knew what was happening to me but what else could I do? My skin was a greener shade of pale. I only weighed about 80lbs and my eyes were sunken into my face with dark rings beneath them. I was skeletal and weak, sad, and sick.
See, this is the thing nobody talks about. The reason I couldn’t stop myself was because I couldn’t see myself living any other way. I had no faith in anyone or anything. The only thing I believed in was the temporary redemption of a chemical reaction.
I knew there was a way out. But yet, I felt like I walked too deep in the forest. I was too lost and plus, there was no trail of breadcrumbs for me to find my way home.
Plus, how do you expect someone to forget what it feels like to be high? How can you take away someone’s magic mute button? This was the button I’d push when I got high to silence the world so I could rest for a while.
In the worst cases, my enemy was my only friend. And I would use my enemy to euthanize the minutes, which became hours and then became days, weeks, and months. In fact, I lost trace of time. I lost all the concepts of normal everyday things.
I used the drugs to crawl up into my little cocoon where nothing hurts, nothing is ugly, and there is no pain.
And sure, I looked sick. Of course, I did.
Sure, I felt sick too but everything was fine once the poison hits the bloodstream.
I used to think about dying all the time. And I suppose the drugs would placate the ideas for a while.
But then what?
I was too uncomfortable to think about playing the game straight. Plus, I was incapable of living my life like other people do.
Or so I thought.
Maybe the farm would be a good thing.
Maybe they could take me away like a dog that turned on their owner and needs a place to run around with other dogs that are just as sick. Maybe this was the way they would “Put me down,” and institutionally euthanize me.
And hell, the idea of the farm beat the idea of going to jail. This beats the idea of cell-block beatings and shivs in my chest, or worse, me, a little scrawny junkie with longhair, giving lap dances to save my own pathetic life.
Two men approached me when I came into the facility. They were friendly and kind. Naturally, I thought they were crazy.
I had no idea what they were talking about. They talked about a program. They told me about a new life that was waiting for me and I thought to myself, “Yeah. Sure. Right!”
I never knew that I wasn’t alone. I never knew there were countless other people out there, just like me. They were scared too. They were hurt. They were sick and tired of being sick and tired. They all had their share of moral injuries, just like me. I never knew this could be true.
All I ever knew was my own connection to my thoughts and the deception of my perception. There was no way for me to know there were others that felt this way.
Besides, who would admit to these types of things? Who would tell someone else their deepest fears and darkest secrets?
Why would anyone do such a thing?
The way I lived was the only way that made sense; never let anyone in. Never let anyone see what’s inside. Build a wall. Keep away because the moment someone breaks through is the same time they can crush me. And put simply, I had already been crushed before. I just didn’t want to be crushed again.
I can’t say when it was that I first considered the idea of living a clean life. To be honest, I knew drugs were illegal but to me, drinking was as American as apple pie. Drinking was a part of our country’s pastime.
For as long as I could remember, I always felt so incredibly alone. I was always so odd and awkward. I simply could not imagine my life any differently from what it was.
The crazy thing is this was me, 30 years ago this August.
God, I was in so much pain. I was so sick.
I was so goddamned afraid that I swore I was never going to make it. I’m sure there were others that thought I would never make it either.
But they were wrong because here I am. I’m still alive. I’m still defying the statistics that say I should have been dead years ago.
Dear God, they were all so wrong about me.
Then again, so was I.
I’m going to go back for a visit. I’m going back where it all started, I’m going back to the place where the old me died and the new me was born.
What an unbelievable thing this is.
I hope I show them what this place did for me. I hope the people I speak to will see what this place can do for them too because If you ask me, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
I know you won’t be able to read this where you are now. Then again, the eyes where you live in Heaven see more clearly than anything I could ever comprehend.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you passed away. I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you.
You saved my life