There was a quiet little stream that ran down through the rocks on the side of a mountain. I remember that everything was so crisp and green. The leaves on the trees and the earth was deep and rich with color.
I had never walked in the mountains before. I never went on a hike or went anywhere other than my normal running grounds, which were less than beautiful and far from this colorful.
It was the end of summer, 1989. I was still feeling achy but the aches were improving. I was only in a few days, and by this point, I was unsure when I would ever be back home again.
This was the opening of a new chapter for me. I was away from my home and away from my usual routine. I was taken out of my environment and removed from my usual fixes. No drugs and no drinking. I was taken from my usual atmosphere and placed in a facility to clean out my system. As for quick fixes, all they allowed were cigarettes and coffee. However, it is hard to enjoy a good smoke with bad coffee.
I was far from home and far from places like Rockaway and the Beach Streets. I was far from places like 134th and Willies. I was far from East New York Brooklyn and the train trestles or the Bodega off of Northern and 103rd Street.
There was no one to call and front me a package, just to get my head straight. No, instead, all I had were counselors in a rehab that was originally an old hotel in upstate New York, which was placed in a town called Kerhonkson.
There were other people here (of course) and all of them were from different parts of the City. There were a few people from different states. There was breakfast time, lunch, and dinner. There were group sessions, one on ones, and then meetings to make up the course of our day.
The counselors understood the junkie life because they had their own history. There was Kent. He was short but he was good. There was Helen. She was far from short and far from gentle. She was my counselor.
There was another woman that came around. She was young for a counselor. She was also somewhat leggy, which we all took notice of because she would wear dresses that showed off her legs. She wore slightly revealing tops that came up in conversation more times than not.
When you’re “Away” you’re always looking to find some sort of distraction. Otherwise, treatment can be intense. There’s always someone talking about their feelings or their life. And there’s always someone there with a tragic story that makes you say, “Oh my God, I can’t believe someone had to live through that!”
I had no idea what this place was going to be like. In all honesty, I had no clue what life would look like without something extra to mute the sounds I grew tired of hearing.
Of all things, the most intimidating ideas that I heard was from that point onward, all the things that used to bring me comfort were no longer an option for me.
I was told, “You are never going to drink or get high again!”
I remember thinking, “What?”
I like to explain my drug and alcohol use as a magic mute button. I used this when life became too loud. I used this mute button to soften the edges of normal, everyday life. I did this to dull the edges of my major concerns, which always felt sharp, like jagged knives that dug into my spirit.
I used to get high to slip in my little cocoon and settle in and be nice and easy. I was more comfortable here. Suddenly, the impending doom was not so intrusive. My fears were soft enough to create a sense of forgetfulness. I euthanized my thought process to something weightless and unobjectionable. This is how I muted you, the sounds, and the discomforts of life without euphoria.
This was my mute button but now the button was gone, which meant I had to hear and feel everything. There was nothing for me to use in defense and soften the jaggedness of my life on life’s terms.
I was in an ugly state. I had never seen anything through truly clear eyes before. And then one day, I took this walk into the woods.
I never smelled the dew like this before. I never noticed the way sunlight trickles through leaves. I never felt the richness of Earth without any decorations or enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my face like this.
There was no trouble. Nothing was pending and there was no one looking to hurt me or take me away. I suppose if ever there was such a thing as a moment of clarity or divine intervention; this was it.
I drank water from the stream and it was the best I ever had. I felt the sweat from my body dripping down and for the moment, I forgot about my aches and pains. I forgot about my anxiety. I forgot about the awkwardness and my social discomforts.
I never knew what hope would look like. Then again, hope is a dangerous word in the mind of depressive thinking. Safe to say, this was the first time I can recall seeing hope, alive and in the flesh~
I was awake at 4:30 this morning. I watched the sun come up. I thought about The Old Man and all the things we never had the chance to say to each other. In fairness, we were never very close when he was alive. We’re close now though.
I was never sure if we were never close because he was frustrated with me or I was frustrated with him. There was always this opposite response. We were like two separate poles that are identical by nature, but they repel instead of attract.
There are times when I dig back in my mind and think about the things we said and the things I wished we said differently.
There are times when I wish I could remove the ideas of rejection from my vocabulary (as well as my life) because then there would be no such thing as rejection and no one would be so quick to jump to conclusions.
I took a walk at sunrise and saw the mountains this morning. I saw the sunlight filter through a bunch of trees. I felt some tears forming.
I looked at the sunbeams that reached through the trees and said, “I love you, Pop.”
I’m sorry life was so short that we never had the chance to do things, like say, fish the pond or sit at the lakes near my house.
I moved away from so many things, which has been helpful to me. Sometimes though, my heart hurts and I remember. And it’s good to remember; thus, I’ll never forget that no matter what happens in my life, there will always be light. There will always be morning. And there will always be some way for me to find hope.