I am four days and a wake-up away from something I call my anniversary. And as for this or to those who don’t know, I am four days away from acknowledging a specific date. I am 30 years away from a night that nearly killed me as well as possibly someone else. I am 30 years away from my last binge and 30 years away from a night of breaking in through the windows of a few suburban homes.
I say four days and a wake-up for a reason. I say it this way because of the roll call I had to answer for. I had to answer for this, each morning at a facility in a place up at a town called Kerhonkson, New York.
Ever hear of Kerhonkson? No?
That’s okay. I’m not surprised.
The words I leave here are to commemorate my 30 years in constant recovery. This does not make me better nor worse. I am not above anyone by any means. Instead, I am humble because I come from a humbling place. In fairness, I’m not sure when the last taste was. I don’t know the actual hour or the day of my last high (or attempts thereof). However, what I remember is trying to play this off as if nothing happened. I figured I could keep this a secret. No one has to know, right? I could keep this like so many other things I had locked inside. I could just bury this deep, the same way I buried my anger and discomforts. I thought I could hide this the same way I tried to hide my struggles with personal awkwardness.
The night went like a blur. I was right back to my old self as if nothing had changed. I was the old me as if no time had passed and none of my revelations meant a thing. I swear, the beast greeted me with a smile. He was there, as if to say, “We knew you’d be back.”
I knew something awful was about to happen. I knew this when I slithered through the back window of a home. The homeowner was elderly. I could tell because the house was out of date and out of style. Or perhaps it was just typical of a grandma or grandpa’s house. There were pictures all over the place of smiling grandchildren. There was happiness abound in family photos. And then there was me, slithering through the house like a serpent and going through drawers like a sneak-thief. I was not alone either. I was with someone who will remain without a name, which is fine because either way, he and his name is not important. Besides, I always withhold names to protect myself as well as the less-than innocent.
I can remember the look from one of the photographs. I saw this in the dimness of the master bedroom. I can remember the eyes looking at me. I had to fold the picture down on the nightstand because I couldn’t take the eyes. They were looking at me. It was as if the old woman was there somehow, staring at me while I dug my hands beneath the mattress to see if there was anything hidden. By the way, under the mattress is a big place where people leave cash.
I knew something more was about to happen. I could literally feel the destruction of my world, but yet, there was nothing that I could do to stop this. No, I had to ride this out. I had to find myself in the old familiar places. I had money. I had a nickel plated .357 beneath the seat of my car. I had the demons with me on my shoulder and more, I had the last of my so-called rehabilitation, dwindling by the second. I was losing myself the way sand loses to an hourglass; in which, deep down, I knew it was only a matter of time until the drugs were back in my system. Once the last grain of sand fell through the hourglass, my sobriety was finished.
Nothing changed at all. Nothing got better or easier. The binge was no different from any other binge. The regret was more painful though. The sad failure of the trust, which I had spoiled was lingering within me. “I just won’t tell anybody,” is what I thought. “No one needs to know about this.”
Meanwhile, the next night while I was still dealing with the remaining nerves, my entire family came to the house. Everyone was telling me how they were so proud of me. Finally, I was out of trouble. To them, I was being good. They could trust me again. Meanwhile, I had the cocaine bugs weaving through my system. I had the demons whispering in my ears and the beast (of course) laughing at me saying, “We always knew you’d be back.”
I had burn marks on my lips. I had the twitches. My jaw was clenched. And all I had was literally lost. I could see that old haunting stare when I saw myself in the mirror. God, I hated mirrors. I hated the sight of my reflection because I knew there was no place to hide from myself (or the truth).
I suppose the rewind and the revelation is important. I suppose it is important to acknowledge where I came from and yes, I choose to acknowledge what I was and what I had done. Fortunately, the night did not go as planned. Otherwise, the sins beneath my belt would be more than I could think of.
I was a different person then. I can say that human life meant nothing to me. I can say that since my life meant nothing to me, why would I consider the life of anyone else?
As I saw it, life works this way. What goes around, comes around and should something have happened; or should the bullet meet the flesh; then it was only fate. Whether I lived or died or whether someone else lived or died was beyond my control. This was up to fate and as I saw this; I had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.
“Just keep it in, kid.”
“Don’t let them see you!”
“Hold on to it.”
The truth is I couldn’t hold this down. The thoughts of the homes and the faces in the pictures were haunting to me. The warmth from the welcomes of people in my family were like poison. I knew I was out of the game. I was clean. I was away from it all. And plus, that life never cared about me. Nobody missed me. No one ever asked, “Hey, how’s Benny doing?” Yet, it was me that ran back. It was me that want back to the rage and the anger and the contempt for who I am or how I felt. It was me that went back. No one else.
I couldn’t stand the thoughts. I couldn’t stand myself. I couldn’t stand the awkward feelings of difference. I hated that everyone I knew had somewhat of a normal life. They did normal things, like graduate high school. They had tellable stories. They had a life which was unrelatable to me. I had nothing. I had no identity. I had nothing but my discomforts.
I saw myself this way, inaccurately, of course and meaningless.
This is where the anger began. I went back down the same holes because in the depths of my mind; I had these old connections to the masks I wore, which I thought would keep me protected. I put a gun in the hands of murders (including myself). I watched my so-called clean time as it vaporized in a glass pipe. I hurt people. I stole. I gave away the one chance I had at earning a semblance of a good life. And just like that, I was back in the saddle again.
A few days later, I found myself on an upstate visit on April 1st, 1991. I took a trip to the old farm, which is a place where I had status. I just went up for a visit. I was wanted here. I was welcomed. I was comfortable here and yet, I was also on my way of becoming institutionalized here.
I was part of the inevitable threes, which are jails, institutions or death. As for the institutionalized part, the truth is I never really knew what this meant. I suppose I thought this meant that I was living in an institution but no, this meant that I was incapable of living a productive life on the outside of institution walls.
I always wanted to be a part of something. I always dreaded rejection. I hated feeling unincluded or unwanted. The farm was a place where I had identity. I had meaning. Both my relapse and my downfall were because I lost the meaning within myself. Therefore, I gave this away. I went back to the hardships, which only members of the beast could understand: This is the binge, the fiendish feeling, the need to get more and crawling around on filthy floors, looking for little remnants of powder. I looked for the fallen flakes of white; as if anything could take me out of the prison, but no. There’s no escaping this. Not when you’re in this deep. There is no rewind. Now you’re trapped and all you can do is scrounge up money to get another hit.
I couldn’t hold my composure when I saw the members of the farm. I wept immediately because the same was too much for me to handle. They were all so pure and the evil in my bloodstream could not withstand their love. I gave up. I gave in. I surrendered and here I am.
I am 30 years away from this.
Four days and a wake up.
I say this because when doing the roll call, I would announce my time until completion of my treatment. I say this because my count went from 29 days and a wake-up down to one and a wake-up until finally, the day came and I was in wake-up. This meant I was free again.
I am four days and a wake-up away from celebrating 30 years of this freedom.
Someone asked me if I thought I would ever go back.
Is it possible?
I don’t answer this question. I know that I have to take care of myself. I know that there are people that dropped all of what they had and lost their life to this sickness. I tell people that my sickness and I have an arrangement. I’ll let the beast talk to me. And I’ll listen too. And when the baby in me is done crying; I’ll comfort the lies with truth. And the truth is this: I made it out of something. I was not the one that was supposed to go this far. But yet, here I am. And here I’ll stay.
That life never missed me but do you know what? The beast is always there. The beast is always looking to cut a deal. But to me, the terms are too costly. Instead, I prefer to stay as I am.
Alive . . .
By the way, I hear people talk about being “Woke.”
I’m pretty sure my version of woke is much different.
You rise & you shine, Ben… Good Morning!
I’ve been meaning to say something–I didn’t pass this by. What an incredible story. So much good came out of bad. I don’t know if the etiquette is to say congrats in this situation, but please accept congratulations in the right terms.
Thank you. There is so much you say that makes sense to me. I really appreciate your feedback and comments