Just Remember: Life Happens to Everyone

There was a night that I recall. It was nothing special, at least not for any reason other than it was a nighttime in my young life. I was about to find myself at the spot where I traded my money for a few bags of self-destruction. Or wait, no. Maybe it’s more accurate to call the bags a form of self-distortion. It was true what they say, “The first hit is always free.” This is how they keep you coming back.

It’s true. A virus like this spreads through interpersonal contamination. It’s an idea. It’s a thing to do to beat the boredom. This is a ride on the edge of some crazy thrill. And it starts easy. No one walks in the deep-end on their first trip. At least, not really.

I remember when Mikey had an idea to try something new, which I obliged. We found out about a little speed that came our way. This was a prescription brand, which was not great. The high from Ritalin is not the best high by any means. But we found that a little alcohol could pair-up and make the high go a long way. This went beyond the experimentation phase, which we passed after the different recreational phases with weed or hash. We were looking to up the ante and move closer to the deep end, which came much quicker than we thought.

I had my little stint with psychedelics that took me for a few rides. In fact, this was the cause for my educational downfall. This is what snapped the line between me and my sanity. Safe to say, this is when the spiral began to pull me in. I was losing to myself and falling deeper into something that I never knew could be so seductive.
I was removed from two different schools for drug-fueled outbursts that could not be overlooked. I had a few meltdowns that involved teachers. The second of the two meltdowns had to be addressed as I was bleeding from self-induced wounds and stood up as if to personify the crucifixion of Christ. I extended my arms after screaming a tirade at the teacher and while my arms were outstretched, I allowed my head to slump the way Jesus did on the cross and offered the closing argument of “Hail Satan.” Needless to say, this was the last time I was ever in a public school system. And safe to say, the teacher never forgot me or what I said to him.

More and more, I sought to find a new mindset. I wanted to explode and found ways to pulse these great explosions in my mind. I looked to find the best feeling and the best sense of euphoria. Perhaps this was only “The Kiddie” phase but in no time at all, I found myself in places where death was real. So were guns. So were the drugs and so were the problems that came with them. I tell you that I never trusted anyone, except for the dealer on the corner. I never trusted anyone but I’d trade money for poison and be fine with whatever happened.

I saw what I saw and did what I did.
But that’s not the point.

I think about this whenever I hear a teenager tell me, “That’ll never happen to me.”
I think about this each time a parent tells me, “Not in my house” or “Not in my backyard.”
But I have news for you. This is in your house. And this is in everybody’s backyard.
So, wake up.
I think about the list of people I know who said the very same thing. I think about the parents who swore, “My child would never do anything like that” and then they find themselves at a bereavement group asking, “How did this happen?”

No one expects it. No one ever gets behind the wheel after drinking a few drinks and thinks it’ll be them who hits somebody or kills someone or dies in a wreck. No one expects they’ll find themselves in the backseat of a cop car with handcuffs on their wrists. But ready or not, here it comes.

Expected or unexpected, there are only a few ways things end up. Be assured, rarely does anything end well in this lifestyle. 

I had a conversation with a young girl who ran away and swiped a car. I was not talking like a father speaks to his child. I was not trying to act like I knew better or be tough. I knew that would be a waste. I did not act like I knew or understood. Instead, I  broke things down in the simplest manner. I explained what was coming.
I offered the suggestion to “Think” first.
I explained the steps that were taken on previous occasions, which did not work very well. However, the young girl was unmoved. I offered a suggestion about what comes next. I explained the process ahead. I offered an out but at the time, my voice had fallen on deaf ears.

She told me, “To be honest, I really don’t give a fuck” and then she hung up the phone. She shut off her cell phone and refused to answer my calls again.

I tried to plead with the young girl but at the same time, I knew what was about to happen. I knew that I wouldn’t have listened either. In fact, I didn’t listen. I knew that the desire to get high outweighs our understanding of sanity. Besides, once you’re in . . . you’re in. You’re hooked. Nothing else makes sense. Anybody who is looking to tell you otherwise is simply a person who does not or cannot understand. They don’t know. Anyone who tries to talk a person out of getting high is an enemy to a person who gets high. Maybe not literally. Maybe the word enemy is too harsh; but at the same time, if anyone told me to quit, I avoided them like the plague.

I understood this notion the same as I understand that no matter how smooth we talk and no matter how much sense we make, nobody talks a person out of using. Nothing anyone says is going to take a needle out of a person’s arm. Nothing stops the destruction but the destruction itself. Instead, all we can do is offer an idea. We plant a seed. That’s what I did. I planted a seed. 
(Or at least, I hoped.)

I received a call a few days after. The young girl was in a car accident. I remember seeing the photograph. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my God, how did anyone make it out alive?”

The girl in the driver’s seat died on impact. But again, none of this was expected. None of this was planned. I mean, think about it.
Does anyone ever plan to get into a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler?
Erica didn’t. As a matter of fact, the news reported a picture of the car wreck and her blood was clearly shown on the headrest of the driver’s seat. 

The boy who sat behind her was on life support for a while. The young boy who was in the backseat on the passenger side was under house arrest but that didn’t stop him from taking the joy ride.

As for the girl I spoke with just a few days before, she was in the front passenger seat. She was alive, although I wasn’t sure how. She was shaken up. She had just lost her best friend. The cops were waiting out in the hallway. I remember calling her and finally getting through. I remember her voice, which sounded younger than her age, almost infant-like to me. She was trembling and crying.
She told me, “Dad, Erica’s dead!”

“Do you give a fuck now?”
“I do.”

Trouble does not care about our education. Trouble does not care what we know about drugs or the crime culture. To say that this would never happen is untrue. This does happen. This can happen to anyone. This happens in any background and in any family. 

She’s a medical assistant now.
My daughter, that is.
She has her share of life’s interruptions and no, I will not say that all her decisions are the best ones. Then again; neither are mine. It’s hard to believe that this happened.
But it did.

So, I honor it. I share the story with people to show that anything can and will happen. However, I also show this because people can and will improve. Recovery is possible. I know it is. I did it. My daughter is doing it and do you know what?
I’m proud.

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