There is no difference. My side of the country or yours. Life is still life no matter where we are. The sickness exists everywhere. I know this because I could see it in his eyes, a man I never knew or met before. He was folding down at the table inside an airport. I am on my way to create a role for myself, which is relevant because the role I’ve built is one that addresses the need for both tolerance and awareness.
Someone once told me, “What do you know about it anyway? You’ve been away a long time.”
I was told, “What do you know about this life? You got out young!”
“You were lucky,” is what I was told.
I never argue with this. First, I did get out young. My habit was certainly less intense than others; yet, here I am, acting as an advocate. Also, here I am, working to destroy the stigmas of mental health and substance abuse. Meanwhile, I am faced with stigmas of my own.
This is funny to me. I’m in the middle, so-to-speak. On one side, I find myself judged by so-called professionals who say that I should stay in my lane and on the other side, it is argued that, “I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
I didn’t bleed enough. I didn’t hurt enough. I didn’t suffer as long or face as many consequences. Oh, but ah. I did face consequences.
I did suffer. I just chose not to suffer anymore. But still, I did bleed and I did hurt. My fascinations and abuse traumas belong solely to me. I am not here to debate or compare. No, this is not what I do.
I am not looking to prove my place in the conga line or appropriate a person’s lifestyle just so I can “Get in” with the crowd. No, I’m simply looking to make a connection between people, regardless of who, what or where, and build a platform where we can all improve and be one step better than we were yesterday.
I’m not here to compare. I’m here to heal. Besides, I have my own demons. I have my own scars. I don’t know what it feels like to be anyone else but me, which I celebrate. In fact, I applaud this the same as I celebrate everyone’s right to be perfectly unique. However, if anybody told me that I would be in an airport, awaiting a seat in business, first-class no less, I would have laughed or said, “I could only wish.”
But this is not a wish. This is all real.
Last night, I was waiting for an outbound plane to take me across the country to nurture, build and grow a program that I’ve built. For the record, I am proud of this. I am proud that I am part of an effort to help people learn to work together.
As part of this, I have helped deliver material and script an inclusive program to be diverse and equitable. No one is above anyone here.
We can talk about anything in my groups. We can overcome anything because judgment is not allowed.
Not here and not on my watch.
As for the man in the airport who was slumped at the table. He was nodding. His eyes were folding downwards, slowly, the same as his body. He fell as if to fall in stages to half mast – only to reconcile and regroup enough to pop back up and then eventually fall back down.
I heard one of the other passengers refer to this man as a heroin addict. Meanwhile, this person was on their cell phone, bragging about their life and their $10,000 suits.
I’ve seen rock stars before. I’ve worked with famous people before too but this is usually after their detox.
The person who was nodding was in the full-blown stages of use. My only hope was that the flight went off without a problem, which eventually it did.
I don’t like seeing other people degraded. To be clear, I really didn’t like the man who bragged about his suits either. But this is my bag. I own my biases and, humbly, I admit this has nothing to do with anyone else except me.
I remember what I thought and felt when I was on the scene. I remember being woken by a stranger. I was laying on a bench at a bus stop. It was early morning in the summer of 1989. I was into the dope gods by now. I was about to go “Away.”
So high . . .
I usually lose readers at this point because nobody wants to talk about this. No one wants to read about something haunting and yet beautiful, which is odd to pair life this way but in fairness, all we want is to feel beautiful (even if it seems haunting to others).
Besides, what is it anyway? Addiction, obsession, a compulsion that defies sanity and consists of an idea that purges and moves through my veins like a quarrel between good and evil.
This goes on like a feud – to be this way; to be like something out of Shakespeare’s notes between Romeo and Juliet: “My only love, spawned from my only hate.”
My life was split between the Montague and Capulets – or the quarrel within me. This is where the fight and fury was real.
Some days, I lost. Some days, I broke even. I never won though. At least, not really.
Neither my love or sorry obsession was any different from the need of two “Star-crossed” lovers. My battle was the same. I was in search of something so beautiful, like love; yet, I was like them. I was a person who’d rather submit to true love instead of remaining in the corrosion of vanity.
I only wanted to be pure. I wanted to breathe and inhale to feel something out of this world.
I wanted to be risen or feel heavenly, or resurrected as it were, just like the outer limits of the atmosphere and heavenly in my weightless mind.
It was perfect . . .
This was the goal: drifting, floating away without the weight of my hate or the weighted chains of my doubts, my fears, or anything else that would divide me. I wanted to shed my skin to shed my weights that would always hold me down. I wanted to be free.
See? I am not so different from anyone else. I just wanted to feel good. Was that so wrong?
I wanted to feel better but, at the time, there was nothing else that could answer my crazy riddles.
So, I had to move in.
I was not so lost or missing but instead, I was forgotten in a sense that I found myself in the folds of a forbidden pleasure, which has always been odd to me because how could something that feels so good be so bad? How could something so uplifting become so degrading in its absence.
I was the opposite of heavenly. Once I made worm’s meat of myself, I was on the ground, devilish or even fiendish and capable of terrible things.
I touched the sky and fell to earth, on the ground, crawling on the floor in search of tiny white powders to rid myself of the bugs from my mind that wove in my skin.
I wanted help. I really did but in all honesty, I never believed that help was possible. I never believed in myself. Plus, I was in too deep and too far gone for anyone to help (or care about me).
The speed, the numbness, the absolved pardons of my sin which took place in seconds. I remember the flame and the glass-pipe lies – I was onto something, alright. And then I fell onto something else.
I was in the middle of a dreamy loft that only grew so high. Until the crash. Then I was down lower – and even lower than before. This is when I understood the deceptions of hell and the pretty modules of lies and temptation.
Upon my attempts, I could only return to feel a portion of that high, which only came halfway, consecutively, and each time I would fall shorter than my reach. At best, I could only come halfway to the high, which in the end was only something that kept me from being sick or fiendish. I wanted to feel something out of this world but in the end, the high degraded the loft in my heart and turned me into a pit of despair.
I only wanted to feel pure. I wanted to feel good and be rid of my private villains that grew too evil.
I wanted love –
To feel it or taste it, to be up in the lofts of my freedom and away from the misfits and judgments – to be free, even if it meant that I was chained, hopeless; but somehow, I was still hopeful that somehow the feuds would silence the quarrels in my heart.
I often wondered if people truly know what it’s like to hide in plain sight. All the truths bleed transparently through your skin. I wonder if people know how it feels to be seen and not heard but misunderstood – or marked, or stained, or cursed and missing amongst a sea of other people.
“I am a desperate man.” I’m afraid.
I saw this in myself.
I was too lost to have hope and too close to home to forget the warmth of a home-cooked meal.
I understand more now about forbidden appetites. I understand the loss or the remark of what it means to be “Fortune’s fool.”
I know what it feels like to be a fool. In fact, I still have the scars to prove my foolishness.
And you? Well, you know me most.
More than anyone.
So, please don’t turn away.
Don’t judge me. The morning comes and all I can hope for is another day.
It’s crazy to think that I am high in the sky, above the clouds. The moon is almost orange. The night is almost over and tomorrow, I can be born again and . . .Forgiven.
It’s hard to believe.
I wrote this note to myself before boarding the plane:
I am sitting in a lounge and awaiting an outbound flight to the other side of our Country.
It’s not bad.
It’s not a bad feeling to see your work come to fruition or see that yes, what we do does matter.
There are countless times when we want to give in or quit. There are days when getting out of bed seems like it’s too much.
It’s a grind. I get it, but even then, even on days like this when you think “I just can’t want to do it!” That’s when you get up.
This is when you face the grind. This is when you get up and put your work in because more importantly, this is where you are paid in return.
I write this, not in spite of all the times I was told, “You’ll never make it,” or it seemed as if someone (or something) was putting me down but instead, I write this in celebration because I never quit.
I never gave up. I bled and I sweat. But here I am, on my way.
Doing something that I never thought would be possible.
I landed late last night.
Good morning, California.
It’s been a while.