What we’re about to do is go back to a time that was influential to my early survival.
I will not make any excuses or look to alter, minimize, or glorify any of this. I want to be as clear when I report that none of this was cool. None of this was glamorous in any way, shape or form. However, I want to give you this view of me from a time when my life was about to change direction.
As it is with so many others, it took tragedy to open my eyes.
It took pain and loss for me to viscerally understand the depths of my lessons which is why I am going to take you back to the later part of October 1989.
I am in a van, restless and scared of the unknown ahead of me. I was lost in the contemplation of making a great escape while heading north to a town known as Hancock. I am thinking about the ideas of old places and old remedies, such as the ones that come inside tiny envelopes, which carry with them a hefty price of admission. But the price is not always up front. No, this usually comes later or on the back end and, hence, this is the reason why the dealers will tell you, “the first one is always free. . .”
I am thinking about what might be ahead for me. I am younger (of course) and mainly uncomfortable about my legal process which was a consequence of my lifestyle – I am raw to the touch and aware of myself in a different way.
I have just undergone a major change and endured a painful separation between me and the only life that made sense to me. Otherwise, nothing made sense to me. Not my family. Not my friends. Not my legal situation. Not love. Not hate. Nothing was clear to me except for the calling fascination for the vastness of a lofty escape – nothing made sense except for the high which I admit was costly but ah, once you’re in, you’re in – and once you’re in, you’ll always pay the price because again, this is why the first hit is always free.
But that is not what this is about . . .
I was removed from my usual environment and taken from my typical surroundings by way of court mandates and legal proceedings. Or, in other words and to put this simply, this was me, young and angry, confused, lost and hoping that somehow, something would come along and make sense of this crazy trip.
At this point or at best, my version of clarity was still on the slow side. My eyes were beady and half-shut with the mildness of a burned-out brain; always shifty, like a sneak-thief. To be clear, my speech was anything but – I spoke with a tone of voice that was tired or delayed; as if my mind was yet to catch up to the conversations at hand.
I spoke through a closed jaw; hardly opening my mouth to speak, mumbling at best and appearing if I were still under an influence.
I was not myself but then again, I am not sure if I had ever been myself.
At least not yet.
Or, at least, not at this early stage of my life.
My weight had started to improve, which was good, and the coloration of my skin was not sickly or poor. Then again, I would say that my weight and poor skin color was due to my choices of food – or should I say it like this – the substance of my meals were different at the time.
Yes, of course. That’s it.
My choice of consumption went from something chemical and narcotic to nutritional and substantial.
I was eating and gaining weight.
There was no one looking for me at the time and aside from my legal troubles, there was nothing else pending against me.
Suffice to say that before treatment, eating was not my top priority.
Safe to say that I looked smoked-out.
Moreover, my food was the kind that came in little packages . . .
In all, my drug usage saw me dwindling away to nothing. By the time of my entry into treatment, I weighed under 100 lbs. – or to be more accurate, I was 80 lbs. on the day that walked into treatment.
This all began during the summer of 89, which was a blur to me. Yet, decades have passed and I still have memories that resurface in my dreams.
I’d say the dreams come to me like tiny ghosts that linger in my subconscious past. These are blurs, I say – the memories of shivering moments, eye-catching to me, like the sight of mercury rolling in the palm of my hand – I know that this is bad yet I can’t resist or look away. However, I am high as ever in the dream and sneaking in through a cellar door. I’ve been here before and several times too.
I know this place well, including the dirt-covered floor which was a low-ceiling crawl space beneath a local bar on the corner of Front Street and Merrick Avenue.
I can see myself the way I was, haunted with my nerves all wire-tight from the acceleration that comes from the cocaine demons. It is raining outside and, me I am hiding from the weather.
I am hiding from people. I am hiding from the law and from anyone or anything that would look to separate me from my navigation of peace. I say this and call it peace yet there is nothing peaceful or easy about the rage of a crack or cocaine binge.
No, all there is are the simple rituals that add to the mechanics of drug use.
This includes the tasks of setting up and cooking up batches in a filthy spoon.
Next, you’re purifying a poison with a flame, to ignite a brand of chemistry.
Then you infect the bloodstream.
The dream is always the same:
I was about to transition from a high speed chase to a low-speed crawl. This is one that dwindles from the cocaine demons to the opiate gods; who trade their effects in substance only. In exchange, I followed deeper into the excess and lost to the light of diminishing returns.
I am considering this while sitting in the van.
I am awaiting my next placement which was ordered by the courts.
No ifs. No ands. No buts.
But as for the visions of the cellar, I used to hide here and set up to keep my head right.
I used to go here find that source of balance.
I’d use this place to keep me protected from the elements.
More than anything, I hid here to address my challenges by euthanizing them, one brain cell at a time.
I remembered this well.
The ceiling is low and the floor is covered with dirt. I used a little candle to allow for a dim light – but the candles would flicker shadows across the room; where otherwise, old boxes of empty liquor bottles were placed and situated in different spots of the cellar.
I would create a little alcove for myself here just in case someone from the bar had to come down to the cellar.
Can you see this?
I can see this in my dream. All of it.
I can see me too, skinny as can be, pale as the face of death, and desperately trying to keep from an unfortunate sickness
It’s just a dose. That’s all.
It’s just a little bit of powder and then boom, the switch takes place.
The world reversed polarities and the speed fell to a slow crawl – and just like that, the mind shifted to ease the demons and appease the need.
All was healed. Al was remedied to the sensation of a weightless life.
Here’s why the first hit is always free –
I am high now – not feeling, not thinking, nor am I aware nor caring nor alive nor dead.
But instead, I am away – I am distant in my soft cocoon, protected as if to be in a womb, infected by the bosom of tainted milk and suspended in a timeless animation.
This is like a sea of emptiness. But again, the river that leads here is more than just costly.
This was the cause of my daily deaths – and my intention was simple; either separate me from myself or separate me from my poison because either way, had I not been taken away; I would have been nothing more than a statistic in a column of lost youth who died way too young.
The van ride in October was long. I was being driven by an ex-con, ex-junkie, turned counselor.
But what would he know about my life? What would he know about what I wanted or how I thought?
All I knew about life was how to find an angle or how to beat the pain.
But instead, I found myself bowing to the feet of synthetic angels – and in exchange, I was nearly dying on a daily basis.
Noticing me, the driver saw the expression on my face,
He knew I didn’t want to go.
“This place is going to be good for you,” said the driver.
I hardly remember him.
At best, my recollection of the driver was a man who appeared to be an ex-biker, which he was.
He was long haired and quiet. At one point (or so I was told) this man was both dangerous and capable of terrible things.
“Just do what they tell you to do,” he said to me.
The one thing I remember hearing from different people is this:
“That life isn’t going to miss you.”
This was true.
No one misses you in that life.
They might miss your money or they might miss the fact that on occasion, you’d be good to share some of your wealth – if you had any wealth, that is.
But no one really misses you.
No one looks to comfort the pain by being a friend.
No one looks to offer any real help and in all fairness, if you were to die or overdose and let’s say, in your pockets was a bag or some money or even a fucking cigarette lighter; I can tell you this much – many people have been found dead with empty pockets. Chances are, their pockets were empty because someone already took the contents. And hey, this is part of the life.
This is what I was removed from. I was not in the worsened stages of long-standing usage nor am I here to earn the junkie of the year award; however, I was a kid at the doorstep of death and knocking at the door, just to see, just to know if anyone would let me in.
I was taken out of my elements. I was removed from my surroundings. Better yet, I was on my way to a place which I call The Farm.
I had no idea how much would happen to me here.
I had no idea what this was going to be like. As for me living on a farm, I was never a farm boy.
I was never much for hard work unless I was sick or in need – then I’d work my ass off just to get one hit or just to get high. Or better yet, I’d do anything just to find my soft spot in that cocoon. I’d have done anything to be lost in the excess of nirvana, drifting, dangling and hovering along the boundary between life or death.
It was all gone. None of that was an option for me
And me, I had no idea what was about to happen.
Can you see me?
I wish I could go back to that night when the van finally pulled up to the main house.
I wish I can thank that man who drove me, who told me not to be scared, who told me to do what they say.
I wish I could thank him.
I wish I could see Kevin right now.
He was there when they did my intake.
I wish he could know what his position in my life was and what he meant to me.
I wish I could see John. Or Erik. Or Bill.
I wish I could see Whaley. I wish I could see Shane. I wish I could see Brad.
And then there’s Mike the Rocket, may he rest in peace. And Tony as well.
I wish I could go back and tell them what they did for me.
I don’t know if they would understand or if they would care.
Or maybe they wouldn’t understand the actual feeling or the certain viscera of my heart on this one.
But that’s okay.
I don’t know if they know what they did or how much they mean to me.
Look at me . . .
I was scared as ever.
But the change was on the way.