The Odyssey of My First Year Sober
Sobriety / / Jun 29, 2017
I did my last shot of east coast dope in the morning at about 11 am on the side of a deserted country road in the hills north of Pittsburgh. I was hurting for means to get high so I saved those last two little bags as long as I possibly could, but when I finally caved and did them I was still fresh out of a gambit for the day. It was one of those days when nothing seemed to be coming together… no texts back, no scheme in the works, and of course—no gas and no money. I had been staying in my car since getting kicked out of my parents’ house the most recent time—when my mom walked in on me getting high in my room. My mother would leave food for me on the porch, a gesture I considered to be desperately cute. I began the short drive to the forbidden house I grew up in to grab whatever she had left out for me—not because I was hungry but because I simply had nothing better to do. If I was lucky there would be some accessible gasoline to steal and I could begin making my way to the city where there was sure to be favors I could do for some random miscreants that I could turn into dope. The clock was ticking. I had maybe 10 hours until I was fully sick all over again and completely backed into that all-too-familiar corner of physical and mental torture.
My timing was always proper. It was 11:20 am on a Sunday. My parents would be at church. I was always careful to avoid contact with them. That depressing situation always went terribly at best, traumatic at worst. But I was lazy that morning—I hadn’t done my research. I usually asked a little bird of mine for whispers. Sometimes they went to church on Saturday evening. On this particular Sunday, I gambled that they hadn’t.
But they had. Why didn’t I do my research? I could chalk it up to laziness, but that was one area of my life I was never lazy with. I think the truth had much more to do with letting go. I was tired. I had just turned 24 and here I was strung out on heroin again. I had had such a promising childhood.
Something in me was just determined to let the world down. How dare they expect anything from me? Don’t they realize I never asked to be born? Well the joke is on them.
I was too tired to cling to that angst any longer on that particular Sunday when I parked in the driveway. The silence of my phone was deafening. I felt defeated on the short mope toward the back porch.
Suddenly there was my dad. And then, my mom. Greattttttt. Here we go. Their pleas of desperation and dammed-up concerns poured forth like flood water and scorched me like the breath of a dragon.
I can not begin to explain the tangled mess of justifications and fantasies I employed on a daily basis to keep my feelings toward my volatile relationship with my parents chained up and tied down. Every cell in my body was cringing as they tirelessly attempted to nurture me into a brief moment of sanity. It left an agonizingly hot ringing in my ears. That was the real hell.
That terrible cocktail of desperation and helplessness and regret reached a boiling point in that moment. I thought about disappearing back down the road in a smoke show of anger and defensiveness for a few moments. But I was too tired. The act was played out. And for some reason on this day I didn’t have the nerve to hurt my family like that once again.
Where that empathy came from, I am beyond clueless. The odds of that single drop of concern rising through my vast haze of drug-induced psychopathy don’t even qualify as futile. Miraculous is more accurate. I was in a darker place than I had ever been before. I planned a new suicide every day. I was fully ready to die.
So, I very hesitantly agreed to attempt treatment once again, for the fifth time. They let me into the house to use a computer to gather information. In the back of my head a light went off as I walked through the door. The clock was still ticking.
If I don’t find a place that can take me in the next few hours, I am going to clean this place out and vanish into thin fucking air.
I called my usual rehabs in the greater Pittsburgh area. It wasn’t looking good. They all had week-long waiting lists. Cleveland; same thing. I was fast approaching resorting to my devilish safety net. I was a moment from getting off the internet for the final time that day when I notice one of those shitty sidebar advertisements for a rehab hotline.
Fuck it, why not call it. What’s the worst that can happen, they steal my identity to take me to the cleaners? HA! Should’ve thought that one through dickhead! I already took myself!
So I called this ridiculous number and to my surprise I found myself on the phone with this ever-so-endearing guy named Isaac. “Oh I got you fam, I’ll put you on a plane to Michigan in 3 hours.”
Oh. Shit. This was big. This wasn’t one I could dip out of easily. This wasn’t the system I was fully capable of half-assing. But also, this was BIG. This was adventure. This smelled vaguely of hope somehow.
I stumbled as gracefully as possible through three airports and across the entire Midwest that evening, into a slightly disheveled treatment center that I would eventually grow to love, but not without first stirring up as much as trouble as I possibly could. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in that place and quite frankly I could write an entire separate piece on my experiences during that completely unhinged summer. I was there for 82 days and I managed to achieve over a hundred write-ups.
And you know I am damn proud of every single one of those. Needless to say, I am sure they were happy to be rid of me. I am happy to say though, that their suffering was not for nothing. I built a foundation there that I have been running with ever since. I reawakened my hope and my firm belief in growth. These are optimisms from my youth that I had completely forgotten I had ever possessed. And now that I’ve strived to attain them all over again, I appreciate them and I hold them very dearly.
I landed in Huntington Beach after I got out of rehab. I didn’t have strong reasoning to be here, but I had very strong reasoning not to go back to Pittsburgh, however much I love that city. I had accepted that, for now, all that waits for me there is death and despair. I struggled with myself all over again once I got here. I knew no one, had no resources, and no immediate plan of action to actually get on my feet. But I am a very lucky man, and I met some truly incredible souls that held me down through those first few months of having no clue how to be a proper human. I spent plenty of days doing nothing at all, just sitting on my hands in miserable melancholy. But no matter what, I didn’t get high. No matter what, I don’t get high. If I get high all my progress goes right out the window. If I get high all the dreams I’ve reawakened in myself go up in smoke.
Since I’ve lived here my life has been blossoming. I still piss people off. I still get a bad attitude some times. I fall short every day. But more importantly, I’ve made connections. I’ve HELPED people through their own struggles!
I got to see the smile that the Giant Sequoias put on my little sister’s face. I got to climb a waterfall with my Dad laughing. I got to go camping in the desert with my amazing new friends. I have a woman in my life that makes me laugh like a child and inspires me like a fire. I get to cherish these things with a clear head and a full heart. I’ve gotten back into songwriting and singing. I recently started a clothing experiment that is an absolute blast. I get to write again. I laugh every day. I struggle every day, but I laugh every day.
I don’t regret my past, but I do respect it. I don’t miss being a junkie, but I can’t afford to resent it either. My past brought me to exactly where I am today. Today I have some consistency and I have a future. Today I have some stability. My past gives me perspective, and it allows me to examine and appreciate the myriad of good things about my life. And even when it’s bad, it’s not bad like it used to be.
One year in and I am still nowhere near where I want to be in life. But I revel in knowing that I AM, IN FACT, ON MY WAY.