I used my last bit of dope in a parking lot outside of Papa Johns.
I wrote that sentence inside of an AA meeting…
And I’m not sure what’s supposed to be written next.
It’s always been that way. A sentence will pop into my head and I’ll have to write it down. I’ll have to explore where it wants to go.
The sentence is usually something vulnerable or scary. It’s something that makes me wonder what I have to say. It pulls me to make sense of where I’ve been and where I want to go.
Today, the sentence is about doing dope outside of a Papa Johns.
I used to steal, lie, and manipulate my way into a self-induced state of pleasure. I didn’t care about anything. All I wanted to do was be high all of the time.
Hedonism would be the word for it: I thought life was meant to be lived for my enjoyment. The problem was, I didn’t know what enjoyment was without pleasure.
I didn’t know what a challenge was, or what discipline felt like. I didn’t know how to be patient.
I used constantly, and if I wasn’t high, I was thinking about getting high.
The last time I used was in a car outside of Papa Johns.
Afterwards, I drove to my parents house. I went into the living room and sat on the couch. My mom started describing my late grandmothers engagement ring. She wanted to break it into three parts and give it to me, my brother, and my sister. While she spoke, all I could think of was how I was going to steal it from her.
I wanted to pawn it so I could get high.
I pulled back at the thought and glanced around the room. I saw my niece.
She was 6 months old, cute as a button, and I’d never held her.
Our eyes met and I saw her future. I saw her growing up and never knowing her uncle. I saw my parents, managing a family without a son. I saw my sister and brother, living their lives as I stayed shivering, begging and craving for more dope.
I observed myself from the outside, looking down on the scene as it unfolded.
I became deeply disturbed by the man I had become. I was ashamed to be the guy that was sitting there, in a room full of people who loved him, and all he wanted to do was take. All he wanted to do was steal.
In that moment, I knew I was done.
I left and went home. I called a friend and told her I was finished, that was going to detox myself. I went to my room and waited for the withdrawal to start.
I woke up the next morning and a pit of pain had settled into my gut. My stomach lurched for relief.
I felt sunshine through a window and clenched my jaw. I didn’t want to feel it. I didn’t want to hear it. Birds chirped and lawnmowers growled. I pulled the blanket over my eyes and cursed the gods. I cursed the world and the people and the animals and the trees. How could they be living while I was slowly dying?
I cursed myself and threw my phone against the wall.
I relocated from my room to the basement. It was colder down there. There wasn’t any light. Beads of sweat chilled as they broke skin, hot flashes permeating my body as I lay on the cool basement floor.
I went back to my room and tried to fall asleep.
By the third day, I didn’t want to feel the pain. I didn’t want to hurt.
I wandered into my roomate’s room to look for medication.
I opened his closet and saw a group of lockboxes resting on the floor. I opened a lockbox and a rifle lay comfortably inside.
I picked it up and held it. I felt the weight, the feel of the steel. I crouched down and rested the barrel on my shoulder. My eyes glazed over and I looked forward, seeing through the closet and into my mind:
“Can I really do this? Can I pull the trigger on my own existence, ending now for the relief of nothing?”
My hand clenched the barrel of the rifle and my body detached from the pain.
I took a breath and a thought popped into my head:
“If you do this, you won’t be able to see the new Star Wars movie.”
I exhaled and let go of the barrel.
My mind cleared and I realized where I was: crouched in my roommates room with a gun resting on my shoulder.
I didn’t feel remorse or confusion. I didn’t feel wrong for where I was. I stood up and put the gun back in it’s case where I had found it. I stumbled back into my room and got in bed. I saw sunshine peeking through the towels I had thumbtacked against my window. I began to imagine what it would be like. To wake up and not need anything to feel OK. To laugh again. To smile and feel the sun and make friends again. I thought about the places I would go: Israel, Europe, and Japan. I thought of the people I would meet and the happiness I knew I could feel.
I turned on the tv and watched Police Academy. I didn’t blink much, or even smile. I watched the entire film and didn’t laugh once. I finished the movie and another hour had passed…
I was one hour closer to being free.
I woke up on the 6th morning and my body didn’t hurt. The sweating had stopped and I didn’t feel any clamminess in my skin. I didn’t feel a pit of pain in my gut. I felt normal…
But my mind was foggy. I called my dad and met him for lunch. He asked me what I was going to do, where was I going to go?
I told him that I was going to a meeting to get sober.
I’m sitting in the same room I had attended that 6th day of sobriety.
I’m writing because I’m not totally engaged in the conversation. I hear realness and hope. I hear frustration and solution. I hear people making sense of themselves as they move closer towards understanding who they are, where they’ve been, and where they want to go…
But I’m detached.
Words are bouncing back and forth and I’m staring at a screen.
I’ll leave the meeting and continue my day, just like everyone else, but it’s different now. The way I see things, the way I feel…
The desperation is gone and I’m not sure why I’m here.
I guess it’s because of the space. The environment. It feels like home.
It’s one of the only places I know where humanity has a chance to shine through. The imperfection, the struggle, and the confusion.
It’s a place where people let themselves be seen.
A place where people show up to help each other.
A place where all that really matters is we’re here and we’re together. We’re getting better.
We’re staying sober.