Tag Archives: substance abuse

You’re sick? Here, Prison Should Help

behind bars

My friend’s little brother is struggling with opiate addiction. Actually, he’s not little anymore; he’s 22 years old and has a good 5” on me.  Regardless, I’ve known him since he’s had chubby cheeks and temper tantrums; therefore I reserve the right to forever see him as a little brother.

The last time I saw “little brother,” was about a month ago; he was strung out and had the glazed over hollowness in his eyes that we all know.  My heart hurt for my friend and her family and for little brother’s future or lack there of.  I think the most frustrating part about being in this program is “getting it,” and seeing someone else missing “it.”

After seeing him that day I went home and expressed my troubled thoughts and feelings of helplessness to someone who was familiar with the situation.

“What happened?”  My confidant asked with concernment, referring to little brother’s reality, “he was such a good kid.”

He was such a good kid.  This notion makes me want to scream and yell and throw big books around, because the professed solicitude is misplaced.  The tragedy is not that he was such a good kid, it’s that he IS such a good kid, but the need for drugs has taken over his want to live.  I feel like when many people witness the disease taking over, they preemptively decide it’s the end.

There seems to be an understanding among those who don’t understand that once a fuck-up, always a fuck up, and you chose to be a fuck up.  You got an addiction, you fucked up.  What these people don’t see is that the “fuck up” is still a good person; the “good kid” is still inside, and what the kid needs is help, not judgment from society with an arms up, “see ya.”

When I voiced my despair over little brother, it didn’t matter to my confidant that he has a kind smile and a genuine laugh with a big heart.  To someone who doesn’t understand, those characteristics are engulfed by shameful addiction that probably could have been controlled if they had tried a little harder.

I read the St. Francis prayer every morning when I get out of bed to counteract whatever selfish thoughts are already brewing. The portion of the prayer that asks  “I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand,” rings relevant in this situation, but despite St. Francis, I’m am still wanting to be understood as a representative of the fucked up population.  What I’ve written here is a result of over-sensitivity, justified anger, and a self-centered demand for the world to rethink their stigma against addicts and alcoholics. All the same, I believe these wishes are warranted.

Of the 2.3 million inmates in the US, more than half have a history of substance abuse and addiction, and a large percentage of those million landed themselves in prison because of desperate busted attempts to feed their habit.  The punishment of people already being punished by a disease is fueled by convictions that drug users and alcohol abusers are good people gone bad; they are undeniably lost causes.

It doesn’t take addiction for a human to lose his or her way; everyone gets lost sometimes.  But those who don’t lose themselves in a bottle or baggie have a better chance of betterment, and why shouldn’t we all?  Help is available but not behind bars. Little brother IS a good kid and not was. Anyone’s genuine smile can be restored, but not if people decide for the sick that it’s already the end.

Day 247

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Here Lies Faith Anonymous

sobriety1

There’s a section of town I try to avoid at all costs.  If the route is absolutely inescapable I hold my breath until I’m through, like a kid would when passing a graveyard.

In the most dramatic sense, that part of town is analogous to a graveyard.  My headstone would read:

Here lies Faith Anonymous

Who Woke up One Morning

And Realized She Couldn’t

Do it Anymore

1987-2013

The dawn of that “One Morning” was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen.  My hung over eyes opened and blurred vision focused on one tiny window in the corner of what appeared to be a basement.  The winter grey light flatly illuminated the scene.  Unfamiliar surroundings were no novelty, but this was different.  Waking up in the basement of a stranger’s house wasn’t what perturbed me, or the inability to recall how I got there.  There was an emptiness..it felt like there was nothing left of the person I once was.  Generally my specialty was spinning these scenarios into humor because it was the only way to mask my misery; if I could laugh at myself I could lie to myself.

There was no pretend laughter.  It was a white flag surrender in an excruciatingly painful moment of clarity, I can’t do this anymore. Alcoholics Anonymous had never once crossed my mind as somewhere I thought I belonged, but there I was; 6am, ass planted on an ice-cold curb, waiting for my Knight in Shining Taxi, and a message louder than my hangover blaring inside my head: AA is the answer.

After what felt like eternity Knight Cabbie found me at no address in particular.  It took me 3 tries to to find my car. Third time’s the most shameful.  I paid the man, prayed that I’d never see him again, and went straight home to  google “How to tell if you’re an alcoholic.”  The overwhelming yeses from the generic questionnaires weren’t enough.  Now what? I needed someone to talk this through with; not my mom, not my dad, not even my closest friends.  I think I was worried they’d tell me it was fine, which I knew I wasn’t.

A couple minutes later a text came in from my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. We’ll call her B.  She is someone I know a little and love a lot.  Whatever your understanding of God is, it was one of those moments, a divine intervention, whatever.

Blacked out or not, drinking had become trivial without coke.  The second a beer was in my hand, I wanted something up my nose and I didn’t care what lengths I had to go to, or what bridges were burned.  B was furious, and rightly so. I had called her boyfriend who was trying to get sober at the time to help get me blow the night before. Not cool.  And for the first time ever, I didn’t want to victimize myself to into a way out.  This was my chance.  “You’re absolutely right,” I wrote back, “And I need help.”   I ended up on her couch that morning which was a foreign place for me.  B and I were never friends on the level of “come over and sit on my couch,” or “what’s your favorite color,” but there I sat.

“Do you think I’m an alcoholic?”  I asked fearfully.

She paused in thought and said,

“I think you’re struggling with addiction.”

needed someone else to say it.  Half my mind was telling me I was overreacting; that this was just one more reason to really start controlling my drinking. The other half wanted to hear exactly what B verified.  She brought her laptop to the floor of the living room and we searched for meetings.  A friend ended up navigating us to a site and I went to my first meeting that night.  I’ve been to one almost every night since.

When I pass that section of town I can still see myself sitting in the cold dead dawn.  They say when you hit rock bottom you have no where to go but up; so in a fucked up way I am glad my disease kicked me to the curb.  Just not glad enough to comfortably drive near, through or around the scene of the crime.

I wonder what would have happened if B never sent me that text message, or if I hadn’t blacked out that night, if I didn’t end up on her couch that morning.

More importantly I wonder what wouldn’t have happened.  Two hundred and thirty two days later I am no longer the shell of a human being. At the age of 26 I have finally started living.  Maybe a better message carved on my headstone would be:

Here Lies Faith Anonymous

Who Died and Came Back to Life

Just like Jesus.

KIDDING. Totally kidding.

But really.

2013-Present Day

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