“Okay girls, I’m leaving in 5 minutes, if you’re not in the van- I’m leaving your asses here.” I joked, heading out the door.
It had been 2 months since I almost left, and so many things had happened since that night. If Ryanne hadn’t followed me out, I would probably be dead by now.
The day after I tried to leave, Ryanne put me in charge of driving the girls to the morning meeting. Everyone thought she was crazy since I was fresh out of jail and newly clean – but there was a method to her madness.
She knew something about me that even I didn’t know about myself. She knew that by giving me a responsibility as great as this one, it would renew my sense of self-worth, self-reliance and self-respect. I didn’t think anyone would ever trust me again after the things I’d done, so to be responsible for transporting 11 addicts in a van to and from a meeting – was huge. It made me feel good—needed—and I hadn’t felt that way in a long time.
“Shotgun!” Rhonda yelled, pushing past everyone and jumping into the front seat next to me. “Haaaaaaaay giiiiiirl.” She said slamming the door and reaching for the radio dial. Rhonda was a beautiful Jamaican goddess with an incredible soul, and she was one of my best friends. She flipped the radio to a rap song and peered over at me out of the corner of her eye with a rebellious smirk.
“Rhondaaaaa. Felicity said no rap music. Can you at least wait until we pull out of the driveway to start breaking the rules?” I laughed.
With driving; came responsibilities and unfortunately it often put me in a position to “mother” the other girls. Since I was the one driving, I was technically “in charge” when we left the center, which was a strange place for someone who was technically a client in the program to be.
“Boo, you’re no fun.” She pouted, flipping it to a Christian station.
“Everybody in?” I asked, putting the van in reverse. Most of the girls were half asleep, so I took their silence as confirmation that everyone was accounted for. We slowly pulled out of the driveway and the minute the tires hit the main rode, Rhonda had Ludacris blaring from the speakers and was dancing wildly in the front seat.
“There they are!” Bill said greeting us as we sauntered into the morning meeting and found our seats. I smiled at all of the familiar faces in the room and was overcome with gratitude. 7:30 a.m. every morning we stepped foot into this room. It was the same friendly faces, same lukewarm coffee and same hope being shared before the sun even rose for the day.
It was so nice to be in a routine after years of living spontaneously, compulsively and dangerously. Many of the old-timers accused me of being on a “pink cloud”, a sense of euphoric bliss that a lot of newcomers experience upon finding recovery.
But I knew it was more than that.
I knew that for the first time, in a long time – I was making progress, and it felt damn good.
“I’m Steve, and I’m an addict.” Steve said after raising his hand to share. Steve was in his seventies and always shared first. It was as if he prepared an amazing speech every morning to present to all of us and his words always had a way of putting everything into perspective for me.
“I look at these young girls over here, man,” he said pointing to our row, “and I can’t help but feel a bit envious. I’m 71 years old. I’ve got 5 years clean. I used for 50 years. I missed so damn much. I missed everything.” His voice broke and I could tell he was getting emotional.
“I lost my wife once she finally got sick enough of my s***. My kids are adults and haven’t spoken to me in over twenty years—hell—I got grandbabies I ain’t even met.” He stared down at the table for a moment, you could hear a pin drop in that room. When he finally looked up, he looked straight at me and stared into my eyes.
“Man I’ll tell you what…. I would give anything in this world, to go back in time, and enter these rooms when I was your f****ing age. Then I might actually have something to look back on and be proud of. You girls are young enough now to get it right, to have a life and make something of yourself. Don’t do what I did. Get it now so that you aren’t my age looking back on your life and thinking damn…I wasted all of it.”
It felt like I’d suddenly been struck by lightning. Tears began welling in my eyes as I processed what he’d just said. I imagined what it would be like to have waited until I was an old woman to get clean – if I made it that long. I imagined my children being adults and never speaking to me. The loneliness, the guilt… for what? A momentary high?
Never in my life had anyone’s words saturated my skin and seeped into my soul like that man’s just did.
I could hear other members voices mumbling as they shared their own bits of wisdom, but all I could do was replay in my head what Steve had said.
That was it. That was the moment.
Steve’s words, changed my life that day. The universe had carefully devised a grand plan to align our paths so we both ended up in the same room that day. Whatever higher power was out there knew, that I needed to hear what that man had just said.
As we all entered the house after the meeting I glanced at the clock and realized we had 15 minutes before we had to leave for the computer shop. At first I had been baffled by the idea that as rehab patients, we were required to work on computers and sell them. But as time went on and I’d seen how much money they had generated for the program – it began to make sense.
“Tiff, don’t forget you have an appointment with Kelly, at 11:00 am.” Anastacia, the house mother reminded me.
“Aw crap, I totally forgot. Thank God you reminded me.”
“Yeah I know how you are, Forgetful Frannie.” She laughed.
“Hey Anastacia, you think it would be cool if I headed back a few minutes early? I really gotta go to the bathroom.” I whispered.
“You gotta take a s*** you mean?” She yelled at the top of her lungs over her shoulder.
“Ha ha. You’re an A**hole.” I said shaking my head.
“Of course you can go, it’s not like you are doing anything productive around here anyway.” She joked.
I crumpled a piece of paper and threw it at her just as she closed the door.
I was lost in thought as I walked back to the house. Today was my first appointment with Kelly, the new counselor who had taken Dr. Danner’s place.
Just before I made it to the driveway a police car drove passed me.
It was as if time slowed down and the world was suddenly in slow motion. I followed the car with my eyes, fearing that perhaps it was Chuck. I was relieved to find a woman behind the wheel, but then my heart dropped once I realized… I knew her.
I thought back to the last time I’d seen Sharla, the officer in the car, and was immediately overcome with shame and sadness at the memory.
“How do I look?” I asked, pushing the Aviator sunglasses up on the bridge of my nose.
“Like a dork.” Chuck said leaning down to kiss my forehead.
“Heyyyyyy.” I replied, pretending to be hurt, “today is a big day…I have to look the part.”
I could see the concern on Chucks face. He had been putting this day off since the beginning of our relationship.
“You ready?” I asked with an eager smile.
“Babe, I hope you realize this isn’t a joke. It’s actually really serious. I feel like you think it’s a game.” he replied.
“Stopppp. I know it’s not a game, okay? I’m taking this super seriously. Besides, I watch cops all the time…I know what I’m doing.” I said putting my hair up into a ponytail.
“Shut the hell up and get in the car.” He laughed, locking the front door behind us.
“For real though, I have a serious question.” I said, sliding into the front seat of the patrol car.
“What?” he asked.
“Yes or no. If necessary, am I allowed to taze somebody?”
He tried to keep from laughing as he shook his head and pressed a button on his 2-way radio.
A lady on the other end chirped back and said something I couldn’t understand. He looked over at me and held his finger up to his lips to shush me before pushing his button to reply. “221, status, active.” He put the car in reverse and slowly pulled out of the drive way.
“Alright boys!” I yelled while slapping the roof, “let’s catch some mothaf***in’ bad guys!!”
I had been begging Chuck for years to take me on a ride-along. His answer was always a firm “no”. He said it was too dangerous and that if something went wrong, and I was hurt he would never be able to forgive himself. I finally convinced him during a drunken heart to heart one night, and despite his best efforts to recant his statement, I assured him that he’d pinkie promised and those were sacred.
We had been driving around for 3 hours with no action. I had secretly hoped that by now we would have arrested 3 prostitutes and thwarted 2 bank robberies. Unfortunately however, we had only responded to one call and it was an old lady who got scratched by a neighbors cat and wanted to press charges.
She claimed the woman “sent” her cat to attack the old lady on purpose because the woman sprayed it with a house when it was in her yard once. Chuck decided there was no way to prove this and called paramedics to check her out.
“I have to swing by the station to turn in my ride along slip, you want to wait out here or come in?” He asked pulling up to the front and parking.
“I’ll come in, I’ve never seen the inside of a police station before, it sounds exciting.” I said hopping out.
When we entered the main lobby, I immediately began scanning for a restroom. “Hey Sharla! This is my girlfriend, Tiffany.” Chuck said introducing me to the pretty blonde sitting behind the counter.
“Hey Tiffany! Nice to finally meet you, Chuck has told me all about you.” She stood up to shake my hand and smiled, revealing a row of perfect teeth.
Chuck was not allowed to be friends with this woman anymore I suddenly decided, she was way too pretty.
“Hi! Pleasure to meet you. Hopefully all good things.” I laughed. Of course it was good things, he didn’t know that I was actually a psychopathic drug addict…not yet anyway.
“Babe, I gotta pee…where’s the bathroom?” I asked peering around. “Right over there, past the “Faces of Meth” poster.” he said pointing down the hall. I excused myself and made my way down the hall pausing for a moment at the poster.
I looked at the small, square, “before and after” pictures of people, and couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. They looked normal once, they were regular people. Something terrible happened in their lives between the first and second picture and they were virtually unrecognizable, droopy-eyed and covered in scars.
“Thank God I never got that bad.” I said to myself as I opened the bathroom door.
I immediately made my way to the stall, having been trapped in the patrol car with Chuck for hours I’d begun to feel achy and nauseas. I locked the metal bar on the door and sat backwards on the toilet seat facing the wall. Using the sleeve of my shirt I wiped the toilet lid to make sure it was clean before pulling out my supplies.
Slowly setting the spoon down, I was careful not to make a ‘clink’ as it came in contact with the ceramic toilet lid. I quickly crushed up the pill and put it into the spoon, adding a splash of water from the sink and mixing it up. As I pulled the mixture up into the barrel of the syringe, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself.
Guarantee I am the first person in history to shoot up in the employee bathroom of the police station, I thought as I tightened my belt around my bicep. Life had gotten so much easier once Javier taught Kayla and I to do this ourselves. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to explain to Jacob how the majority of his supply was missing – with no money to show for it—but I would figure it out. For now, I had to hurry up and do this shot because my boyfriend was waiting.
I slid the tip into my skin and once I heard the “pop’ of it entering my vein, I pulled back on the plunger a bit to confirm it was in. The blood from my vein danced up into the barrel and I immediately pushed the drugs into my bloodstream.
Once the barrel was empty I pulled it out, capped the needle and removed the belt.
I sat still for a moment as the liquid made it’s way through my bloodstream, massaging every cell in my body and relaxing me into bliss. This was the greatest feeling I had ever experienced in my life – and it only lasted about 15 seconds.
The minute it was over, I craved it again. I lived for those 15 seconds. In those seconds it felt like a wave had come through my body and when it left, it had taken all of my worries and fears with it back out to sea. It was a miracle drug and I instantly felt better, normal, no longer sick, and ready to take on the world.
Before leaving the bathroom I stared at myself in the mirror for a moment. I didn’t recognize the reflection of the person staring back at me. My entire existence was a lie, every word out of my mouth – a lie. I was a con-artist.
I had been wearing a mask for years and the man on the other side of the door had no idea that he was in love with a thieving, lying, drug addict. I hated myself, who I’d become. I wish I could just quit this s***. But the thought of going through withdrawals was terrifying, I’d rather die than have to ever feel that pain.
“You ready?” Chuck asked as I entered the lobby. “I just got a call, apparently some friggin junkie overdosed in the Walmart parking lot.”
“Jesus, when the hell will these people learn?” I asked, shaking my head and waving goodbye to Sharla.