“Hi. Um, how much can I get for this?”
My hands trembled as I held out the sterling silver necklace my grandmother had given me, for the clerk to inspect.
The man behind the counter, a tall angry looking Spanish guy looked me up and down, then grabbed the necklace from my hand. He held it closely his face and squinted.
“I can give you $20.00” He said firmly.
The necklace had been a gift from my grandmother for my 10th birthday. I managed to hang on to it all these years simply because I refused to wear it. I was terrified of losing it as it was the only memento I possessed from when she was still here.
My heart sank when I heard his offer. “$20? It’s real silver. And I’m fairly certain the diamond in the cross is real as well.” I said, challenging him.
“I can give you $20 for it. No more.” He replied
I stared at him desperately for a moment. Sweat had begun to collect on my brow and the withdrawals were in full effect. I used the last of Jake’s stash the night before and really needed something to make me feel better while I carried out my plan of action.
. “Listen man, I’m begging. I’ve never done this before but I’m desperate. I know the necklace is worth more than that, I googled it. Please.” I pleaded.
“Ma’am, I have other customers. Do you want the money or not?”
As shitty as I currently felt, there was no way I could get rid of this keepsake for a measly 20 bucks. “No thanks.” I snapped, snatching my necklace from his fist. Kayla had recently informed me that she was having trouble paying the bills since Javier’s passing and she’d begun pawning her possessions, and purchasing them back once she received her paychecks.
I had no idea how pawn shops worked and had been excited at the prospect of selling belongings for cash –up until today that is. I punched the steering while once inside the vehicle. What the f*** was I supposed to do now?
My mind had raced the entire drive home. I’d conjured up a thousand plans to obtain the money, all of which I tossed aside once I realized how impossible they would be. Things like; robbing a house, selling our T.V., I even considered selling my car to pay Jake back. I figured I’d have enough money left over to buy more pills, and once I had those I could think clearly enough to come up with a good excuse as to where the hell my car was.
As I entered my house, the cold air inside stabbed my skin like a million microscopic razorblades. Every hair on my body stood on end as I ran to seek refuge beneath my covers.
My bones ached while I watched the ceiling fan spin in circles above my head in the bedroom. I wanted to get up and turn it off because the humming sound it made was making me nauseas, but I didn’t have the energy.
“F***!” I screamed out in frustration. How the hell am I supposed to get money when it hurts to even move my f***ing eyes.
In general, if I go longer than 4 hours without a hit, my mental withdrawals begin – the obsession. When I go more than 5 hours without a hit, the physical symptoms surface. It had been 14 hours since my last hit and the thought of suicide began taunting me for the thousandth time.
The voices of my subconscious were tempting and relentless. “How can you live like this?” They said. “This pain is excruciating. You can’t take much more of it.” “Chuck will be home in 3 hours and you’ve already had the flu 3 times this month, you can’t fool him again. Just end it. End it now.”
I glanced over at the nightstand where Chuck kept his off-duty weapon. It would only take one pull of the drawer handle, and one pull of the trigger for all of the agony and mental torture to end. My legs were restless and it felt as if thousands of fire ants were gnawing on the muscles of my calves. No matter how much I moved my legs or how hard I squeezed them, the pain refused to let up. “You could end it in a second. I could make it go away.”
I whimpered and curled up into the fetal position, rocking back and forth in an attempt to alleviate the pain. I couldn’t escape it – it was everywhere. It was inside of me, a part of me. And it always would be, the pills were the only thing keeping it at bay. The moment I stopped feeding it, it tore my body apart.
Without hesitation I pulled myself over to his nightstand and opened the drawer. I couldn’t take another second of this torture. I should have let the guy take my stupid necklace, the $20 could have at least gotten me a pill and I would be fine right now. Instead, I’m going to die.
As I pulled the gun up out of my drawer, the jingle of my text message startled me, causing me to drop the gun into the empty drawer. I could see who it was from, from where I was sprawled on the bed.
I lunged for the phone and frantically opened the text.
“I’m straight.” It said.
“Of course you are you son of a bitch. You ALWAYS have pills when I don’t have any G** damn money, you f***!” I shrieked at the screen. On days when I had hundreds of dollars, Laz would be out of pills. Every single time I was broke–without fail–I received a text from him, waving my drug of choice in front of my face when I couldn’t have it.
Knowing that an entire bag of pills was 5 miles away from me, made my stomach turn. All I needed was one. One pill and I would be fine. One pill and every single horrific symptom I was experiencing would disappear in an instant, an INSTANT. I just needed one.
“I don’t have money right now. I will tonight. Can I get one and I’ll pay you back later, please.” I begged.
My foot tapped anxiously as I awaited his reply. It seemed like a century had passed before he responded.
Desperate sobs escaped my throat and tears blurred my eyes until I could no longer see his heartbreaking reply. I threw the phone across the room and screamed until my throat was raw. It felt like I was drowning, and someone had walked up with an oxygen mask– only to pull it away as soon as I reached for it.
Suddenly it was if I were possessed. All the crying ceased immediately, all of the stress disappeared. Something came over me, I was no longer in control. I picked the phone up off the floor and texted him back.
“I will do whatever you want.”
I hit send and began to put my sneakers on. I was no longer myself, the real me seemed to have completely detached from my physical body and something else had taken over. I was on auto-pilot.
“Come over.” He replied.
“I’m on my way.”
The apartment was completely dark inside when I pulled up, all I could see were periodic flashes of light from the TV.
I knocked on the door and the butterflies began swirling around in my gut. Not the good kind of butterflies, the kind you get when you are about to do something bad.
“Hey gorgeous.” Lazarus said swinging the door open.
I felt lightheaded. I wanted to turn and run but my feet wouldn’t allow it. I was inches away from relieving this pain, I couldn’t turn around now.
“Come in.” he smiled, ushering me inside.
My heart was exploding inside my chest as I stepped in. I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be anywhere but here.
“What made you change your mind?” he asked from behind me. I wanted to blurt out ‘desperation’, but figured that wouldn’t go over well.
“Well, you told me the offer always stands. I figured today would be a good day to take you up on it.” I said, forcing a smile.
It took whatever miniscule amount of strength I had left in my body to keep from crying. As I watched him unbuckle his pants my heart shattered into a thousand pieces.
I was sad for Chuck, the wonderful man who stood by me, supported me and loved me unconditionally. But the true sadness, the sadness that emanated from my soul was the grief of having to say goodbye to the person I used to be.
The little girl who rode her pink bike around the neighborhood with her sister and giggled wildly without a care in the world.
The girl who’s mother used to hold back her hair as she blew out the birthday candles on her cake.
The girl who danced around the living room in her princess pajamas singing “The Little Mermaid” while her parents clapped and sang along.
The girl who had dreams, hopes, and ambitions.
She was gone. That girl died a long time ago and tonight, tonight was the night she was lowered into the ground, never to be seen again. I was someone else, something else… I was a waste of flesh and breath.
Lazarus took a step toward me and put his arm around my shoulder. It felt like a slimy reptile, unwanted and intrusive on my skin. I thought he was going to hug me, instead he pushed me down to my knees on the tile floor.
The world around me slowed down, my eyes glazed over and my brain shut down. I was no longer a living thing. I was a body, that this repulsive stranger was using for his own pleasure. I didn’t want to have any part of it, so I left. Not physically but, mentally I was gone. I could feel what was happening, but with my eyes squeezed shut I took myself someplace else.
To the future. To ten minutes from now when the pills were making their way through my veins and everything that has ever happened to me, today and before, would disappear. I would once again be in my comfortable haze of existing without a worry in the world.
It would be worth it. This, would be worth it and my reward for allowing him to use my body would be ticket to forget. I would forget this happened the moment I left. I would tuck it so far away that it would be lost in the sea of shameful things I’d done deep in the back of my mind.
That night, on my knees in that filthy apartment, I mourned the loss of the person I was supposed to be, and accepted the fact that I was nothing more than a junkie whore.
The tears formed a puddle on the floor beneath me in Kelly’s office. Reliving that memory that I’d worked so hard to forget made a tidal wave of painful emotions wash over my body. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her, the shame was paralyzing. I had never told this truth to another soul and honestly couldn’t believe I had spoken it out loud, making it real. Making it true.
As I struggled to catch my breath I could feel the warmth of her body as she softly sat down next to me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders in a tight embrace. “That must have taken a lot of courage to admit, Tiffany, I am so proud of you.” She whispered.
I looked up at her, my face twisted in confusion. “How can you be proud of me? did you hear what I said? I did a sexual favor in order to get high. That makes me whore. Not just a whore, a cheating whore. Why the hell would you say you are proud of me?”
I was almost offended. It was as if she were babying me, coddling me. I don’t know what the hell her angle was, but I didn’t like it.
She shook her head and raised her eyebrows, “You aren’t any of those things Tiffany, you have to know that. Withdrawal is one of the most mentally and physically painful experiences anyone can have,” she began, letting go of me and leaning back onto the couch. “You know, it brings me back to something a woman told me a few years back and it has always stuck with me. If you were on fire, would you stand still and burn? Or would you seek water to put it out?”
I nodded, understanding where she was going with this. “When most addicts experience withdrawal symptoms,” she continued, “they will do whatever it takes to relieve the pain, to make it stop. The real you would never had done what you did that night. You… were on fire.”
I sat still for a moment and processed her analogy. It made sense, I would have done anything to make the pain stop – I had been moments away from shooting myself when Lazarus texted. What I ended up doing was a better alternative at the time but it didn’t make it right.
“I appreciate that you’re trying to make me feel better, I really do. But to be honest, I’m not sure anything anyone says will give me peace about what I did. It was something I said I’d never do. Sure, it would be easy to blame on the drugs, but the fact remains it happened. And it haunts me.” I said.
“We all do things we regret, Tiffany. It’s part of life, much more so for an addict. I don’t expect you to be free of guilt after 10 minutes. We will work through those struggles and you will go even more in depth into your past and the things that haunt you, once you get a sponsor and start working the steps.”
“Okay, cool.” I said, wiping away the evidence of my emotions from my cheeks.
“That was the first time I’ve seen you get emotional since we have started our sessions. That shows me your making progress. I’m really proud of you.”
I rolled my eyes in response and a half smile spread across my lips. It felt good to hear someone say that to me, it had been a long time.
“So, you said that you owed Jake the money the next day–after the night with Lazarus, and I know what happened 2 days after that. I’d like to briefly go over that while you are here if that’s okay.” Kelly said, grabbing a cigarette and waving me outside with her.
“But, Dating and Marriage 101 starts in 15 minutes, I’m supposed to be there.” I said.
“I know – I already texted the teacher. Besides, what the hell do you need that class for anyway?” she said jokingly, “You aren’t going to be doing any of that anytime soon.”
I laughed in response, having no idea at the time… just how wrong she was.