Hours have passed and Travis and I have spent them cuddling, kissing, nodding and talking. It is nice to feel loved without the pressure of sex. He kept his word and hasn’t tried any funny stuff. In fact, he has insisted on kissing me is more gratifying than sex. Damn, this kid is good. I’ve decided I have got to get out of this vicious cycle. However, it feels as though I have no control. My mind wants release from its prison of taunting voices and self-doubting torment. My body is pleading to break free from the shackles of heroin and its needle. Every muscle in my being begs to be freed from their spasms and pain. My soul yearns to escape the incessant burning of its fiery hell. My spirit is weak. Despite every fiber of my existence desires to experience sweet release, the dope sickness defeats my spirit’s ability to claim victory over this demon. I surrender to him every time.
Imagine having a gun to someone’s head. Them begging and pleading while weeping for you to spare their life. We’ve all seen this act portrayed on film or in criminal television show series. Your heart speeds up, as the anticipation of what will happen next builds. You empathize for the person who is begging for their life. Their cry for their loved ones or children, tugs at your heart. You fight back tears or let them fall and when that bad guy pulls the trigger, you’re consumed with a disbelieving sadness and want vengeance for their cruel death. You hate the perpetrator for taking a mother from their child, a husband from their wife or a daughter from their father. I experience this daily. Only I am the one holding the gun, (needle) and pulling the trigger, (plunger) with the barrel at my own head.
I’ve become a robot. I’ve programmed myself to exist for one purpose. I’ve wired myself to repeat the same endeavors daily. I’ve cut off my ability to feel anything or to consider anyone else’s feelings. When I begin to experience the Pinocchio syndrome of becoming real again, I open my circuit box, (junkie kit) and reconfigure my settings to numb. I’m a puppet. Heroin pulls my strings. I’m the walking dead. A zombie among the living. From a distance, I still resemble me, but up close, I’m the corpse of a person I once was. Travis tickles my arm with the tips of his fingers. He listens, as I compare myself to these circumstances. He identifies with the analogies and expresses being all of these things. He wants help. It is nearing dinner time and I inform him that I need to go visit my daughter. I miss her terribly and am only a few minutes away from her. He asks me to leave him a shot worth of dope and invites me to come back tonight when I need to get well, (get high) as he knows I won’t shoot up in my father’s house.
Once back at my father’s home, I spend some time coloring pictures with Natalia. My father and Colleen whisper from the other room, observing my activities. They are terrified of what I have become and what may happen next. Despite their fear and concern, they allow me to visit with my daughter. I am sure they do not want me to leave. At least when I am here they know that I am alive. For the first time, in a long time, my father doesn’t know how to approach me or speak to me. We have been close for years and it must kill him to have lost that connection.
Before bed, I explain that I will need to leave tonight after Natty is asleep to go out and get well, but ask if it is alright for me to come back. Colleen and my father agree to this. Colleen is a nurse. She doesn’t want me to use needles and pulls me aside to explain how dangerous intravenous drug use is. Of course, I know this. She elaborates that a friend of her’s just lost a child to an overdose last week and how every time the phone rings, her and my father are reluctant to answer the call, fearing that this time it might be me. She doesn’t condone my drug use at all, but asks me to please stop using needles. She doesn’t understand why smoking it will not suffice. Her and my father are newlyweds. How horrible for her to be dealing with this immediately. I’m not her daughter by blood, but she is attempting to mother me. It feels both nice and irritating. Only because I know everything she is saying is true, but I can’t put down the needle.
When Natalia and I go to lay down, I explain to her that when she wakes up I might not be here. She doesn’t need to worry, however, because I am leaving a lot of my belongings here and won’t be gone as long this time. She expresses that she can’t take it anymore. She repeats this expression over and over, as her face wets with her fragile tears. My circuits need to be rewired, (I need a shot to numb this feeling). Her beautiful face filled with agonizing pain and confusion is tearing me up inside. I haven’t allowed myself to witness this, but I can’t escape it now.
She asks me if I am going to die. My eyes widen, as she recounts a dream that she has had recently. She tells me that in the dream I died and it scared her. She doesn’t want to be without her mommy anymore. I see God. I feel him, again. Instantly, my heart feels convicted and I know the words she is speaking are coming from him. Her eyes are red and tired. She rubs them. I pull her close to me and shush her fears. I tell her that we all die one day, but that she doesn’t have to worry about that now. She wants to know when I will die. I explain that no one knows when they will die, but when they do, they go to heaven to be with Jesus. Once they are there, they will know love like they have never known it before and they don’t worry because they will see their loved ones again. It is easy for them to not feel sad because they are in the presence of Jesus, but the people still living here on earth, might be sad and that is okay. But, it is important for them to remember that they will see their family again, in heaven. I am not dying anytime soon, so she doesn’t need to worry. Tonight is not my last night. Is it?
This answer seems to calm her. I tell her whenever she is scared to call out to Jesus. He will always be there for her. The words flow from me naturally. I once believed them for myself. But now, I am a junkie. By definition, I am selfish, unfeeling and only think and do for myself. Why is God talking to me now? After Natty falls asleep, I make my way from the house. I get my junkie kit out and begin to prep my shot. Eventually, I will make my way back to Travis’s home, but I need a moment alone. This dope cooking ritual is different. It is flooded with the voice of conviction and fear. What if the last conversation I have with my daughter is my telling her that I am not going to die and this shot kills me? Her last memory of our time together would be my comforting her fear about her dream and explaining the love in Christ, only to wake up the next morning and discover that I am dead. Would she turn her back to God? Would she hate him? Would she hate me? Her life would be shattered. How could she trust anyone again?
I can’t do this to my daughter. She doesn’t deserve this. That dream was a wake-up call for me. Despite knowing that I cannot do this to her, I stick the needle in my arm. This is my rock bottom! Knowing I could die. Knowing God was talking to me. Ignoring him. Still putting this fucking needle in my arm, despite her tears and fears. This is my rock bottom! It has to be! I am a fucked up corpse of a person. I am a mindless drone. I am selfish. My daughter needs me. She needs me. Help me, God. Help me! Please, God, somebody HELP ME! I’m screaming inside, as I plunge my demon in.
Travis welcomes me back with open arms. He immediately prompts me to come to cuddle with him. He is excited to report that he talked to his mom and is going to a state rehab next week. He wonders if I have told my family to send me away yet and I shrug and tell him time had not allotted for this. He laughs and calls me on my bullshit. The thing is, it’s not that easy. How do I tell my dad that I am going to fucking die if he doesn’t spend thousands of dollars for me to go someplace good? After my last rehab experience, I fear there is no help for me. It was a state facility connected to a jail. Most of the people there were mandated to be. We were scheduled from 8:00 am- 8:30 pm every day. Only, the schedule consisted of a bunch of drug addicts sitting in a room with some worksheets and a television. The counselor was always busy. She never participated in our group sessions. Meaning, my underlying issues were left in the hands of other drug addicts to determine and advise.
I remember trying to schedule a session with her. I knocked on her door and explained that I had been sexually abused as a child and had never talked to anyone about it. She barely looked up from the stack of papers on her desk. She handed me a book that smelled of an old, musty basement and told me if I really wanted to talk about the abuse, to read this book first and she would be open to discussing it. The cover was a putrid shade of yellow and the book was dated to the 1970s. Nevertheless, I read the book front to back within a few hours. While I learned a lot about the nature of sexual abuse, it wasn’t relevant to my personal experiences. The book focused predominantly on the most common form of abuse which is the relationship between a father and his son/daughter. That simply did not apply. The idea of my father ever being that fucking sick in the head was unfathomable. It made the book difficult to read because it was disgusting and so off base with my own case.
Once finished with the book, I knocked on the counselor’s door again. She was a former military sergeant and had earned a Ph.D. in psychology. However, all of the certificates on her wall displayed so proudly, would have never prepared me for what happened next. I explained I had read the book and that while it helped me to understand disturbing statistics and allowed for me to realize I wasn’t a solo victim to abuse, it was not relevant to what I had experienced or what I was feeling. A spider crawled across her baseboard causing me to shriek. I apologized and explained that I hated spiders. I realized it was an irrational fear; however, I couldn’t get over the panic they stir within. I shit you not, she got up from her chair, got on her knees and whispered to the spider in a baby voice. As in, she baby talked the fucking spider as you might baby talk a newborn child. She told the spider that she was proud of me for acknowledging and accepting that my fear was irrational and addressed my intelligence and ability to demonstrate cognitive thinking.
She spent the next five minutes or so chatting with the spider about going back out into the world and attempted to catch it so that we could release it outside. He went back under the baseboard. She told me she needed to get back to work, but the work I had done was good today and dismissed me from her office! What the actual fuck? Reading an outdated book that did not pertain to my circumstances and expressing that reality was considered good work today? The fact that I took the initiative to read the book in a mere few hours, should have shown this bitch how serious I was about actually getting to the root of the pain and confusion the abuse has brought along with it. Before closing the door, she did, however, throw in a jab concerning the abuse. She quoted statistics and snidely remarked that I wasn’t the only one who had been sexually assaulted and that we don’t all turn to drugs to cope.
I closed the door behind me. Left with this feeling of utter disbelief. The fact is, outdated or not, I had read the book. And, if she wanted to quote statistics, then perhaps she should note the overwhelmingly high statistic of children who have been sexually abused, who in fact, turn to drug and alcohol abuse to numb the icky feelings away. We never discussed this abuse. In fact, we were supposed to receive an hour long, one on one therapy session each week. I never had any time with her with this exception. No one did. We were always informed that she was too busy and that the rehab was understaffed. Yet, they continued to pour addicts in. It was a small rehab. I think there was maybe 30 of us. We slept on cot bunk beds. The mattresses were so thin you could feel the springs beneath them. There was no railing on the top bunks. One time, a girl fell and broke her ankle and they had the audacity to say she had done it on purpose to get pain medication. She had complained about being issued a top bunk and told them she rolled around in her sleep, but there were no bottom bunks available. I believe her. Even being a manipulating drug addict who can see the plausibility of her throwing herself off the bunk to get pain medication, that girl did not do it. She was dope sick and was tossing and turning like you do when you are sick and she fell off that bed. But, they would never assume that liability.
That 30 days were the biggest joke I have ever experienced in life. It was basically a place to dry out. It was my father’s and your mother’s hard earned tax dollars at work. A scam that is funded by the state. The food was shit, there was no help and we were treated like criminals. I have never been to jail. However, I imagine that it has a similar feeling as to the way this place was run. We had to line up for meals and cigarette breaks. We were not allowed to go smoke whenever we felt like it. When I first got there, dope sick and restless, I begged to go out for a smoke at 3:00 am. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be getting any sleep that night and they refused. In fact, our cigarettes were locked up in the staff area behind the glass. There was one staff member who was clearly a tweaker, who stole cigarettes. She stole 8 packs of my smokes. When I filed a complaint, I was told they would mail me a Walmart gift card in the amount of $100.00 to compensate for them. Needless to say, I never received it.
The idea of Travis going to a place like this causes me to sigh out loud. He is so sweet and so young, but he has a lot of pain and abuse to deal with. He is very excited and I don’t want to rain on his parade, so I keep these stories to myself. Maybe they are not all this way. Perhaps, I had a rare experience. I sincerely doubt it. There is a reason they are run like shit. There is the bare minimum of money flowing through these facilities and they don’t give a shit about addicts. To them, we are numbers. Most of the staff there had never even used drugs. One girl had never even had a drink. How the fuck are they equipped to empathize and cater to an addict’s needs and understanding? They’re not.
Still, I smile at Travis, as he excitedly tells me about all of the things he is going to address in the, (alleged) therapy they provide at this rehab. He shares all of his future hopes and dreams and even includes me in them. As I lay there listening, I know that this will likely be the last week we see each other. We are world’s apart in intelligence, education, age, and responsibilities. I am a mother and he’s barely an adult. Odds are, I will be more successful at maintaining sobriety because I am 12 years older and have a daughter. Meaning, I have 12 more years of bad memories associated with drugs to remind me not to do them again, and I have a daughter counting on me to stay sober. It’s not only about me. In addition, I have a family support system that he does not have.
I am sure it is the codependent nature of being a drug addict, but I feel so much love for Travis right now. Those sparks of ambition, motivation, and determination, help give me hope about overcoming my own demons. I know what I have to do. In the morning, I will go tell Colleen I need help. I will admit that I am a manipulating liar and that my family is enabling me. She has tomorrow off and she will be easier to talk to than my father or my mother. She is new to the family and can see through all the bullshit. She won’t immediately fall back on memories of my being her precious baby girl, because I haven’t been. If anyone won’t make excuses for me, it will be her.
I am ready. At least I think I am. Travis and I sit up to prep our shots. He has scored a little dark while I was away and very proud of himself for saving some for me, as a way to return my earlier favor. It’s not much, but a new strain of heroin is better than no heroin at all. It looks good. I press it between my fingers and taste it to the tip of my tongue. It’s sticky with a hint of vinegar. Travis and I get out our spoons. We laugh about how badly we want to quit, but there is always that desire for just one more hit. One more high. One more nod.
The heroin pools nicely in my spoon. This is a darker tar than what I am holding onto. The darker tar tastes so good to me. I toss a cotton into the pool and watch it absorb quickly. After the tip of my needle is in the center of the cotton, I lick my lips with anticipation and excitement. There is something about watching the mix plunge into my rig that intrigues me. Every single step of the dope cooking ritual has its own felicity. After I push the air from the barrel, I give it a couple flicks. Sadly, I can’t hit. The best part of the process is the hit and it is nearly impossible for me. Travis has already banged his shot and removes my socks. His eyes widen at the monstrosity of my feet’s appearance. He plays it off by kissing the bruises and blown out veins.
He smiles and tells me it will be okay. He will help me, no matter how long it takes. He examines my arms for a second time. He attempts and fails to hit anything twice on each arm. He apologizes for the pain and I explain, it doesn’t hurt anymore. My hands are bruised and swollen. He puts the rig down and asks if we should smoke a cigarette before attempting this again. He wants me to drink some water and do some jumping jacks, in an attempt to get my veins to surface. Once a shot is prepped, however, it is hard to put it down and come back to. I tell him about my neck and how easily people have been able to hit there. He is reluctant and admits, he has never hit anyone in the neck before.
He outlines how dangerous it is and expresses his disbelief that I have resorted to it. I laugh and explain that he doesn’t have trouble hitting and if he did, he would resort to these antics too. He is adamant that he is not entertaining the idea of hitting my neck but insists he wants to see what the fuss is about with this magic vein in my neck. Without warning, Travis startles me with a hyena-like demonstration of laughter. Suddenly, he is literally jumping up and down on the bed. His cigarette is ashing on the bed with each jump. He runs out of the room without any explanation as to where he is going. I call after him and feel immediately baffled and insecure. What is so funny about my neck?
My hand makes its way up to the site that has caused Travis to behave this way. I shield it from being seen and hang my head. Travis runs back into the room with his camera phone and tells me to follow him into the bathroom where there is good light. He asks if I have ever examined the vein in my neck and I respond that I haven’t and he is freaking me out. His tone changes and his face frowns, as he apologizes for scaring me and kisses my forehead before brushing my hair off my shoulders. He turns me to face the mirror and instructs me to look at the vein. Before I can respond, he snaps a picture of it excitedly on his phone. What the fuck? I don’t see what he is so excited about. And then I do. This miracle vein is protruding from my neck. You could hit it with a dart from across the room.
Because it is still a sensitive spot that requires me to sit completely still, Travis quiets his excitement and shifts his attention to focus on the task at hand. Slowly, I take a deep breath in and extend my neck forward. Travis’s hand is shaky and he pulls away and reassures himself out loud, that he can do this. And then he does. The needle connects instantly and blood pours into the barrel. He very slowly pushes the shot in before removing the needle from my neck and reminding me to breathe again. Instantly, I can taste the demon in the back of my throat and I welcome it with an mmm sound. The shot makes me weak in the knees and I close the lid to the john and take a seat. Travis excuses himself for a minute and returns with two towels. What is he doing? He wants me to shower with him! The idea of being completely naked in front of anyone creates a whirlwind of insecurity to surface within me. He assures me that there will be no funny business, but he wants to take a shower and he wants me to join him. My face blushes three shades of red and I attempt to hide it from him.
He starts the shower, stands me up and begins undressing me. My body is covered in bruises and still bears the vicious bite of the pitbull wound on my side. I haven’t shaved in forever and I fight to cover myself from Travis’s eyes, commenting about this reality. He leaves again and returns quickly with a bag of disposable razors. He giggles, as he pulls out one and hands it to me. He has the most adorable laugh. I am out of excuses and completely naked now. Travis is naked, as well and it takes everything in me to not sneak a peak. He isn’t looking at my body at all. His eyes have been focused on my eyes the entire time. Travis pulls the shower curtain back and steps in. He extends his hand out to mine and tells me that I can trust him. I believe him. Truth is, I am not sure that I can trust myself. This feels nice. It feels wrong, but it also feels right. I can’t hide my smile or the fact that I am blushing. I take his hand and step into the shower with him. After I pull the curtain closed, I turn to face him. I expect that I will be met with a kiss and his hands exploring my body. Instead, I am met with a can of shaving cream and his infectious laugh. I burst into laughter. He taps my nose with a tiny dab of shaving cream and tells me how fucking adorable I am. He asks if I want him to shave my legs for me. This causes further bouts of laughter between the two of us.
He insists he is serious about not caring at all about the hair or bruises on my body. He elaborates that all he cares about is how it clearly makes me feel insecure. Twice he asks me if I really don’t know how beautiful I am. Is this real? Is this a line? He must be talking me up so that he can make the moves on me? Travis explains he is going to wash his hair and that I can shave while he is doing that and then we will trade places so that I can rinse off in the water. I am standing naked in a shower with a naked boy and he is legit trying to take a shower! This is new territory. I lather my leg up with his deliciously, manly smelling shaving cream, prop it up on the tub and begin to shave.