Note: This is a guest blog written by the inspiring Patti Silvia
I used to sit at my coffee table and run my hands across the surface. “I’m keeping my hands busy so that I don’t smoke away my drugs so fast,” I would say, but really I was trying to feel for dropped drugs (you know, cocaine rocks). Back then I had no thought of anything but drugs
“How do I get more?”
“Who can I call?”
“Who is going to want to get high with me?”
Sometimes I would save just enough and invite a friend over to join me. I would entice him to come by telling him I had some to share. Then when he did, I would offer a few hits. By then he would be hooked and he would want more, so he would spend lots of money himself and get enough for both of us. I was conniving, always using my business bargaining so that I could keep my fix going. There were times when I would have lots of people over at once. Everyone would chip in money for the drugs, and I would go and get for them. The thing was, when I returned, I’d always have some set extra set aside for myself without anyone knowing. Sometimes I would have one or two $50 bags put aside for myself. When everyone ran out of their supply I would say nothing and let them leave so that I could smoke mine by myself.
The truth was that I was really no friend to anyone and no one was truly friends with me. We were all just fellow drug users. I did not belong anywhere in the community. I would walk down the street trying to hide my face from everyone. Especially the Police. My head would always be down and staring at the sidewalk, as if, that would really disguise me. I wasn’t exactly hard to pick out in a crowd: I had long red hair and I was nothing but skin and bones. I didn’t care about how I dressed. Sometimes I would even wear the same thing for days. I was untidy, baggy eyed, and a skeletal frame that always went limp.
I also didn’t pay much attention to smells. Unless of course, there was something fake put on the pipe, like candle wax or fingernails, or even peanuts of some sort. In fact I can remember these kinds of fake things trying to be passed off as cocaine. You didn’t know it till it was to late. The problem: that kind of stuff just does not melt, so you can’t actually smoke it. You could sure smell it though. But you couldn’t smoke it.
My taste buds weren’t much better. Coke has a bitter taste from the baking soda which is used to rock it up. And so, I used to always taste baking soda in my mouth, a dry aftertaste or “yuck mouth,” as I used to call it, like you didn’t brush your teeth. With Coke, if you weren’t careful, the burning of the pipe could turn your teeth and lips black from the copper used to make the screen. Smoking would also make your tongue numb like it did mine sometimes. I hated that feeling and many times wanted it to stop. I wanted to feel again, but I didn’t know how.
Then something happened and it changed my life forever.
I got arrested.
A neighbor came over and asked me to get him drugs. He knew I could get it for him, and since he wanted enough that I knew I could make out with a $50 piece for myself and I was already on a roll and running out and wanted more but had no more money, I agreed. I made the phone call to the dealer and set things up. The two of them–my neighbor and the dealer-showed up at my apartment at the same time and the two of them did the dealing between themselves. After a short time the two of them left my place and I returned to my room where a friend of mine and myself were playing games like Moncala and Cribbage. I sat down and put my drugs onto a plate as I usually did cause it was black and I was able to better see the drugs that way and smoke a little more, I heard a knock at my door and when I answered it there were two guys whom I have never seen before standing at my door. They asked me if I could get them some drugs.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” I told them and then motioned to close the door when they followed up with more questions.
They asked me if I knew certain people. When they reached about the fourth name, I confirmed that I knew him because he was my neighbor from downstairs they took out their badges and introduced themselves as police officers. They said they needed to come into my house and talk to me.
“Not without a search warrant,” I said, but to no effect.
They pushed they pushed their way in anyway and even got rough with me, placing handcuffs on my wrists.
I spent the next few days in jail. I was so upset and mad at the whole situation. All I wanted to do was get out and numb myself. All I wanted was to return to the drugs. Needles to say, as soon as I got released from jail, the first thing I did was go home and get high once again. Once I got put on probation I knew if I continued to get high I would get in lots of trouble but again found myself getting upset and wanting to numb myself. I went home and started to do just that and my probation officer and two others from the Drug Taskforce team showed up knocking at my door while I was getting high.
Again, off to jail I went. This time I was there for three and a half months. I was scared and worried, all I wanted to do was cry. I wondered what would happen to me this time. I had to years in prison hanging over my head.
To be behind bars with no fresh air at all was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced on my life. It stunk in there because there were so many inmates sharing the same small area. Some of them rarely showed because of lack of privacy. Everybody wanted things their own way, but they could not because you had to do what the guards tell you to do. You watched whatever the guards put on T.V. and you ate whatever they decided for you, and most of the time it was food that you would not even want to feed to a pig if you had one. Jail was an ugly place. I lost everything I owned while I was in there. I got evicted from my apartment and had all my stuff thrown out. Jail scared me, but it was only one part of my hard journey to getting clean. What kept me on the path to recovery after being in jail was Drug Court and Rehab.
When I got out of jail I went right into Mecca Rehab and Drug Court. Mecca was rough because, again, in some ways, it was like jail. The staff told you when to get up in the morning, and what you ate. In the mornings it was always cold cereal, oatmeal, toast or bagels. Lunch was always cold meat sandwiches and Supper was catered by a company that does not use spices so the food was always bland. During the day, you went to classes non-stop, from early morning to late evening and you did not watch T.V. at all. You life was very structured there, It was not your own. I was in there for another three and a half months.
Then, there was Drug Court, they tell you everything that you have to do, when you have to do it by, and who you can have any contact with. It controls every aspect of your life, as if you were a young child just learning how to live your life. But the thing is, when you’re an adult, you just don’t want to be treated this way, it isn’t always the best feeling. At first, I remember I cried a lot and had to go through lots of counseling to learn how to deal with all these different feelings and emotions.
Over time though, I came to realize that because of all this structure that was forced in me, I also learned to appreciate it. I never knew that I could handle life’s problems without the use of drugs. Before, I always thought that I had to be high in order to survive. I thought I would be in too much pain if I were straight. But through counseling and my faith in God, I came to see the importance of opening up. At least, this would allow me to get my problems out in the open instead of bottling them up. I don’t feel the need to numb myself anymore. I never had the strength within myself to stay clean and sober. I also did not know just how much writing would be so therapeutic for me. Writing releases a lot of emotions within me. It also allows people to know who I am and more importantly how I am coping with everyday challenges.
Today, I am accepted in the community. I do belong. My clothes are bright colored, my hair is always brushed and styled and my nails are always shapely filed and I wear makeup now.
I’m accepted in the community now. I belong. I hear children playing and I think of my grandchildren, and the joy they bring me. I hear music. I hear praises from other people.
“I’m proud of you.”
“You have come a long way.”
“What a difference you have made in the past year.”
Now, when I walk down the street, I hear myself greeting others – instead of trying to hide from them.
Yes, I am accepted in the community now. I do belong. I work at a food bank for my church and a clothing bank for another church. I am very much wanted and needed in both these places. I am also trusted enough now that I have a key to the church where the food bank is – and I am able to go in there at any time. This kind of trust has helped me a great deal. I feel like I am important. I know that if it weren’t for all my hard work, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t be accepted in the community. I wouldn’t belong.
I know, too, that I owe my new life to all the people who have helped me become the person I am today. I am grateful for all the support of my friends and my family. Without them, the road to recovery and sobriety would have been morbidly lonely. I thank Rossina, who facilitates the Community Stories Writing Workshop at the Shelter House, for creating a creative space for me to release and express my emotions. Writing, as I have said earlier, helps me communicate frustrations without self –destruction. I thank the Drug Court Team for always being so hard on me, for pushing me to make the changes in my life to become a better person than I was before. It is hard for me to believe how much all this structure has influenced me to change, to make a new person out of me, to help me see just how much happier I am with myself now. Finally, I would like to thank all of my church families for helping me understand God’s love and forgiveness. Praise Be to God. I am a new person now and will forever remain.
This essay was written and shared with love by Patti Silvia