I had a nightmare. It’s 3:44 a.m. He still haunts my dreams. I close my eyes and the scenes from yesterday are come closing in. As if it’s happening right now. As if I’m still stuck. I’m not.
I managed to escape. Except, the memories don’t go away. They are never really gone. Flashback. Flashbacks —plural. I think back to the cold. Ice cold. I think back to the hard times, emphasis on hard.
I was a prisoner; a prisoner to these damn pills. It all began as everything did back then. I was trying to start over, emphasis on trying. My failed attempts at doing it alone only take me back to the self-fulfilling prophecy that led me there, to begin with.
In short, I used to create exactly what I feared most.
At the time, I was a hostess at The Office, an $18 gourmet burger joint on Atlantic Ave. in Del Ray Beach, Florida. Not only was the meat fresh in the kitchen, I was fresh meat myself, straight out of a 30-day rehab, Alternatives in Treatment; we called it AIT.
I was living in a halfway house in the middle of the hood, literally. When I would walk out my front door, a dealer, my neighbor would always approach me asking the same thing over and over again.
“You good girl?” (referring to drugs).
The pills I craved. The pills I hated but I also loved them. I was trying so God damn hard to be good but in this case, it wasn’t good enough. I didn’t know how much longer I could say no because inside, I said yes, every time.
Butterfly Cottages (BC) was my new home. The house itself was cute. It was covered in forest green vines that ran down the front paneling. Beside that were the purple window shutters that accentuated the front door’s hint of lavender. The house slept eight girls —two in each room.
I had a few “girlfriends” at this point, mostly from meetings and the rehab I just left. One girl, in particular, Molly was my instant BFF and roommate at BC. We were the youngest girls in treatment (most of the ladies were in their late 30’s and early 40’s) so it’s no surprise that we ended up in the same room now that rehab was over.
The sad thing is, Molly got kicked out just a week after we both arrived. I couldn’t believe it. I was so sad and felt alone all over again. She came home wasted one night, our second week there, slurring her speech as she asked our not so nice roommates for chips and dip. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we weren’t by any means friends with the other girls. I honestly didn’t even know all their names. They had no loyalty to us.
Remember, this was a place for chicks who want to stay clean and sober.
Well, sometime later, I get Molly into bed. We eventually fall asleep thinking we were good. The next thing I know it’s 3 a.m., the house manager is sitting by Molly’s bedside screaming her name —trying to wake her up; emphasis on trying —she was out cold, which didn’t help her cause. I knew this was bad.
The house manager, Tara asked me if I thought Molly had been drinking. I was the one who accompanied her to the corner store for the sole purpose of purchasing a four loco, a.k.a. an alcoholic beverage (liquor never did it for me so I wasn’t tempted).
In my head, I’m thinking hell, yes, but I wasn’t about to rat on my best friend. So I say, “I have no idea,” as I roll over and pretend to fall back asleep. Moments later, Molly wakes up. And guess what? She had to pee in a cup to prove that she wasn’t on any mind-altering substances, alcohol included. She, of course, failed.
Halfway houses have a zero-tolerance policy for relapsing of any kind.
If you get caught, even in the middle of the night like Molly, you’re honestly still kicked out. They normally give you around $100 for a shitty motel room at the cracked-out Budget Inn. So Molly packs up her stuff while I lay there, this time actually half asleep (yet still half aware of what was happening). She was getting kicked out.
What was I supposed to do? It was so late (or was it early?) and they were making her leave? How ruthless is that? I couldn’t figure out my next move so I just lay still. Funny how someone can be motionless, yet, inside their mind is going insane. That was me. Somehow, about an hour later, I fall asleep. Thank GOD.
I will say that I love to sleep, well, I do until you have to get up. And it was about that time.
You know that moment when you are just waking up and don’t remember where you are and everything seems peachy for that split second between sleep and wakefulness? Well, that moment ended. Everything comes flooding back when I realize, it wasn’t a dream. She really was gone.
I’m alone, again. What the fuck was I going to do now? Needless to say, after that, things escalated rather quickly.
I had just purchased a pre-paid cell phone, thanks, mom. I hear a ringing from my bedside table where that phone was. I glance over and see a text from Molly. She was going to stay with her boyfriend, a guy she met from treatment named Mark who had just gotten a local apartment (thanks to his mom lol). I was thankful she had a place to stay but I also feared this would escalate things on her end too.
And not in a good way. They say not to date anyone, especially someone early in the program. You need at least one year of sobriety. They also say if you can take care of a plant and then a pet, you’re strong enough for an actual human relationship. I, of course, didn’t listen, and obviously, neither did Molly. Her text says to be ready in 20 minutes. Back then, when my best friend says jump, I say how high. And so I get ready.
As I slide my pink ballet flats on to match my blue sundress with pink undertones, I hear a car beep from outside. It’s for me.
As a girl in halfway, you do have some real-life freedoms. Consequently, it wasn’t abnormal for me to get a ride from a friend. I could just as well be going to a meeting. I mean, I most likely wasn’t but still. They didn’t know that.
I run to the car and get in. It’s Molly, her boyfriend Mark and another guy I never met. He would later be my new boyfriend, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here. Picture this. Mark had just relapsed on heroin thanks to his friend, Nate, who too was an addict, with no reason to go to treatment or want to stay sober. They were stocked, ready to go —kit in hand.
I suppose this was Molly’s new life but was I ready for my relapse mode? On one hand, I couldn’t get kicked out because I didn’t have a boyfriend’s apartment to fall back on. But on the other, I was pretty fucking miserable with my “new life” and now empty room. I thought, why the fuck not? This is known as the fuck its. I mean, the house manager thought I was innocent and serious about this sobriety thing.
Little did she and everyone else know, I was far from that. I think I was only pretending to be serious because my drug of choice was never bought and paid for sitting in front of my face. How could I say no? They only drug tested you if you acted suspiciously. l thought if I could just keep this innocent act up that everything would be okay.
It was not okay. I was anything but alright.
We drive off and I say yes anyway. In hindsight, I see that it all began the same way it later ended —with loneliness and drug dealing boyfriends. It was only my second week at BC, but if I can be honest, I really wanted to get high. I had always wanted to get high. I don’t think I ever stopped wanting to get high.
And at the time, I swear I thought it was fate. It’s like when you stop looking for it, it finds you. Except now I know it was a test in which I failed. But back then, Nate had the connection, Mark had the money, and we girls were the good time. I look over at Mark. Who am I kidding; I stared. He had this white bad boy swag about him with a fitted hat to top it off. I loved fitted hats (on the right guy).
We pull over in a deserted parking lot. Eight bags, four junkies, and one needle. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know how stupid this was. They (by they, I mean any sane person) say to use a clean needle no matter what —except when you’re getting high, the how isn’t really a deciding factor.
And so, Nate uses first. Mark goes second. He then helps me next and Molly ends up going last. Thank the Lord for that. It would be later revealed that Molly was carrying hepatitis C. I like to think that God was looking down on me. What if I had gone last? I can’t even. Anyway, it was off to the races.
Going. Going. Gone. And dude, I was way gone.
It didn’t matter what else was going on. All that mattered was how good I felt at that moment. I felt good. I felt really good. We drive around a little longer as we chain-smoke cigarettes. The nicotine moving down my throat just increased my high that much more.
I missed this freedom; the feeling when the drug hits your veins. It’s like a rush I never felt before. They say it’s better than sex. Shit. I agree. I was able to forget about everything. Well, at least until nightfall fell and back to BC, I went. I was pretty impressed that I had just gotten away with everything. I didn’t expect it to be this easy. The next day. I wake up to a text from Nate telling me some pretty awful news. Apparently, Mark got a bad batch of heroin laced with fentanyl. He didn’t realize how potent that shit was. As a result, he fucking overdosed. Mark was dead. I couldn’t believe it. I was sad AF, to say the least.
I mean, I was literally just with him and now he’s gone? It didn’t seem fair. And what about Molly? How was she holding up? Needless to say, she was a mess and ends up having to move back in with her parents. Except, at that second, all I could think about was getting high. I wasn’t alone either. I get another text from Nate. He was here.
I walk out of the house into Nate’s friend’s silver Honda Accord. There were two other guys sitting up front, which left Nate and me in the back seat together. I didn’t know them very well, but I could tell that everyone was shaken up by the awful news. We talk about how it seemed as if there was news like this every other day. We all agreed that we hated to say it but it almost seemed normal.
And with that, we had to get high. We pull over and shoot up. Nate, of course, helps tie me off first. I could snort and smoke pills myself but hadn’t become a professional with the needle, so I required some assistance.
I guess I was just too far gone because it definitely got worse before it got better. Flash-forward another week or two. I suppose word had gotten back to the other girls in the house that I wasn’t attending my daily meetings. Oh and that my best friend’s boyfriend just overdosed. In walks the house manager, Tara.
“Macey, I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’m going to need you to pee in this cup for me.”
My heart begins to race. Hell, it was pounding out of my chest. What the fuck am I going to do? I just did a shit ton of pills and heroin the past few days. You can only fake it till you make it for so long and everything was closing in.
I was trying to think of something, anything, while Tara’s watching me. It was protocol for the house manager to observe the addict when doing a urine test. And so, I walk into the bathroom and pull down my pants. As my butt hits the cold toilet seat, I have nothing. I sit there for a moment longer, still trying to think of an excuse (still nothing). Then, I start crying.
“Tara, I am not going to pass this. I’m so sorry. I’ll pack up my stuff and get out right away.”
I had to sell it. Funny thing was, my tears were real. I did feel bad, but it was most likely because I had just been caught. Still, I’m no monster and now that I was about to fail this test, I had no idea what lay ahead. Tara tries to calm me down. I was freaking the fuck out. Tears wouldn’t stop streaming down my face as we make our way into the living room (luckily, no one was home).
I remember thinking how fucked I was. I mean, they kicked Molly out at 3:00 a.m and what would make me and this situation any different? The consequences of my actions were officially here and this girl couldn’t handle. Tara leaves the room for a moment. She had to call the owner, Janel to find out what to do with me. For some odd reason, Tara comes back with good news.
“I see something in Macey that I don’t see in anyone else here.”
That’s verbatim from Janel. They aren’t going to kick me out. Instead, they put me on probation. My 10:00 p.m. curfew was now 8:00. I had to attend NA and/or AA meetings every day to gain back their trust. To prove I was actually there and not just pretending, I also had to get a signature from the person running that specific meeting.
My first selfish thought was how am I going to hang out with Nate now? That’s what I was worried about? Chilling and getting high with my new boyfriend? Ice cold.
But I wasn’t going to tell them that. I pretend to be happy and that I will do anything and everything to gain back their trust. That was a bold lie. My life was always this self-fulfilling prophecy. I created exactly what I feared most. I knew by getting high I would eventually get caught, but I did it anyway.
It’s now midnight. I toss and turn in my single bed as I try to fall asleep and forget for a little while longer what just happened. Did I mention that I love sleep? It’s like your dead to the world and nothing matters. I wake up the next morning pissed off. What was I supposed to do? I could end it with Nate and do right or say fuck it and get high.
My phone starts to ring. It’s Nate. There was my answer. That was the sign I was hoping for. He says to come outside. He had a surprise for me. I quickly comb my hair, wash my face, brush my teeth, put on a zip-up and head for the door. I told the house manager that I was getting a ride to a meeting, which was another lie. They believe me anyway.
I didn’t know then that this would be the last time I would ever leave BC as a resident.
We ride around all day, get and stay high. I try to pretend that I didn’t almost get kicked out. I mean, that was partly the reason I was trying to escape —that way, I didn’t have to think about, well, anything. Before I know it, it’s now 7:45 p.m. I have 15 minutes to get back to halfway before trouble starts. I was having such a good time, I didn’t want to leave.
I can’t believe what I’m about to tell you but once again, these pills trumped my right vs. wrong. I knew I should have just gone home right then and there. But I didn’t. In fact, I did the opposite. I remember texting Janel telling her that I relapsed again. I was clearly not thinking straight but Nate’s offer to live with him seemed like the answer to all of my problems.
Plus, I knew since I was on probation, I wouldn’t get another second chance. This was my second chance. So, I write to her insisting that I’ll have my things out by the end of this week. I also apologized for everything. I really was sorry. What happened after that? Well, I turned my phone off. If I can be honest, I didn’t know what she’d say and I didn’t want too. I was making my bed and now I had to lie in it —except, this chick wasn’t ready for any of this.
When I turned my phone back on the next morning, I had 55 voicemails from my mom, dad, and sister as well as Janel, who had spilled the beans. Apparently right after I sent the text, she called my family to fill them in on what I had done. They knew I ran away and were worried because they didn’t know who I was with, what I was doing or if I was even alive.
I ignored them all. I was still trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to do let alone tell them. I honestly had no idea what my next move was so I had to stall for as long as it took for me to figure out a solid plan.
I snort a bunch of pills and tell myself that I’ll figure it out later —at least I was able to stay at Nate’s (well, until I wasn’t).
The next few weeks are more of a blur than ever. The worst part was, Nate’s dad wouldn’t let me sleep over (or any girl at that). An ex of his stole a bunch of valuable stuff so his dad was cautious as to who he let in. Little did he know, his addict son was sneaking me in after his dad fell asleep. I’d then wait outside, down the street until his dad left for work the following morning —where we would have the house to ourselves.
The days were pretty much the same. We would save just enough the night before to not feel the dreaded withdrawals the following morning. We normally had a sufficient amount left to get to lunch until we figured out a way to get more. Panhandling became my friend, which is hard for me to admit or say out loud.
Back then though, it became almost like a side job. I mean, I looked like a sweet girl, sweet enough at least. I’d go to the Shell gas station on Federal Avenue and ask the customers outside if they had anything to spare.
“I missed the bus and can’t get to work. Is there any way you can help me out?”
Some wouldn’t give me the time of day, others a few bucks and most of the men would give me about $20. After an hour-ish or before the manager kicked me out (whichever happened first), I would expect to leave with around $150. We’d then hitch a ride or take the bus to his dealer’s house where we’d re-up, get high and casually stroll our way “home” to chill before his dad arrived.
I remember one day, it was pouring rain on our walk back. We had to walk one mile because we missed the bus and couldn’t find a ride. Since we were both feeling really good, we thought why not get some exercise. I remember thinking it was romantic.
What the hell did I know?
But there we were —two junkies, no money and definitely no place to stay. Eventually, his dad found out he had been sneaking me in. I didn’t have a chance to charm my way out of it, and so, he kicked Nate out too. We couch hopped for a few weeks, slept on the beach and did anything and everything to stay high, which included stealing and robbing from strangers as well as friends. Luckily, we were never caught.
Then it all came to a head. And thank GOD. In short, I hit rock bottom for the second time.
Unfortunately, that rock bottom included getting raped and almost kidnapped. As a result of this and people finding out part of the story, I needed to get out of town. I remember my dad coming to save me, quite literally. My family didn’t know what to do with me. All they did know was that I needed to get off the streets.
My dad had a nice fully furnished three-bedroom condo right outside downtown Orlando, which is about four hours from Del Ray. He picks me up and we drive. Once we arrive, he says to make myself at home while we figure out what to do. I ended up spending roughly two weeks there —hanging out by the pool, trying to not rip my skin off. Somehow, this go-around, the withdrawals weren’t so bad.
I say that because I was able to sneak like 10 pills; so I took that time to wean myself off. My goal then wasn’t to get high. I just wanted to feel normal. I remember day one. We call my mom and sister. They were so freaking happy that I was safe, but they didn’t want to waste any more money on me. They had to find a long-term treatment center outside of Florida —that was FREE.
I had some rules though. I tell them that it has to be co-ed and permit smoking. I wasn’t about to be around just girls without cigarettes. Somehow, my wish was granted. After 10 days of searching, a rehab recruiter, my mom met, found a place that met my criteria.
Mission Teens, Inc. is a non-denominational Christian Discipleship ministry dedicated to helping those who struggle with life-controlling problems such as substance abuse by ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They believe that the Gospel should be free to all and by seeking God, you can find light even in the darkest of days. And boy, was I dark alright. I remember thinking that I was ready to make a change.
For those who never heard of them, Mission Teens has programs throughout the entire county, roughly 15 locations spanning from New Jersey, Florida, California, Michigan, and a few more. Savannah, Georgia was the place they chose for me. I thought that was okay.
I had never been to Georgia so I was ready for my new adventure. The coolest part was they don’t charge for their services and do not receive any funding from the government. All of their support comes from concerned individuals and a few churches who are sensitive to the type of work they do. After a million long days filled with five and a half hours of bible study and even harder weeks, I graduated their program. And so, eight months later, I was free.
The good girl in me never thought she’d find her way back home but there I was. Here I am. I felt like my old self again. I still have flashbacks but now I know what to do when I have them. I know that I can’t erase the destruction of yesterday and I can’t predict what will happen tomorrow. All any of us can do is live right here, right now.
So accept your baggage as a lesson learned and then never make the same mistake again. It’s all about the amount of effort you put in. Learn from me since it took a few more go-arounds for it to actually stick. But eventually, I got it and you can too. I promise. Because sometimes, the worst thing that happens, the thing you think you can’t survive, well, that’s the thing that makes you better than you ever used to be.