I was feeling even better than before. Today wasn’t that bad. Well, emphasis on that. It seems as if the days go by slow but the weeks, fast AF. A few things had happened in the last 24 hours though.
I didn’t think I could handle the cards I was dealt at the time. Except, I was about to find out I certainly could. I’d also learn, firsthand, the definition of integrity —what you do when no one is looking. But let’s back up a second.
I remember thinking my only complaint that won’t seem to go away (this was before the other shit went down) —is that we can’t speak to or even look at the opposite sex. Most of the guys seem really cool. I would totally be friends with a lot of them.
But if I was going to become a new me, I had to leave my old patterns and bad habits behind. Boys were always a weakness of mine. I suppose I needed to focus on myself anyway. I must learn to be happy without man-made objects (emphasis on man lol). Part of me, (most of the time) felt good about myself. I think my self-esteem was a little higher than when I got here four months ago.
A few people even told me how beautiful I was (inside and out). Sometimes I even believed it. I will say that I’ve actually learned to like a few extra features that I never did before. I like my face a lot —besides the fact that I have to pluck my eyebrows every two days or I’ll have a unibrow, but that’s the story of my life (laser hair removal? —yes, please).
I can’t complain about my stomach or back either and I’m cool with my arms, most of the time.
But I hate my thighs. I absolutely hate them. Shit. Here I go again. Let me say, I really am crazy, but I’m getting better. I used to never be able to say one nice thing about myself. And I just named three (progress not perfection, people).
Except, I can’t help but feel a little negative about what happened yesterday. I feel like they don’t get it. You can be a little nicer and not talk to us like we’re stupid —like we meant to get sick.
For the Record
We didn’t. Long story short and it’s funny AF now but at the time, I was heated —my best friend, Katie and I were on kitchen duty. She was the main cook and I was her assistant. Katie and I were basically the same people in different bodies. She was from New York who moved to Del Ray Beach, Florida —finally someone like me, I thought the day she arrived. We even had the same zip code (but never met previously).
The kicker is after I prayed for God to send me someone that I know and then he did, but she wasn’t allowed to come since we had gotten high together, he sent me Katie instead (I swear). And so, about a week later, she shows up. In short, we were instant best friends. We were cut from the same cloth. Most of the ladies were older and from the south.
I’m not hating on anyone born there because I live here now, but if you were raised up north, you know what I’m talking about.
Needless to say, we hit it off right away. I mean even our families became friends over the course of these eight months. And when you’re in the kitchen like we were, you get a few extra privileges. So I was more than happy to spend some time cooking with Katie.
For one, you can actually put ice in your drink and eat whatever is in front of you pending you wore an apron and hat, which they provided. You also have a different schedule since you cooked while the others worked —so, you got to relax at different times too. I think, if you did the math, you actually get more downtime. Plus, you’re in the room alone (besides your partner for that day).
The best part, you could drink as much coffee as you wanted, which on a normal day, you couldn’t do —one cup per resident or two if you were lucky.
We drank like eight and by the time devotions started we were throwing up. OMG. We were so sick. Since Katie and I were the only girls allowed to cook (the others were too young in the program, you have to be at least two months old), another set of boys actually had to take over for us that day, which didn’t look too good and we definitely heard about it for a while after.
Except, we were trying to tell senior staff that there’s a big difference between throwing up because you want to and because you need to. It’s not like we said, “Hey let’s overdose on coffee today.”
“Coffee is a privilege!” one staff member shouts.
I remember thinking OMG. I have so much shit to do and nothing to look forward to. I’m over this. I was actually so mad that I had to get it out on paper. And so, I open up my journal and write.
“I kind of want to leave. I can’t. I just feel stuck. I’m suffocating. Trapped. There’s nowhere out. There’s absolutely no excitement. There’s nothing to look forward too. I almost want to get high. I just can’t deal with this crap anymore. Part of me knows I can, but why should I have to?”
“I’m sick of doing the same shit every day like this is my life for the next four months.”
“And I’ve already been here for that long. I can’t imagine doing what I just did all over again. Kill me now. I haven’t felt this negative since I first got here. It’s not even about getting high (I don’t think). I’ve proven that I can say no. I’m just not happy. Help me, God.”
Eventually, someone else did something worse and our mess up was old news. I remember later that week, I was asked to work. Yes, I said work and I don’t mean work projects.
Local churches had various jobs they needed help with. Whether it was construction work for a stage, moving boxes, cleaning, or painting —the list goes on —a member of a church (we had a pretty solid relationship with several) would come to the mission and request a few workers. The resident(s) chosen had to have been here for at least four months and normally, it was only through pre-approved churchies.
People were excited to work though.
Why? Because work meant you could leave the house. Yeah, you had to do whatever was needed but any excuse to be with real people, we ran with it. In my case, a minister from another church was having a catered party at their home, which needed to be cleaned.
The office trusted me enough to let me leave for the day and clean this family’s house. I could even earn some money (most jobs paid like $20 for the whole day but that was a lot to us then), which would go into my “account” to be used for extra food or drinks.
Side note: Once a week, a counselor would go to a 711 type store to buy us whatever we asked for with whatever money we had in our accounts. Pending, they sold it.
Our families could donate money on our behalf but some of these people didn’t have their support or the means to cover the costs of a non-necessity. Luckily, my family always put in extra for me. And sometimes I’d be able to cover a friend that didn’t have enough.
Anyway, I was excited to clean this lady’s house. I remember thinking it was going to be a great day. And so, I go upstairs and get changed. I get a call from the office that the minister’s wife is here about 15 minutes later.
She was this cute blonde mom who seemed like a very put together woman.
We hit it off immediately. We arrive at her house directly down the street and I was surprised as to how beautiful it was. Ironically, their lime green home had been on a TLC home makeover show, which I thought was pretty awesome.
And let me just say it showed. The rooms in that place were so sick. But the reason they were picked was a little sadder than I was expecting. Their youngest son was born with cerebral palsy and he wasn’t supposed to live past age 10. I think the couple sent in their story to the production crew and they must have liked it enough to pick them and redo their entire home.
Picture the perfect Victorian-style house with a modern funky flair.
The rooms were more gorgeous than the next. I was simply supposed to clean each of them and then report back to her when I was done. It started off great. I honestly felt like part of the family for a few. She had three children (the boy with cerebral palsy was the youngest), two boys and one girl (who was the oldest). I hit it off with the kids too (they were in the car). So when we walk in, she invites me to sit with them for lunch and the kids basically insisted.
They even had those make your own soda machines, which I had never tried until now. I loved it. I loved it all. After we chat, eat, and talk some more, the mom goes over exactly what she needed and how to go about each room. I start with the downstairs and then make my way upstairs. I have OCD and I love organizing so I thought it would be enjoyable.
Once I get upstairs, I start with the children’s rooms. Let me just say they were all Pinterest worthy.
They were my dream room as a child —every single one of them. The little girl’s bed was legit a carriage that paired perfectly with her pink princess theme. The middle son was all about sports. And the youngest, who was definitely too young to understand just how awesome his room was —had a working piano implanted into the floor. So you could stomp on the keys and it made actual sounds. Needlesstosay, his theme was music.
Anyway, I finished each of those and made my way to the master bedroom. I was to take everything off the dressers and dust before replacing the objects neatly back on top. Except, I was about to find something I definitely didn’t want to see. I literally couldn’t believe what sat in front of me on the nightstand next to that woman’s bed.
What was it? An entire script of 60-milligram oxycontin —a.k.a. my drug of choice.
What the fuck. I remember staring at the bottle for a few and then running outside onto the upstairs balcony, shutting the door and crying. If I can be frank, I thought about taking one. I sat on the wooden floor praying to God to let this craving go in one ear and out the other. I knew I fucking couldn’t. It was just really hard since the love of my life was in the next room waiting for me to pick up.
I thought if I used, I’d feel good as hell or I could ignore the pills and go back to cleaning as if I never spotted them. It really was like a civil war and I was struggling. One part of me knew if I did them, I would get caught and maybe kicked out? The other part of me didn’t care. However, I thought about it some more before I did anything rash.
Yeah, I could get high for a few hours and then what?
Nothing. I’d be screwed. I remember asking myself how would this help my recovery? Would this really do me any favors? Was it worth it? The last question spoke to me. The obvious answer was, in fact, it wasn’t. It would set me back tenfold and I’d be just as sick as my secret. I must have sat out there for like 20 minutes because I needed a second or two.
Heck, I needed to get the hell out of there but that didn’t seem like an option at the time. And so, I continue to pray. I really was giving myself over to the process since you would never have found me praying previously.
Well, guess what happened next?
The better part of me actually won. I recall feeling rather empowered that I decided to say no. It really did take everything from me though. I remember wiping my tears, dusting myself off quite literally and going back inside. I prayed to God to let me get through the rest of the day without using.
And I knew God was on my side. I felt it. I felt something larger than myself there. It’s hard to put into words but I knew what I was supposed to do (or in this case, not do). I mean, if I was left to my own devices, chances are, I would have taken two and possibly a few more to bring back whenever I got bored.
But if I learned one thing at the mission thus far, it was that whatever is done in darkness will always be brought into the light, eventually.
I finally go back into that bedroom and continue where I left off. I pretend that none of this happened. I dust off her nightstand and put the items back on top. Thankfully, this was the last room I needed to do. So if I could just make it downstairs, she’d take me home and this whole day would be over.
And so, I do just that. I walk downstairs —luckily with my composer intact. I debated on talking about it with her but I was too scared. I mean how would I even begin? She clearly knew this was a drug rehab for people with substance abuse problems such as prescription medication. But, I let it go. Happily, she was ready to drive me back. And clearly, I was too.
There were a few times in the car ride that I wanted to say something but I kept quiet —until I returned. I did know that I had to tell senior staff.
We pull up and she walks inside with me. I had a fake smile spread across my entire face as if we just had the best day ever. The rest of the house was in the devotional room watching a movie since it was raining. She talks to the head guy in charge, Rick, and tells him how much of a doll I was. She handed him a check and said thank you for letting me come over and that I was welcome back anytime.
That’s a Hard No
We stand there for a minute or two and then she walks out. I immediately shut the door and sit back down. I didn’t know where to start so I simply tell the office that I had the worst day and I never want to go back to that house again.
“What happened Macey? Everything seemed to go great. Excellent even. Are you OK?” Rick asks.
“It was and I am, but something happened when I was cleaning the master bedroom,” I reply. They tell me to say whatever was on my mind. And so, I explain how I was dusting and in order to actually clean the dresser countertops, I had to take the picture frames and such off to wipe everything down.
They were intently listening. So far, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, which was when I blurted out that when I made it to her nightstand, I found an entire bottle of Oxy. “I swear to you that I did not use. I didn’t even touch or open the bottle. I saw it and I left the room. I went outside and to be honest, it was tempting. I sat on the balcony floor and silently cried. Secretly, I wanted to use.”
“Except, I prayed to God and he helped me get through it. I said no.”
There were three senior staff guys with me in the office, Shane, Ed, and Warren beside Rick. I really liked all of them. They ranged in age from about 28 to 35. I remember Rick saying something like, “Wow. Firstly, thank you for telling us. Secondly, you never have to work with that family again. In fact, no one here will. We’re so sorry. That should not have happened.”
I remember thinking I’d be in trouble. So I literally ask, “Am I in trouble?” Rick says, “No. Not in the least. Your honesty has rewarded you and I can tell that you’re sincere about everything.” He proceeds to tell me not to say anything to the other residents and if he had any other questions for documentation purposes, they’d call me in.
“But do not worry for one second, Macey. We believe you and you are not in trouble,” Rick finishes.
I thanked all of them and walk out. I honestly didn’t say a single word to anyone. I go into the devotional room where the others were. The ladies asked how my day went and I tell them everything but the pill situation.
Except, apparently word had already gotten around somehow that I found a bottle of Oxy. Evidently, no one believed me? Or, at least that’s what I heard. After I left, they had to have a staff meeting about it. What if this had happened in the past but no one told them about it? So they wanted to discuss the ins and outs of everything work-related.
Libby, a female staff member was brought into the office to discuss this matter with the other male counselors —apparently, she had it out for me from day one.
I’m Not Really Sure Why
The others said she was jealous. Whatever. I didn’t care. Except, I heard that she told the office guys to drug test me. Now I cared. When Katie was getting a drink (the drink station was next to the office where they were having that meeting), she heard bits and pieces of their conversation because that’s when she came running over saying that she heard the words drug test Macey come out of Libby’s mouth. We were pissed.
I think one of the guys heard Katie tell me all of this and before I knew it, it spread like wildfire. I remember walking back where everyone was and feeling an overwhelming sense of judgment. Everyone was whispering or that’s how it seemed. I knew the truth so I tried to not let it bother me. But it did. I’m a dweller, guys. Except, my feelings of being judged were, in fact, valid.
Hours went by. The movie is now over and it’s free time. I go upstairs to lay down when Libby comes over to my bed, asking if we can talk.
I sit down on hers as per her request and was shocked with what she said, “Rick (the guy in charge of everything) may have believed you, but something is telling me there’s more to the story than you are letting on. Everything in darkness will eventually come to light so it’s best to just come clean now since we can drug test you and find out the truth.”
I was silent. I completely ignored her. In fact, I stood up and ran straight into the office. I didn’t even knock. I barge in and say something like, if you didn’t believe me, why didn’t you say so? Why don’t you just drug test me? I told you guys that although the bad part of me wanted to pop one, I didn’t!!
“Macey, if we were going to drug test you, we would have when you told us initially. If we didn’t believe you, we would not be having this conversation,” Rick exclaims. “I got your back, Jersey.”
He’s actually from a town right next to where I grew up —hence my nickname, Jersey. He knew my type and so, we hit it off from the start. He was always really nice to me. So that in itself was comforting. I say thank you and that I’m sorry for freaking out but I just had the worst conversation ever. He asks what happened. I tell him that Libby basically told me I’m a liar and I need to come clean about getting high or you would drug test me.
He literally tells me to not to listen to a word she said or says in the future. “Ignore her. I’m the one in charge. You know what though, would you go tell her that I need to talk. She can’t speak to you like that. OK now I’m pissed,” he says laughing but serious.
I felt better.
Rick had my back and he was about to prove it. I run out of the office to my room and get Libby as per his request. I say in a kind of bitchy tone (I couldn’t help it), “Um, Rick wants to talk to you so he’s requesting you in the office right now.”
In short, she got written up for gossiping. And eventually, they kicked her out of this location and sent her to another mission across the country. It wasn’t just this situation. I believe that instance was one of many straws that broke the camel’s back. They had enough and she was someone else’s problem now.
And so, the days were going by and with each hour that passed, I was feeling more and more hopeful.
I was doing great in the program too. The teacher’s loved me (I think) and I was actually not faking it. Believe it or not, I was making it. I enjoyed learning and even had a good time in class. I can now quote basically any bible verse because of our five and a half hour lessons, which were also therapy sessions in disguise.
And that’s what this place was to me —a blessing. Yeah, I sometimes had a negative attitude and the past few days were anything but normal except, I proved something to those around me and most importantly to myself —that I can, in fact, do this.
And so, it was in those classes, I learned where there is shadow, there has to be light. Keep going. Because all stars are born in the dark just as all darkness dies in the light. Keep swinging. Where there is life, there is hope. So eventually, the days and weeks turn into eight whole months and all of a sudden, I was free.
And now? Well, I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery any day.
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.