I was more stuck than ever but I couldn’t let anyone else know how bad off I really was. So I’d put on a mask (figuratively speaking, of course) and pretend I was enjoying the bed I made.
Except that was all a fabrication. I wasn’t happy, sane or functional. I was addicted, defensive, and in full savage mode.
Things were different. No matter how bad it got in college, I always had Brad. We kept each other in check, but this time, I was all alone —with no one to look out for me but me. And you definitely didn’t want this junkie on your side.
I mean, I was the girl who robbed you and helped you look for it. I was the girl sick in bed if I didn’t have at least something to snort. I was the girl who used to have it all together. Except now, I had nothing but pill residue everywhere.
I will say though, I at least had a pretty good system. So how did I afford to keep everything up?
Three words: pawn shop madness.
My routine didn’t happen overnight. Over time, I met more and more people who eventually led me to these shops. There were three in Boca Raton, Florida (where I was currently living, if you could call it that). I did my best to switch off between them. I didn’t want to make things obvious —like why is this girl back again? I didn’t want anyone getting suspicious that I was pawning stolen shit for drugs.
Normally, I could expect to walk out with at least $100. On a good day, close to $400. I will say though —things didn’t always go as planned.
There were times where I swore I had something good but the owners disagreed. Sometimes, I’d leave with nothing. Other times, I’d make a killing. It all depended on what I could get my hands on that particular day.
It started off slow. I had a shit ton of expensive jewelry and brand name clothes. Remember, I grew up in an affluent suburb of New Jersey so for each birthday and special event, chances were, I’d get a new piece of silver or gold. But since I was doing over 900 milligrams every 24 hours (roughly $620 a day), needless to say, those items went rather quickly.
When they were gone, I started stealing other people’s shit.
When I lived with my sister and her husband, if no one was home, I remember going into her closet to see what I could grab —without anything being noticeably missing. Sometimes, I was able to control myself while others, I took anything of value regardless if it was obvious or not. I was desperate.
This one time, I found actual cash hidden in her closet. She had about $120 where she kept her rings. Now, my pills costed anywhere from $10-$25 —depending on who had what and where. I recall almost being completely out so I had to re-up before the day was over. But, I spent all my money earlier (which happened frequently). I figured if I grabbed a 50, she wouldn’t miss it. Well, I was wrong. She did. The next day, she asks if I took anything from her closet because she was missing $50.
What do you think I did?
I lied. I was taking this shit to the grave and so, I denied, denied, denied. She didn’t have any proof because the money was already gone. I probably should have driven to my main guy in Boyton who sold blues for $10 a pop. I could have grabbed 5 but I really hated that drive. My boy Georgey who lived next door was also good; he sold his for $25. But whatever, two was better than nothing. I end up going with the convenience factor and spend my sister’s money just as fast as I got it.
I know it may be hard to understand how someone could steal something from someone they love but love had nothing to do with it. My feelings for those people didn’ change. I did. I say that because even then, I knew it was wrong but I stole it anyway. The type of withdrawal I was trying to avoid was violent AF. As a result, I did anything to make sure it didn’t happen.
And when it did?
Well, I’d do anything to make it go away. Eventually, I did the things I said I never would. Because when it feels like the world is crashing down around you and the only thing you can do is sit in bed thinking of terrible things because of how terrible you feel, you end up willing to do just about anything to get more money so you can get more pills.
If you’re an addict, I’m sure you can relate. I’m sure many of you cats have some pawn shop stories and I bet some of them are hilarious. However, with every funny tale, there seem to be a lot more situations of regret. I remember telling myself that I’m not going to do this stupid shit anymore.
Except, it’s one thing to say it when your warm and comfy but completely different when your cold sweating with eyes of death.
I remember bringing in random pieces of silver dishware I found in the kitchen. I had one pill left (again) and I needed to get more —to the pawn shop it was. I had previously taken some of my sister’s silverware that profited me more than I anticipated. So I figured, I’d be able to get at least $100 for my roommate’s china.
It was usually the same shit every time.
They first tell you that what you have is worthless. Then they give you a low ball offer. Normally, you’re there because you need the money (anything) so you say yes. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself that you have 60 days to pick it up, but the truth is, you never do.
For me, I lost a lot that I wish I could get back.
It started off at Citi Pawn, which ironically was under investigation for some shady shit I wasn’t aware of when I first walked in but I definitely could have guessed something was up. These guys were Russian and probably mafia too. Word on the street was that they stole $3 million in toothbrushes, white stripes and other dental products (weird, I know) from Target, Walmart, and CVS across Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami County.
So on September 29, 2011, local deputies raided Citi Pawn in the 900 block of North Dixie Highway and arrested its manager where authorities learned that they were selling those items as part of an organized theft ring for the past several years. Luckily, I had nothing to do with it but when this all went down, they obviously went out of business.
Next on the list was Boca Raton Pawn. When I went there, I made sure my shit was legit —I only brought in real gold or silver, which in the beginning was every day until I had nothing left. I say that because they were a high-end pawn shop that normally only accepted high-end shit. And if you came in with anything less than, they made sure you knew it. I didn’t enjoy going in there.
Consequently, when all of my nice items were gone, I was more than happy to find somewhere else.
That was about the time I discovered, Russo Pawn —a family business, straight off the boat from Italy. These people were my favorite. The dad was the shop’s owner, but the younger son, Vinny, ran the place. Eventually, Vinny and I become friends. If I can be honest, it was more like I manipulated him into thinking I was this attractive healthy sad rich girl gone poor who he felt bad for. Nevertheless, Vinny thought I was cute.
Over the course of a few months, I found myself there at least once a day. I think Vinny thought I was coming in for him. At the time, I let him think that. And as a result, he let me get away with a lot of things I otherwise wouldn’t have.
I remember bringing him a pair of Nike hightops —barely worth $20. Guess how much he gave me for them?
$175. Each time I’d go, we’d talk a little more. I told him about my parent’s divorce and how much it affected me. I talked about how depressed I was being down here basically alone and how much I hated working such long hours for such little pay. In short, I played the victim.
But for some reason, he enjoyed my company and our conversations. Sometimes, they’d get pretty deep and we’d actually bond. I mean, I knew how to play it but I also liked Vinny as a person.
There were a few instances where I told him I was beyond broke because my ex-drug addict boyfriend had just stolen all my money. He felt bad enough for me that when I tell him my phone is about to be shut off, he gives me $200 from the backroom safe —assuring me this was a gift and to go pay my bill with it. We sometimes would talk after hours so he knew he wouldn’t be able to get a hold of me if I didn’t have service. I thought that was beyond nice. I was truly grateful.
Little did he know though, my dad paid for that so I used his $200 to buy myself more pills.
20 to be exact. He did this a few more times and a result, we got even closer. A few more months go by and he’s now bringing me in the back to hang out. He’d show me where everything was and different projects him and his dad were working on. It was a pretty cool business from my perception. The coolest part was the big ass safe in his office.
He opened it a few times in front of me and all I saw was cash on cash. I wanted to take some but I wasn’t that greedy. One part of me was only using him but the other genuinely liked him and couldn’t go that far. So yeah, I fed him half-truths about my life but I kept him company. He too was lonely. I mean, he literally worked 20 hours a day, which worked well for me since I spent most of my days trying to pawn shit for cash.
I never took it too far. Yeah, I made out with him a few times but only because I actually wanted too.
I wasn’t about to use my body in that type of way —even this junkie had her limits. I suppose there were times where I almost wished I had because when you have no money, no gas, and no drugs, chances are, you’d rather drop dead than breathe another second. I know I did.
Those were the worst days. Like I said at the beginning, not every second was a slam dunk —things weren’t as glamorous as I pretended them to be. I remember on those days, begging people to spot me a pill or two. Sometimes, they would, but for the most part, I was on my own.
You know what though?
Eventually, it all caught up with me (and thank GOD). No one can go on living like I was for much longer. But the dust always settles, one way or another. I know though, when you are in the thick of it, it’s so hard to see the light —to see that this is just a season and this too shall pass. I know that is sucks and it hurts so bad. I know that feeling when the consequences of your actions are finally closing in and life as you know it, begins to crumble.
I couldn’t steal anymore. I couldn’t pawn anymore. I was caught. Everything, my world was crashing down. It felt like things were never going to be okay again. I want you to remember that it will. I mean, I was stealing from my own family and robbing myself of the good girl I used to be, but after some time and a lot of hard work on my part, the people in my life forgave me.
Start by forgiving yourself.
Today, I forgive but I don’t forget. I say all of this because I know what it feels like when you’ve hurt everyone who tried to help you; when you can’t even look at yourself in the mirror; when you’ve lost all of your friends; and when your family can no longer recognize the person you’ve become.
I know what it feels like when you’ve pawned everything you own; when you can’t pay rent or utilizes so you become homeless; and when you shoot up for the first time after you said you would never do that. I know it’s hard when your stuck in the middle of this disease, and you can’t see two feet in front of you, when you want to give up —one word; don’t.
Because we can’t erase the past, we can’t pawn away our yesterday but we can do our best to be our best today and tomorrow.
Because it’s when you’re going through the most difficult chapter of life that your hero is revealed and how beautiful it is when you finally realize —you have the strength to save yourself.
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
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