It was Fall 2012 and I was officially free —at least, my version of it anyway.
I had just landed at the Philadelphia airport after spending eight months in Savannah, Georgia.
I wasn’t on vacation though and it was anything but a walk in the park.
Although there happens to be (a) really nice park(s) called Chippewa square (in Savannah) as seen on Forest Gump —like the exact location and bench he sat on. Yeah. I went there a few times. Pretty cool, huh? I thought so.
Anyway, if you remember from a few posts back, I was a resident at this Christian rehab. We called it the Mission a.k.a. Mission Teens. Their program has over 15 active campuses across the country —from New Jersey and Florida, all the way to California. The one my family chose for me happened to be in Georgia. It was hard. Like really hard. Most of the time, it felt like I was going to be there forever. Nope. I was irrevocably free. I couldn’t fucking believe it. Honestly.
Nearly an entire year went by and now, just like any other girl, I was waiting for my mom to come get me. It didn’t feel real. Truth is, I was anything but that. I hadn’t been normal in close to a decade. From “that trap boo life” to multiple institutions, it was rather strange getting off the plane. I could do anything I wanted. I was actually alone. As a resident over there, I barely had three seconds to myself. The entire day, starting at 7 a.m. —all the way until bedtime, 10:30 p.m. sharp, I was told what to do.
All of that was definitely a good thing for me at the time. But it didn’t always feel good.
I recall walking to baggage claim. I recall wearing a pair of comfy cute sweats (somethings never change) and a grey James Perse tank top —something I hadn’t worn because we couldn’t. What you may not realize is that the girls weren’t allowed to dress in a way that would “cause a member of the opposite sex to stumble.” Program talk for nothing tight, revealing or cute for that matter. Instead, it was oversize everything —like XXL t-shirts and sweatpants.
At first, I fought it. Hard. We all did. I’d always get called to the office. I was always asked to change. But two months in and I started to adjust. At that point, I became pretty accustomed to it. I got super into the program and besides a hiccup at the end of my stay (I‘ll get to that later), I pretty much excelled. For reference, I’d compare that place to a military training camp. It sat on a beautiful southern plantation. Add five and a half hours of Bible study and bam. That was my life. Sometimes, it felt more like jail. A prison.
It’s weird to think about. It honestly feels like a lifetime ago. As if it wasn’t me. I went from living in my sister’s East Boca penthouse to couch hopping like a straight up junkie. Except, I wasn’t like anything. I was a straight-up junkie. I ended up homeless —in the literal sense and figuratively speaking. I lost everything including my dignity and sanity. But all of that shit was momentarily behind me. I was officially back —or at least, I was on my way.
I worked hard to get over the awful shit I did. I even stopped lying. Instead, I started making amends. I was reading my Bible, going to church and doing the right thing. I really thought this was it. I thought it would stick. I left that place under the impression, I’d stay on the straight and narrow. I thought I actually wanted too. And maybe I did but this is where you’re about to learn sometimes, that’s not enough. Because you are who you hang out with and I was on my way to hell.
It’s simple, really. I see that now. So here’s what went down.
My best friend from high school, Fiona still lived at home. She was so excited that we were about to be neighbors again. She was excited I was back. I hadn’t lived at home since high school. Because after graduation, I went straight to West Virginia and from there, I moved to Florida. It had been nearly eight fucking years. And now, I was back as if I never left. Like I said, weird. At this point, I’m home for roughly two weeks (I’ll be writing multiple pieces describing the specifics). Those two weeks were pretty low key.
Except, my mom had been actively attending Al-Anon for the past year. Al-Anon is a program of recovery for people who are affected by another person’s drug use —whether that be a friend or family member. Because it really is a family disease. Unfortunately for me at the time, she had gotten pretty into her meetings. So she was ready —clipboard in hand for her new role as house momager. No more were the days of her enabling me and me walking all over her.
She now knew the signs. She knew what to look out for and she also knew I still needed structure.
It’s because of all that there were rules. Many rules. A lot. I was OK with most of them. It was just really overwhelming. I needed some time to adjust. Luckily, my mom understood. So we were taking it easy. We were enjoying each other’s company since I hadn’t spent quality time with her in years. At the same time, I knew I had to get a job, which meant I had to start looking. Not yet though. I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t even have a cell phone or a car. I was literally starting back at zero. But I had done this before.
Looking back now, I think that’s when things kind of took a turn. Because I wasn’t supposed to have or use any of my social media channels. Except, I definitely did. What’s funny is that everyone thought I was dead. I mean, I had been pretty active on them back in the day but since I didn’t have a phone or, a real life (for that matter) —in almost a decade, I hadn’t posted in a while either. I remember signing on for the first time. I remember reading people’s comments on my wall.
“Where are you?” “Are you alive?” “I miss you, Mace.” “Are you OK?” “Hit me up. It’s been too long.”
My family thought that all the bad people from my “past” life would message me wanting to get high. They didn’t understand that most drug dealers didn’t use social media to sell and most of my social media friends didn’t do drugs. Of course, there are always exceptions. I say that because the very reason they didn’t want me to have one was about to be the very thing I was about to do. In my defense, though, if I wanted pills, I didn’t need to go online.
Because when an addict gets it in their head that they want to get high, he or she will figure out a way to do just that —even if they’re handcuffed to a bed. Because that literally happened to one of my ex’s. His dad chained him to a mattress to help him detox after he got caught red-handed. And somehow, he still managed to get high. I’m not even joking. Listen to this. My ex had the idea to move his bed as close as he could to the window.
Once he got that, he pried open the window and his flip phone that he picked up with his freaking toes.
Then, he used his fucking mouth to call his dealer. Next, he had that dealer climb up the freaking window —kit in hand, to exchange a heroin-filled needle for some cash —cash he so opportunely found underneath the mattress he was cuffed too. Oh, and after that, he gave his dealer a couple extra bills so that his dude would not only hand him the drugs but also inject the heroin-filled needle into an open vein. And just like that, he wasn’t sick anymore.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is a conversation I was about to have with Fiona; who too struggled with addiction. But from what I heard, she was clean. And now, we had plans to chill in the morning. Keep in mind, one of the house rules literally said “no hanging out with anyone I got high with” —particularly Fiona. I understood that. Truth be told, she was the one who introduced me to these pills. She’s the reason I first got high, all of which my mom knew. Now, I’m not blaming it on her. Not in the least. Not even close.
Because she didn’t force me to do anything. It was entirely me.
It’s just, I didn’t know about these things until she put one in my face. And after I snorted my first line, well —there was no going back. I was addicted before I even knew what I was doing. Even after all the therapy. Needlesstosay, when she wanted to catch up, I couldn’t say no. I knew my mom would be gone all day anyway. She was a teacher at a school an hour away (nearly to Delaware). Plus, I had already assured her that I’d be job hunting all day. She believed me. And why wouldn’t she?
I was saying and doing (at least up until that point) all the right things. I updated my resume. I even created a bunch of accounts on Indeed, Career Builder, and Monster —all of which she knew. I promised her I’d have a job within the next few weeks. And that was one promise I intended on keeping. I should add that every interview I’ve ever gone on, I always ended up getting the job, which is actually still true to this day. So I figured it wouldn’t take me nearly as long as I was letting on. For the record, I did find one.
A few weeks later, I was a hostess at this Irish Pub and a nanny for one of my neighbors.
But at that point, I couldn’t imagine working again. I needed more time to transition. So, Fiona calls me that next morning just like she said. And me? Well, I was home alone just as I had planned. While on the phone (house line), she says how happy she is that I’m finally home. She says that she couldn’t wait any longer and tells me to come outside. I check the blinds to ensure the coast was clear. It was. Admittingly, I too was excited. I was so excited that I had already gotten dressed and was ready to go.
We hugged. We hugged for a while. I couldn’t believe how nice it was to see her. I didn’t realize how much I missed her. Then, we both get in her car. Unfortunately, our happy reunion is short-lived when she pulls out a clear baggy from the middle console of her car. What was in it, you ask? Well, here’s a hint. It was the very thing I had been running away from. The very thing I worked so hard to overcome. I thought I’d never see it again. And in this case, that would have been a good thing.
I mean, that thing destroyed me and now, it was staring at me in the face.
Ironic how when you aren’t trying to find drugs, they find you —free of charge.
So if you guessed a bunch of Roxicet 30’s, another name for Oxycodone —my favorite pill, you’d be right. How could I say no? I was pretending to be happy, but frankly, I was miserable. I mean, I was sleeping in the same bed I slept in during my hormonal teenage days. The same bed I told myself I’d never have to sleep in again. I remember promising myself I’d never go home again either. But there I was. I guess I did a lot of things I said I’d never do. And in this case, that was a bad thing. But I didn’t have time to think.
I couldn’t weigh the pros against the cons with my eyes on those damn things. I didn’t have it in me to say no. It’s that simple. I simply couldn’t look away as Fiona picks out two. We had done this plenty of times (in another life). So I knew the process. I watch as she lays an old CD case on top of that same center console. She grabs a lighter out of her bag and breaks the pills down into powder. She takes a rolled up dollar bill and snorts. After that, being the good friend she was, she crushes mine too.
Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Oh. I should also add that I was (and always will be) a freakout. I hated using in cars because I’d get paranoid that someone would see (like the cops). Luckily, I was pretty sneaky. I actually never got caught —at least by law enforcement. So we’re still in the parking lot of my apartment complex, when she hands me that dollar bill. I was about to snort 60 milligrams in one line. Damn. I hadn’t gotten high in over eight months. I was pretty fucking excited, if I can be honest. And it went straight to my head just as I liked.
“I’m back, bitches” —seems rather appropriate. After that, I didn’t know what lay ahead. I had intended on getting coffee and catching up. But clearly, she had other plans. And hanging out in that parking lot chain-smoking cigarettes wasn’t it. She said she needed to get more. She asked if I wanted any. “I have no money but I’m always down for a good time.” Keep in mind —my tolerance wasn’t what it used to be. But I knew I could handle at least one or two more. Plus, it was early still. So we had time to kill.
That’s when she texts this kid, Ron —who sadly is now dead. He overdosed a few months ago.
Fiona and Ron pick a meeting spot. I light up a cigarette as she finalizes the plan over the phone.
Once she’s off, I suggest we get out of there. The paranoia was ruining my buzz. And just when my buzz started really flowing, I hear my mom’s phone ring. Ugh. She was calling from her work line. For anyone confused, she had been giving me her cell phone so that we’d be able to get in touch during the day. Because she knew I never answered the house line. I find out that she was on her lunch break and wanted to remind me about a bible study class I had later that night.
You see, another house rule was attending church. But I couldn’t just go on Sundays and call it a day. I had to get involved. So I agreed to join this adult group that seemed decent enough. We met every Monday at the overseer’s house across town and thus far, I had gone twice. In a way, I liked it because it reminded me of the mission. Because even though that place was ridiculously strict and at times fucking awful, it had been my home and my only home for the past year.
So yeah, you’ll hear me complain that it was hell but you’ll also hear me say, “that place saved my fucking life.”
I know that makes no sense. But that’s how I felt. So I inform my mom that I remembered. I tell her this super nice girl I met in class last week actually agreed to carpool since she lived nearby. My mom appreciated that. “Thanks for setting this up, Macey. It takes a lot of pressure off me.” Because those meetings were around dinner time. Because that’s when she got home from work. She was driving nearly an hour during rush hour traffic from Delaware to Cherry Hill.
So on Mondays, she’d have to race home and she hated that. I think she recognized that I was trying to make things easier on her. “My pleasure, Mommy.” And then we hang up. Clearly, it was more of a selfish good deed but a good deed nevertheless. Plus, just as I was acclimating to my new normal, my mom was too. I mean, she had gotten pretty used to being on her own. So it’s no surprise that it too was an adjustment for her.
Except, I think she would have sacrificed rushing if she knew who was actually driving me.
Because that nice girl I was supposed to thank on my mom’s behalf didn’t actually exist. That girl was Fiona. But I figured if she didn’t know, I’d be OK. And I was but not for long. Because my first relapse turned into another and then another and another. And before I knew it, I was addicted again. At this point though, we were on our way to pick up more pills. As you know, I hated parking lot meetups —especially when I wasn’t in control. This was Fiona’s hook up, but it was also her money so I had nothing to lose.
We pull up at this random restaurant in town where Ron and Aiden were having lunch. They finished a few minutes ago so they were waiting for us in the car. We drive around back just like they said as the two of them wave us over. Evidently, Aiden was driving but Ron had the pills. So while Ron and Fiona do the exchange on her side, I sit shotgun and Aiden approaches my window. He was cute. Like really cute. We never met before but I wanted to know him. And apparently, he wanted to know me too.
At least, that’s what he told Ron who told Fiona who then told me.
So he strikes up a conversation —asking why he’s never seen me around before. I tell him I just got home from rehab and that I used to live in Florida. He thought I was charming. Hot and a little bit mysterious. And me? Well, I was flattered. That’s when he asked for my number, which as you know I didn’t have. I hadn’t earned a phone yet. But I was about too. As luck would have it, that next day, my mom was planning on taking me to T-Mobile. She wanted to buy me a phone for all of my hard work.
But I didn’t know that and I had no intention of telling him that. Like I said, I was trying to play it cool. Funny thing is, as the days went on, I played hard to get so well, he actually thought I wasn’t interested (more on that later). But back then, at that point, I simply tell him, “I’d prefer to get your number instead.” So, he takes my hand, grabs a pen and jots down his digits alongside my right arm. “I’ll hit you up tomorrow, if you’re lucky,” I flirtatiously hint. He said he was feeling lucky —extra, in fact.
And somehow, it all worked out even better than I planned because after I got that phone, I was able to text him like I had one the whole fucking time.
Don’t you love when things just work out?
When it was time to go, Aiden made me get out of the car to hug him goodbye. “You better text me,” he blurts out. “I’ll be waiting.” I loved hearing that. I reply with a cute one-liner, get back in the car, thank Ron and we drive away. “Damn mama. You still got it,” Fiona gushes. “I can’t believe that just happened,” I confess. “So unexpected but I’m feeling it.” She assures me, “I can tell he’s feeling you.” We gush a few minutes more and then I ask, “You sure you don’t mind driving me to the west side for that stupid meeting?”
She swears it’s no problem. I read her the address as she puts it in her GPS. About 20 minutes and a few cigarettes later, I hear, you have arrived at your destination. I give her the biggest hug. I thank her for a memorable day. “I’m so glad we did this, girl. I fucking love you.” “Not as much as I love you,” she replies. “Let’s do this again. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe we can get Aiden there too?” Ugh. Simply hearing his name made my stomach swirl in excitement. I had butterflies, to say the least.
But I was so high, I kind of didn’t care.
Plus, I had to pee like really bad; so I take a deep breath and walk in. The house itself was cute. I remember seeing the living room as soon as I opened the front door. I remember large couches and people. A lot of people. Some were sitting on those couches while others posted up on the floor. And then I spot a bunch of food trays laying on these small high-top tables. I recall grabbing a handful of grapes and a few slices of cheese. With all the excitement that day, I forgot to eat. And now that I remembered, I was hungry AF.
Then, we small talk for a bit. I remember the wife of the house asking if I needed anything to drink. My mouth was pretty dry so I say, “Yes, please.” I acknowledge how sorry I was for being late. “I just finished interviewing for a potential job and it ended up running longer than expected. I’m so sorry, guys.” Obviously, you know that wasn’t true. But they didn’t. Nevertheless, the group insisted it was no problem. One of them even said that it was probably a good thing.
“Employers rarely hold applicants —unless they’re serious about giving that person the job.”
I liked the sound of that. Someone else chimes, “I think you’ll return next week with good news.” I thanked them all for their words of encouragement —even though there was no interview. Then I remembered I had to pee. So I politely ask if I can use the restroom. I urge them to start without me. They hesitantly accept. They were almost too nice. Before I burst, that nice lady shows me where to go as I make my way up the stairs (and to the left). I remember sitting down to pee and the next thing I know, 30 minutes go by.
Holy shit. I fell asleep on the damn toilet.
Remember, I was high. Like really high. I hadn’t snorted anything in nearly a year and I was currently on 120 milligrams (equivalent to four 30 milligram pills). When I realize that I’ve been in the bathroom the whole damn time, I immediately wash my hands and return to the main room. Luckily, they were all head-deep in praise and worship; so no one knew I wasn’t there. I was ready with a lie just in case though. “OMG. I stupidly ate ice cream earlier and I’m lactose intolerant —if you can connect the dots.”
But I didn’t have to say any of that. In fact, I didn’t have to say anything. I pop a squat on the floor like I had been there the whole time. I should add that when you do praise and worship, most people close their eyes and get into the music. It’s actually encouraged to shut them. So you know what? That’s exactly what I did. Except, I was only doing it because I couldn’t keep them open. And yet, I end up making it through the rest of the class. Barely. Barely keeping it together. But no one else knew that —at least not yet.
About an hour later, the class was over.
My mom, who had no idea I just relapsed, was waiting for me outside in her car. I was nervous she’d figure it out. But for the record, I pulled it off without a hitch. I remember going into grave detail about how great my day was. I remember telling her about my new Christian friend —you know, the girl who drove me there. I also remember thinking about Aiden. I couldn’t stop, which was weird because normally, I hated most guys. But not him. Obviously, though, I kept that one to myself.
Finally, we arrive home. That’s when my mom tells me she’s buying me that phone (on her way home from work) tomorrow. I thank her right away. I couldn’t believe it. I think she wanted her phone back more than she wanted to get me one, but I didn’t care —as long as I had a way to get in touch with Aiden, I was more than OK. I had a lot of questions. Like was he trying to stay sober? Was he on drugs or in the program? Where was he from? Did he have a good family? Siblings? I couldn’t stop.
There’s a reason they say not to date in early recovery. All of this being one of them.
Especially the fact that Aiden and I met because of drugs. If I wanted to stay clean, deep down, I knew this kid wouldn’t serve me well. But I couldn’t think anymore and not about that. I had enough. I figured a shower might dull all that noise. Because it usually did. Whether I was overwhelmed. Sick. Sad. Even happy. I’d walk in feeling whatever I was feeling but I’d always walk out refreshed. Back at zero and I needed some fucking balance.
Because at this rate, I was going to debate myself to death. I didn’t even know if I’d ever see this kid again. “What is wrong with you, Macey?” On the other hand, admittingly, it felt surprisingly nice having a crush. I know this all sounds super lame but, I hadn’t had feelings like this in so long —like real feelings in the real world as a real person and not a resident in some institution. So yeah, it was kind of new again and a lot to take in, which I think made me obsess about it even more. But like I said, I was playing hard to get.
He didn’t know I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
Which then made me wonder, was he thinking about me too? Did he like me as much as Fiona let on? What did he like about me? Did he think I was pretty? Would he want to date me? Is he looking for someone to date or is he just playing the field? Damnit. There I go again. I needed that shower and fast. But first, I walk into my mom’s room to say goodnight. I tell her I’m going to hop in the shower and then head to bed. She thought I was cute. “Sweet dreams. Emore.” For those confused, emore was a word we made up.
Actually, it was a combination of four —I love you more.
It was something we said to one another every night for as long as I could remember. And while I’m remembering, I remember taking that shower. I remember standing in the bathroom naked for a minute. I remember staring at myself in the mirror. I recall promising that I wouldn’t relapse again —whether Aiden was on drugs or not. I remember thinking that I was pretty lucky because these pills only stay in your system for three to four days.
Because she told me from the beginning, if I started exuding the warning signs she had been reading about all year, she wouldn’t hesitate too. And if I failed, well —I’d be kicked out. So yeah, there was a lot riding on my double life and ability to pull it off. But it wasn’t full blast just yet. I could stop before things really started up again. I thought willpower was enough. I thought I had enough self-control. Spoiler alert. It’s not and I didn’t. Nevertheless, I hop into the shower.
I recall sitting on the wet floor and as the water fell on top of me, I could breathe.
My anxiety was in overdrive but I was feeling a little better —emphasis on a little. I mean, one wrong move and I’d be homeless again. Fucked. I couldn’t go back to Florida. Not yet at least. I didn’t know if those bad people were still looking for me. I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it either. Like people, places, and things —all of that down there was rather triggering. In fact, it took me a while to be able to hang out in South Florida without internally freaking out. Because some awful fucking shit went down.
Like even though it was just a 7/11, it was way more than that for me. That was where I had picked up my drug of choice countless times. That was where I’d use the bathroom to snort my drug of choice. That was also where I’d buy $5 worth of gas because I spent the rest of my money on my damn drug of choice. Plus, no one down there wanted me. My sister had enough of me and my dad couldn’t afford me. At this point though, I dry myself off. It was late —like way past my bedtime. I’m usually a morning shower person.
But for obvious reasons, I had to get the day off of me.
A few minutes after that, I put on my PJs and attempt to fall asleep —emphasis on attempt. It took a while at least an hour but that’s nothing new. It’s like everything I’ve done or said that day would come swirling in on a loop. And I couldn’t make it stop. Still can’t. Like as soon as my head hits the pillow, most people fall fast asleep. But not me. My mom calls this monkey brain and I call it annoying. Eventually, though, I doze off. That next morning though. Ugh. I wake up with a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
It actually made me sick thinking about it. I started sweating and my heart was beating so fast. Too fast. I was rather anxious and with good reason. Luckily, I was home alone since my mom had work all day. She wouldn’t return until dinner and I didn’t have anything on the agenda, well —other than not getting caught. Oh yeah. I was supposed to apply for some more jobs online. I was supposed to finish a chore list my mom left me. But I check my Facebook instead —thinking, I’d get that shit done later.
Maybe he had been thinking about me? I relish in that for a few. And then, I call Fiona back. She said she had so much fun with me yesterday that she got us a few more pills and wanted to go for round two. I tell her that I still don’t have any money and I probably shouldn’t use again. I emphasize that I had a blast though. It’s just, as an addict herself, she rationalized us using; saying something like, “The pills are going to be in your system today regardless if you do them again or not.” And you know what?
Stupid me —well, I actually saw some truth in that statement. But I still wasn’t convinced. “Come on, Mace. Hang out with me,” she pleads. “I’ll even buy you a few extra.” How could I resist that? I couldn’t. How could I say no? I didn’t. Because then, she says that Ron said that Aiden said he wanted to hang out with me. In fact, “He cleared his entire day in hopes you’d say yes.” So what do I do? I tell her to give me 20 and then come get me. “You bitch; you’re lucky I love you.” 20 minutes on the dot, and there she was.
Damn. So what the hell went down after that? Well, unfortunately, I’m going to make you wait until my next blog post goes up. But I promise, it’s juicy and totally worth it. Until then —thanks for following along.
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.