Chapter 3. “Your Life is Going to Change” (1991)

The weather was nice and spring was in the air.  April in New York can be a beautiful experience.  People are outside again especially during the day, which is now getting longer since the clocks were turned ahead.

I just made a new contact who took me to her sister’s place to smoke.  When I met her sister, it was she who I would have preferred to be with.  She was quite attractive and I thought would have provided a bit more fun.  She gave me a hint so I took her up on it.  I told her once her sister and I finished, I’d go out to purchase more and would return to smoke with her.  And I did.

I had to report to work and it was my every intention to be there.  I arrived at her place about 8:30 or so and thought to do several “caps” (another name for vial) with her.  When I got there, she was dressed—well, let’s say, not really, and I was ready!  I knew nothing of real sex would take place, but if there were to be the removal of clothing, then it would be fine for me as obviously it was for her.

I gave her two caps to start and I was busy getting my pipe set up.  I took my hit and was enjoying the experience when she took hers and began to walk around the apartment.  Some people are like that.  They need to move around.  However, her movement took me by surprise.  She lived on a second floor storefront apartment, but when she flew over the couch and landed between the couch and wall, on the floor, in what appeared to be some sort of struggle for breath, I became afraid!  I couldn’t see her but could hear movement on the floor.  I immediately ran to the bathroom and locked the door and listening for voices.  I just knew the police had tackled her and I was next.  I think my fear was in being hurt while being taken into custody.

Moments later while still holding the door closed by bracing myself against it, came the soft voice of the woman,

“Hey, where are you?”

“In here.  Are you alright?”

“Yeah, come on out.”

“No, the police are out there!”

“Nobody’s here but you, me and the babies.”

“Babies!?” I was shocked.

“Come on out.”

When I was brave enough to open the door and poke my head out, she was sitting on a chair, preparing her stem for another hit.  I walked out and asked her what happened.  She told me when she takes a good hit, sometimes it did that to her.  Now, I was scared!  What she described to me sounded like a brain seizure.  What if she died?  What if she died, with two small children in the apartment, with my prints here, having later found out I gave her drugs?  No way!  I could, in my head, see a long jail sentence and wanted no part of it.  I gave her the remaining caps and left her apartment.  When I got into my car I checked my watch and knew there would be no way I could make it to work on time.  My career was finished!  I had to do something drastic in order to save my job.  Then I had the perfect plan.  I needed to get checked into a hospital.  I drove thirty miles to Kingston Hospital in Kingston, New York, not knowing they even had a drug treatment program.  I didn’t want to be in such close proximity to the job where they could stop by and visit on a whim.  I wanted to be far enough away so they would think I was even further out when I must have had an accident on the way home or to work.  They had a bed open and I had great medical insurance, so it sounded like the perfect marriage, and I was admitted, to what is known as the “Pajama Crew.”

For ten days, you wore nothing but pajamas and a robe.  During this time, you were gently nursed back to your former self with excellent food, from a menu, and if you didn’t see something you wanted, request it.  I wanted lamb one evening and lamb arrived!  During the day, between the generous assortment of snacks, were meetings by Alcohol Anonymous (A.A.) and Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.).  This would be my first exposure to such.  As I listened to my first meeting, I could tell something was wrong.  What do you mean I have a disease that cannot be cured?  What do you mean I was an addict prior to even having taken my first hit?  Something did not work well in the scheme of things.  I had a problem and I expected resolution of the problem and I needed it now!  Don’t tell me otherwise.  I and this other young lady seemed to be on the same course, for our thoughts were similar.  We wanted help.  Knew help was available, but did not want to consider, not even remotely we’d have to continue in this way, even having reminders of the pain—by meetings.  What about God?  You claim to involve Him but you’re not using His power to “heal”.  No!  You all are misguided and I cannot accept this A.A./N.A./C.A. concept.  There has to be a better way.  For the complete ten days, although enjoying the food, I hated the meetings—still in pajamas, lounging with a bunch of losers.

My employer was contacted from the hospital and informed of my admittance, which meant I still had a job.  The hospital tried recommending me to attend a program, another in-patient, residential-type which I would have to stay for an additional thirty days.  I couldn’t imagine myself being “locked up” for thirty days, hearing this kind of nonsense no matter how good the food might have been.  Just the fact I had an opportunity to go back to work was all the therapy I needed.  So, I wished all who remained—well, and I headed out to resume the life I once knew and now cherished.  There were to be no more drugs for me.  This was as close to living to the edge I ever wanted to be.

When I went to work, I had to stop by medical to get their approval before resuming my duties.  I did not know I didn’t have to actually reveal my medical problem.  They could have just been satisfied in knowing I was admitted for a personal problem, but I felt the need to let everyone know I was over whatever problems I had, and was ready to get back to business.  Medical informed me, once they knew, I would undergo random drug testing, and whatever management decided, if—if I should ever use again, what my future employment would be.

My management’s decision was if Medical should ever detect dirty urine, my job would be terminated—no questions asked.  They considered whatever treatment provided for by Kingston as sufficient and there would be no second chance.  I didn’t need one.  I had determination and a purpose.  There was no way I was going to be let go, from a job I spent more than 17 years, since I was 16 actually.  Basically, it was the only job I knew, ever worked, and besides, my skills were necessary to the smooth running of the business!  Last year I grossed over $60K and this year promised even better.  There was no way I was going to “lose my job.”

Nineteen days later, feeling strong and confident after arriving home, I received a phone call from Emma, a beautiful Puerto Rican woman who I met some time ago.  I shared a wonderful relationship because I could trust her and she shared my interest of nudity when smoke was involved.  She often mentioned wanting me sexually, but I just couldn’t bring myself to having sex with her, or with anyone, if the truth be known.  I was too afraid of diseases.  She invited me to stop over and I figured I could sleep any time later during the day.

When I arrived, she opened the door revealing herself dressed only in a t-shirt, and holding a well prepared stem.  She told me always in the past, I provided a place and smoke for her and now since she was able to return the same she thought enough of me to call and handed me the stem.

I considered the nineteen days of clean time and knew within myself I did not have to do it.  I could just hand it back to her, explained my situation and she would have understood; but, here she stood, looking provocative, with the promise of sexual enjoyment and my job time many hours away.  They wouldn’t call me tonight.  They hadn’t called since my return and I will only do it today, no more.  I took the pipe and the lighter and proceeded to inhale what I had come to know as one of the most enjoyable feelings in life.  As the smoke circulated in my bloodstream, and the high coming into fruition, I had the sobering message delivered into my thoughts, “Your life is going to change today”.  And it did.

The same night, I get a call from my manager, to report to Medical at 7:30!  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  This morning!!!  No way.  Bad timing.  I have other obligations.  Can’t it wait until tomorrow?  One of the conditions of employment was I had to take the test, at their request, at the time they specified.  To do otherwise would be tantamount to immediate dismissal.

In the morning I drove to Medical, somberly approached the desk and when informed I was to provide a urine test, I told the front desk nurse I had already just gone to the bathroom.  Had I known in advance I wouldn’t have.  She handed me a cup, showed me where the water fountain was and lobby where I would have to stay until a sample could be provided.  No locks on the door, yet I felt I was in prison!  It was not until her lunchtime, near eleven-thirty, four hours after my arrival when I could give urine.  I held it as long as I could, hoping they would tire of me, releasing me to go home, after all, I was up all night and would have to report back within twelve hours.  I had to GO!  And I did, to the bathroom.

I handed the doctor the cup, feeling somewhat confident, or so I tried to convey to him,  not really understanding biochemistry and our bodies.  I hadn’t had any experience in this, nor had I ran into anyone who did who could have warned me to carry clean urine with me.  I would have if I had only known, but I was confident or pretended to be.  I was told to have a seat.  The test would be immediate.  It was.  My urine returned dirty.  I tried to explain someone smoked in my presence while I was in a car, but I was given a lesson in particulates.  He informed me he would contact my supervisor immediately and they would tell me whatever decision they would make.  His part was finished and ushered me out of his office.

I didn’t wait till I got home to call my job.  As soon as I got to the lobby, I called my boss’s office and he was still there.  I told him what happened and he advised me to go home and he would call later in the day.  He did.

Ralph, who I had known for only a short time, relatively new in the job, did call later that evening.  Perhaps if I had had a manager who was more experienced like I had years ago when I was arrested, who stood up against Personnel, who fought for my continued employment despite the embarrassing discovery then in my life, perhaps things would have been different, but as such, they weren’t.  He told me to come in a hour later and directly to his office.

I couldn’t rest very well that day nor did I do any drugs, for fear I would hear the inevitable.  When I arrived that night, the hallways seemed unusually quiet, no one walking around.  Most of the employees would be either in the enclosed manufacturing floor or the downstairs computer room, where I should have been.

Ralph was already seated and stood when I appeared in the doorway.  He looked quite somber and went to close the door behind me.  Still standing as he looked down at his desk seemingly unable to look me in the eye, almost as if he was going to cry, said the words which still ring in my ears today,

“Roy, as of midnight, today, May 23rd, you are no longer an employee of the IBM Corporation.  I’m sorry.”  I was stunned! I worked up the words,

“It’s okay, Ralph.  I understand.”  Looking as if he were about to burst in tears, “Hey, Ralph, really, it’s okay.  I’m not taking it personally against you.”

“It’s just, just, I’ve never had to do this before.”

“Well, don’t worry.  I prepared myself for this.  It’ll be alright.”  I really hadn’t.  Those words were to comfort him more than me.

It was with great emotion I detached my coveted employee-pictured identification badge which I had since I began with the company, along with handing over my keys did I realize the full import what was happening.  I no longer had a job—the only job I’d ever known.  Oh, sure.  I had had side jobs in security, doing taxes and for a brief period selling securities and mutual funds, but I never took those jobs seriously.  They were just to have something else to do and provided a few extra dollars.  This was my bread and butter, my mainstay, and in reality, my identity.  This was who I was.  There was no way I could have identified—personally, with what was really happening to me.  It was as if I was a third party observing the interaction between myself and Ralph.  Many persons having gone through the same scenario are usually escorted by Security off the premises, but Ralph allowed me to exit, alone, with my dignity and I will always be grateful for that.

About twelve-thirty, after signing some paperwork and Ralph handing me some documents and giving me an appointment to meet with Human Resources, I opened the door leading out to the parking lot, bright moon, actually a comfortable night, many cars, no people.  I stood for a moment and I heard the door close behind me, realizing I no longer had the authority of entering again except to have my exit interview with Personnel the following Monday afternoon, I began walking to my car and as I placed the key into the lock, I turned again and looked at the place, for the most part, where I had given the best years of my young adult experience, the place which had given me my purpose for getting up daily, of providing me with those tangible things I liked and had up until now taken for granted they would always be there, was over.

Psychologically, I wanted to leave IBM and started preparing to do so, by changing my shift years ago to increase my earnings for the pension computation, but this part was not to take place for another thirteen years!  At 34 years of age, I could move on, but doing what?  All I have ever known to do was related to IBM.

I was free now to pursue life and whatever challenges it brought.  For years I talked with older employees, friends, who advised me to leave as soon as possible.  It appeared they, who worked for those thirty years and more, which club I desired to be a member, regretted for having been there so long!  I couldn’t understand and now, I never would.

I put the car into gear and proceeded out of the parking lot.  Before entering onto the main road out of the complex, I looked backward to the building and thought for a moment I saw Ralph standing in the doorway I just exited.  At some point, that night, probably before lunch, he would call a department meeting and announce I was no longer an employee, which would shock my friends and associates. (Note: I learned in 2006 from a former member of my department it happened just this way.  It was announced I was no longer an IBM employee but no reason was given.  People wondered what happened and where did I go.)   I’m sure, or maybe not, perhaps they saw something occurring I couldn’t see.  That’s the way it is with drugs.  Everyone around you knows there is a problem long before you actually realize it yourself.

When I drove to the end of the property, I could turn left, which would take me to the town where all this started for me and do some drugs since I had nowhere to be or I could drive straight and head home and deal with reality.  I headed straight.

The crossroads I faced leaving IBM the last time as an employee

The crossroads I faced leaving IBM the last time as an employee

I was watching television in the family room when Louisa got up to leave for work, noticing me in the room with the television on but no volume, surprised to see me there so early.  Normally she would be gone before I would arrive home.

“Oh, you’re ho—what happened?”  The look on my face must have given her the understanding something was wrong.  I looked at her and said,

“It’s over.”

“The job, huh?”

“Yep.  I did it.”

“It’s okay.  We’ll manage.  I’ll see you when I get back home.”

As I write this, today, January 21, 2003, some twelve years later, I just now realized what she had to live with.  Headed to work knowing her husband had just lost his job!  That must have made for a different and difficult day for her.  But it didn’t appear as such in her expression or demeanor.  Louisa was a Christian, and it was probably due to that relationship with God which permitted her to be calm.  She had lost her job once but I didn’t react negatively because I knew she’d get another one quickly, and she did, and I was carrying the bulk of the expenses anyway, but this situation was different, at least to me.

Monday at the Personnel office, I signed documents indicating I would not share any IBM classified secrets, as if I knew any, and other documents indicating other matters I’m not sure what today, received a severance check for $14,000 and additional monies from my company sponsored tax-reduction program.  On the way home, I stopped at a different bank I hadn’t used before and opened two accounts.  One a savings account I put half the money and a checking account with the balance.  I don’t know why I just didn’t put it all in my regular accounts at either the bank or the IBM Credit Union.  I was still a member and would always be as long as I kept my accounts in good standing.

I could have gone the entire year without work and still maintained my bills, along with Louisa’s salary, we’d be just fine and I knew I would eventually find work; but, I had something else brewing in my mind.  It had taken two years since my introduction to Crack for it to have come to this, a change in my life.  Somehow I recognized my life would never be the same again unless I faced the issue straight on.  So, after opening those new accounts, I drove back to the same hotel, got the same room and made this determination, either I would beat this drug addiction or it would kill me.

I patrolled the streets of Newburgh looking for a woman who would know where the best stuff could be found.  Most of my smoking was done in Poughkeepsie and Beacon, although it was in Newburgh where it began, I was unfamiliar with the drug-scene here.  If I came to this side of the river, it was to make use of the plenteous motels along Route 9W.  So, Newburgh was basically foreign territory for me so I needed to make friends and it didn’t take too long.

I saw two young women sitting on the steps of a rundown building in a location which could be best described as having been bombed!  The cuter one, who appeared to be Hispanic, approached the car.  We made introductions and they both joined me as my guest.  Carmen from Columbia and Iqueen.  Iqueen, typical Crack-head African American, one front tooth missing with a lot of hair, long but uncombed, thin and with eyes I did not trust.  Compared to Carmen, thin, about 5’6”, short curly hair, brown-skinned like a white person well-tanned, with all of her teeth, or so I thought until she eventually showed me a bridge where some guy had knocked out several, but at least she still had “all” “her” teeth, who’s knees bumped together when she walked with no breasts at all!  Just the way I had learned to like them when I selected a woman for drugs.

We quickly located our supply and I purchased $200 and went to the motel to smoke.  Later that night, I sent Iqueen out with $30 to bring back some more.  She never returned.  Carmen and I waited until the morning and I withdrew $300 from an ATM, saw Iqueen who started to run when I stopped in the street.  Carmen quickly caught her explaining she was stupid for leaving with $30 when I had another $300 to spend.  I explained to Iqueen I was a nice guy who doesn’t hurt or cheat anyone, who wants people to feel comfortable and I share, but because of her treatment of me, she would be left out of any additional parties.  So, Carmen and I got back into the car, made a buy and proceeded back to my room.

Carmen and I would spend the next nine weeks, off and on living together, going to various drug spots and fast becoming friends. She and I would eventually share each other’s tale of woe and how we ended up being on the street.  I think she respected me and I did her.  Other girls would become jealous of her because she had found someone who apparently had money and didn’t mind spending it, but I was genuinely taken with her and trusted her.  She would be the most knowledgeable and experienced with smoking Crack and she helped me to understand the fundamentals.  It’s true, smoking Crack causes paranoia but Carmen helped me to overcome it.  She explained the police would only come into a hotel room if they suspected drugs were being used.  So, if police break down your door, there was no hiding what was going on. There would be no need to fear them sneaking around because if they did not want to be seen before a raid you would not see them, so stop being afraid of what you can’t see or hear.  When they come in, you’ll know it!

How she made me understand after I hit my stem, while she did not, she could see and hear normally while I could not.  When I was in a state of panic, I wanted to sneak a peek through the drapes supposedly well covered earlier because I made them that way.  She told me to go check by peeking and I would see a cop standing to the left.  And sure enough, there he was!  I motioned for her to be quiet and turn off the light.  Then she’d say, “Open the door.  He wants to come inside.”  Well, figuring I was caught and didn’t want to pose being an arrest problem and get hurt, I opened the door expecting him to be there with gun drawn but he wasn’t there!  I stepped out and looked both ways—nothing.  Feeling confident, I come back and lit up again and would be taken through the same sequence until I learned there was no reason to fear being arrested.  I asked her why she felt it necessary to show me this and she laughed telling me I was ruining her high when I was nervous, pacing back and forth and sneaking peeks at the window.

Carmen shared another secret.  The true method of using Crack.  She explained to me I should learn to enjoy my smoke.  No need to smoke so quickly and so hard, but to learn how to experience a nice high.  After inhaling the smoke and listening to her, I closed my eyes and slowly exhale allowing the rush to come gradually and not rushed.  When this was done, she told me to lie down on the bed.  I complied and with a series of instructions, I was soon visualizing us on a beach, playing in the water.  It was real.  I could see her and experience the water, waves, wind and sand.  This was weird because I have a great fear of water and yet I was not afraid now.  She asked if it would be okay to undress, I agreed, and I could hear my zipper being lowered.  Continuing to listen to her I experiencing the most intense climax I ever felt! I opened my eyes to go to the bathroom to clean myself when I noticed she was still dressed and so was I!  But something had to have occurred.  I just knew it and I felt below and there was no wetness!  She smiled knowing I had truly experienced first-hand what she had come to realize, “Sex is in the mind”, and with Crack, you can have it as often as you wanted.

Perhaps one of the more interesting persons Carmen would introduce me to was Pops.  Pops was an elderly gentleman in his 70’s, had an apartment where drug addicts, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes could come to transact business, smoke, rest and freshen up, although the toilet didn’t work!  When you had that kind of business to transact you’d go through a narrow entry in the back of his apartment where the water heater was located into an open courtyard, surrounded by walls and used the small backyard, covered with large leaves, officially the toilet paper, or an occasionally clean old newspaper!  Pops would take a hit provided for by the “guest” who needed to smoke but had nowhere to do it safely.  I came to care for that old man and I would not give him any Crack but money so he could choose to do whatever he wanted, which would be to purchase Crack.  During the time I knew him, I often dropped off food and other things he needed.  He would sit on his windowsill, all day, taking offered hits, carry on a conversation, more so with himself, because I couldn’t understand a word he would say when he smoked.  Later, when my money ran out and I couldn’t afford to stay at the various hotels, Pops would have me as his guest, kindly repaying me for the times I provided for him.  However, every now and then, one of the girls he allowed to sleep over would offer him favors, which meant I’d have to sleep outside.  It didn’t rain much the summer of 1991, being the hottest on record at that time.

I would leave the hotel room and move to other more remote places where I could hide my car from being seen.  I knew by now I would be considered a “missing person” and would no doubt be sought after.  I never went to the same ATM within a few days of last usage, and not keeping to any particular schedule just in case I was being tracked by the authorities.  Eventually the money ran out and I resorted writing checks to various grocery stores I previously wrote checks in my sober days, using them to purchase foodstuffs but the main purpose to get an additional $25 to $50 more than the actual cost to have cash.  I would make three rounds a day, five stores each round, which gave me upwards of at least a hundred dollars or so for room expenses, gas and drugs.  Shop Rite eventually developed a program which prevented someone from cashing a check at their Wappingers branch and their Vails Gate branch on the same day.  I’d like to think I had something to do with that.  When a code appeared on the register, I learned enough how to tell the cashier what combination of keys to punch to clear the program to provide access to accept my check.  Eventually that stopped working.  I chose other stores, purchasing cigarettes by the carton then selling to smaller stores at one-half the cost.  I’d take meat orders and other store requests, make those purchases by check, and sell the meat or other items like glassware or clothing for drugs or money to get drugs, until I had an accident which put my car out of commission.  Someone saw the car parked outside in a garage parking lot and reported it to my father who had it towed to his backyard.  Even then, I had the nerve to show up at his house, after knowing he was out driving having spotted him driving away from the home, getting the U.S. Savings Bonds I remembered stashed in the trunk.  All told, I must have spent in the neighborhood of $26,000 for drugs and hotel rooms within a period of nine weeks and about $10,000 of it as bad checks!  For sure, the police would be after me now and my paranoia would be justified.

In August, when the money was low, too low to pay another day for the room and have drugs, too, I kicked out my guest, Cheryl, who eventually replaced Carmen, although Carmen and I were still friends, but Cheryl needed someone since her boyfriend didn’t want her anymore, so I befriended her.  I remembered the agreement which started this whole journey of either overcoming drugs or they killing me and the decision was made.  They won, I choose to die.  I went to a payphone and called Louisa and told her I was sorry for being away and I was going to take my life.  I remember her frantic voice trying to reason with me as I hung up the phone.  It didn’t matter anymore.  It was time to end this struggle.

I went to a pharmacy and purchased two boxes of over-the-counter sleeping pills.  There was a can of beer at the room, so I figured this would be enough if not to kill me at least put myself in a coma; hopefully, never to awaken like Karen Ann Quinlan I heard about in the news.  Wasn’t it drugs and alcohol, too?

I locked the door and secured it with a screwdriver to prevent anyone opening without using major force.  I drew the drapes and on the second bed, I wrote a note explaining I intended to do this and saying, “good-bye”.  I began swallowing the pills, one at a time, and found it more difficult to swallow after the tenth pill.  I took the remaining ones by crushing them in a glass filled with beer and chugged the remaining contents.  I thought about how sad my life had become, how I could go without sleep, food and water for as long as nine days.  How I had to tear the sleeve off a shirt just to wipe myself after using the toilet, outside, if I could go.  How swollen the inside of my mouth was because of the paranoia and my nerves causing the inside of my cheek to press against my teeth cutting the flesh.  I was in pain, physically, emotionally and I was tired.

When I saw I would not throw up the contents; I went to prepare my bed to lay down, hoping never to get up again under my own strength.  The room starting to spin, this high feeling even better than Crack, although more costly in many ways.  It was August, very hot, the air conditioner off, yet I began to feel cold.  I took the comforter off the other bed and placed it over me, shivering.  My body was loosing its’ ability to warm itself.  I had to use the bathroom!  I could barely see straight, never mind make it to the bathroom.  What difference would it make since my body would release all its waste once I died?  Yet, I was too modest to be found dirty, so I got up.  That was a struggle in itself as I stumbled, nearly crawling into the bathroom, supporting myself to be able to stand and urinate.  It never occurred to me to sit down!  I almost fell asleep while standing there.  Afterwards, I made it back to bed, my eyes barely able to remain open, the room spinning and seemingly growing darker.  I prayed.  I recognized, at that point, no matter what I could say to God, I was committed to the circumstances of my actions.  Yet, I prayed this prayer:

“God, I’m sorry.  I know I cannot reverse what I have done to my body, but if there is any way possible to forgive me and not allow my soul to be lost, then forgive me for what I have done.”

It was at that moment I began to feel as though God forgave me.  Although I had just committed suicide, He had forgiven me for the act and I would be saved.  Dead, but saved.  And wasn’t that the whole meaning of this life anyway?  To be saved?  Now, I could go in peace.  I pulled the covers closer to my head, and finally allowed myself to go in the direction there is no return…

It was the sound of knocking which first got my attention, and then a heavily accented Asian voice.  My first thought was, “Wow, life is just an extension of death!  It just goes on and on, it doesn’t really stop!”  What I heard was the Chinese landlady wanting yesterday and today’s rent!  I realized after speaking to her, through the door, two days passed and she was trying to see if I was okay.  I had completely slept through two days!  And there was no body waste in the bed!  I was alive and so disappointed because my problems were even greater now than had I died.  No money.  No car.  No hotel room.  Nothing!  I told the woman I would get some money and she had confidence because I never lied before, so she waited.  I got dressed, took my stem and left the room and everything behind.  I had no intention of returning.  On the bed were my note and those pictures of me and Ms. Heather Hunter, the porn star I met when I went to the Show World Palace, in New York City, when I learned she was in town, but I didn’t care.

I walked to Newburgh taking an hour and a half, making it to Pops.  He was glad to see me as was the others, Carmen included, who asked what happened to me.  I told them what I tried to do. Some of them said they thought so and it was where I was headed in the long run.  It seems I would not be alone in my attempt, I had understanding friends.  The drugs were still plentiful and time to get some.  I had been gracious before, now I was the recipient of other’s generosity.

I spent another two weeks living at Pops or in the street.  I tried hooking figuring if the girls could do it certainly there would be women who were addicted looking for a guy and probably so if I hadn’t been looking so pitiful those days.  I didn’t spend much time in front of a mirror and hygiene, well, was almost non-existent, but you don’t notice these things because of the company you keep.  I became an animal.  It was suggested one night to break into a member of the group’s place of employment.  I just couldn’t bring myself to that point of breaking and stealing, yet I was involved in the near hurting of someone who we thought had money and was holding out on us.

I have a dislike for heavy women.  Today, they use all these nice descriptions, “thick”, “queen”, “full-figured”.  Honey, you’re fat!  These sisters, one in a wheel-chair having one leg shot off, large and her sister considerably larger provided room and drugs.  I remember turning down the larger sister’s proposal to let her to touch me when she took a hit.  She disgusted me.  Now, I’m looking for her so she can do it as long as I got a hit first!  You know how low you’ve truly fallen when you see what you’re capable of doing for that last hit.  It’s that last hit which could be called an accurate barometer to one’s life.  I was now not a prostitute, but a whore!  Thankfully, I wouldn’t find her when I had such an idea.  But this disgust propelled me to want to change my life.

I went to the main road, Broadway, looking around for some change to make a phone call.  I didn’t know I could use a payphone without money until someone noticing me told me to read the instructions.  Maybe that’s why I often heard the street people telling me I didn’t belong there.  I didn’t, actually.  I always had money or used my phone in the office, or my car phone.

I made a collect call to my mother, and told her I wanted to come home, and she responded, “What home?”  The chill in her voice was clear indication of my not being able to come to “her” home.  It would be the first time I cursed my mother, after I hung up.  I called my father.  Dad was glad to hear from me and made me understand everyone was concerned and people were looking for me.  Even my policeman brother and a cousin were there for a time, stationed at various locations because of the bank withdrawals and after locating my car, yet not finding me. He suggested I meet him at church tomorrow, the Sabbath, since they were attending there, a special day, and he’d bring me home.  I had hope.  Things weren’t so bad after all.  All I had to do was live until tomorrow.

I shared with my friends Carmen and Ray, a former minister caught in the throes of drug addiction.  I was going to get clean and get away from this life.  They wondered, I offered, if they were interested, we could get off the street together.  They agreed.

When I was certain church services were over, I started my trek to the church.  I knew I smelled, hair a mess, mouth disgusting and clothes filthy because even in those weeks when I had access to a bathroom and money from the stores when doing my rounds, I never thought enough to purchase soap or a toothbrush.  I just wanted drugs.  It would be the longest journey I’d make.  Each step an effort as I walked to get help.

I saw parked cars outside the church, the same church where my membership still existed; where I was a local elder, who taught and preached and sang.  My church!  I know today the meaning of the word “refuge”.  If only I stopped here that June day in 1989 instead of proceeding further, oh what a different story my life would have been.

I approached the long, broken driveway, and turned the corner, I could see some of the people I used to fellowship with and when they saw me rushed inside.  My father, came out and saw me, his eyes searching and taking in the son he’d never seen before in this way, told me had he not been told I was his son, would not have recognized me!  Later, when seeing myself in a mirror, I would understand why.  I was always conservatively dressed and well groomed.  Now, I was like a bum, unshaven, sweaty and grimy.  I left home about 185 lbs., now 135 lbs!  He told me to get into the van and food would be brought to me.  As I was eating, various members came out to greet me telling me how much they prayed and missed me, and thankful I was back and how much I needed to pray.  I felt good.

Where I worshipped in my teens, later became an elder and now seeking refuge from addiction where I met my father. Notice the marquee and it's message. It's what I did and it worked.

Where I worshipped in my teens, later became an elder and now seeking refuge from addiction where I met my father. Notice the marquee and it’ message: “Repent and Cry then Pray and Try”. It’s what I did and it worked.

I told my father I had two people who wanted help, and I needed to go back to get them.  He questioned me if it was a ploy to return after having something to eat and I assured him it wasn’t.  I felt, in my heart, an urging how could I leave those two people behind to remain in the filth?  I had an opportunity to leave.  I couldn’t just leave them there.  I have to go back and extend a hand.  We made an agreement if I weren’t back by a certain time, he’d come where I was, and I told him the address, then left to share the news with my friends.

Ann Street Crackhouse (bottom floor)

Ann Street Crackhouse (bottom floor)

Carmen and Ray were glad I came back and reported the good news and expressed their willingness to leave this behind; but, and there’s always a “but”, isn’t there?  Some drugs were about to drop into our hands and arriving soon.  Those drugs did arrive and while using, someone yelled,

“Anyone know anybody with a blue and white van?”

My heart dropped.  I forgot all about my “hope” and agreement.  I approached the van where my father, step-mother Charlene and stepbrothers were seated.

“You know, when we were searching for you, we stopped looking at the house just next door where you came out of!”

“I guess it wasn’t time for me then.”

“Is it time for you now?”  He asked and I looked away,

“No, Dad.  I don’t think so.”  He looked around, then at me,

“More drugs, huh?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”  He motioned to his handcuffs which he kept on the gear-shift.

“You know, I could take you in.”

“I wouldn’t do that.  Look around.”  When he did there were people looking and observing and who would get involved at my only saying the word.  He reached inside a cup on the center console and retrieved two quarters, and handed them to me.

“These are for you to call me when you’re ready to come home.  Don’t use them for anything else except to say come get you.  Okay?”

“Okay, Dad.”

And, with that, he pulled slowly away.  My sadness was then quickly erased when I took my next hit on the stem.

Early the following morning, while everyone was sleeping in just about in any way we could, all of us on the floor, I sat up.  I remember the sun shining considerably brighter than I had ever seen it before, and the thought occurred to me to look around, and I did, and I was filled with disgust.  Here, I had slept on the floor and awakened to another day of pain, lying, stealing and tears.  Yes.  I cried when I was out there.  Anyone who tell you they didn’t or don’t are lying or made out of something not human.  I realized, then, I could have awakened in a bed, could be having breakfast, and be with people who wouldn’t be the first to cut my throat if I had money and held out on them.

I picked myself off the floor, tightened my belt in the last hole I made to make it fit, the end of the belt now reaching to my back and brushed myself off, looking at Carmen and Ray sleeping amongst the other bodies on the floor, commenting to myself, “Not anymore, my friends.  I’m going home.”  I opened the door quietly and proceeded to the phone.  When I called my father, I was questioned if I was serious, and if so, begin walking on 9W toward the Newburgh/Beacon Bridge and he’d see me.

I put down that phone and I started walking.  There would be distractions now.  Like the Bible says, “Jesus set His face like flint.”  Now I know what that meant.  I didn’t look to the right or left.  Nothing was going to prevent me from getting—home—this time!  Walking toward that bridge was up hill but it didn’t matter, cause I was coming home.  I was determined even if I didn’t see him, I was going to walk all the way to his house and I would have until I saw the familiar blue and white van I should have been in yesterday.  He pulled over when he saw me and asked,

“Are you ready to go home?”  I looked at him, thankfully and said,

“I’m ready.  Let’s go home.”

My father's home at the time.

My father’s home at the time.

I would spend the next two months at my father’s putting back on the weight lost and returning to some semblance of respectability.  During this time I visited an attorney who advised me, in case I was being sought by the authorities, as I was according to my father, the search continued because he hadn’t informed them I had been found, so he had me lying low avoiding too many public appearances, and should I be apprehended it would look favorably for me regarding the bounced checks because I was sick.  I knew Orange County was famous for finding and publishing the names of such persons in the local paper’s police blotters.  However, the attorney advised me to seek help in the form of rehabilitation, preferably out of state.

I was reminded by family I had relatives on my mother’s side, former addicts themselves, who had a ministry to assist persons like myself, so one night I placed a call to California in hopes of getting help.  Unfortunately for me they required a monthly fee which was too much and I no longer had medical insurance.  What kind of help could an addict have especially if money was associated?  Most of us are known to go through money like water and thinking to establish a fund when we grew tired of addiction was ludicrous.  My other impression of the gist of the conversation with my “cousin” was I was not ready for recovery based on what he detected in my voice.  That also irked me because I felt I was ready and being denied an opportunity—by family, no less.  I thought heaven and earth should be moving to provide a place for me to get help, and the further from New York, the better.

We heard several weeks later another check of mine had been passed to an establishment in Westchester County, about thirty miles from where we were. Someone found my stash of checkbooks, Pops still had, and thought to continue my method, which was good for me because I could establish my whereabouts on the particular day and could be proven it wasn’t me in this instance and hopefully in all previous ones, but I had to get out of town.

(Note:  This chapter is dedicated in memory to Emma N. Bruno, who I just learned died Dec. 30, 1996.  She was 34 years old.  To think Emma was 29 when I met her and we got together to do drugs.  I remember her boyfriend, Dennis, asked me one night find her because of his concern and I did, in my moment of sobriety, I did find her but she wouldn’t come in off the street.  It breaks my heart in 2013 I would read about her.  I pray she made it in before it was too late.  My sympathies to the family of Ms. Bruno.)

Chapter 4

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