I am one who firmly believes the concept “relapse is a part of recovery”. (Note: As of 2009, I no longer accepted this view based upon God’s healing upon one’s life. When He is involved–totally, there can be no excuse for failure.) There is a danger this might be considered a license to fall back into addiction but this is not what it means. It simply means when having achieved an amount of sobriety there will be a forgetting, a false sense of security, even a longing to remember and experience what is past. When and if this occurs, two things will happen: either a person will desire to remain sober and not want to return to full-blown, active addiction, and the matter will be settled and fully decided to use again is not desired, absolute sobriety. Or, the opposite will occur. The person will return to the life was known and by the grace of God, maybe there will be time for them to make it back, but it will be much more difficult the next time, IF, they live. But now, it is a conscious decision and not based on intervention by family and friends, nor the result of fearing circumstances like loss of employment, housing, cars and even family. It is a conscious decision, which is internalized, making an individual realize the danger of going backwards and acknowledging it’s not worth the fight. This is what happened to me.
I had been thinking of how it would be, again, to get high. What I would feel. I realized the danger of falling into full-blown addiction, never mind the legal implications, and I also noted it was only God which brought me from this devilish experience, who kept me from using and know it would only be Him, again, who would keep me from it. There was nothing in myself which would prevent me from falling into active addiction. I had already gone through all of this—yet, I was willing to take the chance.
It began as a thought and not a compulsion to use. There is a difference—now. I developed the thought until it became a plan. I called a cab and prepared for my trip to the place where my addiction began. Newburgh. I did not carry a wallet and only the keys to my place. I carried spare change for the purpose of having the coins make noise if someone should try and go through my pockets to find whatever money and drugs I might have stashed away. In this same pocket, I carried my bank card which would have about $300 available to me if things were going good—or bad, depending upon one’s perspective. I debated whether or not I would wear my watch remembering the many watches exchanged for drugs during previous experiences. I love this watch reminding me of the day after I left prison in Puerto Rico and having chosen it because of the features I’ve always wanted, so I thought it would be safe since my resolve was much stronger now. I also wore my worse pair of sneakers in case they were stolen. An educated Crack smoker? Yeah, if there is such a thing.
The cab ride was short, the driver talking too much, and as I got closer, I got more anxious not wanting conversation but to think about what I was doing and how I would go about doing this. I got out at a gas station directly in front of the hotel where I first used. It was my intention not to go back there because I was fearful they would still have my name written somewhere as a “person of interest” because of the amount of drugs I’d left in the washcloth, on the rim of the bathtub in the summer of 1991, too paranoid to carry them in my pocket. Even now those thoughts haunted me fifteen years later! Not actually knowing where to begin this journey I walked down Broadway, toward the river, on the north side. When I got near Williams Street, I crossed over and walked down Anne Street to the house where Pops lived and where I stayed those many days the summer of 1991. My thoughts were of him wondering if the old man were even still alive and using. I cut over to the building where the two large sisters lived almost expecting to see one of them hanging out the window remembering me and making this journey too easy to make a purchase and have a place to use. But, it did not happen. I was a bit disappointed because all the players changed it seemed. There was not one recognizable face. Even my having ran into Verne and Terry was a thought, I always did, but now even they were not around. I wondered how they were doing, what they were doing, and if they were still alive. I know their children and some of them would be grown and if so, where were they? Did they follow in the footsteps of their parents? Would it even be possible I might be smoking with one of their daughters now? Man, what a thought. But, even they were not to be found today. I continued walking and walking, past the front of an old bar where the woman who had skin cancer sat, not seeing her. My thoughts went back to various ones who made an impact on my life and would be forever etched in my memory especially as I walked the path I walked many times, many nights that summer of 1991 when my life and world came crashing down.
Crossing back over Broadway I walked up First Street pretty much up to South Avenue and began crisscrossing the neighborhood. I saw the store I used to buy my stem. It didn’t appear to be the same place anymore so I didn’t bother to check. I was getting pretty tired, having spent the better part of two hours walking back and forth and no one even remotely making any indication or sending any signals. I thought to just give up and consider it a “done deal” when I decided to walk down Johnston Street and there was a group of people gathered on the stoop as well as one woman hanging out of a second story window. As I got closer I could sense some familiar activity I hadn’t seen on any of the other streets and very familiar to what I’d been missing. Once you’ve been out there, no matter the players, the places, it all comes back. You are quite aware of what is taking place. I slowed my pace checking each of the people’s faces wanting to make eye-contact. One did. It was the woman on the upper floor who motioned for me to come on up. I did.
The door was on the top of about five stone steps, a small landing in front of a door which opened to a small vestibule in front of another door. This door opened and I waited for just a moment in a small hallway which led to another apartment. There were several people gathered initiating deals, one, a white woman with a guy. Nobody paid me any attention except for the woman I had seen upstairs now coming downstairs. She looked me over as I did her. A bit too wide for my taste, but she wasn’t bad. I could smoke with her if the option presented itself. She took me up to a room in the far side of the house. She opened a door and I entered and saw two other women inside, one standing and the other sitting on a bed, rather a mattress on the floor. There was a doorless closet which had mounds of clothing spilled from the closet onto the floor into the room. A milk crate turned upside down for additional seating and a small table which had broken stems, lighters and Choy. There was what appeared to be an old radio still working, another chair to the far side of the room near the door I entered. She motioned for me to take a seat on the mattress, and I did after the woman who was sitting there, a bit older than me was encouraged to leave the room giving me and this other woman who remained a bit more privacy.
She asked me what was I looking for and I asked her if it were possible to speak to her privately without the other woman. The other woman relented, not willingly, but only after I insisted. She didn’t want to miss out on any possibility of joining this party. Women who are out partying in this way know very well that men have this fantasy of having more than one woman. It was not in my thinking. I just wanted to first describe and determine IF what I wanted could be arranged in this place. I didn’t know any of the players, wasn’t sure yet of my security since the door she closed didn’t, rather, couldn’t be shut all the way. But that’s better than a lot of places where I’ve been where either there was no door or it was off the hinge and just pushed into place leaning and leaving a sizable gap anyone could crawl through. I told her I was looking to smoke some rock and would like to have some company cause when I smoked I sometimes take off my clothes. I told her I cannot have any males around, only women. She said it could be arranged and if I wanted to do anything freaky. I told her, she would not, nor was it expected for her to do anything. It was just something I liked to do and just enjoy the time there. She asked how much I wanted to buy and I told her I would need to get a stem and Choy and a lighter and would start with $100. If things went well and I felt safe then I would buy more. That lit her eyes up. She asked me to give her $10 so she should go out and get me my works and some cigarettes for her and she’d be right back. As she left, one of the other women entered the room and asked me what was going on. As typical of the street, I said “nothing”. By now my stomach was getting that queasy feeling it got when it knew something was about to happen. I just hoped I was not going to have a case of diarrhea. It does happen. When you are waiting for someone to return, it always seems as if they’re taken too much time, even if its five minutes. I learned to always check my watch when I asked someone to do something so I would have a base when I checked later to determine if too much time was being taken, yet I never ask how long is it going to take when they leave. Sitting there and trying to ignore the other woman who was obviously trying to insinuate herself into this party and yet not trying to be rude, I was just not interested in her at all. Besides, having to watch two people when my high was going would have been next to impossible, even with one, for that matter.
The door opened and she entered into the room with a little bag handing me my stem and Choy and lighter. I quickly began fixing my stem when she asked me for the money for the drugs. I went through my spiel about going with my money, with her justifying she came back with my stuff. “True dat”, as we say in the street, but that was $10, this is a $100. Quite a big difference. I told her simply I do the sale or we’re finished. That seemed to upset her yet if she persisted, I would have given up the money because I thought how long it took for me to score and didn’t want to hit the streets again this time with a prepared stem ready for action but no action. She left the room leaving me, this time, alone. She made certain the other woman was not to be in there with us and nobody else either. I heard her through the wall talking to her buddies. Moments later the door opened and behind her was a guy, neatly dressed. They are ALWAYS NEATLY dressed, aren’t they, those drug dealers. I guess so, after all, it’s my money they’re wearing. Those dealers always seem to stand out a bit from those who are using. He pulled out a small bag and asked me what it was I wanted. I told him and he began to pull out the amount. He handed me the rocks, those rocks I hadn’t seen in so long. I didn’t have to taste them to know they were good. There was no way somebody was going to come and sell dummies to a man who is apparently going to use in the same place with the prospects of buying more. That’s why I always mention, if things were good, I would buy more. This was a way to let them know I meant business. It was also a way to let them know I had more money somewhere on my person and the fact I mentioned, I like having my clothes off when I smoke, gave them easier access to it especially if the paranoia hits and you can suggest to people, like me, where to sit or stand or move while in the throes of a good high. The guy mentioned he would be close by if I needed more, just let him know. I shook my head agreeing, my attention more on what he’d given me and getting it into my stem and smoked.
I gave her a rock and took my own. I took the rest of them and put in my pocket, actually divided it and put them in two pockets. This was for accountability as well as if you get one pocket, hopefully you won’t get to the other one. Also, I know this was a problem for me, too, because when I really get high, I like to separate my person from anything which remote resembles drug usage. Yeah, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Here I am, smoking in a Crackhouse and whatever stem, lighter and drugs found in the room, because I’m there, isn’t mine! It’s the stupidity that goes through our heads when we’re high. I repeated to her what happens when I smoke, how I heard voices telling me to get naked and wanted to make sure it was alright if I did it. She said no problem, we’re alone and I can do what I wanted. I put a chunk into my stem, got the lighter and lit it and put the stem to my lips and the lighter close to the end of the stem and began to pull. I could see the smoke traveling up the stem into my mouth. Oh what a beautiful sight and rotated the stem, removed the lighter and watched the remainder of the smoke disappear into me, I sat there for a moment waiting for that rush to happen, and it did. It did. IT DID. IT DID! It seemed not a day passed from the last time to this time. Nothing changed. It was good smoke and as it was so good, things began to happen as always before. I began to hear those voices. Except it was a real voice of a woman coming through the door. That same woman told not to come in, came in, and was messing up my high! I guess my smoking friend could see the disappointment on my face and got into the other woman’s face telling her that she told her not to come into here. Yes, as always before, she wanted to see if she could get something to smoke, I shook my head no, which was surprising for me because usually I’d been more generous in the past, but the woman who seemed to control the room announced to me I had to hand over a rock to the person who did control the room, but it was not that woman who entered. I gave it up. I just wanted to get high and not be disturbed.
That was not to be. Five rocks, one given to the other smoker, one given to the owner of the room, one half of mine gone already in the pipe. One more in one pocket and three in the other. EVERYTIME I took a hit there was some disturbance or other. Time was going on, I’m not sure how much time, but I just knew I didn’t feel comfortable in this room, with these women acting like chickens making so much noise, trying to keep barging in on my party. Forget it! I was not happy. When you are smoking you miss out on so much. It always amazed me how people around you are so, so, so normal. I always maintained if they’re not as confused as I am, discombobulated like I was, then they might as well stop smoking because that was the whole point of smoking to begin with, wasn’t it? One of the other women came into the room asking if I liked it freaky and dropped her pants and opened her shirt. I was not interested—AT ALL! See, it’s all about what you will do for that next hit. I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on this time out and I sure was not happy about wasting what I did spend already. Just like clockwork, the guy who sold me earlier came into the room wanting to know if I was ready for more. I was not only ready for more but was ready to get out of there. I shook my head cause things was just not right. He said for me to get up and come with him. I did. I followed him down the stairs all the while he’s shouting back at those women. I couldn’t make out what was happening except the sound in voices was not good. He took me into the apartment on the first floor and it was quiet. Sooooo peaceful. He brought me in a room that had a real bed. A real dresser and closet. He got me out of there because he heard those women talking about how they were going to take my stuff. He made himself out to me as a rescuer and told me I could smoke here although I would have to take care of the room, meaning I would have to pay the owner something, which I didn’t mind. He also told me he’d get me somebody to smoke with if this is what I wanted. I did. In negotiating what I wanted, I didn’t have much cash left but gave him what I did and the room rent and enjoyed the quietness of the room, smoking and going through my paranoia alone. When he returned later, I told him I’d have to go out and get some money from an ATM. He went with me and with my paranoia already in gear, I was very conscientious to not let him see me entering my code for fear everything would be missing later. I didn’t trust anyone at anytime when I got high. I’m not sure if it was from the paranoia or from a previous experience or just common sense, but it worked for me. When we went to the ATM, there was a problem with getting money. I told him I’d have to go to another one. He looked at me a bit leery but I told him that I was good. What I told him before I left, I meant it. And I did. We went to another and the money came out, then back to the safety of the room downstairs. When we entered the house there was an exchange between him and the ladies upstairs again, but I didn’t care. I just made it into the room where it was peaceful.
I always enjoyed smoking alone. My own thoughts and paranoia can keep me well entertained without having to worry about someone else stealing what I have. Eventually I did get undressed, although when I was a bit sober, made an honest attempt at covering myself with my t-shirt. I don’t actually remember when things came off but they did. I remember the door opened and he introduced a woman to me, rather nice looking, who didn’t mind my apparent undressed state and sat down on the bed beside me and I offered her a rock. I don’t remember much of the exchange with her other than the fact we smoked and played cards. I’m a great card player, just not too good when high but was able to hold my own. Later, as easily as she came, she went. I ran out of smoke and was trying to get my head back when another girl came by the room and looked in. Now, she was pretty, much younger than the others and white. He said something to me and when I’m high, I’m always thinking whatever is being said pertains to smoking. I thought he said, how would I like to smoke with her? I was so hoping that would be the case. But it never happened.
I was out of money, out of scratching for resin in my stem and now sitting with them in the living room. He had given her something to smoke and I sat there hoping he would throw me a free one especially out of all that I’d bought previously. It never came. When it was time to leave because they didn’t want me sitting in there any longer especially if I were not buying, I couldn’t get past the door that leads outside. The door opened and I looked outside and could see the street lined with policemen and my probation officer! Of course, it was the drug talking to me. All I could do was close the door and just stand there. The owner of the room who’d I been paying to smoke, saw me and I told him I was too afraid to leave now. I needed more time for my head to clear. He understood because he told me to come back inside and sit and relax for awhile. I did and was grateful.
No money, not knowing any cabs to call because I did have more cash at home, as I sat there I told the drug dealer I could get more money but only if he could arrange for me to get a ride into Beacon. He wasn’t interested in my being there much longer but had a cab called and arranged for the white girl to escort me to the door when the cab arrived. I wasn’t sure if she was to go with me, at which point I was going to kick her out of the cab once we got a safe distance away. I was grateful she didn’t get in and kept looking behind us as we drove away. I was a dollar short of the money he gave me for the cab fare but she was satisfied to have gotten the fare. I had her drop me off two blocks away and walked back to my house just in case anyone was following me. Oh, what that drug can make one do which is not reasonable at all.
I got back into my room, almost expecting my door or window to have a knock, but it never came. It was late Sunday morning. I left early Saturday morning and spent almost 24 hours in that little stroll down memory lane. I had to try and get some sleep because I would have to be ready to leave for work in eight hours. As expected from the past, I couldn’t sleep. I was too wired to do so and as usual, just when you able to fall asleep, it’s time to get up. I managed to fix myself up, not able to eat anything and walked to the train station, still looking behind me. Not paranoid as before, but enough to make me worried.
Things went normal as I got onto to the train and then the cab ride from the station to the hotel hoping this would be a quiet night so I could get my head back fully to normal. It was. I was glad for a quick night without having to deal with anything like a fire alarm going off or something else more tragic. When morning came, I left and arrived home safely and back to my room now knowing I would have to dodge the probation officer should he come. Later in the afternoon, I snuck away from the house and went to the pharmacy where I purchased two drug testing kits. Continuing to avoid any detection of being home for the next couple of days, I tested myself on Wednesday, the third day since using, knowing I should be clean by now if tested. I was still dirty! I continued to play the game of not answering my phone or door should either of them announce a visitor, but neither rang or knocked. I tested again on Friday and got an “all clear” signal and now having fully recovered thought back over what just occurred the weekend before. I didn’t like it.
I didn’t like going back to those “places of death”, as I called them. I didn’t like the way I was treated, but it was I who put myself in that position. I didn’t like the way I had to live avoiding persons who were put into place to provide me with support and treatment if needed. I didn’t like living the lie, hiding. I didn’t like using my resources which I built over time into a nice tidy sum. I didn’t like not being able to eat normally, to sleep normally. I didn’t like it at all. I liked being sober, sleeping normally and eating normally and to be able to go to the bathroom normally and regularly. I liked being able to answer my phone or door without hesitation because I had nothing to hide. I liked being able to shop for food and eat whatever I wanted. I liked what I had. It was not as much as I had before this whole drug experience began in 1989 but it was what I had NOW. It was all mine. Everything I could see in this room was MINE. I bought it. I owned it. I didn’t owe anyone for it. It was MINE and why in the world was I willing to put it all in jeopardy? I didn’t have any fun out there. There was nothing gained by being out there again, or was it? There was actually. It was the experience of knowing I hadn’t missed a beat. They were doing the same old thing I had done, out there, with them, just different players over fifteen years prior. The only one back to the game which hadn’t changed was ME! And that scared me. I have changed. I KNOW I have changed and I didn’t like living that experience. I didn’t like sitting on that old nasty bed in that nasty bedroom, with nasty clothes all over the nasty floor. I didn’t like knowing I was placing my own personal being in danger, again, not so much of the police or my probation officer, or even health, but my soul salvation on the line. What if I had died because of the drug, my heart not being able to take it anymore or had a stroke. It has happened. I’m not as young and fit as I had been years ago. I worked up to being able to smoke the way I smoked out there before, and here I was, having been removed from it all this time and thinking I can hit that stem as before? Man, was I blessed to be even able to think again in my right mind.
No, I was not going out back there again. I didn’t have to and don’t want to. I’m going to let this be THE lesson I needed. I wasn’t worried about if I would be returning back this weekend because I’ve been there and have done that. I know how it can affect and effect me, and I wasn’t having it. No, I was going to live my boring life in the way I’ve become accustomed because I like it that way. I don’t want to return living in the streets or having my liberty taken away and being told what to do and when to do it. Having someone to go through my things and me having to settle them all back again because of some search, because they wanted to. No, I like my simple life and I’m not going to jeopardize it again.
Although my church attendance didn’t increase any nor my desire to do so, but I did grow closer to the Lord, because I know this for a fact, the ONLY REASON why I wasn’t back out there chasing the high was because of Him. I had been through this so much before I wasn’t fooled it was me or anything I was doing which kept from going back out there. It was Him and the best I could do was to accept it and to follow Him as I had done prior to the Newburgh experience, again. It wasn’t worth going back. There was nothing there before and there was certainly nothing there now.