Category Archives: addiction

The Closing Chapter con’t…pt 3.

It was July 2004 when we got married in Ohio. Our daughter was 4 years old. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. I was doing this huge thing for all the wrong reasons. I was keeping up some sort of promise I made because of this code I held deep inside of me that was tied to my religious upbringing, I went through with it because the bills were paid for all the wedding items, the dress was bought and paid for, the invitations were sent, the cake was made and paid for, my family was all set for the day, I was sick and needed insurance, and I thought it was the best thing for my daughter. It ended up being a long abusive marriage that should not have taken place.

Early 2005 my leg and back problem had progressed to the point where I couldn’t walk anymore. I got out of bed one morning and couldn’t walk. I went into the clinic immediately. It was at that time when I found out that there was a tumor that had been growing on a nerve next to my spine, and a tarlov cyst also growing next to that tumor that would require surgery. In September 2005 I went in for surgery with the belief that the tumor would be removed, and my problem would be fixed, and life would return to normal.

Nothing ever goes as planned, especially in my life! The tumor was not surgically removable; in fact, the surgeon did something he wasn’t supposed to do, and he left me with permanent nerve damage in my right leg. He also drained the tarlov cyst and wasn’t supposed to do that, so it grew back larger. I was permanently disabled, and when he came into my room to inform me of the news after surgery I thought for sure I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I was devastated. The next few years I tried to adjust to this new lifestyle.

He was out drinking A LOT. I was alone taking care of my daughter. He pushed the few friends I had away. I became a babysitter while he went and partied, a maid for him, a cook, and I had no life outside my home or my daughter. When physical therapy finally helped me to walk and drive some he became possessive, jealous, and made me feel guilty, or bad for wanting to join him in his life, or for wanting to start having my own life outside the house. I had decided to join politics. I was passionate about that, so I dived right in. I joined a chat room to help me have some sort of social life. He made that dirty. He accused me of chatting with men and made me feel bad for having that too. I eventually gave that up too. Year by year I allowed him to isolate me a little more.

2007 came and I ended up pregnant with our second daughter. We bought our first home. I worried this was a huge mistake too. I knew deep in my gut that we were doomed. I had been thinking about leaving him for years and contemplating how to formulate a plan on leaving him. I went and got my GED because I knew whatever I was going to do, if I was going to do it, I knew I would need that GED. When would be a good time? How would I financially be able to do it? I calculated numbers all the time. I could never see the way out. The only family I had was a brother. Two years turned into four. Four years turned into five.

2012 I had finally hit rock bottom. I was abusing opiates for years. I was contemplating suicide. I knew I was wasting potential and I knew that there was more to my life than sitting at home raising kids. Over the years I had gave up painting, drawing, writing, music, dance, and the goals I had for myself were kept on a shelf, so I could please him. I wanted something more, so I shared what I was feeling and thinking with him. He was in the basement, he called it the “man cave,” and I went down to him and said, “We need to talk.” I was crying in my fluffy pink housecoat. My hair was long then and it hung down over my face. It soaked up some of my tears as I sat looking at him in the corner at the computer desk. “I’m depressed. I’m contemplating driving my car into the local Caribou. There has to be something more to life than what I’m doing. There has to be something I can do. There are people who have no arms, no legs, and they do spectacular things with their lives…I think I want to go back to work or school. I was a great student…” he cut me off and his reply to me was, “You can’t even clean my house the way I like. What makes you think you can go back to school?” Those words still cut into me like a razor blade down the side of my throat.

A week later I had a job driving school bus. I set a goal that if I could drive bus and physically be capable of doing that for two years I would apply to the local community college. Over those passing years the verbal abuse and mind-fuck I lived with was constant. He continued to stay out drinking often. I had to tolerate his drunk friends being at my house and his best friend disrespected me often when he was over drunk, and sometimes he would try to advance on me. My life was turmoil. I was working the bus driving job, I was basically taking care of my kids on my own, doing the house stuff on my own, I did the remodeling needed in the house, I repaired the car when it needed it. I really began to think why did I need a man? He only showed me affection when he wanted laid, and our relationship felt more like a roommate type set up. When you’re not getting affection you’re not going to want to have sex with your man. He often accused me of cheating, or chatting online with men, and this led me to wonder what he was doing while he was out. As I started to wonder about what he was doing, and his past bullshit of coming home with another woman’s jeans on, I began asking him the same questions. The entire fucking relationship was fucking chaotic bullshit now that I reflect back. There wasn’t anything healthy about it at all.

Two years and a summer passed, and I met my goal. I applied to the local community college and I was accepted. He wasn’t supportive. He claims today he was, but that is a complete fucking joke. He likes to rewrite history and make shit up about the way things have been. That is the way it is when your dealing with a narcissistic abuser though. My kids are old enough now that they have been able to notice and see the way he is, so he can try to say whatever the fuck he wants. His friends can think whatever the fuck they want. I know the facts. My kids know the facts.

Fast forward to November 2017. I filed for divorce. Things were bad. He was throwing things at me. He was verbally abusing my kids more often. He came home raging around the house every single day. I never knew what was going to set him off. He was more volatile. I knew the next step was physical violence. He had been gas-lighting me for over a decade, invalidating my feelings, projecting on me, and he made me want to kill myself. Unfortunately, my fear about my youngest daughter and his manipulation talked me out of divorce at this time. He made me promises about going to therapy and that he would really work on his issues of control etc. It would be another five months before I would finally file the divorce fee and start the process of getting out of this nightmare. It took a push from someone special to help me do this too. That someone special had to tell me to take a leap of faith and just do it that things would be OK.

The best thing I’ve done was to leave his ass. I’m still working on my main goal, and I will achieve that goal. He might have done some temporary damage, but he didn’t break me. He may have done some minor, temporary damage to my children, but he didn’t break them. We are moving on. We are going to be OK. This chapter is closing and a new one is opening. It feels good not being verbally abused every day, and it feels good not being gas-lighted, emotionally manipulated, controlled, and it feels good that my girls are not being verbally abused every day, and they aren’t being gas-lighted every day, and they are not being emotionally manipulated every day. This new chapter is going to be spectacular.

Tramadol Nightmare Finally Ends

                          

Tonight marks the seventh day I’ve been completely free of any tramadol. The peak of withdrawal for me was this past Friday night. I woke up with sweats, jerking muscles that were cramping, I puked a few times, I had an excruciating headache, and once I got out of bed the panic set in. I was up all night. I could not stay asleep. When I did sleep it was in increments of thirty minutes. It was a very rough night. That next morning, I began to wonder if I needed to enter a detox facility. It was that bad. As the day went on I was exhausted but as I kept focused on music, and moving around it got easier. I am now on day eight and all the withdrawal symptoms have departed!

I feel pretty good considering all my physical infirmities. My nerve tumor pain is high part of the day, but I manage through it here at home. I had a very successful day yesterday. Yesterday I was able to go out to a doctor’s appointment, make a grocery store trip, make a Walgreens stop, make a stop at the gas station, and do my dishes at the sink! This might sound trivial to some of my readers, but for me, that is extraordinary while only being on naproxen 500mg.

I have noticed a few changes since detoxing from the tramadol too. I have been struggling with severe fatigue for years now and concentration problems. I always walked around feeling foggy, and so fatigued I could barely hold my head up most days. This last week I noticed that the foggy feeling has subsided completely. I think more clearly. I believe the tramadol must have contributed to that cloudy thinking. The fatigue I felt was probably intensified by the tramadol as well. I am still tired in the middle of the day but it isn’t nearly as bad as it was while I was taking the tramadol.

I don’t see my pain clinic until the 24th, but when I do they will have to come up with another plan for my case. I am rejecting to be treated any longer with any type of narcotic, or any type of pain treatment that my body will become dependent on, that if I choose to stop taking it, I have to deal with withdrawals like I had to face with tramadol. There has to be a better way to deal with pain patients. There has to be a way to help us without turning us into pill addicts, or physical addicts. They’re doctors who work hard to get these special degrees. They should be smart enough to figure this out.

I strongly believe marijuana should be utilized in this area. If marijuana was utilized for chronic pain patients, it would prevent addiction across the board. Science shows that cannabis is promising for pain relief. “Science also shows that addiction is very low at only 30% likely to have a dependency problem and that the 30% who develop dependency are people who have psychiatric issues before use” (Hasin).

It is time that our nation takes the stigma that surrounds cannabis and completely remove it. We must begin taking rational steps in solving problems we face with addiction to opiates and other opiate type medicine, like tramadol. Cannabis is one logical step! We must begin taking logical steps in treating chronic pain patients and stop imagining they do not exist, that they do not matter, or that their quality of life is not just as important as any other patient treated in our nation. Cannabis would help so many avoid opiate addiction, it would help improve the quality of so many lives across our nation, and it would be affordable to them. If the Obama administration is serious about this new initiative to help fight opiate addiction, he will move to help legalize cannabis nationwide on the federal level for medical use with a proposed bill to congress before he leaves office. The ball is in your court Obama. Help us, not the prescription thugs!!

Sources

Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United  States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858.

 

The Tramadol Nightmare

I have been a chronic pain patient since my first back surgery in 2005. A little background: In 2005 I became unable to walk. Neurologists found a nerve tumor in my S1, L5 nerve root which was located next to the spine. The doctors also found a tarlov cyst directly next to that nerve tumor in the same scan. This was when my life changed forever. This was also when my first relapse back into opiate drug abuse would enter my life again, in a few years that followed the surgery I had, in attempts to remove the nerve tumor and to drain the tarlov cyst. For some of my readers this information is not new information. I don’t want any readers lost however so that little bit of background information is imperative to have. Fast forward to my trip to the Mayo Clinic. I cleaned myself up from using opiates. My pain was unbearable. I could barely walk, I still couldn’t drive and I was unable to work.

I reached out to the top neurology team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in hopes that they could tell me there was a surgery that could be done there to fix me so that I could no longer depend on pain meds. I wanted to go back to work, to drive again, and walk again like a normal woman! They were the best in the nation so if anyone could fix me I knew it would be them. I went through a series of scans, and tests. The results were heartbreaking.

The visit left me helpless and permanently disabled with no hope. The team of doctors typed up a report that informed me that there was no surgical fix to my specific case which was so rare that only two people in the United States have the type of non-cancerous nerve tumor I have. They explained that because my nerve had braided itself around the tumor that removing the tumor from the nerve (sciatic nerve) it would leave me with no use of my right extremities, with no control of the bowel and bladder functions so it was best that I seek out a pain clinic to help me manage the nerve pain. The report included an EMG result which showed the previous surgery I had in 2005 left me with nerve damage in the right foot which had not regenerated or repaired itself. They referred me to MAPS.

Fast forward to 2011. MAPS tries to convince me to have a medicine pump implanted into my back and I strongly object. I start out with receiving injections of a cocktail of steroids and pain medicine. Epidural injections, and a few others. They work wonders! I start walking without a cane more often. I start doing physical therapy for a while in a heated tub. There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Well, the insurance must have seen this light! The light suddenly gets smashed! The insurance suddenly starts denying payment and approval for these injections. I am now faced with the decision to either live with the excruciating nerve pain and go back to not walking most days or allow MAPS to medicate me. During this time also they opted to put me into a trial for an implanted device called a neurostimulator for the nerve. The trial was amazing and it worked so I got a surgery in 2011 to have the device implanted into my back. The machine got me back to walking but it did not get rid of all of my nerve pain so I needed a nerve agent to help with pain. The taste I got back of the freedom I lost for so many years I was quick to choose medications with strict rules. I told the doctors I refuse to go on any opiate based medications. I did not want to be on any addictive prescription.

The PA in charge of my case at the time (2011-2012) throws out the medication name tramadol. She asked me if I have ever heard of it and I said no. She continued to tell me that it was fairly new to the market, which I now know was a bold face lie, she tells me it wasn’t an opiate but an anesthesia base medicine that works well with nerve pain and she thought it matched well with my case. She said it showed no addiction properties in all studies done and no signs of abuse in studies. She told me that people shown to do very well on a very low dose. I was excited to hear all this positive stuff. It wasn’t an opiate, it was going to work on my nerve pain, it wasn’t risky, so I did what any person would do in my situation, I said sign me up! What a huge mistake!!

The first time I realized that tramadol was actually highly physically addictive was when the clinic left me in a situation where I actually ran out of my medicine in early 2015 (I believe it was 2015 or may have been late 2014). I found out the hard way. I had no warnings and it came out of left field. No one ever informed me the pill would throw me into withdrawals! I went without my meds for two days and when I called the clinic they called in my prescription. This was before a law prevented them from calling in scripts over the phone, and this was before tramadol’s drug schedule was changed. When I called the clinic for the refill and explained to them I thought I was actually going through withdrawals they acted like they did not believe me but called in the script anyway. Fast forward to 2016.

This is the second time the clinic has left me in a position where I am dry of my tramadol. Due to a new law they have to do face to face every three months, the patient has to pee in a cup for drug tests, and they are not allowed to send scripts to Walgreens until those requirements are met. Making an appointment to line up with your med count is damn near impossible because they only can schedule so far out in the month, they book up extremely fast, a working mother, and a full time student that makes things even harder. I made a decision that I am NOT going back on the tramadol. I don’t care how bad the nerve pain gets. They will have to find another way to treat it. The withdrawals have been a nightmare!

I knew I was going to run out before my appointment on the 24th of this month so I started tapering off immediately weeks ago. I am on day two of absolutely no tramadol. Yesterday was the worst! My entire body feels like my nerve endings are sending continual shocks throughout nonstop. I sweat profusely, and then shake with chills. I feel very anxious! I have twitches and I can’t seem to sit still for very long. Moving around helps. I paced a lot yesterday, today it is a little better but still have to move a lot. Music seems to help keep my brain focused at least on something other than the anxiety it feels of not having the drug. I’ve been utilizing my heating pads to help with pain. I’m glad my semester ended! I feel pins and needles in my fingers and toes constantly since I started tapering the tramadol and it has only gotten worse since I’ve gone down to no tramadol at all. I have this strange feeling in my brain I can’t quite explain that started yesterday. It is like I am on the verge of paranoia and fogginess…like I think something is there or feel something is there but I’m logical enough to know there isn’t. It is hard to explain. I have a very heavy ringing in my ears. I haven’t been able to sleep except in small increments of 30 minutes. Last night was terrible! I tossed and turned all night and woke up soaked with sweat and had to shower immediately. I have NEVER had that happen, even with the flu!!! My muscles have been cramping. I am very emotional too! I cry one minute and am very angry the next. You don’t want to know about the bathroom stuff…I know that is only going to get worse by day three…my stomach cramps now, it just started actually. I feel nauseous. I had actually decided to quit smoking a few days ago. That was a bad idea. I know that sounds stupid but it was. I had to go buy a pack of smokes because nicotine withdrawal on top of tramadol nicotine was too much for my brain. The nicotine has actually helped ease some of the brain anxiety at least. I still feel very anxious. This shit is scary…. I’m not exaggerating.

I spent a lot of today reading about this wicked poison tramadol. I cried actually at some of the stories I read. I know some of the emotional stuff is the tramadol withdrawal but the stories were sad, scary, and infuriating too. I was so angry I wasn’t told about the addictive nature of this pill from my clinic. I was angry that here I am AGAIN a fucking addict! This time both of my kids are seeing me suffer through this nightmare. Not the same kind of addict I was in the past but nonetheless an addict. A PHYSICAL ADDICT that this clinic created. I was someone who needed help and now I need even more help than when I first began! Why can’t they just let me use fucking weed, FOR REAL now! I don’t fucking get it. I don’t understand it!!!!! It infuriates me. My life is hell right now. I remember cleaning myself off opium…no fun…I remember cleaning myself off the opiates…worse than the opium…. coming off this tramadol of five years…a FUCKING NIGHTMARE I wouldn’t wish on anyone…I know this is just the beginning too. It is going to get worse before it gets easier. My brain and body is going to go ape shit crazy in a week when my pain has nothing to ease it and the brain doesn’t know what to do with the signals because for five years it slept while a drug did its job…I’m pretty scared actually…I’m taking naproxen 500 mg to help with my pain and I do have some left over lidoderm patches if nerve pain gets out of hand to hold me over a few weeks. My main concern is getting my brain trained again to deal with signals being sent and levels of serotonin and all the chemicals that that tramadol screwed with for five years…I wonder how long that is going to take?

It says here, https://www.addictioncenter.com/painkillers/tramadol/withdrawal-detox/ that, “In response, the brain adapts to the constant presence of the drug and adjusts chemically. Because of the influx of tramadol, the brain attempts to self regulate by speeding up and slowing down some of its processes. When the user suddenly stops taking the drug, the brain goes into “overdrive,” causing moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms” (addictioncenter). The timeline below from the AddictionCenter webpage is just for withdrawal symptoms not how long the brain takes to be normal again chemically. I guess I have a rough two weeks ahead of me….

Days 1-3 Onset of general withdrawal symptoms, including feelings of pins and needles, sweating, nervousness, nausea, anxiety, palpitations, insomnia and drug cravings.
Days 4-7 Drug cravings persist, along with insomnia, disorientation and confusion, and blurred vision.
Days 8-14 Symptoms should be fairly mild by this point. Depression, anxiety, and irrational thoughts may persist.

Life in the Rear View Mirror- Improved Draft 2

rearviewmirror(This is my second draft of a memoir essay I am turning into my Freshman Composition class. The names have been changed, some things have been changed to protect identities and locations…some of this is from real life events. The essay assignment has to be a minimum of 1,000 words and I chose to use a memory of a day from my past to write about. The day I decided to leave my hometown to get clean.)

It was hot, the kind of hot that made it difficult to breathe. As I walked the street alone, the sweat ran down my face and neck, leaving a huge wet spot on my turquoise t-shirt. It appeared as if I just left a wet t-shirt contest I was drenched in so much sweat. Where was I going? I had no idea. I just knew I had to go somewhere and clear my head, figure things out, so I walked. It was just the road, my muddled thoughts and I. The freshly tarred black pavement absorbed so much heat from the blistering sun it felt as though my shoes were nonexistent. The pungent smell of the tar below my feet made this walk more like a chore than an escape to clear my head. The sound of little critters echoed from the woods to my right and the popping tar bubbles below my feet filled the area around me as dehydration surely began to set in slowly. The side streets to the neighborhood were to my left as I trudged my way up Hahn Rd. I grew up on those streets and now I faced the choice of dying on them as a drug addict or leaving them behind for good.

Those woods to my right I spent majority of my childhood exploring them, pretending I was some extraordinary scientist on another planet looking for some other form of life. I climbed those trees. I fell out of those trees. I rode my bike on the trails there. Many of the scars I have today were received from the branches from those huge oak trees, or from the huge boulders sticking out from the hilltops, or from the uneven trail tracks I raced down. I built forts in those woods. I sat in the shade and wrote some of my best poetry and short stories there under the huge oaks. I became lost in thought. How did I become this pill popping, opium using, drop out, walking to God knows where, and in search of who the hell knows what? Who am I? WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING? HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS ONE!? How did I end up here? I better figure something out…

The top of Hahn road on the right sat a quaint little convenience store named Phans Grocery. Really just a hole in the wall that consisted of three isles of groceries, a deli that gave the neighborhood four options of bologna, ham, salami, and what looked like bologna with pickles in it and a corner cold section with milk, soda, and beer. The store stood there for generations. Mr. Phan watched my four brothers and I grow up in the neighborhood. He knew us by name.

“R, hi there, what can I do for you kiddo…”

No matter how old I got, he still insisted on calling me kiddo. Mr. Phan was always a kind man, who looked aged. His wrinkles told stories of worries and stress and his gray hair told stories of loss. I stood in the entrance propped against the rusted metal door framing.

“Mr. Phan can I use your phone? I have to make a call to my brother in Indiana? I will pay you for the long distance I promise?”

His brows furrowed in concern as he nodded his head yes. I approached slowly being overwhelmed with exhaustion from the walk. The blazing sun for the last half hour probably dehydrated me and depleted me of any energy. I inched closer and closer to the deadline of becoming sick if I didn’t get some drugs into my body soon too.

“Your brother in Indiana…didn’t J move over there? How is he doing anyway? I haven’t seen him around here since your dad’s passing…again I’m so sorry for your loss…your dad was a good man R…neighborhood isn’t the same without Dan around.”

Mr. Phan stretched the phone across the counter to me. I breathed heavily trying to catch my breath.

“J is doing well. He hasn’t been there long actually. He moved there a few months ago from ….. I’m having him come and get me out of here actually. Thanks for letting me use your phone.”

I didn’t want to focus on thoughts of my dad. It hurt too much. Hell, my dad dying got me into the life I was living. It was the last thing I wanted to think about it, talk about, or especially comfort anyone else about. I couldn’t even comfort myself, let alone a man who watched me grow up in the neighborhood.

The phone started to ring. Sweat still ran down my face and neck profusely. I kept switching the phone receiver from my left hand to my right hand, left ear to my right ear, the sweat made it impossible to hold onto. Come on, answer the phone. Answer the phone J. I need you to answer the phone, I thought to myself, as the anxiety built in my stomach. My stomach began to churn and I began praying that my drug dealing husband, at that time, didn’t figure out where I was come and get me.

My husband then, Dick, roamed the streets looking for me. We will name him Dick here for purposes that fill me with joy. Dick was obese, malodorous, drug dealing; abusive man. I would have not given him any chance to be with me if it had not been for my dad being diagnosed with lung cancer. Dick had the drugs. I wanted to run away from all the pain and reality that my dad was going to die, and he was going to die soon. I ran off and decided to marry him in a Kentucky courthouse on this spectacular high I was on the day my dad died. Yes, that is what I said, on the day my dad died. If that wasn’t a sign this guy was bad news there were plenty more I ignored along the way simply because Dick was my door to the drugs. I got what I wanted, when I wanted them, for free. I came close to giving up on my brother J answering his phone when suddenly his deep southern accent was in my ear.

“Hello.”

I was temporarily comforted to hear J’s voice on the other end of the telephone.

“J! You are there, thank God!”

“R…what’s going on? Is everything OK?”

“I’m in trouble J…the worst kind…I need your help man…you gotta get me outta here…”

I started to whimper.

“Hey…what do you mean you’re in trouble? Where are you?”

“I’m at Phans store. He let me use his phone. I walked here from moms. J you have to come get me man or I am going to die…please…I know it’s a lot to ask but you’re the only brother who can help me….”

“R…what have you gotten yourself into? What about R?”

“I need to get out of here…you are the only one who can help me with that…R can’t help me with this…you’re the only one…and I can help you too…I want to leave everything here J…I got mixed up with drugs…the worst one…I want to get clean…”

I expected him to yell but his reaction was the opposite. He had a stillness I never knew existed in him.

“You’re doing smack!!? …what the fuck..”

You could hear the trepidation in his voice as he released a quivered sigh and a moment of silence brought pause to our conversation.

“J…I’m not on the needle…I do smoke opium…pop pills…snort them sometimes…smoke weed…I gotta get outta here man…they are everywhere and I’m hooked bad man…I can get clean if I leave here and I can help take care of your kids after I do while you and J work…I can’t get clean in Mansfield, I need to completely change my life J…”

Terror gripped me as I worried his answered was going to be no. I asked him to drop everything in his life to not only drive over to Ohio and pick me up, but bring me home with him to live and deal with me detoxing all the while living with blind faith that I would actually keep my word that I would get clean and stay clean, which most addicts have a hard time with.

“Where are you staying? You staying at moms?”

“I am at moms yes…but I know Dick will be there trying to get me to go back to him…I have to get outta here J…please help me…”

“I have two days off work…I will be there in three hours…be ready.”

We hung up. I was overcome with happiness that the thought of becoming sick from not having drugs was the farthest thought from my mind in that moment. I wiped the phone receiver off from the sweat deposits I had left and turned to thank Mr. Phan.

“Mr. Phan thank you so much for letting me use your phone, you might not understand this now but you just saved my life. My brother is coming to pick me up and taking me to Indiana. I will stop by before we head out to pay you for the phone call.”

I gave him a hug.

“You don’t worry about that phone call R and I know I saved your life with that call. That is why I let you make it. You go and get well. Be the girl I thought you would grow up to be and the girl your dad thought you would grow up to be.”

I started to walk down Hahn Rd. back the way I came. I headed back towards my mom’s house and Mr. Phan yelled from his store entrance before I reached the freshly paved road.

“R when you are tempted to look in the rear view mirror at life, keep going, it isn’t a sign to turn around and come back…you remember that!”

Life in the Rear View Mirror

(This is my first draft of a memoir essay I am turning into my Freshman Composition class. The names have been changed, some things have been changed to protect identities and locations…some of this is from real life events. The essay assignment has to be a minimum of 1,000 words and I chose to use a memory of a day from my past to write about. The day I decided to leave my hometown to get clean.)

rearviewmirror

It was hot. It was the kind of hot that made it very difficult to breathe. The sweat was running down my neck leaving a huge wet spot on my turquoise t-shirt as I walked the street alone. People could wonder if I just left a wet t-shirt contest I was covered in so much sweat. Where was I going? I had no idea. I just knew I had to go somewhere so I just started walking. It was just the road and I with the woods to my right and side streets to the neighborhood to my left as I trucked my way up Hahn Rd. Those woods to my right I spent majority of my childhood exploring, pretending I was some extraordinary scientist on another planet looking for another form of life. I climbed those trees and I fell out of those trees. I rode my bike on the trails there and I have many scars today from those trails located there. I built forts in those woods. I sat in the shade and wrote some of my best poetry and short stories there under the huge oaks. How did I become this pill popping, opium using, drop out, walking to God knows where, and in search of who the hell knows what? Who am I? WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING? HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS ONE!? I am going to be dope sick in about an hour so I better figure something out…

The top of Hahn road on the right sat a quaint little convenience store named Phans Grocery. Really it was just a hole in the wall that consisted of three isles of groceries, a deli that gave the neighborhood four options of bologna, ham, salami, and what looked like bologna with pickles in it and a corner cold section with milk, soda, and beer. The store had been there for generations. Mr. Phan watched my brothers and I grow up in the neighborhood. He knew us by name and when I stumbled in covered in sweat gripping the door way for dear life he knew I needed more than just a purchase of simple grocery supplies.

“R, hi there, what can I do for you kiddo…”

Even though I was an adult now by at least thirty days he insisted on still calling me kiddo. Mr. Phan was a kind man, who looked aged. His wrinkles told stories of worries and stress and his gray hair told stories of loss. He walked over and helped me to the stool that held his stores door propped open.

“Mr. Phan can I use your phone? I have to make a call to my brother in Indiana? I will pay you for the long distance I promise?”

He had a look of concern on his face as he shook his head yes. I stood up slowly obviously weak from walking in the blazing sun for the last half hour, probably dehydrated too. Not to mention I am getting closer and closer to the deadline of becoming sick if I don’t get some drugs into my body soon.

“Your brother in Indiana…didn’t J move over there? How is he doing anyway? I haven’t seen him around here since your dad’s passing…again I’m so sorry for your loss…your dad was a good man R…neighborhood isn’t the same without Dan around.”

Mr. Phan handed me his phone across the cashier counter.

“J is doing well Mr. Phan. He hasn’t been there long actually. He moved there a few months ago from Louisiana. I’m having him come and get me out of here actually. Thanks for letting me use your phone.”

I didn’t even want to focus on thoughts of my dad. It hurt too much. Hell, my dad dying is what got me into this fucked up life I was living. It was the last thing I wanted to think about it, talk about, or especially comfort anyone else about. I couldn’t even comfort myself let alone a man who watched me grow up running the local grocery store for the neighborhood.

The phone starts to ring. I’m still sweating profusely. The phone is hard to hold onto I keep switching it from one hand to the other, one ear to the other. Come on, answer the phone. Answer the phone J. I need you to answer the phone man. My stomach is churning and I’m hoping my drug dealing partner doesn’t figure out where I am and come to get me.

My partner, Dick, was probably roaming the streets looking for me without a doubt. We will name him Dick here for purposes that fill me with joy. I wish I could say he was a knight in shining armor who swept me off my feet after my dad died and helped me grieve for the man who my world surrounded but I can’t sadly. He is a complete douche bag actually. An obese, smelly, drug dealing, abusive asshole is what he is. I ran off and decided to marry him in a Kentucky courthouse on this spectacular high I was on the day my dad died. Yes, that is what I said, on the day my dad died. If that wasn’t a sign this guy was bad news there were plenty more I ignored simply because Dick was my door to the drugs. I got what I wanted when I wanted them for free. Hey drugs skew your reasoning, your logic, and they do help you make very bad decisions.

“Hello.”

Excitement came across me as I hear my brother J’s voice on the other end of the telephone.

“J! You are there, thank God!”

“R…what’s going on? Is everything OK? Where are you calling from?”

“I’m in trouble J…the worst kind…I need your help man…you gotta get me outta here…”

I start to sob.

“Hey…what do you mean you’re in trouble? Where are you?”

“I’m at Phans. He let me use his phone. I walked here from moms. J you have to come get me man or I am going to die…please…”

“R…what have you gotten yourself into? Are you staying at moms now? Did you leave that douche bag Dick?”

“I need to get out of here…you are the only one who can help me…I can help you too…I want to leave everything here J…I got mixed up with drugs…the worst ones…I want to get clean…”

“You’re doing smack!!? …what the fuck..”

“J…I’m not on the needle…I smoke opium…pop pills…snort them…smoke weed…I gotta get outta here man…there are everywhere and I’m hooked…I can get clean if I leave and I can help take care of your kids while you and Jean work…”

“Where are you staying? You are moms?”

“I am at moms yes…but I know Dick will be there trying to get me to go back to him…I have to get the fuck outta here J…please help me..”

“I have two days off work…I will be there in three hours…be ready.”

The phone hung up. I was so overcome with happiness the thought of becoming sick from not having drugs was the farthest thing from my mind in this moment. I wiped the phone receiver off from the sweat deposits I had left and turned to thank Mr. Phan.

“Mr. Phan thank you so much for letting me use your phone, you might not understand this now but you just saved my life. My brother is coming to pick me up and taking me to Indiana. I will stop by before we head out to pay you for the phone call.”
I gave him a hug.

“You don’t worry about that phone call R and I know I saved your life with that call. That is why I let you make it. You go and get well. Be the girl I thought you would grow up to be and the girl your dad thought you would grow up to be.”
I started walking down Hahn Rd. back the way I came headed towards my mom’s house and Mr. Phan yelled from his store door entrance.

“R when you are tempted to look in the rear view mirror at life, keep going, it isn’t a sign to turn around and come back…you remember that!”