This Is My Story Part 2
I can look back and clearly see my mouth open in an attempt to play some more of that tape, but no sound came out. I was torn and the cracks in my conscience were widening inside me. My mind screamed at me to lie but my heart had had enough. Maybe the doctor sensed this because his follow up cut into my lost looking pause. Spoken with the force of will he said, “With all your obvious advantages, intelligent, articulate, even charming, you sit in this room year after year having failed at life and looking for us to fix you. Well, if you want to be fixed you’re going to have to tell me _____. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM!”
I had tunnel vision as his words echoed through my head. The sensation I felt was the vibration of a chime telling me to speak the truth. I could hear the beating of my beat up heart and my face was flush as the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. Finally I found the words that represent the very first time I was whole-heartedly honest about my addictions. I stammered when I said, “I………..I………..I have to call my daughter and tell her I’m in jail…………………I………..I have to tell her that I’m sorry.”
I’m pretty good with words. I can be descriptive in my writing. But I’m at a loss for a way to explain to you how hard it was to get those words out of my mind. I’m not sure how I found the strength. Each pause was an exhalation of air, and the pressure of weight, filled with denial and shame. Each inhalation was filled with honesty and selflessness that spread just enough hope in me to go forward. I recall feeling relief and thought to tell the doctor that this was why I needed the pain pills. But there was no need. He understood and he nodded knowingly.
When the doctor spoke it was with the kind of quiet calm that is filled with certainty. With compassion, mixed in conviction, he said, “______, I want you to listen to me carefully because what I’m about to tell you is an important lesson for your life. The pain that you’re experiencing, the pain in your stomach, the pain in your heart………………..THIS-PAIN-WILL-NOT-KILL-YOU………. your addictions WILL kill you………..if you let them………………. And if you let them, it will be so ‘SELFISH’ of you.
I probably blinked in stunned reflection. There it was again. Spoken with the same accusatory inflection, that word, ‘selfish’. I amazingly wondered at the random chances of coincidence. At just the right time, in just the right space, I nodded in agreement. Within myself I took responsibility and held myself accountable. I had been selfish, and it had to stop.
There is an old saying that nothing worthwhile is easy. That definitely applies to the phone call I had to make to Bella. I floundered for days rehearsing what I’d say. Then I attempted to anticipate her responses and how best I could reply. I prepared answers and comments to her thoughts. This stall went on for far too long when I was transferred to another jail.
After I settled, I continued to pace with this conflict un-resolved. I had taken steps, but still stood before a fork, stuck on a gravely road. Looking back, I know that I was feeling the push and pull of light and darkness, positive and negative. Some would say, good and evil. I know that I failed to find strength on my own. I looked for guidance and found it in my friend: Jason Premo
Jason and I used to have a lot in common. And then he changed. And then I changed. And now, again we have a lot in common. To make you understand this, I’ll tell you how the path of our lives first intersected.
In the late ninety’s I was very young and very new to the adult prison system. While many young men that age started their second education, I started years of prison incarceration. Prison was my chosen education and I was interested in participating in most aspects of criminality. The older prisoners found that I was an excellent student in the finer points of the criminal code. I was quick to violence, hostile to authority and most well regarded, I could hustle women.
Without going in to too much detail, suffice it to say that I was soon under investigation for smuggling contraband through visiting. It was in the context of this alleged activity that I first met Jason Premo. Some years older than me, and well established in the prison hierarchy, Jason had a reputation that preceded introduction. If you listened closely, whispers could be heard through-out the jail, “Premo’s got the Premo”. We ran in the same dark circles of that jail, and some time later a half-way house.
I looked up to Jason and saw a slightly older version of myself: a few more tattoos, a few more scars, a few more tricks up his sleeve. As I got older, and grew to fill those shoes, I lost track of Jason. As it turns out, each of us spent years staggering down our own dark and winding roads, lost.
When I found Jason again it was during the time that I was in and out of rehab (and in and out of jail), tired of suffering the consequences of my actions but not ready to make the necessary changes. During one of these incarcerations I was locked up, again, with Jason. Jason had been arrested for a major felony and, at that time, had fallen deep into the depths of his own darkness. But Jason has a story just like I have a story. Jason’s story is filled with courage, hope and the conviction of a man who has journeyed, for some time now, down the road less traveled.