This Is My Story
Looking down from above, and through the years of wreckage that have been my life, you would see that my path of chaos led to deaths door in July 2012. If that was where my story ended, few who had met me would have been surprised. The fact that my story continues, along a very different path, can only really be understood by feeling these words that I’ve written.
When the powers that be picked up my unconscious body, I was barely breathing four times a minute. This was not the first time my choices had led me to a dead end. This horrific scene has played out numerous times over the course of my life. I can see clearly the last in a long line of self-destructive incidents. Imagining the sight of my almost lifeless body brings feelings of sadness and frustration. If I could, I would like to be the one to have shaken me awake. I would have liked to have asked myself a question. (I’ll get back to that question later)
When the clouds of a narcotic over-dose began to clear, I was being booked into jail. I was arrested for a laundry list of charges and I knew that I would be serving some years in prison. With that thought pressing down upon me I was locked in a detox cell, waiting for medical clearance so that I could be processed into the prison population. I was not happy. I was yelling. I was making demands. I wanted to use the phone. To my lasting shame I used a disgusting ploy to garner sympathy. I screamed, for all to hear, that I wanted to call my children.
It was during this irrational tirade that the actions of an anonymous officer presented the first link in a chain of events that has changed my life forever. I was lost, in the midst of a hazy place, but I can still see his face. As I screamed in anger at a cold hard world of my own making, this officer calmly approached my cell. As my complaints were then voiced in his direction, he stood impassively staring at me through the glass.
My voice was nearly hoarse when I finally finished filing my grievances. I looked at this officer imploring, probably daring him to argue the imagined injustice of my position. But that was not why he took the time to approach my cell. He had come to ask me a question. With just a hint of sadness mixed in disgust, he asked me, “______, when are you going to stop being SELFISH?”
Looking back I remember that the word ‘selfish’ was a spit of accusation. I was in shock. It was not the response that I expected and it confused me. I didn’t understand what he meant and I told him so. He didn’t care to listen. He turned and left just as quickly as he came. I may never know his motivations. If I could I would like to go back and thank him. I’d like to tell him that his words will forever echo through my life. I might stop to say some things to the man inside that cell as well. Even though I know, he wasn’t ready to listen.
After some time, I was sent to an intake mod of the jail population. I tried for days to sleep through the physical consequences of my narcotic addiction. I sweat through the aches and pains of a wretched sickness. My wish for sleep was mixed with the toss and turn of restless fits. I daydreamed and nightmared, wrestling with the demons of my decisions. The word depression does not quite describe the kind of self-loathing, heart-breaking, utterly bleak blanket of darkness that I tightly wrapped around my broken self.
As the numbing of the narcotics wore off I found that, in fact, my heart was not broken. It was working just as it should, and as it should, it was hurting. As I remembered the long trail of my destruction, I passed huge holes that threatened to pull me in. These holes were the relationships with my loved ones that I had left in ruin. My Mother-My Brothers-My Girlfriend………My kids. Inside of me could not fit another drop of disparity. My visions were visceral and I drifted in darkness.
As I wound through all the many ways that I had hurt the ones I love, it led me back to the day before my latest knock at deaths door. A hundred times an hour a thought came unbidden. A painful reminder of my last in a long list of broken promises.
Most of my life has been lived with reckless abandon. Criminality and drug addiction mixed with narcissistic self-absorption have been the most remarkable examples of my behavior. Almost ten years in prison was not catalyst for change. I failed to find happiness in life. I literally tried to inject happiness, despite the negative consequences.
By the time I was arrested it had been at least two years since I’d truly tired of suffering those consequences. I didn’t like my life in jail. I didn’t like my life out of jail. I, more than half-heartedly checked myself in and out of rehab in an attempt to change the course of my direction. But I wasn’t ready and so I failed time and time again.
It was during an excursion out of town, on one of my, ‘geography will get me clean’ trips that I made the last in a long list of broken promises to my daughter, Isabella. I called Bella on her birthday, July 6th and told her I was out of town. I told her that I would be back in town that week and that on the day I got back I would visit her with a birthday present. I returned to town on July 10th. On July 11th I took the money I should have been spending on a gift for my daughter and I bought drugs. Instead of bringing my beautiful child a smile, I tried to inject one for myself. I almost died.
An odd sensation the fact that remembering a raw thought can truly hurt your heart. The thought clawing at my conscious was that I had to call my newly nine year old daughter and apologize. This obligation was felt like the sharp sting of a self-inflicted stabbing. I remember laying there wounded by my own decisions. I felt broken as I wallowed in what seemed like waste. It was during this time that a simple, but profound thought crept in. The cop was right. I had been ‘SELFISH’.
At some random moment, in the third week of July 2012, I had my first real revelation. I would stop being selfish. I would start by calling my daughter to apologize. I can clearly see myself taking that first step toward the phone. I took the first step on an entirely new path in life. I took a step………and then I fell in fear.
I have a stomach condition called ulcerative colitis. This is a digestive disorder that I was diagnosed with in my teens. The symptoms of this disease are many but can be summed up by its main effect: varying degrees of stomach pain. Although I have, at times, followed the advice of various doctors; to eat right, take medication as prescribed and have consistent check-ups, my efforts to maintain this healthy discipline were sporadic at best. By far, my ‘go-to’ method of managing my condition was to use copious amounts of opiate narcotics to treat pain. I often procured these narcotics from criminal drug dealers, and just as often, through criminal means. However, this was not always the case.
Over the years I developed a clear pattern of irresponsibility in my own health care. While in prison I would take medication, eat right and exercise. During this time my pain was managed at a tolerable level. Almost immediately upon release these healthy choices would go by the wayside. I soon found myself experiencing extreme stomach pain that could only be treated with powerful substances. Whatever substance I chose to use and abuse, it worked to treat my pain. It did not work to treat my condition. My stomach pain has been for nearly two decades, a never-ending cycle of self-inflected misery. I chose to continue this cycle despite the advice and counsel of medical multitudes.
As well as dispensing suggestions, I found that emergency room doctors would also give me the drugs that I desired. I became exceptionally adept at walking out of various hospitals and clinics with a script for a quick fix. I utilized these same skills when coming into contact with the medical department of corrections.
When I took a step and found myself falling, it had been a very long time since I had failed to manipulate a medical provider. So, it was with confidence that I stepped away from my walk to the phone and instead found a form and filed a request to be seen by a doctor. I put off the conversation that I owed to my daughter with high hope of first numbing the pain. Not the pain in my stomach, the pain in my heart.
The very next day I was called to the doctor’s office and was excited to see it was a provider I had talked into giving me pain pills before. I immediately played him a tape of pre-recorded, carefully constructed, exaggeration and excuse. My performance was perfect and hid the excitement of expecting reward.
When my tape ended the doctor, who had been taking notes, calmly closed my file, folded his hands and met my stare. Blank-faced, without the sympathy I’d pre-supposed, he posed a question, “_____, what is wrong with you?” (Note: I’ve left out an obscenity mixed in with his question) I was shocked and for a moment indignant, but immediately determined to change the course of that conversation. I provided excuse for the ravaging of my body but was rebuffed. Holding up a forceful hand the doctor said, “I don’t want to hear anymore about your stomach ______. I’m sure that you are in pain. With your condition, and the way you live your life, you are literally bound to be in pain. As sure as I know that, I know that is not why you’re here. So you tell me _____. What is your problem?”