Thunderstorms and Daddy Issues

Today is my Dad’s birthday and it’s occurred to me, I haven’t really dealt with his death. I cannot wrap my head around the fact he’s gone. How do we come to understand half of us is gone? I’ve always toyed with the idea that I would one day be an orphan. I tried to never feel bad for myself, because I thought, even as a child, if nothing else this pain fosters a growth that nothing could replicate. I used to be mad at my father, resentful, we were so close; that same dry humor, that same nervous tap of the foot when that addict brain was working, and that habit was long before I ever took a drug. I loved my Dad, for loving my mother and I the way he did, for introducing me to Alice in Chains, Tool, Nirvana; my parents both had spectacular taste in music. Today the memories flood into me, like the levy has broken. I wish I could talk to him. Don’t worry Dad. Come as you are. You were just down in a hole. Overthinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind…

The thunder roared, and lightning struck across the sky illuminating the yard of what the kids in the neighborhood called the creepy cat lady’s house. Donna, the not so crazy cat lady, lived across the street from me growing up. I would always hear my mother talking about this woman on the phone, in the kindest capacity. Donna had watched the slow death of her husband and two of her children. I find so much relativity with this woman now, watching the decline of my parent’s health my whole life. “And I need to watch things die, from a good safe distance. I live while the whole world dies…” I remember going to help pull weeds in her yard and I didn’t know as a kid how awesome this lady was. She had tapestries of the Grateful Dead and coffee mugs that said, Drop Acid not Bombs. Donna and I had much in common.

Charlotte in the 90’s had the craziest thunderstorms. Anyone who wants to argue with Al Gore about global warming, well let’s see, the difference in weather patterns in Charlotte alone is a testament of its proof. Oh yes, and the melting polar ice caps, this is a conversation for another time. Such a hot topic, isn’t it?  I remember jumping when the wind was so fierce it caused our screen door to bang, scaring the dogs and I both. I think we both ran with our tails tucked behind our legs. Like all addicts, my Father had such an intense capacity to love and hence had such an intense ability to feel. What did my Dad do with these feelings, like all of us, he ran from it. I believe, too, with his tail tucked behind him.  I remember when the thunderstorms were bad enough; I would run and hide in the closet, taking with me my most valued items in life at the time. A landscape Polaroid camera, a black and white Marble notebook, and yes I wrote all the time even then. I always felt like I had a voice in my head that needed to get out, she had something to say, even if my young, meek self could not utter the words at that moment.

Sometimes Dad would get in the closet with me, easing my anxiety of what I believed to be the soon to come tornado. I was convinced a cow would fly through our living room; I think Twister had a profound impact on me. I’ve always been fascinated by weather patterns. It’s funny, and I use this word charitably with my dark sense of humor, because one time when my dad got into the hall closet with me, he too was scared of the thunderstorm. As my Dad rushed me into the closet,  I noticed he didn’t quite look the same, his pupils were huge, he was so sweaty, a little frantic, constantly peeking out the window, right before he finally shut the door behind us. And as the thunder ensued, we sat in that closet together and my Dad was convinced it was someone banging on our door, who knows, the feds, a drug dealer looking for that money he constantly owed, whatever it was had him spooked. I had to say, “Dad, it’s okay, it’s just thunder.”  And in this moment, I believe I began my fearless attitude towards most things in life. I would be my father’s rock, no problem. He was too busy checking the carpet for crack rocks to be mine. This would not be the last time I would have to reassure my father everything was okay, switch roles just for a moment. I remember sitting next to his hospital bed, a decade later, uncertain if he would wake up and telling him that I wasn’t angry anymore. It’s strange to think about because this is someone who I ate dinner with every night, someone who picked out every school outfit I had in my class pictures and then poof, as quick as a strike of lightening. He was gone.

I understand my Dad more these days, in retrospect, because getting my feelings back in recovery has been both a blessing and a curse. In life I tend to see the negative when it comes to my own life, you know low expectations, never let down. It was different with my Dad; I guess I’ve always kind of given him a pass on things. It’s okay I only got a birthday card or Christmas card on these days, only this year. I believe becoming an addict was my destiny, it has taught me things I cannot read in a book. No, I certainly didn’t grow up thinking, Gee golly, I’d love to be a heroin addict one day, but alas here we are. I tend to be so critical, likely because I don’t want just anyone to see the bleeding heart on my sleeve. I think about my life and realizing I’m an addict and I see all the signs of the storm to come now. I see the compulsive and obsessive behavior, the constant need for perfection, so you wouldn’t see what was truly swirling beneath the surface. I see the winds building and I see the clashing of hot and cold. I realize now all along, I have been trying to tame a tornado inside of me. I guess I always saw it coming and the forecast kept getting more and more accurate for what I feared I would become.  And once the storm built, it was all I could do to keep it from tearing apart everything I owned, every part of who I was. My Mother always told me for that addict to really click on for someone as resolute as I was in life; it just took the exact combination of things happening. Mom called it the perfect storm. It wasn’t just one issue, it wasn’t a moral failing, it was predisposition, and it was my own exposure as I dabbled and lived recklessly. And in the end, with the relapses, it was a damn choice and I don’t ever want to be told any differently. I remember my Mom telling me my father once told her, “I hope she’s not, you know like me.” It’s okay Dad, you may have given me a genetic predisposition but you only gave what was given to you, you also gave me wicked high cheek bones and the ability to keep a straight face at any moment, taught me the ways of nature, and what it’s like to practice patience.  And I’ll never hold against you what you couldn’t help.

I imagine my father and I running in a field. Its storming out and I can’t quite see him through the winds and heavy rain. I am calling for him and I hear his voice, but the thunder, it crackles too loudly. I know he wanted to get me to safety, but how could he? The storm he was caught in, the same one I am in now, it’s at times too much to bear. It’s like that common theme in psychology, you first have to give yourself oxygen while the plane free falls because if the care taker has no oxygen, how can they save the child?  I forgive you Dad, I know you were just trying to catch your breath, all the running, you were just looking for shelter and in active addiction the storm is relentless. The lightening brightens the sky and for brief moments in my life I see him, images in my head of him flickering past, and just in the moment, I catch my breath to say hello and he was gone again.  But mainly I am standing, no shoes on, socks sopping around in the dirt. No need for me to have shoes on Dad, because well, I’m already walking a mile in yours. I wish he was still here so I could say, “Hey Dad, I made it out of the storm.” Sometimes in recovery I have to ground myself, where are your feet, Kris? And I look down and I realize my feet are dry, my socks are clean and the forecast looks brighter every day.

Dedicated to you Dad, may you be at peace.

Into the Void

I don’t know what to tell you, about when it started, she said. I just don’t know, maybe around the time she’d used all her returns from Wal-Mart, or maybe when her self-administered Fentanyl drips allowed her to tango with death, all too often. She definitely wasn’t wearing the right shoes. It was about that time she looked in the mirror and realized she wasn’t who she thought she would be at 28 years old. She hated looking in the mirror, why save something you don’t care about? Her hair was chopped off; she had cuts and cigarette burns running along her arms, riding in a car with no brakes, expired plates and hitting in the same parking lot she’d copped in. Just for a brief moment, before the overdose, just for second, she remembered who she really was. Was this the Karma Police? Didn’t you know this is what you get when you mess with us? And the feelings sometimes were almost too much to bear, but she thought she had to keep going. She couldn’t get clean for her family or her mother, who means the world to her. Her friends kept telling her, “We’re going to bury you Kris, please get help. It’s okay you relapsed, its okay.” But didn’t you know she was that girl that never made a mistake twice. She had to want this.

She remembered being pissed because her dealer wasn’t answering her calls at 8am in the morning. Didn’t you know they only have one customer and are supposed to be open 24 hours a day? She finally got a friend to answer, shockingly a former friend from NA, leave it to the rooms to help you with all your endeavors; however pure or not. Her smile wasn’t what is used to be, and she didn’t smile much anyways. Numbness was preferable. Induce the Profanol doc, call it human nature, and just beat it. Who doesn’t want to feel like MJ just for a second, a God among men. Her small pale arms bruised from dull rigs. Shame is purple and blue. She couldn’t handle it, she needed to use right then. There was always this compulsive need to have heroin, have Xanax and if she was tired enough throw an Adderall or ten in the mix. How do you know when you’ve reached the edge? She thought about that Hunter S. Thompson quote she loved so much, something about the only people that truly know what the edge is, are the people that have gone over it. She swan dived over without thinking and during the free fall, didn’t regret a thing; however, she came to this realization that she would hit the ground soon, impending doom. Do all dogs go to heaven? Shit, she’s a cat; nine lives and she’s at eight.

There is a saying in the rooms of NA that states there are only three things that will happen to you in drug addiction. There are only three places you’ll end up, jails, institutions or death. Leave it to her to be an overachiever, skip a grade or in this case skip right to death. She remembers sitting in a Rite Aid parking lot in Kannapolis, NC and taking a hit. Euphoria followed by a tube being jammed down her throat. Her feelings were always rather paradoxical, a sun Taurus and Scorpio moon sign. Are things really black and white? Because life is lived in the gray. She was gray, rotting, she felt like she had an expiration date on her and she just reached it. Is this how it all happens? She lay there and wonder. What happened to that girl who had so much zeal and lust for life, for living? In addiction she had an intense and passionate urge for what the French would call, L’appel du vide, which is defined as: the call of the void. She began to think in that moment she didn’t want to die. She didn’t want her mother to bury her. She wasn’t 27 anymore, no cool club to join; she was just an almost thirty something aimlessly searching for meaning. She would become that girl people who say, “She had so much potential.” She reached transcendence through chemical best friends or so she thought. L’appel du vide has a literal translation as the instinctive urge to jump from high places. As an addict, she began to think she wasn’t worth saving; no one would climb this cliff to come get her.

The monotonous tone of the sirens wailed and she lay there in absolute misery, wondering why they brought her back. Just let me jump, she thought. She thought about the last time she was in treatment, they had an activity where she had to describe her perfect day, a peaceful place she could go, a safe place. She went there in her mind. She was in the mountains with her mother, with her best friends. The leaves were changing colors and they all laughed. Neil Young playing on a portable record player, her friends taking Polaroids, joking around about the latest Louis C.K. standup. “Let’s just do everything a little bit wrong.” She looked over at her mother, who is healthy and smiling, looking right at her with those same green eyes she has. And suddenly her beautiful moment interrupted. Static over a Walkie Talkie, “Yeah, Jim we’ve got a 28 year old, heroin overdose. Caucasian, Female. She’s incoherent. Pulling into back entrance now.”  Hey, you, she thought. I’m here, this isn’t me, wait, wait, all I wanted to do in the beginning was lose myself…. And now, right now, she would give anything to find herself again.

Fast forward to 46 days later:

I read an article the other day about the concept of a Multiverse. Damn it feels nice to sit still and read again. Also, that whole concept of being able to concentrate, eh it comes and goes. All in time. Where were we? Oh that’s right, the article stated basically, in short, that we never truly die. Our spirit at least, it never truly vanishes. I’ve always believed in this in some way, our pictures, our loved ones and our memories, they keep us alive.  But this, this is more than just memories. This is something you can hold, put a wire around and protect, I’m referring to a soul. I was fascinated by this article; I’ve always been a fan of Quantum Physics. Basically the implication was we never truly, at least in terms of our consciousness, die. Instead when we leave our bodies, our mortal portals, our consciousness goes into time and space. The universes own compost and into the void we go. I’ve always honed in on the belief that we are all stardust, so small, so insignificant but found joy that we, mere mortals, could make such a lasting impact on this world. In a multiverse there are infinite possibilities. There are multiple realities happening simultaneously, and one decision has the ability to throw you into a different reality, a reality which is already occurring. Which road will you take? Follow the white rabbit? The yellow-brick road? Are you more a breadcrumbs kinda girl?  Truth is all relative and our surroundings shape our perspective. We begin to believe what we see, what we taste, feel, touch and hear. But the fact of the matter is we can chose to emphasize the reality we are in. Embrace this universe.

In active addiction it was like I doggy-eared just one page of the narrative of my  life and space and time bent. If addiction doesn’t break you then you’re sucked into a black hole. Sadly for most of us, never to be seen again. Nothingness ensues. I’ve thought about this deeply, how in this reality I am 46 days clean and sober. Nothing mind altering, unless you count my normal psychedelic thoughts, sorry ya’ll that’s all natural. But, I thought about how in one reality I am still stealing random things from Wal-Mart and complaining at the cashier when they won’t return 4 three month supplies of this flea and tick medicine for dogs or take my license because it is literally expired by 8 months. True Story. I am using and I’m not dead, yet. In another reality, I see my beautiful mother crying, all my friends there, all my old teachers, and I’m six feet underground. “It’s such a shame, she had such promise. She got Most Outspoken, remember? She won’t be speaking much anything anymore.” And then I thought about this reality, the reality in which I am in. How the term Oxford was an argument about a comma or a university my favorite teacher in college went to, but now it means the ground in which I stand on. I always had all these thoughts about an Oxford House, but they have thus been extinguished, since this fire to live has lit inside of me. I’ve also been, to get real with you guys, so terrified that I cannot do this. I have self-doubt often, symptomatic of any addict. Am I smart enough? Am I pretty enough? What is my identity, am I just a needleless junkie? What if I can’t manage my own life? But life, these thoughts, they don’t stop for anyone and these moments I feel sadness, it’s inevitably fleeting and in the same breath I think I am terrible for what I’ve done, I realize I’m clean nothing else matters. I am who I am.

I have scars, imperfections. Can you tell I went through years of active heroin use, I’m not sure, but does it matter? This is the universe I dwell, may as well manifest a better reality for myself. I have deadpan humor. I like all things vintage and despite my seemingly cynical and sarcastic demeanor, I have so much faith in this world. Faith in my fellow human being, I am not hopeless. I’m Southern, keep holding those doors boys. The girl next door appreciates it. I even have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror today. It honestly reminds me of the first time I ever took Acid. “KRIS DON’T LOOK IN THE MIRROR.” You already know what I said, fuck ya’ll, I can handle it. And I did, but damned if I can’t always handle looking in the mirror, clean, all that well today. I fear that I may actually see what other people are talking about, that potential and in doing that I fear letting everyone down. I’m always screaming from the inside out, but in the best way possible, if such a thing exists. There is an energy that hits me in the chest and I realize I’m alive and everything else just seems secondary. Whitenoise. My life is a perpetual electric guitar shoving against an amp, waning out of control. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ll indulge in recovery and take those suggestions, why? Because fuck heroin, fuck drugs. I’m too old to be doing that shit anyways. I’ve done enough for about ten times worth of watching Fear and Loathing and towards the end there throw in some Requiem For a Dream and we all know how that ended. I don’t need DMT to awaken that third eye. I was once blind, but now I see: Third Eye Blind, a great band. I want my life back, my semi-charmed kinda life.

I woke up that first day in detox completely lost from the days prior, still having some rage happening from too many benzos, starting to opiate detox, the watering eyes and muscle cramps, nausea. The unknown is scary, but today the void isn’t death or jails or institutions, it’s recovery. I still want to jump from high places, because I’ve always craved the adrenaline our body naturally produces; only the high places are my goals, my ambitions and dreams. Every day I’m clean, I start to believe I can reach those high places once more. I’ve found that the void I was so aimlessly searching for, its recovery. The void is being clean and truly feeling things again. Feelings just happen to you. I’m not the girl in the back of that ambulance. I am not a statistic. I’ve never conformed, why start now? I’m not simply a name on a tombstone or a member of the wasted youth.  And if I ever feel myself slipping, believing that I could indeed be the girl in one of those other multiverses, those other realities, perhaps I’ll call Rick and Morty, have them help me out. Whabbudubdubdub! Who doesn’t want friends that traverse time and space, am I right?

And into the void we go, loves.

Have a nice day, hun!


Car alarms, sirens, people talking. I got up and walked out of the apartment. Brooklyn, NYC. The smell of weed smacked me in the face and I saw the guys from the apartment below smoking, playing Ziggy Marley, discussing what bullshit it was that campus kicked them off for skateboarding. I liked it in Brooklyn, there was no cliché stereotype of person. Other than maybe Williamsburg, fucking hipsters man. “I’m going to look poor, and act like I want but nothing. But my parents pay for this apartment and I’m fucking Vegan and eat all organic, yes this dirty, hole filled shirt is $98 from Urban Outfitters.” I always shook my head at them, but they were all pretty cool in small ‘undefined doses.’ See what I did there? I think they were all attempting to live that Andy Warhol quote I can appreciate. “Look poor, think rich.” None of them ever had to do the heroin chic look, I recommend no one let that look develop organically. I wanted to enjoy this trip, I had dreamed of coming to New York since I was a kid, I thought there was so much art and opportunity there and here I am completely unable to enjoy it because I’m dopesick. Crushing up pills in subway bathrooms to just be able to walk around like a normal person.

My boyfriend was a student there. He was a really great guy; he’d planned all these fun things for us to do. He knew I was prescribed opiates and benzos, but he didn’t’ know I had a problem. Or that a week into my prescription every month, they were all gone and I bought substitutes off the street. I could barely function. He told me something that I never really understood until I got clean and that was, “Nothing phases you.” I know what he meant now. Normal me would have been enthralled in taking photos and talking to people and trying to fit as much as I could into the trip. I leaned my face against the poll as we stood on the subway, which if you’ve ever been to NYC, you know that’s not the best idea. I felt so weak. I walked like a zombie through the streets of lower Manhattan, not like me at all. I love new experiences. I went to Tom’s Restaurant where they shot the “diner” signage from Seinfeld. I even got a black and white cookie! Seinfeld fans know, I couldn’t eat it, too nauseas. I went to Central Park and saw the Imagine dedication, and I stood in the spot John Lennon was assassinated, in front of the building Yoko Ono still lives in. Anyone that knows me, knows growing up that song held so much meaning for me, it still does. “No hell below us, above us only sky.” It meant to me how, much moments matter. One of my favorite words is the word sonder, defined as:

“n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

I believe in my fellow human being. I am naturally curious and want to never doubt that no matter how many terrible things happen in this world; in the end we would come together. There is so much suffering and chaos, but there is beauty that derives from pain. And I believe entropy can breed strength. I’m the type of person that wonders things like, “Where has this penny been ?” And I look at the date on it and wonder if a soldier who was enlisted had it in his pocket or Jackie O in her purse, tossed on the bed with her pink Chanel. At this moment though, I could barely register enthusiasm to care, I felt less than human. I walked only because my brain and body knew the routine. I took a bus from New York to DC, had to wait a few hours before it went through North Carolina.

When I finally got home my mother picked me up in downtown Charlotte. I thought I was going to die the entire time everyone was doing luggage pickup. I wanted to say fuck it and just leave all my belongings. The moment I got home, I didn’t even change, I got into my car and went to go get a fix. I called my guy, he said he would meet me. I got into my car, it was summertime, I had the air conditioning blasting but the windows open, sweat dripping down my face. I remember this was before I ever went to detox, so at this point I have been on prescription opiates for 6 years every day and specifically the past two years abusively and began heroin. I slammed into the back of an old Jeep Cherokee, the 16-year-old girl in the car was terrified, I felt awful. Her mother rushed to the scene and after seeing another young girl, she checked on me. We both came out unscathed.

After giving my report I left the scene of the accident, to go get high. I stopped in Concord at a gas station after I got my fix. I had already hit at my dealer’s place but I wanted more. There is never enough. I went into the bathroom at the gas station, I remember the walls were yellow, somewhere between mustard and dandelion. I snapped a selfie, not sure why. I think I thought I looked good. Denial, that fresh heroin chic look. I went to sit on the toilet, closed lid, to hit. I don’t remember much else. I do know that I had locked the door and I must have been out for about ten minutes. I heard banging on the door. I had nodded out, everything still in my lap. My car, which I later found out I’d totaled, parked with the windows down, keys in it. I grabbed everything and threw it in my purse. I saw the gas station attendants look at me as I left the bathroom. One guy with a disgusted look and the other woman with a concerned but terrified expression. The next day when I woke up,  I could barely move. It only hit me then that I had terrible whiplash. I couldn’t move my neck, I probably should have gone to the ER after the accident, priorities, right? I couldn’t look down to hit myself, to get well. It was in that state of just complete and utter hopelessness, no autonomy over my actions it seemed, that I finally gave in. I called a friend who I had known had been through that detox before, “Where is that Crisis Recovery Center at?”

Why tell you this story now? I went out to get coffee with a friend the other day. I told him, I needed to run in and buy a pack of cigarettes and had to pee. Too much espresso. I walked into that same gas station, not even realizing the Deja Vu I had coming. I saw a sign on the door, “Closed to Public.” I looked up and asked for Marlboro 27’s. It was that same lady, who saw me when I had passed out in their bathroom, with that terrified expression. I asked if I could use their restroom. She looked at me and smiled, “Oh yeah honey you’re fine. It’s just these druggies, bless their hearts, we’ve had two overdoses this week, usin’ in there and passing out in the parking lot.” I felt like a wolf amongst sheep. Did she recognize me? “Oh wow, that’s crazy,” I didn’t know how to respond. “But you’re fine, doll, I’m not worried about you,” she handed me my change and cigarettes. I went into the bathroom and just stared in the mirror. I think all addicts in recovery have those moments of out of body experiences, it’s like you’re living a lucid dream. I’m scared to pinch myself at this point, for fear of failing, for fear of waking up and realizing this was all a good dream and my life is still that heroin nightmare. Or waking up cuffed to a hospital bed or with a plastic band around my wrist. 27. Caucasian. Female. SOD (Severe Opioid Disorder). Or worse, seeing myself dead with a tag on my toe. I thought about that word, sonder. How many people are screaming from the inside out and how kindness, its free! And it can do so much in this world. I wondered how many people in NYC had passed me by and I couldn’t even live my own experience. I can’t imagine going back now, I want to experience everything. Feel it, even if it hurts. Smile. Feel a tear run down my cheek. Shout goddammit when I stub my toe for the 100th time on the coffee table.

I won’t lie to you, I teared up a bit in that bathroom looking at myself. I don’t know if it was happiness or sadness, but I know at that moment, it didn’t matter. I felt it, that mattered. I walked out of the bathroom, that same woman messing with one of her acrylic nails. “Have a good day, hun!” She said with a smile. “You too,” and I meant it and smiled back.

Return to Sender

My legs and arms ached. I had sweat running down my back and my hands shook. This was my life a year ago, all the time withdrawal, until that next fix. But this instance in time, it’s from moving. Moving into my own apartment with a close friend. Carrying my belongings into my room, not the pawn shop. I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. Is this really me? Am I worthy of these things? I’ve been contemplating life a lot lately- I’m so hyper vigilant to my feelings, now I can do nothing without intent. March marks a year that I lost my dad. I know he’s gone. I understand, in this urn by my bed that he’s there but, I cannot seem to conceptualize it. It’s just a definition, a sad ending in a story, that I’m only reading, not living. His death was like a slow leak of carbon monoxide. I didn’t see it coming, it hit me hard. It wasn’t just one breath of pain, it was multiple breaths. I wonder have I condemned myself to the garage with the car running.

I remember the phone call so vividly, a year ago. I remember smelling my perfume and being in dress clothes, having just come from my final corporate interview, which I landed. I remember collapsing on the floor and my mother’s hand on my back. I screamed, I was so angry. I had spent so much time in active addiction the years prior, I lost time with him. I was selfish, I stopped calling as much or seeing him. It was too hard. Some days he was lucid, but other days he would look at me, and think I was my mother, they were young and in love and he’d ask, “Is Kristan out riding her bike?” How do we deal with these things? I didn’t know. I just went with it, when he knew it was me, and asked if I liked that Hawaiian pizza we had after we went hiking, I would smile, “I loved it Dad, how about that view, by the way.” It’s funny our parents get older and we become the parent because they return to a more oblivious childlike state, maybe that’s best. Maybe knowing the harsh realities of the world, living with all your regrets and mistakes, it’s too much to deal with. Compassionate of the universe really, in a warped way.

I didn’t know how to deal with any of that, so I ran. I stayed away and then it became easier and easier when the grips of addiction really took hold. I lost the job, can’t pass a drug test on a heroin and Xanax diet. I was apathetic of my life. I didn’t care. Death was natural, we’re born to die, might as well keep living. Really I was daring the universe to come at me with all it had. I realized I had learned behavior from my father, those years he went missing after my parents’ divorce. He rationalized staying away because he would only be hurting himself and not me, although we all know this isn’t true but the logic of an addict isn’t always sound. And here I was, screaming, banging my hands against the carpet. I wasn’t capable of tears. I hit that fight or flight mode.  I am always a fighter but my instinct was flight, at that moment. I went and got high. I remember waiting on the heroin, sitting there thinking he would understand. The carbon monoxide, a slow leak.

The next few months of my life were chaos. Falling asleep in court for a speeding ticket, nodding out. Claiming I was still clean, of course. Getting an abscess and watching them clean it and lance it with no pain medications. I’m red flagged at the emergency room for coming in on overdoses of heroin and benzos. On a funny note, this always reminded me of the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine keeps going to different doctors because she demands to know what they’re writing in her file that makes them look to her so inquisitively. Essentially, being a junkie in the emergency room is the same, only with precedent, obviously.

Instead of spending more time with my mother, I stayed away as much as I could. The mortality of my surviving parent was so clear but I just couldn’t deal with it. Trying to numb the pain in any way possible, casual sex, drugs, whatever it took to not feel. I of course in the midst of this chaos attended detox to, what junkies would call, “get the family off my back.” In this detox I met a girl, we’ll call her Courtney. Courtney was younger than me, maybe 22 or 23. She had a wonderful personality and carried a photo of her son with her, even in our group discussions. You could see the love radiate from her when she would talk about him. I could also see the pain radiate from her as she discussed her drug usage with me. I remember her saying that she wanted to stop, but if she were being honest, this is how she lives, how could she stop? I empathized with her, I was just in detox at that moment for a brief 5 day funded “vacation” and to score a Suboxone script I’d lost.

Courtney and I went our separate ways after the stay, but kept in touch. When I got out of detox that day, I had a full rig waiting on me in the car with my friend, as did she. No intent to quit. Why save something you don’t care about? I used a few times with Courtney upon meeting up and getting one another’s connects. But time did its usual and the drug world collaborated, and we lost touch.

I moved into my apartment yesterday, leap year. It’s like this day was never suppose to exist, but alas it did. Again, the thought, is this really all happening?  The same month I lost my career a second time. The same month my father died. I found out last night Courtney overdosed. Life is just that quick. So I had these thoughts. Am I deserving of these things that are happening? The new corporate job? The apartment? Why am I not dead and gone?  I don’t argue with life so much anymore. I have learned to take ownership of the bad things I have done, my regrets. I suppose while writing this I am convincing myself that in that same breath, I have to take ownership of the good things happening to me. I thought about Courtney’s son. I wish I could send him a letter and say, your mother really loved you, take it from a girl that knows her father really loved her…even though the drugs were his ultimate demise. I’ve been to a dark side, a side of life where I was pen pals with death, overdose, bring me back, almost overdose, “do more I don’t feel it,” as I nod out. It seems like death is sending out all these notices, annual notice father’s gone, intermittent friends and good people overdosing. Life eviction notices. I’m thankful that I made it out alive. If I see a letter in my mailbox from death these days, I just return to sender.

Dedicated to both Courtney and Dad.


Phenobarbital Part III

I woke up, I fell asleep sitting up. Ryan lying next to me, he’d left me this long sweet note on my phone, which was still in his hand. Junkies never really sleep we just get so sedated- basically comatose. I heard Christian in the kitchen. Slamming shit around. James and I both got up, everyone else asleep. I asked Christian what was wrong. And that’s when shit hit the fan. “Oh, I don’t know, Kristan, maybe it’s that you guys have been getting junked out in my place!” For a moment, I looked at James, unsure of what to say. For one, she had been getting completely wasted, every night and two, I thought she was aware we were using. She was holding all our rigs in her hand. She took it upon herself to gather all of them up. Too bad her empty  bottles were already on the way to city recycling. She never remembered her drunken escapades. I was pissed. She mixed all our rigs together and now I didn’t know which was mine, which could I use?

Katie attempted to reason with her. There was no doing that. Christian started yelling too, about how she got an eviction notice. Imagine helium, plus Alvin and the Chipmunks and whatever it is Justin Bieber auto tunes with, that was Christian’s tone. I had given her money, we all had, for food, cigs and even her booze. We’d only been there two or three weeks. She wasn’t even working. I wasn’t feeling all that well, I needed to hit. We all did. I saw Ryan on my phone contacting our guy. If all else fails, get high, that’s an addict’s brain for you. And it’s always, “I’ll deal with that later or I’ll deal with that after I get well.” Katie was trying to talk nicely to her but Christian was being incredibly mean. She’s one of those people that thought her drinking wasn’t nearly as awful as our using. Combine dopesick with being intolerant of people being cruel to others for no reason. I looked at Christian and told her, “Fucking chill. Jesus, you’re acting like a royal cunt.” I don’t think Christian was used to anyone standing up to her. But, she was being unreasonable and catastrophizing everything. I cannot handle people doing that, it’s ridiculous. No logic, pure impulsivity. Christian told me, “Whatever, fucking junkie.” I just started laughing. I laugh when I’m really angry. She walked up to me, “Is something funny,” and flicked my long blonde hair to the side. I don’t like that. I reared back and knocked the shit out of her, she fell backwards.  I got my phone and called Mandy. I asked her if I threw her a bag if she could take Ryan and I to my house outside Charlotte, NC. She agreed. Christian kept telling me I was going to regret that, blah blah, she held her shirt against her nose, it was pouring blood. I just looked at her, “I don’t regret it thus far, dear,” and walked out.

I was so nervous the entire way home. I didn’t want my mom to know I had been using. I knew by then it was a daily habit again. I had totaled my car before going to rehab and had never been without one. I was so nervous, I said that already. How was I going to get dope? Did I mention I was nervous? On the way home, we stopped and hit at some McDonald’s. Going through the drive-thru just to get water, they totally know what’s up when you do that and pull up looking like death warmed over. As soon as we hit, Mandy pulls out a meth pipe and her and Ryan start hitting it. They tried to hand it to me, but that’s a fuck no. Not that I judge people who use meth, I’ve just never done it because I don’t need an opiate, benzo and meth habit. I was satisfied with two layer personalized demise. Ryan had to get Mandy to pull over, she was too fucked on boy and tweaked out to function.

I want to tell you that when I walked in my house, I went and told my mom I’d been using, I messed up. Get me help. Help me get help. I thought about those statistics from rehab, “…Only 1 in 20 or so of you will stay clean once you leave here.” Seemed absurd at the time, but that was me. I’m now a statistic. If I didn’t stop, before I know it, I’ll just have a Department of Corrections number. My identity slowly slipped away. I couldn’t do it to my mom, who am I kidding. I was way too much of a pussy to tell on myself like that. The dilemma of every addict. I hated myself, you use to forget and when you start to get any clarity, you take a hit, nod and numb back to opaque plains ahead.

Most of this was a blur. I borrowed money from so many people. I had discovered the art of Moneygram and Western Union. On the phone, on Facebook, old friends from middle school I kept in touch with, friends from college, fucking former teachers I was close to. Some made up excuses mumbled, “I need money to fix my car, I have to get to work to make money, you know?” I didn’t even have a car anymore, remember? The stories became so complex I started writing down on my hand what I was telling this person, or that person. It didn’t matter, after I would go get high, it would smudge off waiting for an amigo to come meet me in some parking lot of Harris Teeter or CVS. Hide in plain sight. Breaking Bad was on point with that reality of the drug world.

It was about the time I was waiting in the university area for Ryan and his friend to panhandle that reality started to hit me. This is my life. Hiding things from my mom, lying about going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and actually completely blacking out, all too often. How can you remember what to tell someone when you, yourself, have no idea what is happening? It was sitting in university area in Charlotte, with no air conditioning, in a friend’s car I’d borrowed attempting to hit that everything seemed to hit me all at once. My dad was dead. I didn’t have a job. The people that mattered the most to me, I did nothing but hurt. I felt like I was going to go insane. I told Ryan we needed to get more shit and I didn’t care how.

The next thing I remember was my mother sobbing pulling me out of the back of my friend’s car. I had on Ryan’s t-shirt and my fingers were burnt from falling asleep with a cigarette in my hand, it was past midnight. The last time I looked at the clock it was around 6pm. My phone still in my back pocket, dinging with a million missed calls and texts. I remember my mom shaking me, I couldn’t stay awake. She had come with one of my friends, who drove her car and she drove my friend’s home. The longest ride of my life. I knew I’d taken Xanax, I knew I’d hit at least a half gram and I had the wrapper of a 75mg Fetanyl patch in my pocket. It was a miracle I wasn’t dead. She did what she had to, I was so pissed then though. “Kristan, I can’t fucking do this, you’re killing me, honey.” I could barely hold my head up but I knew I would never do this to my mother, my best friend, if I was the real me. I got home and crawled in my bed, I didn’t have the energy to tell her I was sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I heard her yelling and talking to one of her friends on the phone. I heard my mother crying. I felt her come in and check my pulse. I don’t know who she was on the phone with, “Yeah, she’s breathing really shallow though.” I heard her throw her coffee cup against the wall. “It’s me or the drugs Kristan, I cannot and will not do this, I can’t watch you kill yourself,” she slammed my door walking out.

I looked at my nightstand, my father’s ashes sitting on it. I thought about how much my mother and I both loved my dad, but nothing was enough. I became the part of him I hated, the addict, always back tracking, making empty promises. I dragged myself to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I looked like a half dead raccoon, mascara all over my face. It was a brief moment of clarity; I went to go pee. I had thumbprint bruises on my legs and hips. I started to cry, slamming my hands against my bruises. I didn’t know what I had done, who made those bruises? It was the moment before you decide you just want to die, that’s what this was. I had to make a choice. My mom came into the bathroom. She hadn’t heard me cry in years. She held me as I sobbed. “I don’t want this to be my life.” My mother looked so relieved. She got on the phone with Black Mountain Rehab, the last rehab I would ever go to. “Yes, we’ll be there in the morning. Thank you so much.”

Pardon Me, I’ll Never be the Same.

Pardon me. I’ve been dealing with what could be a record breaking amount of crazy and I’m not cursing anyone out or raging. I don’t do that, real me at least. I’ve had my ass beaten in active addiction, I’ve beaten other peoples’ asses in active addiction and I am not proud of it. Opiates took away my control, my rationality. You become striped of your ability to be yourself. I didn’t like Wes Anderson films, I didn’t listen to music, I didn’t taste foods. I was completely lost. A robot. I look around at my life and there are some facets definitely in chaos; however, day by day the chaos gets smaller and smaller. Manageable. But I have a career again. I have my amazing family by my side still, and it’s a family full of two police officers and one retired one. SO YOU KNOW, I appreciate their understanding, they never put me in the sea of faces of addicts, which many do unintentionally. Some people see a junkie and they only see the nodding and the track marks, but look into their eyes- there is nothing there. Every addict has a story; every addict has a face. And let me be clear, I do not like when people say the bad things they have been through is why they used. I just don’t think it’s an excuse, but that doesn’t take away the fact they’ve been through it. I would tell you to walk a mile in an opiate addict’s shoes but I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy and that’s if they have a pair of shoes left for you to walk in.

If you say cruel things towards me because of fear, then good. You should be afraid of opiates. Your doctor could give them to you for genuine pain issues and years later you’re at a gas station waiting on some guy you barley know to bring you something you send straight to your blood stream. Your kids want to be cool going to a party and grab the bottle of Percocet’s in your medicine cabinet from that surgery you had a year ago. There is no scent to pills, in fact, as a person that started out on pills- I kept my shit together pretty well and no one knew at first. Think about it, the only thing I know to compare it to is someone who is at war. And this war isn’t just physical danger, what is worse is the emotionally danger you’re in. Hitting landmines in your own thoughts, without even knowing it. Until you’re waking up in an ambulance with tubes shoved down your throat because living is a battle. Your fellow human decided they would be your hero, and for those people I know and the random individuals- I thank you for your compassion. And for those of you that want to keep judging, thank you too, for reminding me of the apathetic human I don’t want to be.

You hear a lot of the time, in rehab- “No one grew up thinking, I want to be a heroin addict when I grow up.” There are things we cannot change. Ironically, most addicts become really controlling and are upset in early recovery when they cannot control circumstances. Yet, in active addiction we completely give the control to the drug. These days I’ll settle for a happy medium. I’ll be understanding that I cannot control peoples’ views. I should warn you though, if you’re trying to really “get at” a recovering addict, that’s been set afire for years in their own mind, I don’t think you’ll be successful. If for just a brief moment you think you can get to us, you’re very wrong.

The complete loss of self and ability to know you came back from it, its uncanny. It’s an intuition we are given, the ability to step outside yourself. I will not, and will never let, the fact I am not numb, that I CAN FEEL, be the downfall of me. I will embrace every emotion and look at my eyes in the mirror, stare right at myself and if I cry or if I smile, I’ll be thankful. Thankful for my ability to wonder. Thankful for your ability to hurt me, because I again have the capacity to suffer. And now I know, I don’t have to.

For those of you still suffering through active heroin addiction. We wish you were here and when you’re ready we’ll be here, loves.

Leave behind some green eyed look alike…

I remember the ride to the mountains the morning we drove to rehab. I had driven up these mountains so many times before, moving to Boone for college at Appalachian State, visiting friends in Asheville or Cullowhee. I hoped that perhaps going back to the place I experienced happiness again would spark the old me back to life. The last known residence of my happiness. My mother had been up all morning, nervous, guilty, dreading me going, but glad I was going. A plethora of emotions ran through both of us. I changed the music a billion different times and finally settled on Blue Ridge Mountains by Fleet Foxes. It could have been the melodic guitar or lyrics…”Let’s drive to the countryside, leave behind some green eyed look alike, so no one gets worried…” Something about that song, it pierced a part of me I thought had wire wrapped around it.

My father had attended this facility at one point in his life. I had dealt with his death months prior and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Be close to him. Eat in the cafeteria he ate at, sleep in a bed he could have slept in. I had to be there at 9:30 in the morning and they made it very clear if I was late, my bed was gone. The sun just began to rise, but the scenery was whitewashed with a thin veil of fog. I remember feeling my ears pop as the elevation climbed. I felt like I was taking the first step to the thousand-mile journey that was to be the rest of my life. I smoked a million cigarettes, had already hit that morning about a half gram of heroin, ate Xanax, took some OxyContin’s orally- hoping it would help stretch out the pain coverage. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my mom. I was worried about how tired she would be driving back down the mountain or her crying and being unable to see. Addiction didn’t just impact me, it impacted the lady, that is both literally and figuratively half of me.

I said goodbye to my mother. I then had to take a drug test, they stood there and watched me pee. Striped me down made me turn and jump and shake. I wanted to tell them anal isn’t my thing and no amount of Kegels could conquer this Richard Simmons’s workout you’re giving me.

I had never done a cold turkey detox. I only knew and had gone to Suboxone detoxes. It was about 18 hours into my arrival that I began to get sick. My blood pressure sky rocketed. I couldn’t stop puking. My arms and legs ached, nothing on me didn’t, really. Limbs felt like a hundred pounds each. If I could muster up the energy to do it, taking a scorching hot shower helped. I had to sit through classes talking about what each drug does to your brain and how long it would take for body and mind to recover. I couldn’t read, couldn’t sit still to watch television. I had to go through all these evaluations about my childhood, my sexual history, my drug history. The most irritating, the financial questions. “Well, Miss Cox it says here in our initial search you made this much last year, so you’ll owe us…” At that moment, squirming in that chair, I didn’t care if they decided to put me under and took one kidney. I would say, “Whatever just take it. Where do I sign? Can I go back to my room now?” There is this beauty in the complete and utter breakdown of the human spirit. I could hear every thought, feel every part of me. I noticed my breathing, my inner monologue. I could almost feel the blood running throughout my body.

Every night I would hear the faint sound of a worker whistling, as they checked vitals going down the hall. The ripping of the Velcro blood pressure cuff. I heard the clock ticking and could have sworn time moved slower. All of this, it was a test of my resilience. How far can we stretch this girl before she breaks? The fabric of my existence felt frayed. Like space time continuum, the thinner and longer I am stretched, my concept of time was warped, bent, further and further. I always thought of the Alice and Wonderland quote. Alice looked at the rabbit and asked, “How long is forever?” The rabbit looked at her and simply replied, “Sometimes just one second.” I couldn’t sleep yet. I refused sleeping meds, they had made me pass out once and have seizures. I wasn’t ready to visit the hospital again wearing a nametag with a terrible photo on it. Think first time you ever had a hangover, pulled an all-nighter and had Mono, all at once. I slept maybe an hour and a half for the first time in three days. And then the speaker next to my bed went off. I hoped it would suddenly break or explode. Killing me and destroying itself, two birds one stone. Wishful thinking. “Miss Cox you’ll have a roommate, make sure all your belongings are on your side of the room, missy.” I got up grabbed anything on the twin bed next to mine and threw it into a basket. I got back in bed.

I awoke and it was almost lunch time. I heard a beeping noise. Constant. Loud. Piercing. I turned over and went to get out of bed. “Hey, names Tina. Sorry ‘bout the noise. Battery in my ankle monitor is ‘bout dead.” Tina was my roommate. She sat completely nude on the bed. Her towels on the floor, a water trail from our shower to her bed. She was a heavier girl, a little older. She had, what I hoped was still her significant other’s name tattooed across the side of her neck. Most of her hair was dyed neon pink like a troll doll. A troll doll that had an ankle monitor and a severe crack and meth addiction. She sat there and flipped through a personal copy of her bible. I grumbled to myself. I was still pissed they confiscated my copy of Slaughterhouse Five because it was “violent.” Fuck me, isn’t the bible violent too. People didn’t go on Maury if they cheated, they just got stoned to death. Seems like I could have some Vonnegut. I didn’t say much to Tina, I think it was something like, I’m still in opiate withdrawal so forgive my complete misery for a bit. “No problem Christy (she never got my name right) I’m only coming off the uppers, I’ll probably just sleep a ton.” She slept, boy did she sleep. I did not. Something about the constant beeping and wheels of the med cart rolling up the halls, I felt like I was in a haunted asylum, which if not dope sick would have actually been pretty awesome. Morbid and creepy as always, that’s me.

I told myself to shake it off, get over only thinking about my pain. There is so much pain in the world. Women and children getting their limbs blown off in Syria, people dying of disease, fatal accidents, women’s privates being mutilated in Africa. Shake it off Kristan, you did this to yourself now you fix it. That morning the pain wasn’t gone, but it was just a little bit better. You become so thankful for those brief moments you are able to watch a commercial or read a few pages of a book before you realize time has passed and you weren’t thinking of it. It just was. Time let you be. I was up before everyone else. I asked one of the crisis care workers if they could sit outside with me while I drank coffee. I was always kind to them, you get more with honey than vinegar, right? The worker opened the door to the yard and let me sit. I sat outside, it was a bit chilly, it was September in the mountains. I felt ok. I heard birds chirping in the distance and I saw the Blue Ridge Mountains with the sun just coming up. The sky orange and purple. I hummed Fleet Foxes to myself and drank my coffee. I noticed the cup didn’t shake as much as I held it. For the first time in a long time I was sitting still and safe. Not worried, not dope sick, just ok and safe. At that moment, the stillness was all I had and I realized something, the less I need in life, the more I’ll have.