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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The People in Your Neighborhood

Sometimes it is hard to avoid the neighborhood of bad decision making. One reason is that real estate exists primarily in your head. Although it can and will be manifested in a physical sense if you let the disease get the better of your recovery, if you drop your guard. The disease doesn't care if you are in its grips as long as it has your friends, or family. Although you have a temporary reprieve from the pain and angst associated with active addiction on a personal level, that monkey will keep chattering in your ear, knowing, just absolutely positive that if he catches you at just the right time, with the right amount of stress and indecision, you are his for the night. And he will do his best to make sure it is not just one night, but weeks, months possibly years, until you are of no use to him anymore. When that day comes, luckily you will no longer be in pain. But the monkey will rejoice in the pain and misery he has caused the folks you left behind. The ones who are ordering the flowers and the pine box and those cheesy RIP stickers everyone has on their car windshields.

Then he will move on to the next victim. The way it works is there will always be someone left to take your place. The day you die will be the first day another addict sticks a needle into their arm feeling that warm intense rush of euphoria. A couple of those rushes is all it takes to get you hooked, physically and spiritually. All the pain and suffering of dope sickness is always eradicated with that wonderful rush that you never REALLY seem to experience again, comes. That addict will take your place in the ensuing drama. They will go to your dealer, and then to the dealer who takes their place when they either get shot or thrown in jail. For every addict who has been prostituting themselves to feed their addictions, when they die or go to jail, there will be another one who will be doing their first date. The ultimate vicious cycle of shame and degradation followed by a need to get away from yourself and once that feeling wears off, risking your life and sanity to do it all over again. Nobody cares about a dead hooker. Society would have you believe they are just another Godless parasite spreading disease, who had it coming.

When you are out and about running on the streets, there is a running dialogue about who is in jail, who ripped off whom, who hasn't been seen for a couple of days and who died, either from an overdose or because they were found brutalized and tied to a tree. You never read about them in the newspaper. Finding out about these instances of mortal peril is proof that the government is losing yet another war. The war on drugs is merely a war on the American people. How can this war possibly be won when there is an endless supply of product and an endless supply of victims, eager to use. The answer is simple in my mind. The government is obviously making more money "fighting" the war on drugs than they would if these drugs were legalized and regulated. Until there is a solution lives will continue to be wrecked and people will die.

If you are lucky, you can find help in a 12 step program. I could not stay clean on my own. I was incapable of controlling my use, managing my funds and managing my life on the most basic level. I never lost all dignity by turning my back on friends and family and hitting the street, but I came damn close. Too close. Today, although there are still bouts of insanity in my life I have a program. I have people in the fellowship who love me and believe in me. They are willing to give me support and share in my struggle which is a two way street. By confiding my fears and inadequacies and downfalls, I am reminding them that things really haven't got much better out there and it strengthens their program. It is expected when I get some time under my belt that I will do the same for a newcomer, where I will feel their pain and their struggle and they can benefit from my experience, strength and hope. I can assure them that how they acted and some of the things they had done in active addiction which still cause them great emotional pain, have been also done by me and many more who came before them. This simple act of kindness can save a life. We are addicts, we use drugs that is who we are. But what are we going to do about hide in the closet and hope that the dope man doesn't call us? Or, find strength from someone just like us, who somehow found the strength not to use just for one day. And continued the journey one day at a time. We do measure our clean time, but our goal is one day, yesterday already happened, we can't change that, but tomorrow doesn't exist as long it is always today. Let's worry about tomorrow when it comes.

I started out by talking about the neighborhood of bad decision making. I took a short cut today which did bring me to that physical place. Nobody saw me. But I saw them. Lou Lou was sitting on the steps of his house reading a letter from his girl, Iris who is in prison. She'll be there for four years. He got hit by a car a couple of weeks ago and is planning a PI case. He'll be dead or in jail before he sees that money. Another addict I don't know by name, was walking down the street, pregnant. She looked like she would have slept for a week if she could. It was business as usual at the blue house, which abuts a school playground. Chico was sitting on the corner with a 40 disguised inside a brown paper bag. A car drove by with one of the RIP stickers I derided. The lost their loved one on August 1. Pito was his name. Two of my dealers used to be named Pito. I could have been any one of them. With the disease I have, I very well could be one of them in the future, just as sure as they could find the rooms of recovery and be one of us.

I must be vigilant in protecting my recovery. Driving through this neighborhood wasn't the brightest idea. But, today, it worked. I saw the pain and destruction that the disease causes as plainly as I was reading a textbook. Another day when I am not as centered I might stop to talk to Lou Lou. How else would I know about Iris and his PI case if that already hasn't happened? On a worse day, he may get into the car with me and we will go to cop either for him or for me. The days before that happens are the days that I should sleep on the floor for a couple of hours to be reminded of those hard metal beds in the police department lock up and how I never want to go back there ever again.

All of the people I spoke of earlier, they sound like war casualties, don't they? You can't stop drugs or alcohol. Prohibition was a failed experiment. Just like the war on drugs. I don't have an easy solution. I don't think one exists. But one thing we can do is to treat all drug issues as a medical problem and not a criminal problem. We should stop locking up drug offenders and get them the help they need. We should find adequate employment for the lower income folks so that they are not tempted by the lucrative illegal drug trade. This is a utopian view to a problem that has no real solution. But I think we can all agree what we ARE doing is not working.

For me, what I am doing, every day IS working. I have new friends and a new life which is priceless to me. I am going to keep doing what I am doing and deal with life as it comes.

As Always you will find me..."Running hard out of Muskrat Flats,"

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