I got busted for sales in 2009 at the peak of my addiction. Awaiting my return was the same chaos that I had left. The only difference was that I was healthier and had some time to detox. The message didn’t make it to my head. I was waiting to get released and obsessively called my girlfriend–she was actually my fiance–for a ride. I wanted to get as much distance between me and the institution as fast as possible. She didn’t pick up.

It’s unfortunate how the penal system is so cyclical. I’ve been seeing the same faces and walk out and back in that revolving door since I first stepped foot in Juvenile Hall as a teenager. My cycle through county and state institutions as an adult was a whirlwind of old friends, and we sat in overly chilled cells, tanks, and yards talking nostalgically about the good old days when we were kids and doing time was fun. This was just miserable and scary–the way that a mirror is scary when you look and are greeted by a fading and unfamiliar face.

A thousand soon to be broken promises were my foundation, along with the few friends who showed up to support me. I thank you. You’re the reason that I’m still here. Your steadfast commitment and unconditional love kept me fueled when I lost the drive and ambition to continue on my own.

That afternoon, before my release–on the way back from the courthouse, I was sitting in a holding tank filled with the career men. They lived and frequented jails and prisons for the majority of their lives, and they knew hopeless when they saw it. It encompassed them and greeted them everywhere they went, like an old friend picking them up from the airport every time they came back home to visit. They took a look at my arms and were hysterical. It was the funniest thing they’d ever seen.

“When you getting out ‘TRACKS?’ one asked.

I told them I was getting out that night, and they laughed even harder. Jokes was on me. I gave them my normal reformed speel and they were in tears and choking on laughter. I argued that I understood where I had gone wrong, and that I would never make the same mistakes again. I was never coming back to this place.

Four hours later I was found half dead face down crumpled over myself in a YumYum Donuts parking lot with a needle half plunged and still hanging from the last vein in my right arm–or so I was told by a nurse at Grossmont Hospital moments before I ripped the IV and bolted for an exit with the worst headache I’d ever experienced. I bounced from wall to wall seeing everything in a blur as my vision swelled and my balance attempted to sweep my feet before pushing through an escape exit and sounding an alarm.

A few days later I sat at my kitchen table drooling all over myself strung out on a nod with a two liter of 7-UP filled with gin hanging from my limp hand and a struggling to stay lit cigarette dangling from my cold blue lips.

June 3rd, 2009. That’s a day I won’t soon forget. Sometimes I think that my real sobriety started on that day even though my abstinence didn’t really begin until the 6th. I jerked up out of my nod to the tormenting banter of my convict comrades ridiculing me. I imagined my next stay, and figured it was only a matter of time before I joined their club. At the time I’d rather die.

So, an hour later I sat with my legs hanging over the concrete barrier separating the road on the Coronado bridge and 200 ft. drop below at 3 a.m. on that Thursday morning posing existential questions aimed at answering my query. To do, or not to do. Yes, that was the question.

And just like that, there was a metaphysical shift in the air; my senses grew sharper, the air thick, the breeze invigorating, and I felt a sense of urgency to go home. I got in the car and drove home to my apartment, and that my mom was sitting in my living room at the kitchen table waiting for me. We broke down in each others arms, and I curled up and let her be my mother. We went to my Grandparents house, the home I grew up in, and together, one addict and alcoholic helping another, a mother and a son, we nourished ourselves back to sanity, good health, and continuous sobriety.

Today marks my, and my mothers, eight years clean and sober.

Ironically, I fell ill today, and I’m sitting here typing this last sentence thinking to myself, “being dope sick wasn’t all that bad compared to normal shit in life we learn to embrace.”

I guess in the end, just don’t let your life be for nothing, because that’s a tragic waste.

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