He rolled over in bed on top of his lover, reaching over to the bed stand and grabbed a syringe cap filled with used cottons and vitamin water. “Maybe we can just shoot vitamins instead of heroin,” he said while mashing the cottons with the butt of the syringe. She grabbed her cap and did the same. They drew up and did their issues together and continued jabbering late into the night about their lost causes and desperate hopes proposing ludicrous solutions, such as supplementing vitamin water for heroin.

A lot had changed in the weeks following that romantic vitamin regiment. While it was his last shot, it wasn’t hers, and without her and without drugs he had no definitive reason for being and no real clue as to what to do or where else to be. That’s why he started going to meetings–not because he believed in them, but because he had no place in a world without drugs and had not a clue what to do outside of the using lifestyle. Quite frankly, going to meetings was the only activity he knew that didn’t involve using drugs–it was the only place he knew to go where drugs would not be. He thought that kicking heroin would be the hardest part, but never anticipated the soul crushing silence and the thoughts that would ensue in that dark quiet place, nor did he anticipate the tedious coping that went with the seemingly endless days, where minutes felt like hours, hours like days, and days like weeks. He never thought he’d need re-adjusting to everything, like walking and talking and any other rote activity most normal people take for granted, because in the beginning everything about a life without drugs was new, and he was terrible at all of those things.

He wasn’t allowed to stay at the house alone, so in the mornings he’d leave with his mom when she left for work. She dropped him off at the Euclid trolley station every morning knowing it would likely be the last time she saw of her son. He’d venture out aimless and branded by a spider web of black veins and track marks mapping out his lifetime of bad decisions.

He trudged through life one day at a time nonetheless, and as the days passed he found jobs, and learned how to talk to normal people about normal things, and how to let the dumb habits learned from a life of unhealthy people and situations go. He graduated from his program, and he moved on from the halfway house into an apartment, and moved on past the transit system into a car of his very own–with the insurance and registration in his name. Times were changing for this once young and hopeless drug addict. When that love of his died, he slowly faced his fear and started taking chances and talking to new people. He’d never cultivated a relationship clean, and hadn’t even had sex clean or sober in his entire life. But he did it. He persevered in the face of whatever adversity stood before him–oftentimes awkwardly.

He trudged on this way for years conquering the unanticipated obstacles of life as they hindered his progress forward. He gained confidence, and he found that he wanted and deserved a better life, so he set his eyes on things he’d dubbed himself unworthy for, and he stepped into the shoes of manhood and took charge of his life.

Sitting on a porch one day he overheard someone say, “Someday, if you do it right, nobody will ever know.” He wanted that. He wanted to be a person who others saw as equal without the underlying stigma of addiction, and he stopped allowing his past to define his present, but he vowed never to forget, or else he would be that much closer to repeating the mistakes of the past.

And as he progressed into a productive normal life where financial security was established, where his rights were restored, and where he wasn’t dominated by fear, he began to consider the existential questions pertaining to happiness and being. While he had been extremely productive and found amazing tactics to distract himself from the tedious passage of time, he had never really stopped to ponder anything about himself; who he was or what he wanted. He just acted accordingly, because the past five years of his were crammed and chaotic, and he was hard-pressed do to anything but react to situations. And so he went out into the world questioning; finding and creating his own processes and definitions for life. But he never forgot, no matter how far he traveled away from the despair he faced in the beginning. Until he did start to forget.

And it would be little moments, like standing in Balboa Park looking down at some dropped meth loaded syringe at the artists village that he’d remember what a blessing it was to be him–no matter how stressful, or lonely, or scared, or overwhelmed. It reminded him of the small underlying victory that mattered above most each day–that he was clean.

And several years later, in a moment of confusion bordering on desperation he scrambled desperately to make time for a meeting, and when he finally did he found exactly what he needed to find… He found a reprieve from all the contrived bullshit that had directed him this way and that, and he remembered:

When he first walked into those rooms they told him not to forget, that someday he would have to remind himself to remember what it was like. That he would need to remember when he was friendless, and his family wouldn’t talk to him, that he would need to remember when he needed to convince himself that life was worth living. That he needed to remember mixing old heroin soaked cottons with vitamin water, and the loves lost and destruction left in the wake of his past. Someday, he would need to remember, because if he didn’t he would certainly go back.

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