Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Crucible, Part III -- Reality Check

Once I had decided to ask someone for help, I got a temporary burst of focus and organization. In a shocking turn of events, I decided it would not be a good idea to smoke meth before heading over to talk to my former boss. I opted for coffee instead.

Cup in hand, I walked over and asked to see her. When she came out to the lobby to meet me, she said something that I thought was odd then, but find really hilarious now. She told me I looked the same as I had six years ago -- that I hadn't aged. Oh honey, I've aged. Trust me, I've aged.

In her office, sitting at the same conference table she had once lunged across to warn me to never roll my eyes at her again, I laid it all out there -- the drugs, the voices, the communication chip, my mind-reading skills, my ability to broadcast my thoughts to everyone around me. All of it.

Unbelievably, she never flinched. I expected her to tell me to wait there while she called 911. Instead, she assured me that I was not broadcasting my thoughts to the world, well at least not to her. She also explained my options as she saw them, one of which was a detox ward at a nearby hospital. Yes. That sounds perfect I said (imagining a warm, serene setting with an atrium and lots of natural light).

We walked around the organization, talking to doctors, psychologists, case managers, setting everything in motion. She would make some phone calls and I could get into detox the next day. There was just one hitch, she told me. Since I didn't have any health insurance, I would have to tell them I was suicidal in order to get admitted. Ummm. You heard that story I just dumped on you. How far from suicidal do you think I actually am?

Then she got quiet for a moment. Maybe we should do an HIV test for you while you're here? When was the last time you were tested?

Hmmm. The last three years had run together so much I really had no idea when that was. I agreed and they took me over and stuck what looked like a weird q-tip in my mouth and rubbed it on my cheek. That's it?! So how long does it take for the result? A week?

Twenty minutes?!! Hold on. I thought I'd have a little more time to prepare than that. OK. Whatever. I'm going to go get a soda and come back.

She looked at me and made a face. Are you sure you're coming back?

Again, I was a little flummoxed. Do you really think I came all this way and told you that entire story just to walk away and not come back? I'll be back in less than 20 minutes.

When I got back, she was more upbeat and friendly than I'd ever remembered seeing her since I'd met her. Let's go get those results, she said. I guess she figured it was just a formality and nothing to worry about.

I also figured it was just a formality, but not in the same way she did.

When we got back to the office she looked at the result and the smile vanished from her face.

I don't know why, but I felt a need to comfort her at that moment. I don't know what you expected, but I'm pretty sure I know what that sheet of paper says. It's OK.

She told me to come in and sit down. She seemed honestly shaken by the result. It was in that moment that I realized that she liked me. We'd fought constantly when I worked there and I assumed she thought I was an idiot (because she said as much more than once during my years there). But, here she was, genuinely concerned for me and a little upset. Are you going to be OK, she asked. You can stay here and hang out in my office as long as you need to.

I'm sure it was partly that crystal dulls the emotions, but for the third time that day I was nonplussed. You heard that whole story I told you right? I have way bigger fish to fry than this right now. This is so not the worst thing that's happened to me in even the last 24 hours. I'll be fine.

Before I went on my way, the took most of my blood. They said it was only four vials, but I could feel them draining it all from me. Or maybe I just hate having blood drawn and I was being overly dramatic.

She wondered aloud if I'd really come back the next day to go to the detox hospital. This time she had valid cause to question. I told her I definitely understood what she was worried about -- the voices were very persuasive -- but I was 99 percent certain I'd be back.

With only 24 hours of freedom left, I went back to the hotel. I kept going back and forth between just sitting there and not moving until the next day or going out and having one last day of fun (never mind that not one minute of what had gone on for at least the last six months had been remotely fun). I was obviously still somewhat ambivalent to giving up crystal, evidenced by the fact that it never once occurred to me to call my family (most of whom live within 10 miles of where I was).

I called an old boyfriend and told him what was going on. He'd actually been through the HIV thing when we were dating and he immediately offered to come down and hang out with me. I thought he meant for an hour or two, so I said sure. That would be great. Being alone was always terrifying and stressful anyway, so at least with him here I'd have a chance to relax for a few minutes.

When he got to the hotel, he informed me that he was there to babysit me and make sure I got to detox tomorrow. Oh, hell no. That was never going to work for me, because I still had crystal left and I wasn't going to detox without finishing it. We debated the situation for a bit and I agreed to at least take a nap while he was there and we could talk about it more when I woke up. What a saint this guy was. There aren't that many people that would just sit in a hotel room watching TV while some idiot crackhead sleeps, just to make sure he was OK.

When I woke up, there was food there. I guessed he had gone out while I was sleeping. Weren't you afraid I'd escape while you were gone, I asked. He told me that he had taken the key (an actual key in fact -- I felt like it was 1975) so he knew I wouldn't be going anywhere. How naive is that? Right then, I knew I'd be going out in just a couple of hours.

I told him I was fine and he could go home if he wanted, but he insisted on staying the night. No matter. He certainly wasn't going to outlast me now. I had a bag and was coming off about 18 hours sleep in the last 24 hours. I was ready to go. And I did, as soon as he drifted off to sleep.

I spent the next few hours smoking with a guy who had been one of my customers for the past year. There were a couple other guys there I had never met. One in particular made an impression. The thing about being as high as I was is that you have no filter. You think it. You say it. And all I was thinking about was the fact that I was going to detox in the morning. Talk about a buzz kill. But this one guy -- let's call him Joe -- didn't seem to mind. He just sat there and talked to me while we smoked and just let me go on and on about how I was going to change my life. As a token of my gratitude, I gave Joe my pipe and what was left in the bag I had when I left at 5 am to sneak back into my hotel room.

I managed to get back to the room before my friend woke up. If he had woken up during the night and noticed I was gone, he was kind enough not to mention it. I was starting to get pretty tense and nervous by this time. It was all starting to sink in. I'd given away the last of my crystal. What the hell was I thinking?!

The first stop of the morning was back to to find out if my former boss was able to get me in to the detox hospital. When I got there, one of the doctors from the treatment center there -- we'd always been friendly when we worked together -- called me into his office. He was looking at the results of my blood work and he was really agitated. He was talking very curtly and had a seriously harsh tone in his voice. He had a reputation for being a little dramatic on occasion, so when he told me pointedly that "the methamphetamine level in your body is immeasurable" I instinctively rolled my eyes. Let's not get carried away now. I hadn't smoked for at least 12-18 hours before they drew that blood. How bad could it be? What came next was the moment that remains the most proud and ashamed of myself I have ever been simultaneously. He handed me the paper, which had a circle drawn around the part he wanted to call to my attention. It read:

Methamphetamine GC/MS Conf >7500 ng/ml

I have no idea what most of that means, but I damn sure know what a greater than sign means. Even after abstaining for more than half a day, there was more meth in my system than their test could measure. I thought he was being a drama queen; in fact, he was just being precise.

After that, things started rolling pretty quickly. Before I knew it I was sitting in a waiting room getting ready to get myself admitted. The nurse came out and called my name and told me to come into her office. There was something about her that was familiar, but I couldn't place my finger on it. She asked me a bunch of questions while I got increasingly agitated trying to figure out who she was. Then I knew.

That very first voice. The one I heard that morning right after we moved to the apartment in Manhattan. The only one I'd never been able to identify. It was HER. What the fuck?! How did she get in here? She'd promised all along that I'd never get away from her. Now here she was, with the power to lock me in a hospital.

I tried to stay calm. We finished the questions and they sent me (and the case worker that walked down with me) in this room that was about the size of a typical living room, but had only one chair. That was it. No table, no desk, nothing. Just one chair. It didn't really matter because all I wanted to do at this point was pace back and forth like a caged animal. Every ten minutes or so I'd go out in the hallway and look to see what they were doing. Occasionally I'd see her talking to someone.

I hate him.


That crackhead drug dealer standing down the hall looking at us. I hate his fucking guts. I've been waiting a year to take him down.

I CAN HEAR YOU BITCH, I yelled down the hall.

With that, the case worker relinquished the chair, wished me luck and left. Here was my worst fear. I was alone, helpless. At the mercy of HER.

I walked back into the room and paced a bit more. A minute or two later I looked up and she was standing there with six huge orderlies or security guards or who knows. I freaked.

What the hell are you doing? I want to leave. I'm not staying here. Just let me go the hell home.
She was not having any of it. You need to calm down right now. One more word from you and I'll have you sedated.

I just want ...

In a flash the six behemoths were on top of me holding me down and taking my clothes off. Then one of them stuck a needle in my leg. Now what I remember next is that I was strapped to a board and everything was really fuzzy. I have no idea whether that is what really happened or not.

I remember that it was about 4pm when this showdown unfolded. Next thing I knew, I was waking up on a really uncomfortable cot and it was 7am. I had no idea where I was. Still trying to wake up, I saw this figure at the door. Think Cartman from South Park, only black and female. It's breakfast time. Her voice was really sweet, but I was in no mood.

I don't want any fucking breakfast, I hissed. I just want to know where the fuck I am. You can keep your goddamned food.

She smiled and left. Almost immediately I regretted my outburst. Not because she in no way deserved to be spoken to that way. Because I was starving. Why the hell did I just turn down food when I'm so hungry I could gnaw off my own arm.

Just then, Ms. Cartman returned. Still sweet as pie, she asked me if I wanted her to bring me some food so I didn't have to go down to the cafeteria with everyone else. I softened a bit.

Really? You can do that? That would be great. Thank you so much. As she was leaving, I stopped her.

You are the first person in about a day to be nice to me. Thank you so much. What's your name?



  1. These are my favorite kinds of posts, although whenever I read them, I always feel slightly sick, anxious or sad. So glad that you're in a much better place now, but it makes my heart hurt to think of what you went through.

  2. I have my own memories of all of this. I don't think we ever went too long without speaking. I do remember the call I took from you when you told me about your test results. And, for some reason, that call ended with me hopeful that you'd opened your eyes. You've certainly got a lot more of the story to tell, but I remember thinking that you had to have reached a turning point... or I never really knew you at all.

  3. Brilliant....just like I thought since high school...even if I didn't tell you until much later.

  4. I agree w/Maria...I have a love/hate feeling when I read these posts...but more than anything, I feel priveleged to share these 'memories' with you.
    You are my favorite writer. Ever.

  5. I completely bust out laughing at "I can hear you bitch". Reminds me of what I was yelling out my apartment windows shortly before you came and saved me from my own insanity - and brought me to a detox - last November. Love you Petr!