When I got out of detox (see The Crucible, Part III – Reality Check for the story story of how I got there -- strangely enough, I still have never written the story of what happened there), I was high again within 24-36 hours. I knew I needed to get sober (for a while), but I also knew that there was no way it was going to happen without something way more structured than a four-day stint in detox. I was still in Philly that first day, so I went downtown to meet with some counselor or something. I don't really remember the details, but there was some place the people at the detox hospital told me I had to go within 24 hours of getting out of detox.
[About the song: Honestly, I had a hard time coming up with a song for this post. Most of the time this month, the song has either driven the post or at least been an obvious complement for it. All I can tell you about why this song is appropriate is because it always gives me a sense of loss and confusion when I listen to it. And I was nothing if not lost and confused at this point in time.]
Now that I think about it with a clear head, I don't know what they could have done to me if I hadn't gone. I was already out. I didn't even live in Philadelphia. I could have just left and gone back to NYC (which I did the next day). But they told my family I had to do this, so I had to. I got all the way down there (it was actually in South Philly) to have them tell me that they couldn't do anything for me because I didn't live in Philadelphia. Now why didn't I think of that?? But they did give me the name of a social services organization that helped meth addicts. I have no recollection of the name of the organization and I wouldn't call it out publicly here anyway (for a reason you will understand shortly), so let's just call it No More Crack.
No More Crack was located in Center City, so it was back on the subway for me. Except that I had started smoking cigarettes again (my first stop when I left detox was a convenience store to buy them – after not smoking one for three years) and I only had enough money to take the bus home and get a pack of smokes. After briefly considering it, I decided that it was well worth the 20-or-so-block walk to make sure I could still buy the cigarettes. So off I went.
I got there in the same shape I had gotten everywhere I'd been for past three years – sweaty and disheveled. I must have looked pretty scary (I have a picture from that day – I looked like a corpse), because the woman behind the desk seemed really uncomfortable talking to me. I also got there at lunch time, so the counselor I needed to see wasn't there. She told me I could come back in an hour.
Sorry, lady. I don't have anywhere else to go. I'll just be sitting here in your waiting room until he gets back. What is the name of the person I'm waiting for?
His name was Joe. Great. I'll just sit here and wait for Joe. While I was waiting, two guys I knew from when I worked at the non-profit organization in Philly strolled through the lobby. I wasn't sure if they worked there or were planning some big gay event for the organization (that's how I knew them, so it could have been that). I momentarily thought about saying hi, but then I realized I was probably really lucky they hadn't recognized me. And then they were gone.
After about an hour, this guy who looked really familiar to me walked by me and back into the offices. I sat perplexed, trying to figure out why he was there. Then the woman behind the desk said, “That's Joe. He'll be with you in a few moments.”
Now, we have to take a break for a moment so I can copy and paste a passage from The Crucible, Part III:
“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.”
Same Joe. This might have been the most awkward conversation I've ever had with someone in my life.
ME: You're the guy that's supposed to help me stay clean off meth?
JOE: Well, yeah.
ME: Do you remember who I am?
ME: OK. Because when I tried to say hi to you in the lobby you just ignored me and kept walking.
JOE: Well, I didn't want them to know I knew you.
You can only imagine how much help Joe was. He had one solution for me. He could send me upstairs to get a bus voucher and I could be on the next bus back to NYC. I just laughed.
ME: I have the money to get back to New York. I just don't think I have any reason to go there, except to do drugs.
JOE: Well, that's where you live. You should get help there. We can't help you here.
So that was that. I headed back up to my sister's house and told her what had happened. I'm pretty sure she believed me when I told her the story, but really who could have blamed her if she hadn't?
The whole detox and after experience was kind of a bust for me. If anything, the whole saga just wanted to make me use even more. By the next afternoon, Joe got his wish. I was back on the bus to New York. With meth in my pocket.