Confessions of a Sober Drug Trafficker

By Alexander Miller 01/24/12

Busted in a tiny Arkansas town with a trunk full of marijuana—and three years of sobriety—this writer escapes serious jail time in a most unexpected way.

Sober trafficking isn't very sober

“We’re home free,” I told John. We had to be. It’d been three days since we left California's Humboldt County, the lush, remote hill country near the Oregon border, and now we were nearing the Mississippi River. We could be in New York tomorrow if we drove straight through. "Pull over at the next gas station," I said. "I need caffeine."

The Circle K parking lot was brightly lit. As the car idled I sprinted through the pissing rain to the door and got two cans of cold double espresso and a six-pack of Red Bull. John watched me down three cans and buckled my seat belt. As I pulled out of the parking lot, we passed a cop car coming in. Two cops were in the front seat and they turned to look at us as we passed. I nodded a quick greeting, like passing drivers do. I wasn't worried at all—even though I had 10 pounds of high-grade marijuana in a duffel bag in the trunk.

As I steered onto the interstate access road I caught a flash in the rearview of the police car turning to follow us. Even then it never registered. Just before the on-ramp, the cruiser flicked on his blue-and-white flashers. I pulled over carefully. John said, "Don't worry, probably a tail light." No one would look in the trunk. "Yeah," I said. "No biggie." My heart rate stayed steady. Why would he look in the trunk?

The cops approached us from either side of the rental car, a Chevy Malibu. I rolled down my window.

“Is there a problem, officer?” I asked, in my casual voice, like I was ordering a salad. “You crossed the white line back there,” he said, his voice rich with back-country twang. “I just want to make sure everything is all right. Y’all aren’t too tired to drive, are you?”

“Nope,” I chirped, and held up a can of Red Bull. “I’m excellent.”

“Sir, please step out of the car.”

Here we go, I thought. Here we go.

It was raining hard now, so the cop told me to sit with him in the front seat of his cruiser. “Let’s chat,” he said. He had the heat on. “It’s nice and cozy,” he told me. He ran my New York State license, asked why I was driving all the way from California to New York. “Why didn’t you just fly?” There were long silences. We stared through the window at his partner, who was talking to John in the Malibu. Then the other cop stood back, the door swung open, and John stepped out. Pretty soon we were all four of us standing in front of the trunk.

You know that old saying: “Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there.” Well I was reaching out, through the payphone, the caged windows, the Plexiglas. It always made me cringe, but it makes a lot of sense to me now. I was blessed. I was fucked, too, but blessed.

The next thing you know, the trunk is open. Then the big black duffel is placed on the ground. It is unzipped and there it is, in the headlights and the blue-and-white flashers: a shitload of very green, top-shelf Humboldt weed portioned out in big vacuum-sealed plastic bags. The cops didn’t really say much to us. Voices barked over walkie-talkies, and most of me just shut down. I barely reacted as the cuffs went on. I just rocked a little as I looked up the embankment at the cold moonlight glowing above some evergreens and shook my head slightly. For a second I wondered if I just took off up that little hill how far I could get with my hands cuffed behind my back. I was definitely faster than these big old boys. But I just stood there in the rain. John kept saying “fuck” over and over, and “sorry” and “oh man.” I told him it wasn’t his fault. At this point, what did it even matter?                   
This is a story about unsober behavior. All those things they tell you in recovery about what not to do in your first year of sobriety—no relationships, no big changes, no geographicals, call your sponsor, get to a meeting. Each suggestion basically says that early sobriety is not the time to be making adult decisions, so don't even try. Logically, I figured that after that year passed, I could start mixing it up with the big boys. When I was arrested in this shitty little Arkansas town in the pouring rain, I was three-and-a-half years sober, and it is by far the dumbest decision of my life—drunk or sober. I guess I agreed to do this out of desperation. I had injured my leg in a marathon a couple months earlier and lost my job in a film production art department, which requires lots of running around. So I needed cash. Then I got a perfectly timed call from an old friend who was growing pot in Humboldt County. He asked if I knew anyone in New York who could move 10 pounds of weed, and I could stand to make $10,000 if I helped make it happen. I should have put down the phone and called my sponsor. Instead, I said, "Sure. Yeah. Of course."

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