Winter Is Coming

By GHXSTORIES 01/09/19

Then I heard it. I’ll never forget it. The worst sound I’ve ever heard in my life. My mom began to wail. No words, just tones of sadness and helplessness.

Man walking down staircase outdoors, against cloudy sky
I was dopesick and needed a fix, with no one to call and nothing to steal. Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

I used to wonder why a lot of people seek treatment around the winter time. And it’s weird because for people in recovery, the winter is usually the time they go back out. The drop in temperature does something crazy to an addict like me. I used to love getting high in the winter. Today it reminds me of the first time I came out as an addict.

November 2013. That’s when I told my family I was shooting up Dilaudid and smoking crack, and that I couldn’t stop. The walls had finally caved in. I couldn’t hold a job any longer, I was thieving just enough to keep my car legal and on the road with enough left over to support my habit. I had lost a lot of weight because the only food I was taking in was whatever I was stealing out of the 7-Eleven before or after getting right. My diet consisted of string cheese, blueberry Red Bull, and the cigarettes I scooped out of their ashtrays. I had a routine of hitting them either late at night or first thing in the morning. I needed the ash for the cans I was using to smoke crack. I had two cups filled with cigarette ash in my car at all times. It smelled like shit. I was too scared to keep a crack pipe on me or the chore boy to go along with it, so I kept soda cans and ash on deck, ready to go whenever I scored.

If you knew me growing up, you’d remember me as a generally happy kid. Aside from the slight anger issues and ADHD, I was usually smiling and filled with joy. The criminal lifestyle I adopted while blooming into a career dope-fiend slowly took that away from me. My eyes were no longer clear, and my voice always sounded like I just woke up; there simply was no life to me. I was a shell of a man. My default look resembled a man who was just informed that he had three days to live. Hopeless, defeated, weak and suicidal.

Over time, I forgot how to keep up with my hygiene. Drugs had a funny way of making me neglect my self-care. There’s no way in hell I’m paying for a $12 haircut, that’s damn near half a pill. I was starting to lose my mind. The crimes I was committing and situations I had been getting myself into were affecting me. Sleep was out of the question. Whether it was from the crack or the insomnia, I’m not sure. Probably a combination of both.

I am a firm believer and supporter of men and women in recovery who now suffer from PTSD because I know firsthand the horrors that go along with being a really good junkie; the shit we do, the things we see, the things we endure or narrowly escape. It’s hard to come back from that after doing it for so long to survive. I totally understand how when we finally get sober it’s a struggle to let go of certain character defects. Those defects were critical survival skills. 

I told my brother first. That November, right before winter, I remember losing my job because my boss caught me on camera taking out his MacBook Pro along with some power tools we kept in our warehouse. He told me he wasn’t going to press charges but I knew they were coming. You can smell the police sometimes. I had run out of ideas and was in so much pain emotionally. I was dopesick and needed a fix, with no one to call and nothing to steal. My bright idea was to confess to my brother that I had been using for however many years, explain to him what withdrawing is, and proceed to ask him to buy me drugs. How low can I go? Let me tell you.

I called him and told him the deal and he was in my driveway in 20 minutes. I explained to him that I wanted to tell Mom but first I had to get right. He was devastated. He loved me. He knew something was up this whole time but couldn’t believe just how bad it was. There were tears rolling down both of our faces. He told me he’ll do whatever he can to help but then we go straight to Mom. At this point I didn’t care, I was minutes away from my next fix.

The fucked-up thing about this whole situation is that my brother is the complete opposite of me. He is the purest man I know. He shits integrity and pisses excellence on a daily fucking basis. I remember watching him cry the first time he got drunk. It was his 21st birthday and he believed he was letting so many people down. Fast forward to a cold night in November. Now I got him hitting an ATM and taking him to one of the most notorious drug dealers on our side of town.

I got my pills, I got right, and I lay down. I wasn’t man enough to tell my mom after we got home so I hid under the covers like the bitch I was. My brother came in and asked me when I was going to tell her. I didn’t care anymore because I had a pill waiting for me hidden in the closet, along with a 40 piece of crack I fronted from the dopeman when I was getting the pills. It’s weird, I got what I wanted and I instantly forgot about all the pain and turmoil I’ve been through, like I’m ready to continue this shit show of a drug binge.

I conceded and told him to tell Mom himself. I threw the covers back over my head and curled into a fetal position. I could hear them whispering in the living room. I couldn’t make out any words but just the tones they were using sounded sad and concerned. Like sitting in the waiting room of a hospital and overhearing doctors talk about something serious, knowing the prognosis is death. This was serious.

Then I heard it. I’ll never forget it. The worst sound I’ve ever heard in my life. My mom began to wail. No words, just tones of sadness and helplessness. The kind you hear at a funeral when a wife is mourning over her dead husband and finally breaks down as she reaches the casket to glance at the lifeless love of her life. My mom sounded like she just received news that her first born child was murdered. At least that’s how I felt. I instantly began to cry. What the fuck am I doing to my family right now?! I am such a piece of shit. I just want to die. I also want to take a huge hit of that rock right about now too.

I heard footsteps coming to the door. I knew it was my mom and I didn’t know what to expect. I know how my mom walks. I know what it sounds like to hear her roam around her house. I know it well because usually it’s 3 or 4 in the morning and my ear is under the door listening for her night in and night out while I get high in my room. The fervency in her footsteps caught me off guard. I never heard her walk this way before. I began to tremble. She comes into the room and sits right on my bed, wraps her arms around me and pulls me close to her. With fear in her voice, she says, “I don’t care what it takes, I don’t care how we do it, but I will do whatever it takes, Eli. We will beat this! I will not lose you like I lost your father. We will do this together and figure this out. I love you.” Tears fall as I type this out for you right now, but the tears I shed that night hurt worse than any pain I have ever felt.

Neither of us could have predicted what was to transpire over the next few years. Her words of “doing this together,” although noble and very motherly, amount to nothing if I do nothing for my recovery. This journey was mine to take and mine alone. My mom can’t get me sober. Her prayers can’t get me sober. Neither can my brother’s. Recovery is up to me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have been blessed. My family are not spectators in my recovery, they support me in their own way. At times they have had to give me the “hard no” and love me from a distance. But I have always felt their touch. I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s not like that for a lot of my junkie friends, especially the ones that have undergone a geographical change to seek treatment. I know firsthand the lengths my family members have gone to understand me and encourage me along the way and for that, I will forever love them.

That was the beginning of my journey. I didn’t attempt to get sober until a few months later but I will never forget that night.

The dialog was started. The truth came out. The jig was up. The smell of police was in the air and Christmas was right around the corner. Santa would bring a lot of heartbreak that year and for a few more years after that. But the truth came out. The yarn would finally begin to unravel and I would begin the most important fight of my life.

The fight for my life.

Today I’m sober. Today in this moment I am alive, I am happy, I am free… Life isn’t perfect, but I am in love with living and I have a purpose.

My name is Eli and I am an addict. Until the day I spoke those words aloud, I was a dead man walking. One day at a time, I do the things necessary to stay alive one more day. 

If nobody told you today that they love you, fuck it, there’s always tomorrow.

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GHXSTORIES is a recovering junkie and musical artist from Clearwater, FL who recklessly dances on the fringe of insanity. He currently resides in the Tampa Bay Area, where you'll most likely find him around town trying to gain some traction in sobriety. Fresh on the writing scene, his "Ghost Stories" aim to provoke and arouse through witty, raw, and sarcastic musings. Listen to him on SoundCloud and find him on Instagram and Facebook.