We had met the night before but the first time I really hung out with Wallis, we were at her friends’ house. Wallis had already told me how she was struggling with a drug problem but now she was suddenly crying. “There are drugs at my house,” she said. “I don’t want to do them but I know I will as soon as I go back.” “Do you want me to go there with you and we’ll get rid of them?” I offered. She said yes.
She wasn’t ready to let go of the drugs all the way when I first arrived so I just put them in my pocket. “We should get rid of these but I’m not going to make the decision for you,” I said. “If you want them back, I’ll give them to you but that’ll mean that I’m going to leave. We can’t hang out if you’re using drugs – at all.”
She made it a few hours and had a pretty great night before she tearfully caved and insisted that she wanted the drugs – that was her choice. I (very sadly) took the bag out of my pocket, looked her in the eye, and left.
She texted me the next day. Told me how bad she felt, said she had never felt so strongly about letting someone down before. I forget the specifics but we made plans to see each other again. We liked each other and it felt like there was something there. She hated working at the strip club and knew she could never get off coke or heroin so long as she was there every night. I suggested she come away with me for a week, to Illinois and back; she said yes. In the morning, I think we both expected the other to cancel that plan in lieu of more comfortable, familiar reality. It turned out that we were both still excited to travel together.
While traveling, we really started to develop very serious feelings for one another. We fell in love. I was scared to bring it up but, a few days in, I reminded her: “We can’t be together if you’re using drugs at all.” “I don’t want to anymore,” she said. We formulated a plan. Normally, I wouldn’t want to have this kind of control in a relationship but if this is going to work, we’re going to have to do this pretty much like I did when I helped Chris Spillane get clean. We’re gonna have to stick together 24 hours a day; obviously, you’re going to have to quit stripping and stay away from any other dangerous environments; and basically, you’re just going to have to defer to my judgment on a lot of things at first.” “That’s totally okay with me,” she said. “Fuck that place. I want to quit anyway and I don’t want to see any of those people anymore.” I gave her a nervous could-this-possibly-work/we’re-both-out-of-our-minds smile. She beamed at me with her beautiful smile.
And that’s how it was for the rest of the time we were in Jacksonville. She didn’t resent me for any “control” I exercised over her (which was really very little – she wanted to make all the right choices), she loved me for it. I was saving her (or at least guiding her) and she was grateful.
We’re on our way back to Jacksonville right now so I can sell art at One Spark. It’s our first time back since we left in February and something’s changed. She’s making plans to spend time with old friends with active drug problems. This was never a problem before we left; it never even came up. I explained to get why that’s a bad idea and she did NOT smile at me for it. She got angry. “Why don’t you trust me?” she asked. “Have a little faith in me.” They’re the exact same words I’ve heard out of other addicts a million times before. She hasn’t relapsed yet but she’s in relapse mode. There is no good reason to hang out with someone that you know is going to be high, has no interest in not being high, and with whom the basis of your friendship was “getting fucked up” together. She also made plans with another friend (with whom she used to shoot up) that she neglected to tell me (until we were already arguing about this stuff) has gotten back on heroin since we left.
“If you wanna stay clean, you can’t hang out with those people. If you want for us to be together, you can’t put yourself in positions like that. It’s not even that it’s just you; it’s putting me in a dangerous position too. It scares me. It makes me feel overwhelmed to an extent that I wanna get high. It hasn’t even been that long since I relapsed. I can’t be worried about you and what you’re up to the whole time we’re in Jacksonville. I need you to stick with me or else your friends that don’t have drug problems.”
Her response this time around is not gratitude; it’s resentment. I know how this story ends. I’ve read it before. I’ve lived it. Many times.
I don’t want to relapse again. It really, hurts to lose her (especially because I know what happens when addicts make choices like this) but I can’t let it fuck up my life too. This is her asking for that bag of drugs back and this is me walking out the door. I’m gonna be emotionally messy all week (and this is NOT a good week for that) but – letting her go – that’s the right choice in this situation. I can’t hold on to someone that’s not ready. The stakes are too high. I love her but it looks like this is the end of our little adventure together.