Before we start, here’s a vocabulary lesson for normal people: Vivitrol is an injection you can get to block the euphoric effects of heroin for a month. Without the incentive of a high, there’s no reason to shoot up. So long as you get it every 30 days, you’ll stay clean. Dilaudid is a prescription opiate. Like Oxycodone, you shoot it up and it feels just like heroin.
A couple other points: I didn’t proofread this shit. I didn’t edit it, I didn’t “punch it up.” I just typed it. “Natalie” and “Joseph” are fake names because what-the-fuck-ever. People don’t always like it when they make it into my stories.
And with no further ado…
I didn’t wanna take Natalie to get her Vivitrol shot. It’d be an eight-hour roundtrip and if she couldn’t be trusted to go get it herself, then what’s the point anyway? What would I really be accomplishing, keeping a girl clean who didn’t wanna be clean? I felt like I owed it to her mom though and I like to help. Being useful to someone else makes me feel a little better about myself and I could use that lately.
I never got the chance. Natalie called me on Wednesday night. She couldn’t get the Vivitrol shot on Thursday as planned because (surprise!) she had been on drugs the whole time. You need a few days clean before you get the shot and she didn’t have ‘em. What she did have was a meeting with her probation officer in the morning. If she pissed dirty, she’d be going to jail. She wanted me to drive down to Boynton to help. “What can I even do for you at this point?” I asked. “I just need you,” she begged. I called her mom; she said she’d feel a lot better if I were down there. I agreed to go. My plan was to take her to the PO in the morning – to help her turn herself in. She wouldn’t do it alone but maybe I could be the support she needed to brave up and face the music. I didn’t tell Natalie that that was my plan; I just started driving and told her I was on the way.
I got to town shortly after midnight and Natalie was nowhere to be found and not answering her phone. I was really pissed off. What the fuck did I drive down here for? I pulled into a fast food parking lot, took a Seroquel, and went to sleep. Art, ambition, girls, relationships, love, sex, money, priorities, the ability to wake up in the morning and live a day worth living… Everything in my life is so screwed up lately. I’m sleeping alone in the parking lot of a Boynton Beach Checkers. Fuck my life.
I found out on the drive down that Natalie had, in fact, been staying at a halfway house but what she had left out is that it was one of those shithouse operations that lets you share a room with your junkie boyfriend/girlfriend. Drug-addled couples never get clean together. Never. She wouldn’t give me the address for the house because her boyfriend is the jealous type (Natalie’s “not allowed” to be my friend on Facebook, for example). She didn’t want any kind of confrontation should he be home when I came to pick her up. So she kept me on the hook. “I’m on my way,” “Where are you? I’ll meet you there,” “Just another thirty minutes” – this went on all day from 8AM ‘til 2PM when she finally showed up at my friend Joseph’s house, where I had been hanging out, waiting on her.
There was no way she was going to turn herself in, she said. She wanted to go to treatment. Joseph told her about the facility he works at. “They can handle your PO,” he told her. I didn’t really like that idea. Natalie’s been through treatment before. At least ten times. If she went in again, we’d just be dealing with this same shit down the line when she got released. Inpatient rehab cannot save Natalie. She needs real consequences. She still doesn’t want to get clean – not really.
But Joseph and Natalie got it all worked out. The counselors at his facility were handling her PO. She’d go in there for two months and the PO would come in with papers that’d terminate Natalie’s probation. For the ten millionth time, Natalie was gonna get off the hook, beat the charges, be free to fuck up her life. What the fuck was I gonna do? What the fuck could I do? Nothing except safely transport her to detox.
The detox Natalie wanted to go to wouldn’t take her until the next morning. Her facility found another place she could go but she didn’t wanna. She wanted to spend the day/night with me first. Fine. Fair enough. I like Natalie and I’ve done this before. It’s not generally advisable to try to babysit a junkie but – like Chris Spillane – I know Natalie well enough to know that I can hold on to her. Like Chris Spillane, I know she’s not gonna straight up bolt on me and I know she’s not gonna pull anything too crazy. She had already gotten high (hence her failure to meet up with me until fourteen hours after my arrival) so she wasn’t gonna get sick before I dropped her off at detox. We left her car in Joseph’s driveway and had a mostly pleasant day together.
We went back to Joseph’s house in the morning to get her car. We couldn’t go straight to detox because Natalie had a paycheck waiting for her at work that she needed to cash so she could get cigarettes and whatever else while she was in rehab for the next two months. It was 8AM but the check wouldn’t be ready for pick up until noon. And then she started in with the bullshit. She needed to go to a friend’s house to get stuff she had left behind, she needed to go to another house to shower and get dressed, she needed to do a lot of things and it was okay with her if I just let her drive to do these things on her own. Not fucking happening. I knew what was really going on – she wanted to go get high one last time. Was I afraid, like her mom was, that she might overdose? No. Was I afraid that she might get arrested? No – because that’d be the best thing that could happen to her, in my view. But I was fucking here and it was my job to hold on to her and make sure that she got to wherever the fuck it was that she was supposed to be going. I was emotionally fucking exhausted. “I’m not letting you go off on your own to run around town doing whatever the fuck it is you’re trying to do. Back me up on this, Joseph.” “Honestly,” he said, “She’s going into treatment anyway. It doesn’t really matter if she gets high one last time. Just let her do what she’s gonna do and then you won’t have to deal with all the lies and bullshit. At least she’ll be straight with you.”
Fuck. Now I’ve got the guy who works at the treatment center telling me I should just let her get high one last time. He’s wrong but maybe he’s right. What the fuck does it matter? Why do I care if she uses again before she goes in? Maybe I’m just trying to be controlling. Maybe this would all be a lot easier if, for once, I just give in and say, “Fine.” And so we’re off to the dealer’s house.
“I’ll pay you back as soon as we get my check,” she said. Fuck. So now I’m paying for the drugs too? Great. What the fuck ever. Here. I give her the money, she hands it to the dealer, he hands her the pill (Dilaudid), and we pull away. All of this is in Natalie’s car because I’ll be damned if I’m gonna have this shit going on in my car. I’m not going to jail for this shit. This is already stupid and fucking risky enough as is. I shouldn’t be here. What the fuck is wrong with me?
We pull into the parking lot of the AA clubhouse and Natalie prepares her shot. She can’t find a vein, she can’t do her shot. “We’ve gotta go to my friend Evan’s house so he can hit me,” she says. “No, we’re not fucking doing that.” “Then you have to do it,” she says. Great. Perfect. This makes sense. So now I’m shooting this girl up in a parking lot? Of course I am. This is my stupid fucking life.
I take the needle from her and slide it into her arm, immediately finding a vein. “First time, every time,” I think to myself. What a stupid point of pride.
I pretend to throw all of her paraphernalia out the window but secretly slip it into my pocket with the exception of her rig. That, I do throw away. But I take a clean one from her glovebox and put that in my pocket. We go back to Walgreens, where we left my van, and I go in to use the bathroom. Into the bottle cap Natalie used to prep her shot, I rinse the residual powder from the cellophane she used to crush the Dilaudid. I put my needle in to her cotton and draw back. There’s no way there’s enough left in this cap (even with the added cellophane powder) for me to feel anything but I’m going to do it anyway. I shoot up and feel nothing. I go outside and find Natalie in the parking lot, arguing on her phone. I don’t tell her what I’ve done but I’m angry about it. She says her boss called and that she can’t get her check today. I’m angry about that too because now I’m not going to be reimbursed for the drugs, for the gas I put in her car, or for the food and cigarettes I bought her (something she offered as consolation when she hit me up for the drug money). And my money is tight right now. That reimbursement would’ve helped. I tell Natalie it’s time to go to detox – and not the one she wants to go to in Miami – the one in West Palm that her soon-to-be treatment facility/home wanted her to go to. She flips out threatens to call her mom, tell her I shot her up, and get my phone turned off (because I’m on their plan). That doesn’t phase me. I know I’m going to tell her mom about all of this anyway. I start to call myself and Natalie stops me. I know she doesn’t want her mom to know about any of this. She gives in and agrees to let me drive her to the detox in West Palm. At some point, I sneakily get her dealer’s number out of her cell phone. If I’m still feeling like this after I drop her off, I’ve got plans of my own. I’ve been clean for sixteen months and I don’t give a fuck. After today, I’ll leave Delray and I’ll be safe again. This will be my last rescue mission. I relapsed two summers ago when I had eleven months clean. Once I removed myself from the dangerous situation in which I relapsed, I was fine. This will be the same. I’m going to be fine.
I smoke a cigarette in front of the detox center with Natalie before we go in. At one point, some guy comes out. He’s kind of an asshole. Natalie asks if I’ll get her a few packs of cigarettes to get her through detox. I say okay because I’m a sucker like that. We check her in and I drive to the store. Before I’m back, she’s calling. “I’m outside with all my stuff. Fuck this place. Will you take me somewhere else? I don’t want to stay here. And my boss called. I can go get my check after all.” She has a lot of reasons for why she doesn’t like it and I’ve got plenty of rationalizations for why I agreed to pick her back up but the truth of the matter is that I want her to cash the check so I can get paid back.
I pick Natalie up and we start driving to her work to get the check. On the way, (surprise!) Natalie tells me she needs to use again. Of course she doesn’t. She’ll be in detox soon enough (and the detox she wanted to go to all along – the one where they’ll dose her up with so much crap that she’ll be more high than she was on the outside) but none of that matters.
In fact, nothing that happened the rest of the day matters. Sure, there are all sorts of interesting, pathetic, sordid, exciting little developments in the next few hours but it’s all bullshit and I’m tired of this story now. I’m not having fun writing this. Here are the pertinent details: Natalie and I meet up with the dealer again; I buy drugs for myself this time; Natalie goes in to detox and I stay high until my drugs are all used up two and a half days later. And now I’m four and a half days clean again. And I’m the same person I was before any of it happened. I didn’t “lose” my eighteen months of cleantime, just as I didn’t lose the eleven months of cleantime I had racked up the last time I relapsed (summer 2013).
I finished my latest painting a couple nights ago – the one I’ve been working on for just over two months. I can see now that leaving Florida to travel this year was, more often than not, not especially productive. I am not pleased with my progress in these last few months. I have not been writing as much as I should be. I am not painting as often as I should be. I am not engaging with galleries or otherwise promoting myself or advancing my career as often as I should be. September, October, and November were almost total wastes of my time. I am confused and scared. I have lost my sense of direction and my motivation. I’ve been caught up in relationships that were mostly chaotic and destructive. I’ve become preoccupied with sex, moreso than ever before. These things are not a consequence of my relapse, they were the cause of it. This has been the build-up to it. And that’s okay. I’m not upset that it happened. I don’t really even care enough to think of it as “a wake up call.” Because I still feel lost and I still don’t know what to do and that’s the same as it was before I put a needle in my arm.
It’s just a thing that happened.
4 thoughts on “Relapse 2014 story”
damn dude. I know this is totally clichè but i thought of the old AA saying, “never do a twelve step call alone…”. whatever this is life and it doesn’t always pan out like they say in meetings. Really glad to see you haven’t lost your voice. If anything your prose is more powerful than ever. Frank would be proud.
This story made my veins hurt…pathetic crazy shit.Create more art..fuck all the other bullshit.
Time to stop worrying about others if it involves YOUR sobriety. This is the selfish part.