Friday, March 26, 2010

People I've Known

Most of you know that I've had a drug problem; for those of you who don't, I did. That was years ago now and I think a lot about why I've made it through while so many others haven't. The conclusion I've come to is this: I always saw my addiction as something separate from me, something temporary. Of course it's something I have to always be aware of, but I'm Annie and I'm many things, not just an addict. Some people give up on those other things and become just an addict and they aren't lucky enough to have people who love them around to remind them. I know that there are a lot of people out there who will disagree with me on this but I think that the drug abuse causes the alleged "addictive personality," and not the other way around. I never planned on being a drug addict, never really even saw it coming. Drugs took me places I never thought I'd go and introduced me to a lot of people I never thought I'd know. Not all of them were bad, some of them were. I'd like to introduce you to some of them.

When I finally landed in rehab it was a place called "New Hope" which was tucked into a little locked hallway in Lincoln Park Hospital. A man named Jake ran it. Jake was tall and skinny, he wore designer suits and shiny, pointy shoes that looked so soft they could have been made of discarded foreskin. He also slicked his hair back. We kind of suspected that he sold drugs on the side just to keep his hallway well-stocked with suffering children and his back account well-stocked by blindsided parents. Most of the people who worked at New Hope were barely qualified for the job. My councilor was named Edna, she was an Asian college student who never understood a word I said, not because English was a second language but because she didn't understand addiction as a whole or how all of her hard work had landed her in a chair across from someone like me. Other employees there were just recovering addicts themselves which qualified them to guide others into sobriety. The doctor was Jake's best find though. His name was Randy, a former heart surgeon and crack addict.

Randy was in his 40's, a short and round man with a kind of "chin strap" goatee (as one of the other girls called it). He could have been a heart surgeon, he could also have been a failed rapper. He was always wearing baggy jeans and heavily logo-ed sweatshirts and gold chains. When I first met him it was when I got out of detox and I had to tell him my medical history. He acted like it was the most interesting information he'd ever gathered. For some reason he was always seeking me out and sitting next to me at meetings, during which he would talk non-stop and show me all the crap in his wallet. Sometimes he was in charge of watching the ward and would always let me into the staff area to play on the computers in sit in the comfortable chairs.

When I got out I figured that was the last I'd see of Randy, but he really took me under his Sean John-clad wing then. He was always showing up and taking me to museums and meetings and out to eat with lots of people who couldn't seem to remember who they were before they were addicts, and instead decided to settle on just staying addicts, but sober ones. Randy was a kind of guru to them because, well, he used to be a heart surgeon and had lost a lot more than the rest of us by far and because he insisted that he was "recovered," which anyone in the recovery community knows is heresy. We'll NEVER recover, we're in perpetual "recovery." It's bleak. But Randy had broken that cycle and had a message for all of us: "It's horrible, everything is horrible." He said it constantly, but in a cheerful way.

At a certain point, probably after my relapse and subsequent ICU stay, Randy decided that I had not yet hit rock bottom and the only way to make sure I stayed sober was to have my dad pay him to stay with me round-the-clock, which, as my dad later pointed out, he would have done for free if we had allowed it. When I asked him where I was supposed to sleep he said I could stay with his sister. His sister looked exactly like him, was just as weird, and didn't even try to tell people she used to be anything like a heart surgeon. I don't know what she did, or did before that and I was not going to sleep in her apartment or his, which, incidentally was the men's halfway house which Jake (remember Jake?) also owned.

I think that was about it for Randy, I don't remember exactly what happened with that whole situation, I think that the whole "pay-me-to-stalk-your-daughter" proposition pretty much ended it for my parents and once they were sufficiently creeped out I was ready to be done too. I do know that I left my entire CD collection in his car, an event from which I've never really recovered. I can't walk into a music store without seeing a CD I used to own and imagining Randy driving around with his gold chains and puffy coats looking for people to look up to him so he could tell them that "it's horrible, everything is horrible." What in the world could have ever happened to that guy? He's probably in prison, and if he's not he probably should be.

1 comment:

  1. That's creepy! But fascinating. Also, the idea of shoes made of discarded foreskin is going to haunt me FOREVER. Or at least until I get a pair.