I didn’t always wanna keep using. In fact, most of the time I was using against my will. It had stopped being fun a long time ago. It was more like a job now. Wake up in instant pain and agony the second my eyes open and I became conscience. Covered in sweat and goosebumps. Bones hurting. Skin crawling. I remember vividly that when I was dope sick, everything smelled funny. I don’t know why, but when I was sick, no matter where I was I always smelled this old mattress smell, like some rank ass old rubbery smell. And the panic, my God the panic that came along with being dope sick. Imagine waking up and your first thought upon awakening is sheer and utter dread. Every damn day. Chills then heat. Sweats then freezing. The only thing that was going to take the pain and misery away was the very thing that continued to cause it. Perpetual insanity…I truly believe, in my off the cuff opinion here that 90% of all heroin addicts are truly miserable. The only reason we keep going is because we get so horribly dependent on the drug physically that we wake up every day and literally have no choice in the matter but to keep doing more. If I wake up in horrible fucking agony every day, and knowing in my mind that this drug is destroying me and I only have 2 choices: go through the pain, delusion, insomnia, and psychosis of withdrawl for God only knows how long- the last time I detoxed was cold turkey in a jail cell and I was sick as a dog for 2 weeks and didn’t sleep at all for 28 days. -OR- do whatever it takes, steal, lie, beg, manipulate, rob, or con someone to get the very drug thats killing me just to stave off the hell for one more day. Why, to me it’s a no brainer. I am going to do whatever it takes to get that bag, and MAYBE I’ll try and get clean TOMORROW… this is why crime is so common with heroin addicts. The crime is a symptom of a MUCH deeper issue here. I have never committed a crime clean and sober. Ever. But anyways, tomorrow had come for me a few times during my career as a dope fiend. Those moments of clarity, and desperation that we hear about and see in movies. But they’re always few and far between for addicts like me. I used for what, almost 14 years, and actually reached out for help, honestly, without jail or prison hanging over my head, what? 8 times? I think….
I couldn’t take it anymore. I wasn’t dope sick, but I knew that I was going to be very soon. My day of crime had netted me about 6 or 7 bags, which were definitely already gone, and about 100$ in currency. I wasn’t sick, but my cycle was about 12 hours and I had just injected my last 3 bags. The time was now. I had to make a move or God only knows how long it was going to be until I had this window of willingness again. So I picked up the phone. I am not going to mention any names, or institutions here, as I never do and never will, because this is my story and no one else’s. I called a local hospital here in the region which has a long running reputation for helping addicts and alcoholics get clean and sober. This would be my second try contacting said hospital. The first time they flat out told me that they couldn’t take me. Which was cool, I guess. At least they didn’t give me the run around that time and I appreciated that in some sick fucked up way. I think the run around, and being passed from help line to help line is as insulting, discouraging and makes an addict feel just as hopeless as the needle it self. But anyways. On we go. So I called this place this time, and explained my situation in almost embarrassing detail. Embarrassing because I did this to myself. I take ownership of that. And because I was so pitiful, and scared, and vulnerable, and poor. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore. I told the voice on the other end of the line that I needed and wanted help and I would come there and walk in willingly into the world of recovery if they could just show me some love, and tolerance, and give me a bed and help me not wake up so sick tomorrow. “I just can’t go on like this anymore. Please help me.” The other voice on the line was very kind. Very patient with me and sounded like he or she really wanted to be that beacon of light for me. So they instructed me to pack a bag with clothes and hygiene for 7 days and that they did in fact have a bed for me and would hold it until about 10 pm that night. I told the person that yes I had a ride and would be there immediately. But I also wasn’t stupid. I mean, I may have lived in abandoned buildings, Eaten out of garbage cans, Shot Heroin IV with toilet water from the nastiest places known to man, and smoked crack out of a plastic big pen tube, which tastes amazing and I’m sure the thick black smoke coming off of the melting plastic is super good for you and all, BUT I AM NOT STUPID- So I took my cash with me. Just in case something happened and they turned me away. Because I know that hospitals, treatment centers, detoxes, etc may not always be able to take me. But believe me, my dope dealer always will…That’s a sad fact of life right there. So anyways, I walk into the hospital lobby, with my little roller suitcase stuffed to the gills with anything I thought I might need. The second I walked in, this wave of relief and a glimmer of hope washed over me. I was finally going to get free of this. On my own. And I know it’s going to work this time because I really want it. I had finally reached a point where I know that this doesn’t work, and I’m desperate enough to try anything that might work. This is it. I’m so close I can taste it. I got butterflies, and shook with anticipation. It was finally happening. And I walked my 125 pound ass up to the desk and explained to the lady behind the Check in/registration counter who I was and why I was there. The time was about 6:00 PM. She had me fill out some basic paper work and I complied. I handed her the paper work and sat down with my suitcase and waited. And waited. And waited… They’re probably just moving someone or getting my bed ready. I’m just thankful they finally said they would take me this time. I shouldn’t be getting sick for several hours now. I got some time. I’d go outside to smoke and grab a pop from the machine to pass the time. I’d stare at my phone. I’d stare at people. Finally after about 2 hours I went back up to the counter just to check in and see what was going on, and the lady informed me that she was waiting on some type of “superior” to let her know what to do. Ok. Another hour, another check in. Nothing. More waiting. As time hammered on like a locomotive at a snails pace, powerful, noisy, determined, and slow as fuck, I began to grow increasingly anxious and inpatient. I’m actually writing this without effort, I’m just banging away on this keyboard as I watch this next episode of, “My life Fucking Sucks” playing out in my head. More time. more check ins, no news. The time is now well after 10:00 PM and now I am being informed that I MUST wait until the morning, when this so called superior, or department head, or whoever the hell this person is, actually comes to the hospital physically. Well that’s not what I wanted to hear. But oh well, what choice do I have? I can make another 10 hours or so, I have some cash so I wont be hungry or without smokes, I should be good. 8:00 am comes quickly, Ill Just close my eyes here and hope to sleep through the night and when I wake up, It will be time to get better. And I did. I did sleep through most of the night, up here and there to go out and smoke, but for the most part I did sleep. But the problem with sleeping on opiates, at least for me, is that I tend to sleep it off. I always wake up dope sick, and this time was no different. I was now once again, a sweaty, anxious, goosebumpy, anxious, mess. But hey, it was 8:00 am and time to check in so thats good. I walked up to the counter and talked to a different lady this time and explained my situation and what I had be directed to do. Wait. She took my name and grabbed my form and walked back into the back. She came back about ten minutes later and it was very clear that either she had no idea why I was there or that they had zero intentions of admitting me for detox. Holy shit. This is not good. So I asked for her supervisor, because my name is Karen and I want to talk to the manager. And this gentleman came out and explained to me very matter of factly that he did not care what anyone told me to do, it is looking like you will not be admitted for detox here and then very casually walked back to the back to attend to all the important people…I was shocked. I was crushed. I was on the brink of tears, I felt like this was some kind of very cruel joke. I fought back the tears and choked back, I very calmly looked at the lady and told her what I had been instructed to do. Then I proceeded to look her dead ass in the eyes and told her, “Listen, lady, I need help, I was told to come here almost 12 hours ago, I’m dying. I’m desperate. And if you guys don’t take me like you said you would, I’m going to walk outta here, and I’m going to fucking kill my self.” That got her attention. She said she would be right back, “just wait right here, Mr. Stepherson”. Someone will be here for you. And she was right. She went into the back and called the fucking cops on me. Two uniformed officers came walking into the lobby, told me to grab my things, and then walked escorted me off the hospital grounds. They walked me to a nearby pavilion, and issued me a no trespass warning. They told me if I ever came back to that hospital that I would be arrested. I had never felt so defeated in my entire life.
After I had finally gotten clean, and had been at the Respite House for a while, I joined a baseball team with some of my recovery buddies. We always joked and said it was an “old man” league. But it sure was fun. It felt good to be back out there on the ball field again. I felt young, I felt alive, I was having fun. It was So nice to get out there and chatter and mess around with the guys on a sunday afternoon, even though I quickly realized that my best baseball days were long behind me. but it was still fun and that’s what mattered. We played every sunday all summer long. We traveled all over to play too, Chesterton, Portage, Valpo, Hobart, and others. I played all over the field as well, I was the “utility guy” I was not afraid to play any position, except second base, I don’t know why but playing the two bag was always weird for me. Maybe it was the positioning on the field? I have no idea. Other than that, It didnt matter where I played, as long as I was in the game. One game I was assigned to play short stop, which I love playing because it gets a lot of action, and it gives me a chance to show off my arm, shooting guys out at first base across the diamond and hearing that loud POP of the leather, seeing the dust fly out of the squeezed mit, and seeing the “bang bang” of the close play has always excited me. And then there’s turning double plays, which I have only done a few times, but man is it fun. Just the whole culture of being out there, and the chatter and the shit talking is so fun to me. I miss my old playing days. But on this day, I got a lot of action, I was dusty and dirty by like the 4th inning. And on particular play I had to dive out toward the short left field grass and behind the third base bag to try and keep the ball on the infield. I did infact make the grab, but I was too deep in the infield and the guy was too fast, so I just had to “eat it”. No play. And I noticed that I may have tweaked something in my lower back, but no big deal at the time. But it was kinda sore. Maybe just a stinger, just a light tweak, no big deal. I finished the game and as the day progressed I noticed that my back pain too was progressing and that I was going to be super sore in the morning. And boy was I. The second day after was even worse. Thank God for Tiffany. Bless her heart. She would be having to help me with my socks and shoes for the next couple days. Getting old is fun. Ibuprofen, Ben Gay, Icyhot, ice packs, heat packs. Nothing seemed to ease the pain. Finally, around night four or five, I finally made a decision that the next morning I was going to go into a local urgent care and see what they had to say. And I was not being dramatic either. This was bad. I couldn’t bend, I couldn’t tie my own shoes, I couldn’t drive. Maybe I had torn or broken something. I needed an X-ray at least. The place I had selected to go, was here in valpo, and they opened at 9:00 AM. Tiffany helped me with my socks and shoes, and I hobbled my old man ass out to the Explorer. I was at the urgent care place at like 9:01. I wobbled in like quazi moto and explained to the lady behind the desk why I was there and she asked me for my info and had me fill out some forms. I love filling out forms, Said no one ever. But I did as they asked, and once it was time, they asked me to come on back. A lady came back to visit with me and asked me some basic questions. What brings you in, etc… I told her what happened on the ball field and explained to her how it hurt and what not. I then proceeded to “Red Flag” myself, like I always do. To red flag myself means to “out” myself as a recovering drug addict. I told the lady right off the bat that I cannot have narcotics and will not be accepting any opiates for pain. Motrin 800’s and MAYBE a muscle relaxer if needed would be fine. She acknowledged my request and took me for some Xrays. She then accompanied me back to the room where I waited for the Doctor to come and explain everything to me. It took a little while for them to read the films, but eventually the doctor came back in. He was cordial and he was kind for the most part. He explained to me that I had a Lower Lumbar strain, and although not really all that serious it could be quite painful and uncomfortable for a while. I once again Red Flagged myself to him and explained to him that I cannot have any narcotics, no opiates, nothing that gets me high. He nodded in acknowledgement and left the room for a few minutes. A short time later he came back in with some basic information on what my injury was, some home remedies for easing the pain, and some prescriptions to help me along in feeling better. “Ok, Herb, I’m sending you home with two scripts today. Motrin 800’s and flexiril, to help ease the muscles and the strain.” He handed me all of the information and thanked me for coming in. He instructed me to stop at the desk and sign out and to take it easy for a couple days and I should be fine in no time. I complied. I stuck the information packet in my back pocket and headed out the door. I hobbled out to the explorer and gingerly eased my self into the driver’s seat. I leaned up on my right butt cheek and pulled the info out of my back pocket. It was as he said, I was skimming over the info he had provided and then returned back to the front page to examine to scripts he had written me. Hmmmm…. WTF? He told me that he had written me two prescriptions. I thumbed through them and there it was. Little blue piece of paper number three, stapled so nice and neatly to the former and two, and sandwiched between them and the information on my injury. Hydrocodone 10’s. I stared down into the scribbly writing of the doctor and simply could not believe my eyes. I had very clearly told not one, but two different trusted people in the medical field that I DO NOT and CANNOT have any narcotics. I don’t even know how to articulate all of my thoughts on this, but there is very little chance that this was some kind of honest mistake. This man had clearly slipped this prescription for opioids into this packet, and then failed to tell me about. Unbelievable.
So, I can’t get the help getting clean when I do want it, and I CAN get the pills when I don’t want them….?
My question for you, reader, is WHY?