Monday, December 21, 2009
Then and Now
Just over a week ago, I found myself making a nightly drive down 6th Street, from downtown LA, heading west, back to my house. I was making this nightly drive, back from a theater, where my 6 year old son was in heavy rehearsals for The Nutcracker. As I made the drive each night, I thought about the street and how different it looks now and how different it was to me once upon a time.
Let me be completely honest with you. I used to do some drugs. 6th street, right around Alvarado, was usually a sure bet for copping drugs. In the event that my dealer was unavailable, I could usually cop down there in under a minute. Actually, I became adept at finding what I needed in any city. Wow, that felt weird to write. This post feels weird, but it is what happened and I cannot alter the truth. So, the street has changed somewhat since I was a junkie. The Home Depot and Food For Less popped up, practically across the street from the donut shop, which at one time was basically a drive thru for heroin. But, the donut shop remains, as does The Hotel Barbizon, which was the last stop for a dear friend, many moons ago.
On one of these nights driving back from the theater, I thought about December of 2000. I was on a short-lived, but horrifying relapse. I ended up in that neighborhood a lot- my dealer was in jail, so I needed to get the heroin somewhere, and I was smoking crack, which made the whole experience that much more devastating, and the trips down there that much more frequent. I sometimes bought from these middle-aged women who used a taco stand as a front. Then there was the Latina single mom, who would meet me in the Burger King parking lot on 3rd and Alvarado. I don’t think I have set foot in a Burger King since then. Those were some of the most pathetic days of my life.
That December, 9 years ago, was painful.....painful because I couldn’t stop, painful because I hated myself, painful because I was passively trying to kill myself. I lied to everyone I knew. I couldn’t hold it together at all. I was a wreck and it was very apparent. I remember trying to cop on Christmas Day, getting dope sick and having to pull it together to be with my family. I cringe when I think of how I must have looked. I thank my lucky stars that I am no longer there. No matter how challenging life can get, it has never been as bad as it was then....and I have been through some painful life stuff since then! But, it pales in comparison to that self-imposed prison I created.
There was a time, once I got clean, that I avoided 3rd Street to 6th Street, between Alvarado and downtown, as merely being in the vicinity could bring on the cold sweats and stomach cramps. Now, I am far from who I was then, I can drive down these streets and they don’t make me feel sick...they make me feel grateful, that somehow, I managed to break the cycle and learned to live. I have a pretty good life, I have this amazing kid, loving friends and family....and I don’t want to kill myself anymore. I know who I am and I am ok with me, flaws and all. When I had my son, something shifted, in my core....because I love him more than I could ever hate myself. This makes me very lucky, because I don’t think that always happens. So, on the tail of feeling blue the past few days, I want to acknowledge, for myself, that life is not so shabby. In fact, I kind of won the lottery.