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It was a Tuesday

It was a Tuesday

My life changed on a Tuesday.

It was a tuesday

My life changed on a Tuesday. I was a freshman in college and up until that point, I had glided fairly neatly upon the middle-class, suburban tracks that brought me from a small farm town in New Jersey to an upper west side college campus in New York City. I was a partier but nothing in my life up until this point was too far out of bounds. I would drink and smoke weed on weekends with the lacrosse team and although I drank like a fish, I had no issues staying on the straight and narrow Monday-Friday. I had experience with painkillers resulting from a surgery I had when I was 13 years old and I knew back then that opiates were something that provided me immense pleasure, however, that is a story for a different time. I had snorted cocaine nine or ten times by this point and the feeling that provided me, although momentarily pleasant, ultimately became uncomfortable. Fifteen minutes after a line I would become irritable and would wish I could unzip my human skin and exit my body.  A friend on the lacrosse team had given me a number to a weed delivery-man named Daniel. This is before marijuana use had become as accepted as it is today and the concept of a dealer delivering grass to your doorstep was a novel and exciting one. The first time Daniel showed up at my apartment he made it immediately clear that he offered a world beyond marijuana delivery. He told me bluntly that he could deliver me any mind-altering chemical my heart desired.

The next word out of my mouth was simply “Oxy?”, and so it began. A journey through sickness, violence, crime, and self-destruction that would one-day conclude with my salvation and provide me the ability to sit down and write this article. Daniel was the first of a long list of drug dealers I would utilize for my needs over the next five years. He was not nearly the most memorable of drug-slinging character I had encountered however as a high school sweetheart will always hold the special place of being my first.

Daniel was a roughly 30-year-old Asian man with jet black hair and a flat broad nose. He drove a black Lexus SUV that was always immaculate, with perfectly manicured leather seats and carpet that somehow always looked as though it had just been shampooed and vacuumed moments before he arrived. Whenever I saw him was always wearing some kind of vibrant garments such as a leopard print jacket or fluorescent pink pants. He consistently fashioned a solid gold Rolex on his right wrist that the sun would glare off of as he maneuvered his vehicle around the bustling traffic of the city. I would text message him something along the lines of “2 blues” and he would quickly reply the same thing every single time: “Kopy” with a K. Fifteen minutes or so later I would get a message saying “here” and would briskly jog down three flights of stairs in my apartment building to hop in his car. He would spin around the block and we would make the exchange before dropping me off conveniently back at my front door. It was that easy.

Daniel and I never spoke much. Once he was drunk and told me he was celebrating the birth of his son. That was as deep as our conversations ever went. I still remember the first pill or “blue” I bought from him. A “blue” was a 30mg Oxycodone. All you had to do was apply about ten pounds of pressure with the flat side of a credit card and it would quickly transform into a fine powder that you could inhale up your nose. I bought one “blue” from Daniel off the corner on 222nd and Broadway on the upper west side of the Bronx. I held it in my clutched grasp without so much as looking at it until I had retreated to my apartment and was safely away from the noise of the streets. I retrieved a plate from my kitchen and took a seat on my couch. I crushed it up and chopped it into 4 perfectly symmetrical lines and paused momentarily to admire the vibrant blue craftsmanship at my fingertips. I snorted all four lines with a rolled-up one-dollar bill that had seen better days. All that remained in my loosening clutches was a blue stained, circular piece of white china. It was a Tuesday.

It is funny how a singular moment in our lives can seem so trivial at the time but years later can echo in your mind because of the impact it makes. You can only appreciate those moments thanks to the passage of time. It’s funny how the memory of blue skies and sunshine hold so much more weight when you’re lost in the 100 mph winds of a hurricane. I kicked my legs up on my coffee table and every care and concern I ever had in my 19 years of life vanished in an instant. Since my earliest childhood memories, I always felt as though I had been naked in front of the world. Every room I walked into I felt as though every person was staring at me. Every time someone laughed and I didn’t hear the joke, I knew it was about me. Every day I struggled to see a place where I fit into this chaotic universe. But on that Tuesday I found my invisibility cloak.

All the voices in my head were mine and mine alone. Opiates where the proverbial mute button to my crowded soul. Those four lines did for me what my parents, friends, possessions, video games, social status, and girlfriends could never do. I often describe my life like this. There is a jigsaw puzzle of life that is given to me at birth. I open it up and I pour it on the floor. I start to put together this thing and everything fits and snaps together exactly as it should. This life puzzle comes together beautifully until there is one piece left. The last piece in the puzzle is me and when I attempt to finish it with this final piece it doesn’t fit. I don’t fit. They gave me a defective puzzle where my edges are wrong. When I would use opiates, they acted as a file that would shave and whittle the edges of me, and suddenly, I fit. The issue is that drugs never stop working and they continue to grind and file the edges of me over the years of my abuse. One day you wake up and realize that there is nothing left to file down because there is nothing left at all. My hardships and struggles over the next 4 years blur together like a series of b-list made-for-tv movies obscured by reoccurring static. Nothing stands out in my mind like that first real high.

When your loved ones keep going back to the drugs that you see so obviously robbing them of their soul, I believe this is why. When I remember my addiction; the psychiatric wards, sleepless nights, endless terror, and broken dreams, those memories neatly shuffled to the darkest corners of my mind and swiftly replaced by that experience on a regular Tuesday when I was younger. There was no police knocking at my door, no financial ruin, no withdrawing, and no impending doom. I was enrolled in college and playing a division one sport. I had a beautiful girlfriend and a bright future. I had no idea that I was about to lose every single one of those things. I was blindfolded at the edge of a cliff. I had no intention of buying opiates from Daniel the next day or the day after that but that is exactly what happened. I would wake up day after day with no clear intention to get high but on some level, I knew. I knew that I was naked for the world to see and I had found a cure. I knew that I had found an invisibility cloak; it was 30 dollars and it fit like a glove. I would navigate my busy schedule and the second I found a pocket of time with myself, those voices in my head would start again. I wasn’t good enough, she doesn’t love me, I will never be happy. My fingers, as if possessed by demons, would dance across my phone screen and find Daniel’s contact on my phone. Driving endless circles on New York streets in a black Lexus, desperate to mute it all for one more day. I found my refuge in a cramped apartment, huddled over blue-stained white china with no idea the edge of the cliff was just a step away, and I was in a sprinters stance.

Some years later, I remember using heroin in a Starbucks bathroom. I  had just shoplifted from a Toys R Us so I could trade Barbie dolls and action figures to my drug dealer. He got last-minute Christmas gifts for his three children and I got ten wax bags of ‘invisibility’. It was a fair trade. His name was Anthony and was roughly the 500th new Daniel I had done business with. I remember opening up the door to that bathroom and walking through the coffee shop with the world on mute. Each step I took the volume went up; step by step, louder and louder. Years of abuse had shortened the life span of my magic medicine. By the time I walked out the door, just in a matter of minutes, I was naked again. Within minutes my invisibility cloak had evaporated completely and left me alone with me; a scary place to be. I slid into the passenger seat of a silver Dodge Charger, turned to my junkie companion, and said: “that wasn’t enough”. He nodded and agreed. We began to scheme for our next fix.

This is the problem with addiction and why it is so hard for someone who isn’t an addict to understand. I am not chasing a “High”; that is a simplification of a much deeper and more pervasive issue. I am chasing a version of me that exists only in my mind. I am chasing a version of Chad that can dance at parties and talk to pretty girls. A version of Chad that knows exactly what to say and when to say it. A version that believes in himself and doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks. I am not trying to ruin lives, destroy my family, other families, and my future. That is simply a byproduct of my desperate search for meaning in a world that seemingly has none.

Imagine that the moment you were born you are chained away in a dark room. Imagine one day you escaped and saw the sunlight for the first time. You felt its warmth on your face and saw the beauty of an unexplored world. Then imagine being dragged back to that room and chained away at the end of that day. What would you do to escape again? My mom asked me once on a somber drive back from the psych ward, “Don’t you think this has gone too far? Where are you going to draw the line?”. I didn’t answer. There was no line. There was nowhere to stop. I was chasing what I thought was freedom and self-confidence while simultaneously losing it. The chance to fit in the puzzle of life even just for a moment had created a place where consequences became secondary. I am not addicted to drugs; I am addicted too belonging. I was never chasing a high; I was chasing the black leather of Daniel’s Lexus and the blue stained china on the Upper Westside. I was endlessly chasing those 4 blue lines and what they offered me. It was a Tuesday.

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Dear Addict

Dear Addict

A letter to your parents, children, friends, family, loved ones and YOU

Dear addict, a letter written by Chad Steinetz

Dear Addict, this is a letter to you

Screaming at god and friends that turn blue

You are not invisible, at least not to me

The fringes of this world that no one can see

Muting your dreams; while cranking agony to eleven

The path to hell beginning at the gates of heaven

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your mom

Clutching a rosary and reciting that psalm

I see her by the phone terrified of what’s next

The sleepless nights and that unanswered text

Watching the lines on her face deepen like ditches

Reaggravated wounds and the ripping of stitches

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your son

Tears in his eyes while you’re off on your run

Staring out the window and waiting for you

Wondering what is false and what could be true

Seeing the world through eyes that are clear

Not yet filled with resentment or crippled with fear

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your friend

Denying the cash you asked him to lend

Asking where you went and how far you fell

Witnessing a deal with the devil – too easy a sell

Staring at black eyes, windows that are draped

Portals to the void where your soul has escaped

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your dad

Missing the lost child that he once had

Forgotten Christmases and the birth of fear

Lonely nights and the death of cheer

Remembering a child with a future of gold

Wrong turn to the auction where that future was sold

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your daughter

Watching self-destruction; a lamb to the slaughter

Half-finished cigarettes masked with perfume

Fearing the demons that live in your room

You say “Tomorrow will be different” and it’s hope that your sending

But tomorrow is a re-run and she knows the ending

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your dealer

Blood-stained hands, disguised as your healer

Mysterious brown powders / pockets of pressed pills

Exchanging misery for the last of your bills

Hook, line and sinker he watches you dance

The snake charmer; the witch doctor you’re under his trance

 

Dear Addict, this letter is for your memories

Your greatest of friends and the worst of your enemies

Written in invisible ink that is not always kind

They can be erased and edited within your own mind

It’s a sobering thought, a wound with a suture

That the past is just as uncertain as the future

 

Dear Addict, this letter is to me

Knowing that recovery isn’t free

It takes a lot of courage and a little bit of hope

Not as tasty as beer or as quick as dope

You will laugh a lot but you will also cry

You will have to be honest with yourself instead of lie

When god closes a door there is a window that’s open

And if the window is closed then the glass must be broken

Hope is to be felt, something that the eye cannot see

For no matter how tough a lock there is always a key

As helpless as you feel and dark the horizon

Behind a mountain to climb there is a sun that is rising

There is freedom from your pain I promise you this

A beautiful world and a lifetime of bliss

Say goodbye to what you are and dream of what could be

For the thing is, whether you know it or not – I am you and you are me

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I am not a Reliable Narrator

I am not a reliable narrator

I had a childhood that was, by most measures, picturesque and ideal. Two strong parents who would read me bedtime stories and drive me to soccer practice. A pair of older siblings who I idolized and emulated as we navigated our way through the triumphs and pitfalls of youth.

I am not a reliable narrator

 

I had a childhood that was, by most measures, picturesque and ideal. Two strong parents who would read me bedtime stories and drive me to soccer practice. A pair of older siblings who I idolized and emulated as we navigated our way through the triumphs and pitfalls of youth. I remember the rattle of a creaky wagon as it lurched its way through a pumpkin patch on Halloween. I remember the Christmas morning when I turned the corner into my living room to see the BMX bike I wanted so badly, perched beneath an intricately decorated tree that seemed bigger than life itself. The foggy New Jersey mornings driving to elementary school with my dad, where I prayed we would hit that one last red light so that we could play another game of I SPY before the day started. The smell of birch and charcoal every summer when my family would open the car door after a six-hour drive to my grandparents’ house in Vermont. The elation of making the travel basketball team for the first time and the ensuing frustration of never getting any playing time. Cradling a newborn puppy in my arms like a priceless gem as my mom drove us home from the breeder. My first sleepover when my friends and I watched an R rated movie and felt as though we were rebels of the most dastardly order, living on the edge as we stayed alert to any indication of being discovered in our mischief.

              These moments all live on but as the vaguest of blurs within my cluttered mind. Years, months, days, and moments that are lost in the echoes of existence. Remembered only in the ways that my brain chooses to arrange the fragments of a life I have surely lived but have mostly forgotten. The days march forward and my mind contorts and molds the memories of my childhood into something that is not even real. Holidays and family dinners. Vacations and bike rides. Tears and deep never-ending laughter. All exist as a deep fever dream that passes through my consciousness momentarily when invoked by a mystified and profound sense of confused DejaVu. For a moment I travel back in time and I am there. A small boy with a blank slate, a sense of wonder, and a simplicity of life and happiness. Then it is gone.

              When I was fifteen years old I watched my brother and sister live out their high school years as rambunctious rebels. They were repeatedly caught drinking alcohol, smoking pot, and defying my parent’s direct orders. My brother specifically was quickly becoming my idol. He always had friends coming and going from our home and seemed to gain popularity with no effort. He had beautiful girlfriends and witty jokes; strong broad shoulders and sports accolades. I was rail-thin, covered in acne, and couldn’t so much as engage in a conversation with a brick wall let alone a girl or a potential friend. I remember finding a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey under his bed and contemplating taking a sip of his magic tonic that could potentially turn me from a meek boy into the superhero that I perceived him to be. To drink that day would have been bold, and I was far from it.

              It would be a year later at 15 when I finally would work up the courage to make my first foray into alcohol. I was a freshman in high school and was invited to a party for the first time. I knew the entire week that when Saturday would arrive that I would finally drink and I knew that I would love it. The night came and in a dusty unfinished basement, I took a shot of ice-cold bottom shelf vodka. Then I took 9 more. I became something that night. I had arrived. I laughed harder than I ever laughed, talked smoother than I ever talked, and felt alive in a way that is indescribable in words. I ended up passed out face first in my throw up. It was the greatest night of my life. When I remember that night I am transported there. The rush of reckless youth pumping through my veins and sound of cheerful defiance ringing my ears.

              Following that night, drinking became my bridge to relevance and notoriety. I would eagerly anticipate where we would drink on Fridays and Saturdays so I could come alive, pull daring stunts and talk to pretty girls. I began to smoke weed shortly after. Very quickly I would turn that into a habitable everyday occurrence. I would smoke before school and in between classes. Shuffling my feet through my school’s halls with bleary eyes and slumped shoulders. A soldier in the midst of going AWOL. My music taste changed. I began to fall in love with the Jim Morrisons and Kurt Cobains of the world. The tortured minds and a troubled mischievous soul had a mesmerizing allure. I would watch movies like Scarface and Blow on repeat; subconsciously brewing jealousy for the lifestyles of the anti-heroes, criminals, and hoodlums of the pop-culture universe I was submersing myself in. I listened to the Album “Dirt” by Alice in Chains so many times that I could recite every word. I fell in love with artists and media that depicted struggles of the soul, moral confusion, and nihilism. I still to this day don’t know why I wanted those things so badly. I suppose the frail boy with acne who couldn’t hold a conversation continued to live within me and hungered for mystery, intrigue, and excitement.

              Nearly ten years later I would wake up in a detox shaking violently from heroin withdraw. I had become everything that I had wanted, and it was unadulterated misery. I had broken many laws, run from the police, done every drug I could find, and become but a husk of an actual human. What do you do when you wake up one day and you have become everything you ever wanted but you realize that it was all a mistake? What do you do when you wake up one day and you realize that when you traded innocence and youth for excitement and chaos that you have made an irreparable error for which there is no return? I will tell you that in my experience I was filled with fear and regret that flooded my being wholly, completely, and without reprieve. I stretched out of my detox bed and my legs felt so weak they could barely hold the meek weight of my body. I began to quite literally suck the polyester pockets of my thick winter jacket in hopes that fentanyl residue somehow existed there from the sloppy handling of my drugs in the days prior. The pockets were flavorless, fentanyl-less and my sickness continued onward. The cold detox floor was designed with an intricate design of tile depicting a spiral of light grey squares that looked eerily similar to the tile of my childhood homes foyer. For a moment I was there again. My brother, sister and I just kids sitting on the floor, fumbling with boxes of meticulously colored Christmas decorations. The smell of my mother’s cooking lofting through the air and the beautiful melody of my father’s piano playing echoing in the deepest bowels of my eardrum. Then it was gone.

              Time is a rally car careening down a desolate peak with bald tires and slashed break lines. We all live with the past behind us however, we will never live within it. The good and the bad. In that detox I had nothing. No money, no hope, and no desire to continue onward in an unforgiving and cold world. All I had left was a mind that raced with a variety of memories that I would vacillate between like I was flipping through distorted cable channels. I remembered my first day of high school and felt the sensation of terror infused uncertainty in the pit of my stomach. I remembered my first kiss with Jayne at 15 and the sweat that enveloped my palms. I remembered my first psychiatric ward at 19 and felt the sharp pain of a Thorazine shot in my ass. I remembered calm childhood summer nights playing in the yard and dope sick winter mornings of my late adolescents. I remembered dreams and aspirations long ago forgotten. I remembered regret and failure that had crushed me under the weight of the world. I remembered love, sadness, victory, and defeat. Then I blinked and I was back. Sitting in detox with my life in ruin. Sitting in detox with a future marred by total uncertainty.

              Here’s the thing. The golden moments of my childhood that I previously mentioned, the pumpkin patches and the family vacations, are not at all grounded in truth. I am not a reliable narrator. The truth of the matter is that I make an unconscious choice to remember my childhood as a wonderful and innocent place. It allows me to escape to somewhere beautiful in my mind as an aversion to whatever the present reality is offering me at any given moment. When I forcibly remove the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia and recall that time with pure honesty, I become unsettled. Even as a small boy my mind raced with anxiety and uncertainty.

              I was slightly overweight as a kid and I would never want to go to school because of my inability to connect with my classmates. I dealt with bullying daily and the worst had come from my own older brother. He would belittle me daily and poke at my insecurities with the precision of a brain surgeon. Every vacation my family I ever went on I would isolate myself way in a hotel room or a cruise cabin for the entirety of the trip. I would somehow come back from the Bahamas or Jamaica paler than when I arrived there. My mother would drink at night and become an entirely different person. At my first sleepover in 5th grade, she fell over on my basement floor in front of my prospective friends, filling me with shame and embarrassment. I didn’t do very well in school and had to be evaluated for ADHD on several occasions due to concerns expressed by my grade-school teachers. I despised taking off my shirt in front of anyone and would consistently get changed for gym class in bathrooms stalls to avoid doing so in the locker room. My parents would fight and scream at each other on a nearly nightly basis and my father would rarely sleep in the same bed as my mom. I was terrified of the dark and used to sleep with all the lights on in my room. I would sit in my bed every night and dream of the future.

              I would live there. What would I be like when I am older? When I cried due to my lack of friends my mother would console me by telling me that I would grow up to be bigger, stronger, and more handsome than all the children that shunned me from their social circles. I would imagine being an adult with the freedom to live life as I wanted to. I would imagine being fully grown, fit, and successful. I could feel the sun on my skin as I traveled the world and the wind on my face as I drove a car for the first time. I was filled with a rush of excitement when I thought of seeing my beautiful date when I would finally go to my senior prom one day. I could close my eyes and see a future where no one could tell me what to do or how to do it. I could see myself in my twenties; tall, handsome and perfectly fitting into a bustling and interesting world. Then I would blink and it was gone. I would be back. A chubby young boy who felt like an alien dressed up in a human costume. Lying in bed with all the lights on in constant fear of the demons that lived in my room. My ears privy to the faint echoes of my mother’s drunken insults being hurled at my father.

              I have never really been here. I am a time traveler. It’s a sobering thought, that the past is just as uncertain as the future is. Regardless of where I go in my head, it always seems that anything is a better alternative to the reality of the present moment. That is the true conflict of my soul. That is what drugs and alcohol did for me. It turned off the time machine in my head and finally put me in the now. I would use heroin and instantly past and future evaporated. I would be forced into my present body by the chemical eruption that was taking place in my brain. The consequences of my addiction ceased to mean anything as “tomorrow” became but a hollow specter of nothingness devoid of meaning. The drugs wear off and suddenly the past and future come alive. Raised from the dead by the insidious reaper of sobriety.

              For me, that was the true crux of winning my battle with addiction and gaining long term sobriety. Sitting in that detox in New Jersey I was enveloped by a war with time itself. As the effects of my intoxicants left my body, the hands on the clock began to march forward and I had to begin a journey of facing the blunt realities of existence. Looking behind me and realizing the things I had done and the people I had hurt. The friends that had died and the mistakes I had made. The missed opportunities and utter failures. Failing out of school. Robbing my dying grandfather. Stealing my mother’s jewelry. Check fraud and grand larceny. In front of me was a path of equal scrutiny. What would I do with my life? How will I repair these relationships? How will I ever work a real job or have a normal life? What do I do when I get out of this detox? What’s next? Who even am I?

              Time is a rally car careening down a desolate peak with bald tires and slashed break lines. My physical body may be in the driver seat but my thoughts live elsewhere. I simultaneously am at the peak I came from as well as off the edge of the cliff I am heading for. The present moment is but the tip of a needle sandwiched between two infinite oceans of ambiguity. I am over 3 years into my journey of sobriety. Through trials and tribulations based upon following a path of spirituality, I have become acutely aware that my mind wants me to exist anywhere except the present moment. A close friend and mentor of mine always quotes John Milton and says “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

              I am not a reliable narrator. My sobriety has been the self-realization that the avoidance of the present is my greatest struggle. The past occurred but only in the ways, I choose to remember it. The future is as real as the ghost that lived in my closet as a kid. Yet let to my own devices I will choose to live in those places. In alcoholics anonymous, they say “one day at a time” meaning that the only thing you have to concern yourself with is the present moment. It is right on the money. Sometimes I find myself closing my eyes and being in that pumpkin patch. I will hear the screaming of my intoxicated mother. I will feel the Thorazine shot. I will see the spiral tiled floor of my detox. I will see myself married and in a beautiful house somewhere with a family. I will be enveloped by the pain of older age and imagine working jobs that don’t yet exist. Then I blink and it is gone. I am back in the present moment. However these days I am not upset by that. I have crafted a present moment where I am proud of who I am. On the good days and the bad, true peace is finally being able to turn off the time machine in my head.

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Today is going to be the best day of your life.

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