My life changed on 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.
Kelsey carries multiple years of experience working in the substance abuse and mental health treatment field. Her passion for this field comes from her personally knowing recovery from addiction.
Prior to Buckeye she held titles of Recovery Coach, Operations Director, and Admissions Director. Kelsey was brought on at Buckeye Recovery as the Director of Business Development. She has a passion for ensuring every individual gets the help that they need, and does so by developing relationships with other providers.
Kelsey also oversees our women’s sober living environments – The Chadwick House for Women. She is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and conducive environment for all women that walk through the doors of Chadwick.