"Dead man walking!"
What flashes before an inmate's eyes as this ominous oxymoron echoes down the cold, cement halls of a penitentiary; a cry that clangs along the prison bars like a xylophone clinking out his chilling certainty?
The inmate shuffles, shackled from head-to-toe, flanked by costumed men, uniform in their committment to play out their part in this Grimm tale.
We all know how it ends. We think.
But how does it end for the inmate?
Does their life zip by epileptically, like the MTV videos spun in heavy rotation before the days of reality TV?
Or does his mind — a spinning hamster wheel of regrets— squeak to a grinding halt, then fade in with the operatic drama of a silent film, on that singular, blinding regret? The one that casts him as the star of a slow motion, action movie sequence he can't escape—like trying to run away underwater.
Or screaming out for help in a dream.
Mankind's unofficial party night. The Bay City Rollers encapsulated it's elusive magic in their fist-thumping, crotch-thrusting anthem to the electric potential of "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!"
No other night of the week strips away our corseted inhibitions to reveal our leather-clad exhibitionism like this night.
Last Saturday night, I was running for the bathroom.
To a woman who has lived life on dialysis, this is hot.
I raced to the host’s second bathroom to pee as the first one was occupied—by the man who happened to give me my kidney. The second bathroom. The private bathroom. The ensuite — where any addict worth their (bath) salts knows holds the goodies. Except for those Normies who are so naive and trusting, they keep their pain medication in their kitchen cabinets beside the vitamins and in front of condiments like sea salt and turmeric.
But, I was not thinking about much.
Sure, I was thinking about how badly I had to pee. And I was thinking I wished I had put more thought into my 80’s costume, considering it's, like totally, my favorite decade. And I suppose I was thinking how great my friend’s beer looked. But all of those thoughts shattered like broken glass when I closed the bathroom door. Ubiquitous to a bathroom, glass covers your walls, your doors, your medicine cabinet. There it was. My Pandora's Box. From my vantage point on the toilet seat, it angled down at me, powerful, purposeful.
I swear I heard the strains of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra") escalate in tandem with the healthy flow of urine streaming between my legs.
[Is relapse inevitable?]
I stood up, zipping up my jeans with a quick tug. My heart was pounding. I did not look at myself, looking away from its mirrored door; a reflection only trying to do it's job, but preventing me from doing mine.
I am a drug addict. This is what I do.
For me, addiction is like a magnet, a centripetal force sucking me into lock-down, Suddenly, I am handcuffed, spread-eagled against the wall, trapped inside a cage with this Force, scheduled for execution before I've even committed the crime.
[And part of me really doesn't mind.]
I opened the door. There they were. Just as I knew they would be. A huge bottle of Percocet, and right beside it, like a mini-me, a smaller version to keep it company. Easily over 100 Percocet. 100 little friends. 100 ways to breathe.
[100 ways to determine if you're an addict.]
They are not mine. I know this. This does not matter to me. I picked up the bottle and held it up against the bathroom's florescent light, an artificial halo of hope warming me from head to toe.
One pill and "POOF!" it would all be gone. Financial fear. "POOF!" Gone. Health burdens. "POOF!" Gone. Hubby's health burdens."POOF!" Gone.
My sobriety."POOF!" Gone.
I wanted them so badly. They prattled Pavlovian inside their plastic cage, begging to be set free. My mouth watered.
I returned to the party and squatted on the floor amongst the small gathering of friends. But my mind remained in the bathroom, inside my narcotic nemesis of dry wall and glass. Negotiating, planning, plotting. "Just take a few of us home. C'mon, take a bunch of us! Shucks, take us all home!"
They were calling to me. 100 of my dearest, chalky white friends.
And so I answered back.
I fled to the bedroom and closed the door, calling 6 friends in a panic, pounding my touch screen with smudges and sweat. Voice Mail #1. Voice Mail #2. Voice Mail #3. I ignored the sweat collecting under my armpits, less than the magnetic pull drawing me back into the bathroom. 6 Voice Mails. Silence. Terrifying quiet. Silence is like oxygen for our demons, it feeds the quiet haven where our egos bloom and grow. I knew I had to keep on going. And so, I began to text four little letters that spelled out the most important message of my life.
And I got it.
"Tell your husband. Tell your friends. Forgive yourself."
To some, it might feel shameful to admit you want to steal someone else's drugs. That you need help. That you can't do it alone. But for me, when I stood shaking and crying in front of my friends and they just stood there smiling and loving me back into calm, I realized something.
I am not bad, I am just sick.
This makes sense to me. And suddenly, I am empowered.
A funny thing happened on the way to Forgiveness...
When I exposed my dark secret to the light of my friends' love, it curdled and died, like a bloodless creature of the night who can no longer suck off others, and has no tools for living in the light.
I am a drug addict. Somewhere along the way, I crossed a line, and now it's a part of me. But just a part.
I am a drug addict. And that's OK.
In all the meetings I've been to last week, I have shared about Saturday night. And every time someone pulls me aside and confides in that soft, soothing voice of camaraderie that I helped them, I feel like royalty. They wind another fresh flower into the crown of daisies on my head and crown me a princess — of purpose.
Normies don't get it. And that's ok.
"Why did you want to take them? Were you feeling bad?"
[Uh, because they're awesome.]
Because I lost my job/my sweater itches/am on dialysis/it's Wednesday.
Because I am a drug addict.
On death row, they get a Last Meal. It seems like a rather gruesome gift to me. Here. Enjoy your sumptuous boiled lobster and seared scallops as we prepare a different sauce to inject your life away.
We are all dead men walking. Every second of life that passes is a second closer to death. This is inevitable. But this is also a gift.
I guess you can do this alone, but I don't want to. I am Dead Hen Walking. Every minute of every day, I, too, am flanked by Men, uniform in their commitment to keep me out of lock-down and living in the light.
In the bright light of death.