The Drug Spiral (part 1): That Little White Line

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Friends, when I was 18 and at one of my famous extreme lows, I crossed a line. Or more honestly, I consumed one. This chapter starts when I was living with my parents, desperately waiting for them to let me go back to college. As the date to leave for school arrived, my parents would tell me beside the packed-up car that they had changed their minds. This had happened for two semesters already and the third date to leave for school was fast approaching and I was sure this time they would let me go. First, let me give you a picture of the kind of kid I was. My favorite thing was to go to the lake and make funky hairdos out of my wet hair. This is the 18 year old Skye you are reading about. Ready? Here we go.

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One day while having coffee with my mentor Julie, she warned me against doing anything else to upset my parents. It seemed like if I ate too much, played too long with the dog, watched too much TV on my precious time off or even dressed in tomboyish clothes, they would dangle school over my head. I had asked Julie what upsetting them would look like with exasperation on my face. She had shrugged and thrown a couple ideas out there: a tattoo or a piercing. My face had brightened and at the end of our coffee date and I had eagerly hurried across the street to the tattoo studio. I got a tattoo of a blue tang on my left ankle. That’s right; I have Dory aka Ellen DeGeneres permanently affixed to my skin for the sole purpose of angering my family. It worked.

I had managed to hide the tattoo effectively and later that night decided I wanted to pierce my eyebrow too. Grabbing my best (and only) friend Charish, we jetted to the store to get a piercing. I didn’t want to pay for something I could do myself so we settled on getting just the jewelry. Of course, I had gotten the wrong kind of eyebrow jewelry for piercing but I tried anyways, seizing the biggest safety pin I could find and forcing it through my eyebrow. It didn’t go well.

Apparently my young mind hadn’t done enough research and I was unaware that there is a facial nerve there. Punching right through the nerve (part of my face has forever been numb since), I tried to shove the curved little piece of metal through the hole, but it wasn’t big enough. We were working away in the classy Walmart bathroom late at night to stuff the thing into the fresh piercing and eventually decided to try to find a diaper pin inside the store to widen it. Grabbing one off the shelf, I stood before the cashier with a single trickle of blood running past my right eye and a safety pin sticking out. I still haven’t found my photo on Peopleofwalmart.com but I have no doubt my stupid, brash teenage self is certainly somewhere on the site.

Finally we managed to shove the dang piercing through and get it affixed. It had taken hours, but I had been adamantly pigheaded about it. I managed to hide the swollen and likely infected eyebrow from my parents by rocking hats and beanies (before they were cool). An important date was coming up: the semester was starting and they had promised yet again that I could go back to college. As usual, I had the car packed and ready to go, jumping for joy that I’d get to go to school and become a writer, and as usual, they had changed their minds at the last minute. I snapped.

Ripping off my hat to reveal my eyebrow and pulling up my pant leg to showcase little Ellen on my ankle, I raged at them in pain and betrayal. Somehow I was convinced in my teenage anger that if I showed them they had no control over the little things I did, they didn’t have a right to control me so obsessively. Obviously, it didn’t have the desired effect. The next morning my mother came into my room while I was sleeping, ripped the blankets off and told me I needed to move out by the end of the week. They told me I was out of control and clearly too mentally unstable to actually learn anything, let alone go to school or continue to try to get their approval for it. Dread weighed my stomach down and I watched my hope go up in smoke.

There had been a time when I had tried to go to school without their help. With my dad claiming me as his financial dependent and taking my returns, I was required have have him cosign a loan, which he refused to do. Since he made very large amounts of money and I had to file for financial aid through him, I was awarded nothing. My hands were tied and he knew it. He smiled about it when I asked; relishing the moment. Back to getting kicked out:

In anticipation of their promises of returning to school, I had quit both my full time and part time jobs. Getting a job in Michigan during the Great Recession was next to impossible. I scoured the town for any kind of job, finally finding success at a pizza place for a part time position. I didn’t know anything about money and it didn’t really matter if the job was enough or not; it was a JOB and I had to have some kind of income. After hunting urgently, I found a tiny apartment room in the most crime-ridden complex in town. I set up a sublease with the primary tenant, a spoiled nursing student from downstate. By the end of the week, I was ready to move.

Charish helped me brokenheartedly move my things out to the apartment. It was 30 minutes from my parent’s estate, but it only took two trips. They weren’t letting me keep my car, so I would have to walk to and from work. I didn’t have a bed but I had a mattress that I positioned carefully on the floor. A week ago, I had been joyfully packing to go to college, my dream. As I stood in the tiny room looking down at my pitiful collection of belongings, I suddenly realized all wasn’t lost; I was still free of my family.

Charish: Skye! You did it. You have your own place. You finally got away.

Me: Hey you’re right. Wow. I’m like, an adult now. I’m gonna do big things Charish!

We were both exhausted from the move so Charish left. As I secured the deadbolt behind her, the click seemed oddly loud. I turned around and faced the apartment. I felt like I was turning to face the world on my own and as it landed on my shoulders, I felt my face crumple. My heart was broken and my body was exhausted.

The next week was a very long blur. My legs ached from walking to and from work and then staying on my feet throughout my shifts. I hadn’t gotten my first paycheck yet so I didn’t have any food. Sometimes I’d steal my room mate’s leftovers when she wasn’t looking. We never talked; it was clear she didn’t want a roomie but her parents were making her get one. I would walk through the local grocery store eyeing the food I couldn’t afford. I wasn’t a thief; I would walk the aisles mentally making a list of all the things I would buy and eat when I was rich and famous.

I would also walk to the community college and sit in on the classes, pretending to be a student, turning in homework and taking tests with the students. This was my meeting spot with Charish; if I didn’t have to work, she too would come twice a week for classes and then we would get into our usual ridiculous, tame mischief as soon as class was out. Even though I hurt all over, fought fatigue from so much walking and my stomach protested every time I saw an item of food, I felt, in some way a little happier. Nighttime was a different story.

Given too much time to think, my rage towards my family would bubble up. They were putting both of my siblings through college and in spite of my working and sacrificing more than they had ever had to, my parents had treated me like an inconvenience. I knew I was smart and learning was all I had ever wanted, but they had treated me like a mentally unstable piece of trailer trash.  Every once in a while, such as my little body art episode, I lived up  to that label but for the most part, I did well at work, plunged into books to escape and was a friendly kid. As I sat one night on my mattress on the floor, I realized even my smallest clothes were already way too big for me; I was beginning to starve. My hands began to quake in anger; this was so unfair! I had done nothing for them to throw me away like this and I was suffering. My anger grew and I left the apartment. I walked to the building entrance and lit a cigarette to calm down. As I stood there in the August night, a bunch of kids my age whooped and hollered their way out of the parking area to the building. They seemed like a happy, fun crowd. I felt even lonelier.

Stubbing out the cigarette and flicking the butt bitterly into the dark, I started down my hallway to go back to the apartment. The kids were joking around in the apartment next to mine and the door was open. As I passed, I glanced inside and saw a blonde girl sitting at a round wooden table with several other people laughing and joking inside. She called out to me:

Girl: Hey you’re the new neighbor! I meant to say hi!

Me: Uh…hi. I’m Skye. You?

Girl: I’m Kasy. Are you up to anything? Wanna hang?

I hadn’t really thought about getting to know my neighbors, but it was better than going back to my depressing apartment. I walked inside and the door swung shut behind me.

I had never used drugs and I could count the number of times I had drank on one hand. Even so, I had been through enough therapy programs for me to spot drug users quickly. I knew the lingo. Heck, I even knew how to shoot up from everything I had learned. These kids, I realized, were partiers. Everyone settled in a circle around the table. The kid to my right had brown curly hair and dark circles under his eyes. His voice and body language made me think of the cartoon guys who would offer to sell black market items arranged inside the flaps of their coats. His name was Sam; Sam the dealer. He pulled out a plastic CD case and opening it, emptied a small bag of white powder onto the smooth surface. He started using his driver’s license to chop and cut the white stuff into long, fat lines, all the while talking about ‘this new dank shit I can’t stop’. He called it ‘Drones’, a mixture of meth and molly. He passed the CD case around and everyone snorted a line through the same rugged $20 bill. I was last. There was one remaining fat white line resting on the case and I swear it was looking at me with a challenge glinting in its eye. I stared at it.

Sam: You gonna hit that or what Skye? I thought you were cool.

I didn’t want them to know I hadn’t used drugs before. Thanking my past experience for giving me enough information to play it cool, I picked up the $20 bill. I stared again at the line. Did I really want to do this?

Sam: Yo. Skye. If that’s sitting there in 20 seconds I’m gonna hit it and we’ll just know you’re not as cool as you say.

I stared back down at the line and my mind shifted. Why did I care about myself? No one else did. Why wouldn’t I let myself waste away when even my parents were proactively trying to make it happen? I thought of how embarrassing it would be for them to have a daughter that used drugs; their lives completely revolved around public appearance. Maybe if I hurt myself with this innocent looking white line staring its challenge at me, I would hurt them more and I would be too high to feel bad about my own position. With that, I bent down, put the end of the rolled up bill into my left nostril and snorted the line like a pro.

I will never forget watching that line disappearing into the bill and into my sinuses. I had one thought echoing louder and louder in my mind: ‘How is all this powder fitting into my nostril?!’ I sat back working hard to ignore the intense burning sensation going back through the left side of my head. It was like someone poured acid into my veins and then all at once, it stopped. I set the bill neatly on the edge of the CD case, sliding it back over to Sam coolly. My left eye was watering madly and I felt a nasty dripping in the back of my throat. I had been too exhilarated to feel anything at first, and then it hit me. I smiled and floated, feeling like everyone in the room was my best friend. The other kids were laughing and chatting but I was content to just sit back, listen to the music and watch them. I hadn’t realized how much pain I had been in from weeks of constant walking and starving, and my sense of misery had been completely replaced with a contentment and love for everything around me, even the rugged table I sat at. Sam was passing something else around: hash. Bragging that it was from Afghanistan, everyone took a couple hits, myself included. Heck, I had just leaped straight into hard drugs, so marijuana seemed suddenly adorable. I knew my head was messed up, but for the first time in longer than I could imagine, I felt something incredibly and distantly familiar, like a close friend from an eternity ago: peace. I was hooked.

We sat and they talked, smoking and playing techno until the morning birds started chirping and the sky began to lighten. At 6am, I suddenly stood and dreamily floated out of the apartment and into mine. I curled up on my small, dirty mattress and for the first time in years, slept peacefully.

When I woke it was already 4pm. I didn’t have to work but I had missed my usual classes and frolics with Charish. I checked my little flip phone; no text messages. I rarely ever got texts. I rustled in the bed, feeling my hair stand on end like little feathers. Slipping onto the porch, I lit a cigarette and recalled the night before. Everyone had said drugs were evil and ruined lives. I’d been told so many times how they made you feel sick and terrible, but my new experience told my sleepy senses otherwise. Drugs, even after just one fleeting introduction, had shown me love, kindness and peace. Was the world just trying to hide some secret thing from me? Is this how someone with my miserable life could be happy too, and rich people didn’t want anyone to find out? I stubbed out my cigarette.

There was nothing to do since my day was shot, so I stared at the TV for a few hours. I heard my new friends arrive at their apartment and I moseyed over. Sam wasn’t there, but the others were. They invited me to ‘roll’ with them. Not familiar with the term, I was still game for anything. One of them left for a time and came back, collecting bills from us. I held the Ecstasy in my hand, yet again uncertain. Watching everyone count down excitedly and begin to throw back their pills, I followed suit. Everyone packed into Kasy’s car and we drove to the local Indian reservation where a gaudy, huge casino sat among rolling rolls of dead grass. I’d never been to a casino before, but I had heard friends’ parents talk about their trips and I had listened to my parents loudly scorn anyone who crossed the threshold to one. Well, I thought, this would show them. We walked inside.

The pill began to take effect. The kid had offered me the strongest one, a ‘triple stacker’, and among encouraging cheers, I had taken it. It was too much for a small, skinny first timer; the bright lights around me came to life, dancing into words and talking to me. I smiled broadly. The others were crowding around a free soda machine and I joined them. I was amazed, watching the bubbles sing whale songs and giggle as the pop in my cup changed color and slowly turned into smiling tidal waves. I got lost in all the joyful animals and lights dancing around me. A little bear cub wandered over and asked me for a hug. Turns out I was hugging some random guy’s hairy arm at the roulette table. I don’t remember what happened to my cup of pop but I definitely didn’t drink it; I was too busy laughing and dancing with all my new imaginary friends. At one point, I caught a glimpse of myself and did a double take, fascinated. For the first time, my skin glowed. My light blue eyes beamed; I suddenly looked beautiful, not heartbroken, sickly and thin. I turned my attention to my hands, then my arms and legs. I was beautiful! I knew my mother had been lying; I was gorgeous! I was overjoyed.

The night wore on and the pill didn’t wear off. At one point my new (real) friends found me and hustled me back to the car. They were done for the night. Standing suddenly inside my darkened apartment, a sense of dread filled me. I kept thinking what a bad place it was, and I grew afraid. I went into my room and stood in the center, watching my world morph in a much less friendly manner than before. I heard a sound; it was coming from my dresser. I asked who was there. The drawers of the dresser moved like lips, angrily accusing me of destroying my family, of being fat, and of being a complete failure. It told me with growing rage how disappointed my parents were that I wanted to be a writer. The voice rose to a scream when it started talking about how I deserved to die in the gutter with no friends; that it would be a blessing. Suddenly it charged towards me. In reality, I was slamming myself into the dresser again and again. I fled to the living room and clambered onto the couch. A lamp cord from my room snaked out of my bedroom, wrapping itself around my ankle and dragging me back into the room, where several objects had come to life, raining hate and my greatest fears down on me. I passed out.

When I woke up, the only thing I could think of was that I needed the ‘Drones’ to get my mind back into that place of contentment and stability. I felt traumatized by my own brain. I owned a hollowed-out stereo which I had started to hide my cash in, but I only made enough to pay rent: $300/month. I didn’t have enough for drugs or food, but that didn’t matter. I flipped my phone open and texted Sam, counting out precious bills.

The downward spiral had begun.

TO BE CONTINUED……..

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5 thoughts on “The Drug Spiral (part 1): That Little White Line

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