I saw Michelle today (my therapist). We met at a park near my house, like we do sometimes, and she asked “the” question. The why question. Was it rebellion? Like, fuck them, I’m going to show them! Did I think I was invincible? And if so, why? Was I trying to prove to myself how far I could take it? Why would someone like me, throw it all away, at the drop of a hat. All the opportunities I was given… All the second chances… All the things that could’ve been. That I could’ve been.
She asks me these types of questions often, and I don’t think I ever really have an answer for her. I could, however, answer one of her questions.
Was I invincible?
I used to joke around with everyone (friends and family and strangers, whoever), saying that I was invincible. Little did they know, I wasn’t really joking… And I know the exact day that I started believing this myself. We’re going to have to go back a few years, so bear with me.
So I used to party a lot in my younger years, and I also used to drive really crazy, really fast… scary fast. Never wore seat belts. By the time I was 18, I remember having this funny feeling that I was going to die in a car accident in my 21st year on this planet. I even started telling my friends that I thought this, which I’m sure they just shrugged off without giving it another thought. Because by this point, they probably already thought I was invincible (before I even did).
The good ol’ Toyota Celica
She had run her course… twice. This was a car I drove when I first got into my heroin addiction. She went through some things because of me, and I’ll never forget it. I used to live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL. So that means, because of my heroin addiction, I would drive to the westside of Chicago a minimum of twice per day. That meant multiple flat tires, running out of gas, and definitely no oil changes, driver’s licenses, proofs of insurances, nada…. For a couple years…
The invincible donut
I was driving 45 minutes on the highway, going around 90 mph, with a (donut) spare tire that looked like a bicycle wheel, on one of my four tires. For an entire year (twice a day)…
And the past two years I hadn’t gotten one oil change. When the engine blew, it felt like the short block just blew up and fell on the ground, while crossing the Illinois tollway booths going 60mph. I had to drive home in 2nd gear for about 40 miles. Not cool. Luckily, my parents got the engine fixed.
The sickness is real
Fast forward a couple years, I’m 21 and I’m dopesick… This is what we would say when we started going through withdrawal from heroin, and started feeling sick. I need to get well. That’s what I would say to myself.. I just need to get well, and everything will be fine after that.. Just get myself well. It’s the same thing as a gambler saying they just need to get themselves even. Back to zero.. And they’ll be alright. Obviously, we know they lost well before the guy sat down at a table. Such a sad state of affairs…
Dead stop traffic on this four lane highway, and I’m driving about 80mph on the shoulder of Interstate 290 West. Because traffic is for suckers…
Dripping with sweat, shaking, anxious, stressed out, and more dopesick than I’ve been for a long time. My head is pounding, and I just need to get to the west side of Chicago so I can get my dope and be on my way to a better state of mind.
About 200 feet in front of me, there was an Illinois Department of Transportation vehicle merging onto the highway from an on-ramp. This wasn’t ideal considering the speed I was cruising at, so I slammed on my breaks. The universe had other plans (it usually does). The universe doesn’t care that you made a mistake.. It doesn’t care if you’re going through something. It will do its thing. This is what it’s designed to do. It self-corrects and will do anything to achieve homeostasis. It doesn’t care if that means an entire species need to be undone. So what is one little drug addict in the scheme of things. People are so arrogant and narcissistic, really…
This vehicle before me had wheel covers, so when I hit it from behind, my tires grabbed the metal covering and spun my car up in the air about ten feet, as it rolled upside down in mid-air.
Out of everything that happened this day, and it was a lot… The thing I feel bad about the most is this; I didn’t have my seat belt on. Normally I wouldn’t care about this. But on this particular day, when I answered my sister after she asked if I was wearing a seatbelt (because I think I was on my way to see her to “borrow” some money for “cat food”), I instinctively said yes. This is what drug addicts do. We lie. It’s for survival. It’s not to be taken personal. Nonetheless, my sister said she started to wear her seatbelt because of this incident. Because it must have saved my life (it didn’t), so this event was transformative for someone else besides me, but it was based off of my addiction. So I have always felt horrible about this. But I have digressed..
Eye of a hurricane
Ten feet in the air, as my car is twisting, upside down… Did I question my life? Did my life pass before my eyes? You should know better by now… Of course it did not.. I was on a mission. My only thought was on how I could alter my current state of affairs to still achieve my goal of getting high. You could really apply that to any event during my heroin addiction. And I specify my heroin addiction because it’s very different than any of my other addictions. All my other addictions were horrible, and just as deadening.. But heroin… It’s a whole other level. I need you to understand this to really get on the same page with me as you continue to read. Because it won’t make sense otherwise. Going through heroin withdrawal turns you into a wolf that cares of nothing more beyond its next meal.
While I was flying through the air, my only concern was if my car was going to be drivable once this accident was done, so I could go get my dope. I don’t remember even thinking or worrying about me getting hurt. Drug addicts don’t have time to think about such things.
As luck would have it, I landed upside down, hands and knees on the sunroof now, praying the sunroof doesn’t come apart, staring out the rear window hoping I don’t hit any other cars, skidding down the middle lane of what I thought was bumper to bumper traffic. So the fact that my car flew 10 feet in the air, turning over and landing upside down like this and somehow, magically didn’t hit another car, even after skidding about 100 yards down the highway…. It was like the sea was parted.. To make sure I survived…
Parting the Red Sea
After the car stopped sliding finally, I kicked the door open to get out. Came out without a scratch on me. Not a dent, bruise, cut skin, nothing.. All the airbags went off, all the glass was shattered, and here I come weighing all but 124 pounds or so, stumbling out of my Celica. The truck driver that I hit is running toward my car, yelling, asking if the driver is okay.
I am the driver, you crazy bastard!
And the crazier part hasn’t even begun yet. But before we get to that, I wanted to explain why I’m bringing up this crazy car accident of mine to begin with. For the previous 4 years leading up to this fateful day, I told you I thought I was going to die in a car accident after my 21st year on this planet. I was in jail when i turned 21. But when I came out, I was back on this highway every day, twice a day, like I had been for so many years by now.
And Michelle, my therapist, was asking the why question again.. and my irrational feeling of invincibility came up I guess, and this was the day that I started believing my own bullshit. That I couldn’t die… at least, not yet.. The universe wasn’t done with me yet.. And I knew that, from this day forward…
Keeping in mind I had no drivers license, and the fact that I was speeding on the shoulder, and hit a car, and totaled my car, and all my drug paraphernalia was littered all over the road, and a cop was trying to figure out what happened, and why I was still alive.. In his good wisdom, he chose to give me a ticket for not braking in time to avoid an accident.
The fateful cab
The tow truck guy gave me a lift to the nearest gas station off the next exit and I proceeded to wait there for my cab. The cab didn’t show up. And I was sick. Very dopesick.. I started thinking crazy thoughts.. I was standing outside the gas station, and was looking at the people walking down the sidewalk, and I literally started thinking I was going to rob someone somehow. And I had no idea how I was going to do it. But I didn’t have to think about it too much longer because a guy pulls up in a pickup truck, looking to get gas. Except he left his truck running (whoops). So I saw my opportunity and took it without another thought.
I jump in the pickup truck and peel off, out of the gas station. The guy was running down the street yelling at me as I drove away. While I was on the way to the westside of Chicago, I don’t think I was even worried if anyone saw me, cops or not. Didn’t even come up in my mind to be worried. That moment before you do something, and you weigh the positives and negatives and make a decision based on the best outcome or whatever… I didn’t have those moments. There was no thinking or caring of consequences. There wasn’t much thinking at all. Just doing. And when you’re a heroin addict, the ‘doing’ is always only about getting your next bag of dope. Nothing else matters. Food and water doesn’t even matter, so obviously caring about the law, or other people, or other people’s stuff doesn’t come into the equation whatsoever.
I ended up trading the pickup truck to the dealers on the street for some bags of dope, and then getting on the L train to get out of dodge.
For many years after this day, I thought I was invincible. And there were so many more “lucky” times like this (I’ve written about a few of them so far), that solidified my belief in my invincibility. It wasn’t until recently, that I’ve started to think about the decisions I make and how they affect others (my friends, my family, my daughters). And when I think back on days like this, it’s frightening to think what could have happened. It makes me so sad when I think about all the crazy things I’ve done. It used to be romantic, funny, ego boosting, exciting, ….. living…. But now it just makes me sad. All the things I used to value, they just don’t really matter.
Just one look
All it takes is one look into my daughters’ eyes, and I know what needs to be done. Doesn’t matter what’s going on, what time it is, what day it is, or what month. One look simplifies everything for me. If I have a question on whether I’m going in the right direction, that’s all it takes. Anything more complex, I turn to Michelle 🙂
I don’t even ride my electric skateboards anymore, because I refuse to wear pads or helmet, and these things go up to 40mph, which is just insanity. The last few times I rode the board, it wasn’t fun because the entire time I was thinking about what if I fall and seriously hurt myself or worse – my daughters need me more than ever right now. So I just can’t bring myself to get on these things anymore.
Needless to say, this day changed my life. But if you asked me a day later, if this was a significant event in my life, I would’ve said it was same ol’, same ol’. Same shit, different day. Just another obstacle in the way of me just finishing the fucking day. It’s what I thought life was like for everyone. I was so wrong….