Friday, February 29, 2008


The other day I grabbed a sandwich at a Jack-in-the-Box where I, many years ago, used to frequently wait for my connection. I was there one day with another dope fiend and we sat in my car for about half an hour waiting for "the man" to show up. A constant parade of cars arrived, all waiting for the same person. It was just one of hundreds of South Phoenix rituals--waiting for the dope man.

The person with me saw someone drive in that he knew so he got out of my car, a grey 1972 LeMans that was a neat car and which the cops later confiscated, and walked over to his friend and leaned in the window to talk with him. A few minutes later, he walked back to the car and got in, laughing hard. "You have got to see this," he said.

"What?" I wanted to know. I wasn't in the mood to socialize; I was probably dope sick.

"Go look at his car," he insisted, laughing so hard he was practically out of control.

I got out of the car and followed him back over to his friend's car. It was a man he had been in the penitentiary with, I can't recall his name now, and this guy's friend. He introduced me to him and I couldn't help but notice the car they were sitting in.

The interior was completely burned out, including the seats, the headliner, the dashboard, even the steering wheel had melted. To steer, he had wrapped baling wire around the stump of the steering column and they were both sitting on milk crates.

It turns out that the Mexican mafia had firebombed this guy's car for some reason, a snitch jacket or a bad debt, who knows the truth. But this guy and his pal were determined to score, so determined that they drove that shell of a car rigged together with milk crates and baling wire so they could get their drugs. Now that, dear friends, is determination.

So as I was sitting there at that Jack-in-the-Box remembering, I realized that to stay clean, you have to have that same amount of determination. Don't have a car? Take the bus; you would have to score, so do so to hit a meeting. Someone firebombs your car? Just use duct tape or baling wire or whatever, but don't sit home and feel sorry for yourself. Some jerk insults you and gives you a gigantic resentment? Don't smack him, just keep coming back and show him what you're made of.

It isn't easy to stay clean. Last night the people in the meeting I was at focused on "acting out" in other ways, or taking the First Step in other areas of our lives besides not using drugs. But the truth is, as complicated as we make it, our behavior if it stays out of control will lead us right back to drugs. If we continue to act out on other behaviors that make our lives unmanageable, sooner or later, most of us get loaded. I know, I've watched it happen to many of my fellow addicts who seemed so busy cleaning up the wreckage of the present that they forgot the determination it takes to stay clean for the long haul.

So until we meet again, remember. It's free but it isn't always easy.


Shadow said...

why does that determination 'seem' easier when it's for the wrong reason. thankfully that perception does shift with time though...

msb said...

And thank god it's free. See you in the morning.

Syd said...

It's amazing stuff. I can't relate to the obsession but I can relate to the determination. Glad that you were at the Jack in the Box for food, not drugs.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an endless parade of circus acts and clowns and you were one of the main attractions.