June, 2014. I’m going through fifteen years of accumulated change in box. I dig through worn, corroded nickels and dimes and find a few Susan B. Anthony Dollars, fifty-cent pieces. Then a few rarer tokens as well: my first day desire chip taken from “John G.” I remember that day, sobbing, powerless and broke. Here’s my one and five-year sobriety chips.
This old coin box is a box of memories. I remember my father’s old coin jar, and how once, as a teen, I stole quarters from my his jar while bouncing a basketball so he wouldn’t hear what I was doing. Then I remember pouring water into the whiskey bottle so he wouldn’t know. Just nickels and dimes, a little off the top. Then I remember the subterfuge of my older years. Memories of hiding my cocaine and black-market Xanax in this very box in front of me. An almost nightly combination punctuated by the once sickening, six a.m. sounds of the blue-birds and robin wake up songs after being up all night. Fragmented memories and dreams.
I keep digging. I pick out a few pesos from a trip to Mexico, and I remember signs on every bathroom stall that made it clear that cocaine is illegal and you will go to jail if caught. I didn’t care. Never saw one of those signs on the countless United States bathroom stalls I utilized to do my blow. Would it have mattered? Nope.
Next I pick out slot machine coins from various casinos in Vegas. Vegas was my favorite place to party and do cocaine. The Flamingo Hilton. Used to go there with my family. I fought with my mom when we went. We fought over multiple failed marriages (mine). We fought over unresolved guilt past and present. Both of ours. We fought over what was in my mind, a lost childhood. Lost teen and adult years I subconsciously blamed her for. Eating disorders, alcohol, drugs. There is always someone to blame.
Then I start to reach the bottom of the box, and I find something white hidden deep in the loose change. I dig down. It’s a 2mg Xanax bar. Where the hell did that come from? Has to be at least ten years old. Memories of that first time. Cocaine binge with Jack and Diet coke all night sitting on a bright red couch given to me that seemed more fitting in a house of prostitution than my bedroom. Watching endless ScarFace over and over. Know all the lines. I’m no Tony Montana. I am not drug kingpin. I am just an addict alone in his bedroom. So alone. Pop the very first Xanax of my life. The next thing I know its almost a day later. I loved that I had slept away an entire day. A day of pain that was passed by. I needed more of those. If only I could sleep away my life. I had to have more
As the Xanax bar appears among the loose change of my life, I feel my heart rate quicken. I talk about triggers all the time and how to deal with them. Now here it is. It’s me. It’s now. A decision. I could pop it and no one would ever know. Is it about that? A new cycle of guilt. A new cycle of sobriety. Staring at that tiny white oblong object that had the ability to stir up so many intense memories and emotions within seconds. Frantic calls to my dealer for baggies of Xanax to bring me down from the cocaine binge the night before. When I couldn’t get it, the next call for my black market Ambien. Lying to my shrink to get it. Sleep all day. Call in sick.
That little white pill knew all about me. It asked me what I intended to do. I walked into the bathroom. A bathroom where I had embraced bulimia. Where I had done cocaine on the granite counter top. Where I had secretly worshipped that white pill on my knees, sick from the night before.
I thought about my girlfriend (now fiancee) who trusted me. Trust was the first thing I destroyed with her and had worked hard to rebuild. It can be done. I thought about my family who had always been there for me. I thought about my future and the moment I was in. Eight years into recovery and I am not immune to such thoughts. I walked to the bathroom toilet and dropped to both knee as I had done so many times before in addiction and with my eating disorder. Like I had done in 2006 with the one thousand dollars in cocaine I had obtained in trade for Dallas Mavericks championship tickets. Like the cocaine, I dropped the pill into the toilet. In 2006, it was because I was in a cocaine addiction fueled paranoia. paranoid. This moment is about recovery. I flushed. Recovery is every day and every moment often not knowing what is around the corner. Sometimes pure chance has a way of reminding us. In recovery, life is full of loose change. It would not be the last time I would face challenges that require what I have learned in recovery to deal with them without relapsing. Profound loss was not far around the corner.