By Logan A., New York, NY
I relapsed three days after I got back to Brooklyn. Throughout my time in treatment and the months in Santa Fe I had never deleted my dealer's number.
She texted me the whole time: "When you coming back to New York, Logan? You back in the city yet?"
And why wouldn't she text me? Before I went away I was one of her best clients. "I'll be back soon," I told her. "Still out west. Back soon..."
I landed at JFK on a Friday night.
Monday I had a needle in my arm.
A month after that I was composing the suicide text messages to my sister.
I didn't wonder how it happened. I knew how it had happened. I wasn't done using heroin. My reservations had stayed with me, alive and well beneath the surface during two months of sobriety. I made up other reasons to return to NYC—a girl, my writing.
But really, I wanted to get high.
Standing in the desert in Santa Fe I knew in my gut that if I returned to New York I was going to use heroin. I had no sponsor, no program, no support and far too much money. I knew I would use. And I went back anyway. I went back in order that I might use with ease and comfort thousands of miles away from any accountability. And that's exactly what happened. The first night I met my dealer she gave me a big hug and said, "Logan you look great. Really great."
"Well," I thought, "that's all about to change."
For weeks no one knew. I kept up correspondence with my family and a passable appearance with my girlfriend. I told her the trackmarks were from scratching in my sleep, the morning sickness from trying to wean myself off Suboxone. I lied to every single person I knew and watched my resources and my health implode.
But that was what I wanted.
Without every really admitting it to myself I was on a mission to break myself, as if in order to slip away from the darkness I had to make myself a shadow, a shade, a fraction of the man I am meant to be. I sought out the death of hope. I sought out the death of my own will.
I found those things in a hotel room on Houston Street: antiseptic blue, far too clean, a dark television, disposable bathrobes.
Earlier that night my girlfriend and I had fought about my erratic behavior, my selfishness. I'd told her I was leaving, that I'd bought a oneway ticket to Bali. In every part of my life I wanted to be gone. Gone on an island. Gone from myself. To be erased, bleached out. The wind in the trees. Fade to white.
I checked into the hotel and did not plan on checking out. I was out of heroin and had been drinking with the last of my money. My dealer wasn't answering her phone but I kept texting and calling anyway. My plan was to use everything I had to buy enough heroin to shut it all down. I sat on the bed and stare at the heater. I could hear the bellhops in the hallway. Outside on Houston St. the nighttime New York traffic. The everliving stream of life.
I wanted no part of it. In the purest and most simple way I wanted to die. I wanted to see and feel nothing. To no longer exist on this planet. To be a gone thing.
I held onto my phone and waited. I thought about what I would do when I got the heroin. How much I would need. Where I would sit. I decided I would send a text to my sister. It would say: "This is on purpose."
That would be the story of me. Logan, dead in a faceless hotel room, cleaned away by the morning maids with the sheets and his contact lenses. And that night, waiting for my phone to ring, I was ok with that outcome. Having once stood in awe at the beauty of the world—I no longer wanted any part of it. I could not feel my soul and I meant to die.
But I did not die. My dealer never called me back. I passed out on the bed and woke up at dawn sweating and shaking with the most wretched loneliness I have ever known. Over the next several hours it was that loneliness that compelled me to reach out and make contact with someone who loved me. It was that loneliness that urged me to make a connection, any connection. I did not want to die alone. I wanted to feel love.
I stood in the doorway of my apartment and told my girlfriend the truth about the last month. When I hadn't come home the night before she'd looked through my things and found my needles but I didn't wait for her to confront me. I had no more appearances, no more energy for lying and living in fear.
To her credit, she asked me to leave. I packed my things and moved to a hostel on the Bowery. I was broke and filthy and sitting in the 10x4 hostel cell I felt that finally the end was near. I thought about the message I had never sent my sister. "This is on purpose." I looked at my arms, my sunken chest. It had all been on purpose. But not the purpose I had intended. Not my purpose. I had wanted to die and yet I had not died.
Instead, I surrendered.
I spoke to my family and said yes to everything. Leave New York? Yes. Treatment? Yes. South Florida? I don't know where that is, but yes.
Every day for a week I shot up in my hostel cubicle and waited for the day of my flight. I wandered lower Manhattan and felt more dead than alive. But I also felt like I was on the other side of something. The other side of broken. The other side of acceptance.
The morning I left was sleet and snow. I got on an airplane and flew into sunshine. My driver was waiting. On the Florida freeway I saw the silver ocean and the blue sky and wondered why I had tortured myself for so long. Why had I clung to the same rotten bone? Why had I denied the possibility for happiness in my life?
My driver spoke about his ranch out west. About films he loved. About his children. I listened. I felt his voice. I felt the man behind it. I felt my body, my heart, the sun on my skin...
Two months ago I wanted to die. Now I do not want to die. There is not a doubt in my mind that my purpose has nothing to do with that. I have nothing to do with that. Sitting in treatment for thirty days and going to meetings has nothing to do with that. The grace of God has everything to do with that. The only way out of any of this has been to go through it. To reach a place of total brokenness and humility and acceptance in order to let God fill the space in my soul that drugs never could.
Perhaps I did die in that hotel room. Perhaps I got all the dope I wanted and in the morning they found me on the floor of the bathroom. Maybe that's just what happened. Because the man who went into that room was not the one who came out. Not that I was free of the obsession or never used again, but I wanted to live. The man who checked into the hotel wanted to die. The one who came out wanted to live.
I die, I am born again. I relapse, I am born again.
Above all one thing must be clear: this is not about heroin, this is not about drugs and alcohol. This is about a spiritual awakening. Drugs got me to my bottom but they are not the focus of my recovery. I died in the flesh so that I might live free in the spirit. Today I know no greater purpose.—L.A.