by Michael Janflone
The following takes place in May of 2000. It is unedited.
“Where you been Playboy?”
“I’m in rehab actually, Just got a day pass!”
“Ha-ha, good for you, you need rehab. You were looking pretty rough.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks for this.”
“Take care of yourself Playboy, and be careful.”
It was the last time I saw him, and I heard rumors that he had to flee the ‘Burgh months later over shooting someone. It will sound really fucked up, but T was a good guy, always straight with business, a product of reality-where a guy grows up with nothing and starts doing something to take care of himself, of his family. That becomes the new normal, and up the ladder he went.
I pulled into one of many cookie cutters “professional” buildings, the one where the SARPH meetings were held. I went to the bathroom to snort a bag, just one place of thousands where doing heroin was at the very least, ironic. I walked into the familiar room, chairs circled, and saw an unfamiliar face. Throughout the meeting he sat there silent, until I had to update my life, and what had transpired since the last time I was in a group.
“Well, I lost my job at CVS over nothing. They said I falsified my job application, that’s not true, because all I put were ‘personal reasons’ for leaving Eckerd. I mean, my lawyer told me to put that, I haven’t even been arrested or charged with anything! I guess I should have written, I was fired for allegedly stealing a lot of hydrocodone, some Percs and Xanax, because I would hire me if I read that. And what’s worse, the guy at CVS, Mike, found out from my old, that asshole PDM Ron at some Duquesne alumni function.”
Cathy, the group leader, one of the nicest human beings I have met, who could cut through my bullshit like a razor through sand, cut me off-
“Mike, you are rambling, are you ok? You aren’t high right now are you?”
“Of course (I am) not.” Dope is very weird, because after a little bit of a hiatus, and I had probably ten days clean, it fills me full of energy rather than the normal ‘nod outs’ where cigarettes burn down to my knuckle, and drool rolls down my chin.
“Cathy, and everyone, I am just so pissed off. I was finally working clean, was doing my job, and doing it really well. I was feeling so good about life again, that I had finally gotten on the right track. It’s no secret that the WHOLE time I was in this group before my first rehab, I was high. I NEVER got clean. This was my chance, and all because my new boss had to brag about me, about how he got one of Eckerd’s best young pharmacists, and Ron had to tell him he got a junky, well, it’s fucked up. And I did exactly what I was supposed to on the interview, telling Mike I was in SARPH, and he was fine with it. I joined the CVS monitoring thing they had in place, I crossed my fucking T’s and dotted my I’s.”
“Michael, I understand all of that, and no, it isn’t fair our pasts can interfere with our present, but it does.”
“Well, I am suing these assholes, 40 years of salary minimum.”
“Michael, you would be dead in a year if you would win. Which brings me to why we asked you to come to this meeting. Many of you here know Bob, the president of SARPH, Mike, I know you do not.”
OH FUCK! And here it comes.
Cathy continued, “Bob, welcome back, I wish it were on better circumstances, but here we are.”
“Thank you Cathy. Mike, this is never easy. I listened to you talking and right now, you need to focus on you, because let’s face it, you are here attending while participating in an in-patient rehab program. Obviously there is a problem, because you began using again. You have to understand, when you enter SARPH, that is strike one, it is assumed that you come into the program clean, while I guess from your admission you did not. We spoke last September after the failed urinalysis, and you went to rehab for your second strike. Unfortunately, this is strike three, and I have no choice but to suspend your license indefinitely, a minimum two years pending review.”
I feel tears welling up, my high is fading fast. While it is true that so much streams by consciousness when someone is on heroin, it is not like I am the living dead. I equate it to childhood, where the truly traumatic stuff is absorbed and put into a file cabinet. Everything detailed, right up front, recalled as easily as where I was just an hour ago.
Cathy, seeing that I was about to lose it, spoke up.
“Mike, you are one of the smartest people I have ever met. In addiction, that is a real curse, because all of those smarts turn against you. You have and will outthink yourself so many times. I know you have a car right now, and are thinking that you might as well go get some bags, because after all, why not? You just found out you have no license, but Mike, you still have something, you have the only thing that does matter – your life. If you get high tonight, you will get kicked out of rehab, and I have already talked to your parents, you won’t be invited back into their home, you have to complete the program.”
“I am not going to get high Cathy.”
“I hope you are being sincere Mike, you have to get well first, and then who knows what will happen. Like I said, you are brilliant, you will figure something out. You are 27 years old. You are the youngest person in this circle, and I am willing to bet that any of us here would jump at the chance to have an opportunity to heal yourself so young. So do that, not so that you can practice pharmacy again in a few years, or for your parents’ sanity, do it for yourself. You have your whole life in front of you. If you stay clean and work recovery, you can be anything you want. If you go back out, there is a very good chance we will never see you again unless we visit your grave.”
I reached up, rubbing my head through my Yankee hat, the legit ones, with the two large tags in the back telling the world this is the same hat Jeter and Rivera wear, the two tags with 6 bags of heroin hidden behind them. My voice was shaky, bolstered only by the dope in my system.
“This is all… just… I guess this is a lot to take in. Like…I only graduated 4 years ago. I went to school longer than I practiced. I… I don’t know. I blew it. I really fucking blew it.”
And then the tears broke through the chemical haze.
Whoever was next to me put a hand on my shoulder.
For a minute or two, no one said a word.
“Michael, this too shall pass.”
The last thing I needed to hear at that moment was some bullshit AA slogan. The tears stopped, and I felt a pang of rage, swelling, pushing at my sanity, shoving past regret, sadness, and the multitude of other downtrodden emotions that were having their way with me. The anger brought clarity.
“I will be fine, but no offense guys, I don’t need to hear any slogans right now. I really need to go. Are we done?”
“Yes. But Mike, remember what I said, right now, all you worry about is getting well. Participate in the program, and when you get out, make recovery the most important job, your only job in fact. You can help so many people Mike. You might just find a new career, just something to think about. After all, you helped all of us tonight in some way. I know you helped me”
I am glad my failures scared some people into staying clean. I love being the example of who not to be, what not to do. Hearing that makes me feel so fucking good. Mike Janflone-Poster Boy for Consequences. Why shouldn’t I get high? Why shouldn’t I? Why? Everything is gone, every fucking thing. No car, no home, no girl, no money, no hope, if ‘no’s’ were currency I would at least be rich. And guess what group- I was high the whole meeting. I fooled everyone, one last time.