no this entry is not about the amazon tv show I am watching about superheroes (although I do highly recommend you watch it), but rather about a group of persons I met in the American institute. to recall, in the American rehab place we were broken into groups of about 8 to 10 people. Also in this place there was a division between men and women (something not present in the European institutes where the genders are mixed) so I was. in a group of about 9 other men.
The Boys were a group of guys all around ages 18 to 20 and they had one thing in common: they were addicted to heroin. Yes, they were the consequence of America's opioid epidemic writ large (fyi the difference between an "opioid" and an "opiate" is that the former is normally created on a pharmacological level while the latter is found in nature; think of oxycontin versus opium). Out of all of the stories/patients I have encountered theirs' were the saddest mainly because they were under strewn with such hope for the future; a hope that was messy at best with an outcome sometimes far from happy. But I get ahead of myself.
So in this group there were about 4 of these "boys" we'll call them A, B, C & D. The rest of us were at least in our thirties with a couple of grey wolves (i.e. alcoholics/addicts over the age of 50 who usually had a very greyish tint to their skin from years of abuse, think of Matthew mcconaughey's older version of his character in true detective season 1 to get a mental image) or in other words, people that have been chewed up and spit out by our disease. We looked with great sorrow and hope at the Boys.
A came from a broken home. When I asked him what he "did" (like that is a thing to ask a guy his age who was pretty much fresh out of high school) he just responded, "I hustle" which my uncool self then learned basically meant that he engaged in petty theft to support his habit. A had thick forearms that were pocketed with pin pricks and scars. He was stout and in general projected a menacing aire until you got to know him. More than anything he missed his dog. His parents were "bastards" and he had no home to go back to, he planned on getting an apartment with some buddies when he left rehab which of course caused tension with our therapist who consistently pointed out that getting back with his buddies would only send him back down the same road of addiction. Nevermind that though. A had a plan.
B was quiet and shy. Rail thin, bad teeth, basically exactly what the movies portray as a junkie. His face was covered in pock marks and acne. He got on heroin because his brother used (and was continuing to use on the outside). You could tell that he really looked up to his brother because he too came from a broken home where his parents didn't seem to be parents to him. He surmised that after he took to junk like his brother that his parents just wrote both of their sons off as hopeless and helpless. B also had a son, 3 months old. That's why he was in rehab and his brother was not. B felt he had a life to get to and couldn't seem to wait to start it. The few times that he actually opened up he talked about hats (he loved hats and always wore a different new one almost every day which made me wonder where the fuck he got the money for that) and his son. A & B were really close, probably most due to their background of shitty homes.
C was a star football player. He even had the interest of several colleges until his senior year and the injury happened. Laid out in the hospital he was introduced to America's finest concoction of painkillers which he readily accepted to ease not only the physical pain but the pain of dashed dreams. Unlike A & B, C had loving and caring parents that actually came to the parent therapy session. C's dad was your prototypical football dad, with a body that readily supported the assumption that he himself had once played football with C's mother being a beautiful (for her age) and slender woman, with hair perfectly hairsprayed into formation, sitting atop a delicate frame. Both of C's parents were distraught, C had seamlessly slipped from painkillers into the dark addiction spiral of heroin. Short of chaining him to his bed or locking him up in the house (the latter they actually tried to no avail as C broke through a window, cutting himself deeply in a scar that he had since covered up with a tree tattoo) they could find no remedy so they finally convinced him to go to rehab. C was a very personable and likeable guy, you could tell that he was that jock that would also have nerdy friends and not take himself too seriously. He played piano by God and he played it beautifully. In other words, you could tell that C grew up "right" but that didn't matter, here he was.
D hit me the most as he somewhat resembled my brother, not only physically but also age-wise at the time. He had come there because his parents found him on the ground in his room, on the verge of an OD. Luckily they had called the ambulance and he was administered a dose of Narcan (Naloxone) in time. He was there, through his own words, "because he never wanted to put his parents through that again." D was the youngest of the 4, just barely 18 (otherwise he would have been in the youth wing of the center). D was full of optimism, he would ditch his old "friends" (he demonstrably got a new phone while he was in rehab to purge the numbers) and would finish high school or get a GED.
It was amazing to see the transformation in the Boys. To use an overwrought cliche, they were like flowers blossoming. As the effects of the opiates wore off they slowly turned from the living dead into vibrant, chatty, robust youths. Laughing at stupid shit, ripping on each other (and us old farts) and all to a man avowed that they had kicked the habit, that they now saw life again, that they hadn't been living, that they had been stupid, brash, insensitive to themselves and others, that hustling maybe wasn't a good way to make a living, they began to see that they hurt themselves and others.
And we old farts watched them with our cold dry hearts enlarging like the Grinch's. These guys were going to make it, every single one of them. They would never again exchange the bright, blistering glint of life that had once again pervaded not only their eyes but their entire faces, for the gloomy, clouded, depressing hollows that the opiates produced. They were shells that had been filled with life again. And they were ALL going to make it. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM.
I can still hear their laughter. Childish laughter, the kind that I wish I was still capable of.
D moved back in with his parents. Everything was going well...for a while. Then he got back into old habits. I know because he would call me and actually be honest about it. Then his calls dropped to texts. Then the texts stopped. The last text he sent me was in response to mine where I asked him "what he was up to?" his response was, "running around." that was the last I ever heard of him.
A completely dropped off the face of the earth after rehab. For all the promises to keep in touch no-one, not even one of the other Boys (as far as we know) ever heard from him again. I have no clue if he's made it, if he's hustling, or if he got a job in construction like he said he would when he was leaving us. I just don't know.
C got accepted into state college. He went there and kept clean. He and I would talk over Facebook once in a while but then that dropped off. I still check on him through Facebook and it looks like he's managed to stay clean. Last I saw he was working as a painter as a summer job and still going to school. His was probably the closest to a happy ending we would get. As far as I know he had made it.
Then there was B. B rented an apartment from one of the grey wolves who had taken to him like a son. B was planning everything and for a while it worked. He was working, he was saving, he was getting to see his son, and he was always wearing his new hats. I heard about B indirectly through the grey wolf, whom I met for coffee once a month or whenever we could (or at an AA meeting we frequented). Grey wolf spoke like a proud parent of how B was doing.
Then one day I caught grey wolf at a meeting. I knew something was up because he hadn't approached me. "How are you and B doing?" (at this point they were inseparable to me). "Well," he began, looking down and twisting his toe (which for him was a very odd gesture being a big bearded biker type), "not so good. I walked into his room the other day and he was up against the wall nodding off. We talked when he sobered up, I asked him where he got it and he wouldn't tell me, just begging me not to kick him out." (sobriety was the foremost rule that the grey wolf enforced at his premises). Then the grey wolf looked up and smiled and said in a somewhat too loud voice, "BUT he's going to do much better, much better, just a setback, he's having some trouble with seeing his kid and stupid shit like that, but he's going to NA and I'm at AA and he's going to be much, much better."
Then a few months went by and I got the final news on B. It came not from the grey wolf but one of the Boys who had kept up with him and his girlfriend (mother of his son). B was dead. They found him Oded in a Kroger bathroom. It hit me hard. I thought about how B, with so much life even through his shyness and so much determination to be a father even through his own shitty upbringing lying up against the toilet bowl, just another junkie to the others.
I still wonder what hat he may have been wearing, or if he had one on at the time. I wonder why he didn't make it. Was it genetic? His brother was probably still running the streets or maybe he was dead too. No matter the will, he succumbed. His child would grow up fatherless.
And that is the stark reality of addiction. It is fucked. For all our hopes and dreams for The Boys 1 of 4 "made it". 1 of 4.
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