Thursday, March 31, 2005

Chapter 10 from Agape Love by Marilyn R. Lyon

A picture of Todd from Sept. on "Crackheads in Jail" page at

Halfway between the months of August and December of 1992, Todd began to get very nervous about his money. He had claimed from the beginning that he could not handle money even under the best of conditions. It was only by the Grace of having had such a plentiful amount always coming in those years previously he managed to make ends meet. He was convinced that getting a check and going to cash it was a trigger that made him eventually give into crack. This was especially true after he had picked up the pieces of his life and things were running smoothly again. To his credit even with the profound lure of crack plummeting through his system every day after a failure his resolve to set his life functioning again on some level was so strong he could concentrate on only that. He would be able to use this strength someday to stop. But as his life began to run again the lure moved further to the front and talked to him loudly. "You can have it all this time. This time it will work".
I came home from work one day and there was a badly scribbled note in large letters taped to my bedroom door. His door was closed. Basically it said he was the lowest crawling slimy scum that ever was put on earth. He had cashed his check and went right to the crack house. He spent all but a few dollars for gas and food. This included spending his rent money. He promised under oath and death that with next weeks check he would make it up. He apologized and apologized and apologized. He also added that he was so depressed and suicidal he could not talk about it right now.
This was a slip according to George Medzerian's book. I went immediately into his room uninvited not knocking. He was curled up in a ball with all his clothes on including his shoes with the covers pulled over his head. I pulled the covers off his head, rubbed his shoulders briefly and sat down.
I told him," You have slipped again. Get out of bed. Tomorrow is another day. Start again. If it gets worse then this we will have to rethink your staying here. For now just start again".
He sat up on the edge of the bed telling me he was hopeless he was so low there were no words for it.
I told him this was ridiculous to feel this way. He was lying to himself. Why do that? He had been a raving success 90% of his life. He was loved by everyone who met him. He must start again. Take it day by day.
He said he needed my help with his money. I would need to meet him at the store when he cashed his check. He would give me my rent money, buy food and I could hold the rest of his money for him. It's funny I never honestly felt that his crack-crap was a weakness in him. More that he was in the grips of a demonic profound substance. I felt this even from the start. I felt this thing with his money was a weakness, and I was enabling him. How could one function out there get rid of crack with no money passing through their life? He was convinced this made a difference.
Enabling or not, I did it. I was sure there were so many triggers and reasons and answers for his crack-crap so this one would not profoundly change anything.
School became a measuring stick to me. He was taking accounting and computers. If that part was still functioning, then he had to be. As we neared the Holidays again he was still very busy, still home when he was not at work, school or keeping his car running. Except when some friends came into his life. Non-addicted friends of course he assured me. He was very, very lonely. I was not happy with these friends although I did not know them. For a long time now he would not tell me even what side of town any people he spent time with lived on. Because I would be there driving around looking for his car if he disappeared. Taking out my anger and frustration on his friends because I could not take it out on him. In the beginning I had told all his friends I did not want any of them around Todd if they were using. They all pledged sincerely to me they were not. Which was not true. Those who I found out about, I would chase off my porch and hang up on if they called. We had both become jaded and dysfunctional from this lethal substance.
As the month went by he became moody and withdrawn. The trips to the bathroom started again. He dropped one of his classes. He began to stay out overnight once in awhile or coming in very late, avoiding the day as long as possible. One day I went into his room and smelled his pillows and blankets on his bed and gagged. The old drug smell, like no other smell on earth was back again. He was back on crack. By the time the smell arrived he was out of control again. He had been still giving me rent money and buying food, but he had started to run out of gas at least twice a week.
I stripped his bed and started to pack up his things. I was going to ask him to leave, but he never came back. The school began to call. Where was he? Finals were starting. As the week of his absence progressed, his cat became very ill with pneumonia. I sat up all night with Tigger. In the middle of the night I waded through the snow to my shed to find a box so I could put a rug in the dryer and warmed it up and put him into the box. I thought he was going to die before morning and I would have to put him outside in the cold until the Vet's office opened. The next morning I took him to the vet and made arrangements to have him put to sleep if he did not get better by evening.
I went to Todd’s job, but his car was not there. I waited to see if he would come in late. At lunch I went again thinking maybe he would come then. It was payday. I called his job and he had not been to work for days and had not picked up his check.
Later that day they brought his cat into me and left me alone with him, thinking he was mine and I wanted to be with him before they put him to sleep. I did not. I could not. I ran out of there not even paying them. I went to Scott’s office and made him go back and pay them. I could still hear his cat crying this mournful distressed cry that cats have when they are somewhere they do not want to be. Todd had always said he would be with his cat when they put him to sleep. He wanted him buried in a separate grave with a grave stone. I paid extra to have him buried in a plot where only 4 or 5 cats were buried together, rather than twenty. The rest I could not manage.
I cried as though it were Todd I had lost. I cried for him and for me. Mostly I cried for him. This too, he had missed. This too, he could never retrieve. It would live inside him forever. This knot of pain that he had missed this too. He could not go back and re-do it.
The weeks went by this December month and no one heard from Todd. I tried to talk Scott into believing we should report him missing. He would agree then change his mind then change it again. Then Scott started to see him drive by in his car always going in a direction he could not easily follow. He always saw him in the general area where Scott lived. As though in the throes of drug suicide Todd wanted to be near someone. Then I saw him one day. By the time I got turned around I could not find him. His car window had been broken and a piece of plastic covered it. He was dirty disheveled and bent forward intently over the steering wheel driving very slowly.
At least he was alive. I think he obviously left my home before he got so totally out of control he emptied it out. Another shred of strength and integrity that he could still conjure up in the midst of a total crack-crap journey. I collected these things.
As Christmas neared Scott received a call from Todd. He was in jail about 35 miles out of town. He wanted Scott to get his tools and a few things from his car because it was going to be impounded. Todd had been stopped for a traffic violation and he had a warrant out for him for failing to pay more than a few payments to the courts on his bad check charge in the last 4 years. The judge gave him the choice of going to jail for 4 months and have the checks paid off, or to work it off through community service as well as make payments.
Todd, who 4 years previously had begged to be kept out of jail, was now immune to such trivia in the life of a crack-head. He chose jail. There were 9 people in his cell. All but one was there for crimes related to crack.
The Holidays passed without him. Scott was the only one who visited him once. I have never visited Todd in jail.
We all took a rest for 4 months. He was alive and safe in jail for now. Except we could not help but speculate: Was this the magic answer as society seemed to think and others were sure of? Had he and I avoided this all these years only to find it did the trick where all else had failed?
Scott went to clean out his car and he called me. He 'd found bags of sales receipts and others thrown around in his car from a lot of different stores. We puzzled over this. We knew he had to be doing something to survive on crack alone. But what? He had been picked up for a traffic violation not theft. His body was so saturated with crack that driving had finally become too difficult.
We finally put together the small business enterprise he had devised to survive on his several month long journey. We speculated that he would collect sales receipts from somewhere, the trash or ground. Then steal the item and return it.
At that point my imagination began to work overtime and had he not been stopped on a traffic violation I could see him progressing to bank robbery. I talked to everyone in the court system trying to explain to them that my son was on an accelerating crime binge to get crack. Could they do something or anything? Could they help in getting him in a drug program. Their response was either one of boredom, disinterest, professed ignorance or just plain "no".
I moved on to his Probation Officer who had been in his life since he wrote the bad checks at the time I first found out he was a true crack-head. She was a very ignorant female. I explained, I analyzed, I philosophized, I cried, I begged and pleaded with her to treat Todd as a crack-head whose crimes for crack were going to get worse and to get him into a drug program or prison was close at hand.
She was so bored with the conversation she could have easily yawned. She was unimpressed, sarcastic and cynical, almost non-communicative. She reluctantly admitted she would be appearing in court about Todd shortly and she would 'mention' it to the judge. She doubted the judge would agree with me. I asked her did she want me to come and plead with the judge. She did not.
I also wrote a letter outlining everything we'd talked about and sent it for his file. It seems I was the only one who read it.
Nothing ever came of it. As Todd and his Probation Officer traveled together and Todd got more and more out of control on crimes and crack, I both felt that she treated Todd as though he were a privileged person who deliberately just for the fun of it like some jet set spoiled brat, did crack. To think that someone so privileged also had some special power over crack and could therefore just stop, la-tee-da. Not like her other non-privileged deprived social outcasts, who had long lists of legitimate reasons for their chose of drugs and crime.
In light of the facts, most of her caseload had to be drug related. Yet this woman was not only feeding her own biases as though from some TV soap opera, she could not have been more ignorant of drugs and related crime. At least to me that is how she presented herself.
Even in light of the fact that probation officers may be required to have a bit of an attitude, her attitude was fueled by her own personal fantasies and ignorance. It went way beyond the call of duty.
Todd had called his brother only that once from jail. Eventually he called me to ask me to find out how he could get back in school. Then asked if someone in the family could get him the daily newspaper. He was sitting in the cell all day and had read all the books in the shabby skimpy library. I did. I also sent him a few dollars 2 or 3 times. He budgeted with more discipline than I could have. His Grandmother sent him a small amount of money, as did his brother and sister (reluctantly after much thought). It was a very small amount compared to others there, who were seasoned residents, whose families considered this part of their life operating expenses: Sending along a few hundred dollars plus paying the criminal rates of $2.00 a minute from the only pay phone available for calling out collect. It seems that not only do we punish the criminal but those who are connected by blood.
After he had bought toothpaste and deodorant, Todd spent most of his pitiful little money on food. Everyone gave him whatever vegetables they had and rice when they had it, and he lived on that. He was rail thin when he immerged 4 months later. Many times he traded his paper or money for someone's vegetables and rice. He was promised a job making $7.00 a week, which never materialized. So foraging for reading material and vegetables were his main objectives each day. Both of which certainly must have had a profound effect on his ability to dump the lure of crack when he got out. He sent me the following article he had written for the jail newspaper.
What Re-Hab Means To Me
Rehabilitation comes from a desire, not a need. Without a true desire, it cannot be done. It takes a lot of work. If we would put as much effort into Re-Hab as we do in chasing our "hit", it would be so simple, really. But we don’t. Maybe for awhile at first, then we think we are strong and clean, shit happens. Lies, excuses, relapse. The breakdown of the word rehabilitation is helping me. I hope it can help at least one other person, too.
R- Recognize the problem of your addiction.
E- Eliminate anything or anyone that supports your addiction.
H- Honest. Be honest. Truth heals all lies in time.
A- Accept the fact you cannot control any addiction.
B- Believe in a stronger power, rather than your weakness.
I- Improve working on small simple skills.
L- Like yourself. Be happy with how the mirror looks back at you.
I- Isolate. Better to be alone and positive, than negative in a crowd.
T- Terrorize yourself with thoughts of all the disasters caused by addiction.
A- Attitude. Keep a positive attitude.
T- Talk about being addicted. Hearing thoughts out loud can be therapeutic
I- Introspection. Analyze yourself. Force yourself to achieve goals.
O- Offer help to someone in need. It is amazing how this feels.
N- Never give up, and pray.
Maybe this time was all I would allow myself after reading it. It seemed almost child-like in its simplicity. Crack-heads can be child-like at times. Looking for a cure for crack-heads all by yourself can make you child-like, vulnerable, confused while searching for how to be a good person again.
I did wait anxiously for him to get out. I tried to find some special interim housing he could go into right from jail. There was not any available. He would have to come to my house again.
Scott drove 40 miles to pick him up at midnight so he would not have spend one more night in jail. He slept on my living room floor. My spare bedroom was rented.
The next day he was a whirlwind of energy and organization. Within three days he had gotten housing and a job as a waiter. Within two weeks he was gone. There was no doubt that he had changed and that he had motivation and resolution than he had had in a long time. In the past this had meant success for him in whatever he did.
I thought the hotel was the end of the road, but found there are endless dead ends. Each one worse than the one before. The place he now resides was for people in temporary need of shelter, or so the paper said.
Both male and female were housed here in three floors above a row of business in a decaying area. All one block from a renovated glamorous downtown. A great many of the residents level of seriousness about their life involved around hanging out on the sidewalk and congregating in someone’s room and yelling out the window at people. There may well have been a lot of people there who one never saw because they truly were looking for work and a place to live and locked up in their rooms when they were not. Rent was from zero to whatever you could afford. Todd paid $25.00 a week. You could stay only temporarily, then you had to move on. So a lot of people who considered this their permanent residence, moved out for a few days and then back in making sure their personal possessions were kept at a minimum to accommodate this lifestyle.
The place smelled of unwashed everything or badly washed everything or impossible to wash everything. It was stifling hot in winter and summer was a dark dimly lit cavern teaming with surly hyper bodies whose language had long ago lost trust and hope. At least jail tried to keep up with the sociopaths they knew for sure that they had housed there. Here because you were not in jail. The premise was you were therefore not dangerous, and not having any mental hospitals, we are caring for our mentally ill on the street, and this place was one of the more blatant dumping grounds for those with serious mental problems. These who were not getting gov’t money, a gov’t room or jail or prison.
I did not go up there, ever. I sat across the street and waited until Todd came out, however long it took. My doors locked and car running. Except, one night at midnight.
I called him at work about something, and discovered he had not shown up. The people at work were sure that something terrible must have happened to him if he did not come to work, me too. He had been happy with his job and very dependable. It was too soon for him to fall off the wagon, especially with his present level of motivation and enthusiasm. I did not think of crack. I thought of dead in his room at the place he lived.
All day I became more panicked. I called the emergency room number several times because that was the only way to reach them by phone. No one had seen him. By late evening I was beyond polite inquiry. I called and insisted someone go look in his room. They could not do that unless they got the manager down there to do it. I asked them to knock on his door. While doing this someone said they had seen him that day. Scott refused to go down in that area at midnight, or go into that building and advised me not to.
I told them I was coming down and exactly how I was planning on doing that. There was no parking in front of the building and so I would pull up on the sidewalk and park directly in front of the door. Someone would have to come down and escort me from my car inside the locked building.
The young man waiting for me was shivering patiently. He was polite, sweet and concerned. He also looked very down and out from the main stream of life, with mismatched clothes and uncombed hair. He was very, very large. He unlocked the door and went up into the cavernous darkness to the desk explaining to me that he was the one who had seen Todd go out of the building at suppertime. This would have been several hours after he should have been at work. I was totally mystified and feared the worst, but not crack.
The man on the front desk was engrossed in schoolbooks and TV bored and sleepy. I kept him engaged in conversion hoping to find something about Todd. As I was getting ready to leave, at least convinced that Todd was alive, he had something to say to me. I could tell he had not intended to say it, and he leaned over the counter to talk in a low voice. "I have been on crack. I am trying to get my life together. Todd…well…he may still be messed up, but do not ever give up on him. My mother never gave up on me".
I went down the stairs with my escort thinking I was not a crazy intruder into a world crazier yet, but just another mother of a crack-head. I was stunned. Drugs, again so soon? I kept thinking it was not, though. But what?
Todd did show up at work the next afternoon. He had been hit over the head from behind with a butt of a gun one block from where he lived and his money stolen. He lay on the sidewalk for some time, semi-conscious. No one stopped. When he finally got up, he could not remember anything, least of all work. He wandered around in a daze for several hours. Got on a bus and rode someplace just to get out of the area. He finally went home and lay down. His head ached so he went out to get some pain pills. He became afraid to go back because he was sure the people who hit him lived there also. He did not call anyone or me in the family. He went instead to a motel for the night. Compared to crack, this seemed one of life’s smaller endangerments. He had a large lump on his head for days. I got him to at least call a doctor who told him if his concussion were serious he would have worse symptoms by then.
Todd also has a scar on his lip where someone had crept up on him while he was waiting at a red light, reached inside his open window and hit him with a pen sticking out the end of his hand. What caused it is not important. Why it happened of course is because he was either too high to notice someone creeping up on him or some place he would not be if he were not a crack-head.
Neither time did I point this out to him. By then I knew that crack-heads already know this. It does not always help them stop.
A very dear friend of mine had raised three beautiful intelligent talented boys. One is a crack-head. He was almost shot one night when one of his "buddies" disagreed with something he said and shot at him sitting in a chair across the room. Fortunately the man was too high to aim well and the bullet crossed over his lap and went into the arm of the chair. Another time he tried to break up a fight and was stabbed.
At present he has been off crack for 5 months (1994) and attending a group organization called CA. Here no one is allowed to OD on a continuous story of how bad they were on crack. You can only talk about solutions. Eat your heart out. An AA for crack-heads.
Todd was too afraid to go back to where he lived so he came to my house again. Very soon an older lady who had been working at the restaurant for many years approached him and told him she sometimes rented out one of her rooms. She was retired and did not need to work, but worked as few hours a week just to keep busy.
She told him he could move in. She also knew he was a crack-head. By then so did several people at work. The charge for the room was very, very low. She set to work immediately to mother him. She cooked huge greasy American fare for him, although she knew he was a partial vegetarian. Perhaps she thought it was the lack of meat and potatoes, which caused his crack-crap. She claimed to have a relative with a child who was a crack-head. They had excellent insurance and simply sent them away to be cured. She assured me that she knew how bad crack-heads could be.
The restaurant Todd worked at was quaint Mexican Restaurant with beautiful and unusual d├ęcor inside. It had been a very successful neighborhood restaurant for many many, years. He liked his job and the people he worked with. This had not been true for many years. He made excellent money. We could not help ourselves, we were all very hopeful. Every one of us spent a lot of time with him that summer. My mother came to visit for the summer and we all went out to eat and to the movies almost every weekend. She bought him several articles of clothing.
The months passed from April when he had gotten out of jail and into the last of the summer. He was always where he was supposed to be and he was always available to find. He seemed positive and happy. He started to make friends at work. He talked about going back to school.
I breathed no sigh of relief, gave no shout of victory. I was hopeful but not convinced. He was changed no doubt about it. He was stronger than he had been in years. He had some of the old zest and organization and confidence and resolve he always use to have. I felt that he was near to stopping. He had grown slowly towards it and I felt every step he had taken to get there. But, I was still unsure if this was that one and only never to be forgotten, blessed, jump-off point of no return to crack.