The Road Traveled

February 22, 1992, as portrayed in Desert Chrome

Sonoran Desert, 1992. Smith drives me south through the desert, to Tucson, to treatment. I write as he drives, journal in my lap, pen in my grip. I try to keep my eyes open, to see those giant saguaro cacti, their angular arms rising to snag the sky; sun too bright, my eyes keep closing behind my shades. I’ve popped so many pills. My head drops to the side. I try to lift it, to watch the desert grate by, but the sun glares and my eyes close again. Smith’s talking and I want him to stop, to not care, I want to not care. I can’t lift my head. My mouth slack, breath slow, I feel the nod through the slow warm buzz of near death and I sink into it all the way. The pen falls from my hand. 

            Smith shakes me awake as he pulls into the circular driveway of the women’s treatment center and when I open my eyes, the first staff person I see is a man. Anger burns through me as I step from the Blazer. Smith tries to hug me but I’m on the fight, swinging a suitcase the man takes from my grip, not to help me but to go through it, confiscating shampoo for its alcohol content because, what, I might drink shampoo? Are you fucking kidding me? and Smith drives off into the desert night alone. After an hour of questions and signing papers, a female nurse coerces me into a bed, giving me Benadryl (pills, not a shot) and I’m gone.

February 23, 2021

I did it! Woke up, still alive, still clean. Twenty-nine years ago I woke up angry, and sick, and didn’t start appreciating life until I’d survived several days of withdrawals and experienced what a body without drugs feels like. Today I have much to appreciate, starting with Scott, who drove, and my mother, father, big sister, and again Scott, who joined me for family week in the Sonoran desert all those years ago, and to all that has happened in the 10,585 days since, which I have lived, one day at a time, without the use of drugs. Thank the gods.

Pics are from 2011 and 2017, the latter by George Cramer. That’s what nineteen years and twenty-five years clean looks like!


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