The engine of the moving van sputtered and jerked until it completely died. I glanced down at the dashboard to see an empty gas gauge. Lucky for me there was just enough momentum left to drift into a vacant parking lot. Rolling to a stop, I sighed and sunk back into the seat of what had been my home for the previous four days. I was exasperated but not ready to give up on my current mission. After being evicted from my condo, I had decided not to return the van since I had no where else to go. After all, without my condo as “home base” for my friends I was no use to them. I had suddenly become homeless, alone, broke, and without drugs. On this particular day, I was headed to the bank since I had found some blank fraudulent checks in one of my boxes. Some quick cash, in my mind, was the answer to my immediate problems. This is what my life had become, and the chemical changes Meth made to my brain caused me to believe that I was constantly on the verge of a financial breakthrough that would turn my life around.
The bank was about two miles from the parking lot, so I set off on my journey by foot. It was an abnormally cold February day. The harsh gusts of wind cutting into me from the weekday traffic made it difficult for me to breath. The temperature caused my sleep-and-food-deprived muscles ache even worse; my body felt as if all the blood had been drained from me. It was very difficult to press on at this point, but regardless of how I felt on the inside I tapped into the very last source of adrenaline left to power through. I knew from my past successful bank fraud attempts that I needed to create the facade that I was an upstanding member of society so they would cash my check. I wore my typical disguise when trying to scam or steal–an expensive suit, tie and overcoat. These fragments of my former self served to craft my new existence as a homeless drug addicted thief.
I had found myself dabbling in identity theft that spanned from mailbox raiding to buying social security numbers from the dark web. I was stealing regularly from major department stores and beginning to learn how to create fake ID’s. This new identity as a master thief evolved very quickly over the previous 18 months. It all began when I stole a lighter from a gas station. At the age of 40 I had never stolen a single thing in my life. The rush I would feel when I walked out the door with stolen goods or cash was a new kind of high that I chased heavily. This was a skill that set me apart from the other addicts in my circle and gave me a new level of respect and acceptance.
But today would cross a line for me.
The two mile walk allowed me time to plan my strategy. I liked to role play the conversation I would have with the bank teller; chit-chat about the weather or their blouse, or some up-coming holiday. I needed to divert their mind away from any suspicion that the check in their hand had been created by me with a box of business checks I stole from Office Max. Today’s conversation would be different. I had overdrawn accounts at too many banks and landed myself on some type of counterfeit database. So, my last option was to utilize my daughter’s checking account. She was a minor so I could exploit my parental rights by depositing a check and asking for immediate cash back. Using my daughter’s bank account was a line I had told myself that I would never cross. But today I had no home, food, gas, or hope and I was crashing quickly and violently. I was fearful that my body would give out like it had done before and I would collapse in a random place. I needed money for a drugs, food, and a hotel room. In that order.
My head ached terribly, especially between my eyes and my muscles were beginning the quivering stage of body shut-down. But I laughed very charmingly as I discussed the weather with the teller and adding how difficult it was raising a teenage girl. She barely looked at the check as she recounted her own experiences raising teens. I took the cash, trembling, my sight blurred, my heart began to pump blood faster through my body as the adrenaline rush gave me the energy I needed to sprint out of the bank. I sat down on the pavement outside and sent a text to my dealer. I have cash and I need a ride.
A week later my daughter called me crying because she was at the mall with her friends and had to leave the clothes she was trying to buy at the counter because her card was declined. She had witnessed me stealing and printing checks on multiple occasions, so she knew it was something I had done. After that phone call she refused to speak to me, which was one of the lowest points of my life. Two weeks after that was the morning I called my mom in desperation to save me from underneath the tree where I was living.
As I type this blog post, it is seventeen months later. So much has happened since then, but the most important part is that my daughter and I are together and I am sober. I just kissed my daughter goodbye before she left for work. We had a nice laugh about the outlandish red-white-and-blue necklace she’s wearing to celebrate Independence Day. Today marks eleven months clean for me and I’m marveling at how parallel our lives are at the moment. Both of us have recently experienced a new sense of independence; she just graduated high school and I recently completed drug treatment.
She’s reached a critical milestone in her life’s timeline where she’s facing a crossroad of critical decisions that can shape the rest of her story. There is a lot of fear as she considers adulthood; the veil of parental protection gone and the responsibility rests solely on her. She feels like the world is watching her to see whether she succeeds or fails, that societal microscope adding a layer of uncomfortable pressure. Yet, she’s teeming with hope and possibility; excitement and adventure await driven by newfound independence.
As I approach a year sober from Meth, graduating from treatment is a critical milestone for me as well because the decisions I make on a daily basis are going to shape my new sober life. I am scared. Honestly, I feel an overwhelming amount of fear to think about the layer of accountability being lifted from my life. The weekly face-to-face check-in and random drug tests helped me feel safe. This is all up to me now. There hasn’t been enough time to build complete trust back yet from my family and friends, understandably, so I feel the eyes of the world skeptically and cautiously watching me. I am also overflowing with hope and possibility as I rebuild my life, richer and fuller than ever.
The healing that has taken place over the past seventeen months has produced a profoundly deep relationship between me and my daughter. I am so very grateful that she chose to trust me again. Now we both stand at the precipice of major life milestones, ready to leap into our own independence. The beauty of it is that we are leaping hand-in-hand.