The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 23
Freebase coke addicts, crack, crystal meth, heroin, PCP, boozers like me. Didn’t matter which vehicle you rode. The strangest pattern hooking us together wasn’t this nosedive phase of addiction we’d hit but the fact that each of us in the program had, at one point, something we truly excelled at, like the guy who quickly became my best friend in there, a black guy named Elmore, who was the best chess player I’d ever seen, or played against, and I once played a guy from Denmark who was ranked under 3000 in the world. Elmore was 10 times better than that guy.
Another guy, an 18-year-old kid I otherwise hated, was a fantastically talented graffiti artist. Two guys, (not sure if they could write it down and never sure if the tales they told sprang from reality or fantasy), were extraordinary, spell weaving storytellers.
There were a few musicians, several visual artists, and three standout athletes: Carlos—track; Renaldo—baseball; and Tony—basketball.
Tony and I got close, not because we both loved that game, but because I introduced him to yoga and meditation.
I didn’t last the full six months. Six weeks into it, after a few hours out with my sponsor at a coffeehouse in Silverlake one night, we returned to find the place in yet another “lockdown” as the result of a fight or something. Wired, probably, I announced I’d had it and was leaving.
Suddenly—word travels fast in a two story building housing approximately 50 substance addicts—the men I’d grown closest to were standing in my room, watching me pack, gently urging me to reconsider.
Me: Listen, i know you care about me, but this is bullshit. Maybe you guys still need this place, you need their help finding work, adjusting, whatever. I get it. Or you need another meeting or some one-on-one bullshit or passages from the Bible or another lecture but for me it’s just the same stuff repeated over and over. It’s good stuff. But I’m good now. I’ll be good. I’ve absorbed what I came here for.
Carlos: Which is what, man? Enlighten me, brother, maybe I’ll come to.
Me: I’ll tell him (Pointing to Elmore). Maybe he’ll tell you guys. But listen, before you go, I’m sorry we’re all addicts. But if that’s what it took for us to meet, become friends, man, then I’m almost glad.
Elmore: Man, I’ll make it here, and back out there without you. And I understand you’re sick of the motherfuckin routines, the lockdowns, but…
Me: (Loading my backpack) Yeah. You will make it. In your own way. But don’t you see they’re leaving something out? You really think these pricks care if you relapse or not? Relapse keeps this place in business.
Elmore: It’s all about job placement, a start…
Me: Right. The kind of job that’ll make you wanna start using all over again. I mean, you don’t really believe that drugs and alcohol are responsible for ruining our careers, our relationships…
Elmore: (Angrily brushing off my suggestion that it could be anything else, anything deeper) Did me! What else you think put me on the streets, man?!
Me: I know. Eventually it did. But think of those guys who were just in this room, man. Think about you and me. We all know each other’s story and none of it started with drugs. It started with recognition.
For a second Elmore looked at me as if I wasn’t even there, like he was traveling back to his first tournament win, first trophy, his first write-up.
“It killed it, man. It stole the purity.”
There was one other thing I felt I’d taken from the program. They pounded into us the idea that if there was evidence your drug of choice was negatively impacting your primary relationship, your purpose or passion—in whatever form that passion took worldly shape—it was essential you took control over it.
The message didn’t quite hit the target it was aimed at, in my case. Instead I realized something else: it was that silent, nebulous spirit source itself, like some invisible puppeteer, who guided my purpose, my passion. And if I wanted to dance and not choke on the strings I’d need to learn to trust it.
So, the Greyhound station in Hollywood.
A week before Christmas.
Ultimate destination: Christine Smith’s one bedroom flat,
10th and California,