Fifteen months straight. A real accomplishment for me, and trust me… if you knew me, you’d be proud and a little shocked… but proud, nonetheless. Fifteen months since my last release from prison, that’s over a year since I’ve been arrested and sent away. I haven’t been home for this much time consecutively since I was 19. I turned 34 this year.
I had a good childhood. I had hard working parents who are still together today, a sister and brother ten and nine years older than me. I was the baby and I soaked up all the attention I got. That didn’t last though. By the time I was a teen I realized that I wasn’t as pretty and skinny as my sister, and I’d never be popular like her. I only had a few friends, and I was an easy target for the mean girls to play jokes on. I had black nail polish, a wrist full of rubber bracelets and I listened to bands like Coheed and Cambria and Circa Survive. The “it” girls got their nails done, had coach bags and Steve Madden sandals while listening to Maroon 5. It was hard being different growing up in Long Island, and looking back I realize that I started doing drugs to sort of make a name for myself.
High school was shit for me. By the time I was 15 I had tried pretty much everything. It was normal to smoke weed and drink and party. It was cool to drop acid and roll on ecstasy. It was cool to have seen the world through rose-colored glasses. It made me feel enlightened and mature. I stood out for new reasons once I went to school on 4/20 wearing a dumb grin and sunglasses to cover my glassy eyes. More people said “what’s up” in the hall and the bullies and mean girls didn’t dare come at me. Being in an altered state of mind gave me this confidence I’d never had before. I wasn’t embarrassed to be there, I had spent years feeling sorry that I even existed, like I had to apologize to the popular kids for breathing their air. Those years were fun years. The drugs we did were not dangerous or surrounded with bad stigmas. Most kids my age knew what a naked lady g-spot or superman was, and more kids had a bowl in their backpack. I had sniffed a line of dope a few times by the time I was 16 but it wasn’t an “all the time” thing.
That all changed in the spring of my junior year of high school. At a friend’s party I smoked a blunt that her older brother laced. I found out years later when we were both in a long-term residential treatment house. (He was going through his steps and decided to make amends, and admitted that he had laced that blunt with PCP.) Any way… that blunt really fucked me up, I felt like I couldn’t feel my body. I tried to get up and I just couldn’t. I was melting into the couch in waves. I was already hours past my 12 pm curfew and a guy friend’s 26-year-old brother said he’d get me home. I could barely walk to his truck because I was so fucked up. Sparing the play by play of what happened… When we finally got to my house he pulled to the end of the driveway, got out and pulled me from the back seat, sat me on the cement, got back in his truck, and drove away. I was raped and sodomized that night.
It took years until I could finally talk about it, and I’ve worked through it. I am at a personal state of peace with what happened. But back then, the world became my enemy after that. I didn’t want to deal with anything. The world was sick and cruel, and I wanted to float through life unfazed. I became a shadow, completely out of touch with reality. There was only one thing that could make me numb and invisible to what was going on in the world around me… Heroin. I lived in a daze for a long time, after high school it got worse, and I couldn’t keep up with my habit. I stole from my parents, my siblings, and my grandmother. When there was nothing left to take, I started breaking into homes in the neighborhood. Nothing stopped me, I lived to scheme and did everything for my abusive lover. I was in love and obsessed with my drug and nothing was going to come between us. I had no fear of dying. I only feared the withdrawal. My body, my soul, my brain, my heart… none of it was mine anymore. Heroin is the almighty and consuming God of the sick cult that is addiction.
Eventually, I got arrested for burglary and robbery, and was sentenced to three years in a NY state prison. I wish I could say that was when I turned my life around, but I had not hit my bottom yet. The next couple of years I spent in and out of mandated programs, parole violations, and Department of Correction’s version of military boot camp, where I had to shave my head, march in step, and sing cadences. That didn’t stop me either. I came home and picked up again, and every run has been worse than the last.
The last time I went out on a run was 2016. Again, I was arrested and sentenced to serve seven years in a New York State Correctional Facility. I admit, I thought my life was over, and I was scared shitless. The thought of spending that much time in prison was impossible to deal with. Although I did make it out alive, there were many moments when I was sure I’d rather lose my life… or take my own life. Once I actually got upstate and accepted the reality of the situation, I took charge of what and how I was going to do it this time. Those seven years away changed everything for me. I became an adult. The woman I am today was uncovered and awakened during those years. I got a college education, found comfort in strangers who I am lucky to call friends today. I became reliable, honest, dependable. And most important to my story…I fell in love. YEAH I KNOW, love in prison? It wasn’t to pass time, it wasn’t to fight boredom and loneliness, it was real and passionate and the most honest thing I have ever experienced. We spent our last four years of our bid’s together. We were the best versions of ourselves. The universe was aligned. I finally had plans for the future. Two girls who had nothing but track marks, went to prison never having met the other, did the time for their crimes, and after what felt like forever, came home as two women rich with love, dreams, goals, a little fear, but even more hope. Life had truly never been so exciting for me. I was never concerned about tomorrow or next month… or time in general. I was eager, thinking about the 5 years ahead and loving someone who loved me just as much back.
Four months and one week after my release, my beautiful girl died. My life had never been so black. She relapsed on meth (not her drug of choice). Her run lasted 15 days. On the 16th day, she shot heroin to come down and she died sitting indian style on the floor of her childhood bedroom. Heroin is not what it used to be; it is straight fentanyl. It gives you no chances. It kills you the first time. No narcan shots… No “just let me enjoy my nod…” There is no coming back from that poison spiked with poison. People were shocked that I didn’t relapse after her death. I am too, if I’m being honest. It was different for me this time. I was sober when I got the phone call. I was sober at her memorial service. I was sober for those two weeks of her meth fueled psychosis. It was heartbreaking watching the person you love most, fall apart. It was exhausting convincing her what she was seeing and hearing was not actually happening. It changed me… it broke me… it scared me far more than heroin and needles and prison ever has. It took me 10 months to start showering on a regular basis, eat normal, and leave the house (occasionally). I honor my beautiful girl by being sober. The memories of her are real and vivid with no heroin haze to louse them up. She deserves it, her presence in my life was a gift, and a gift should be taken care of and not left on a shelf to collect dust. Last month I made my first big outing since her passing. I went to see the band that got me through tough times as a teen, tough times as an inmate, and worse times as a grieving adult. The Coheed and Cambria show was my rebirth. It was the awakening of my soul. When the rain started to fall and mix with my tears (yes… I cried) the soul of that beautiful girl whispered, “It’s okay to still be alive, cut the cord.” Rise, Naianasha (Cut The Cord) is my interpretation of her whispers and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience I had that night. Being clean is all my doing, with a nod to the people, places, and tragedies along the way. The ongoing survival, through my grief, is the work of me, my guardian angel, and Coheed.
I’ve overdosed, attempted suicide, had the tip of a syringe break and travel through my vein. I’ve been in a solitary confinement cell, been raped, beaten and robbed, and none of that scared me to not pick up again the way it does, knowing that the most beautiful girl in my world is now ashes in the locket I wear around my neck. If you know someone that is using, the saddest thing I can tell you is that you cannot save them. If you’re the one who is still using, no one can save you but you. All I can hope is that stories like this, that are not stories at all… but real fucking life events, will encourage you think and maybe put pause to your next high. I pray for you not to be a headstone, or the contents of a tiny jar of ashes around the neck of the person who loves you. Most importantly, I pray for you to not be a memory. If you think that no one loves you, you’re wrong. You won’t know it until you’re sober. Feeling love is magic, the only thing in life you don’t have to explain. Love is seeing the universe without a telescope. Sobriety is the gate to endless possibilities, and if I can find the key to open the gate then it’s possible for anyone. To those still sick and suffering, if you don’t think you’ve reached your “rock bottom,” this is your harsh reality check… addiction is an elevator that only goes down. You’re at the bottom whether you know it or not. Although it has its tragedies, life has the potential to be as beautiful as you dream it to be, and you owe it to yourself to see what happens next.