In the Blink of a Bloodshot Eye

Updated: Jun 25, 2020


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| This is the 486th story of Our Life Logs |

Addiction isn’t picky. Trust me. You can come from family dinners and a good education and still fall into dependence. I sure as hell did.

Section Break-Mountains

I was born in 1962 in Coshocton, Ohio. By the time I was about 10, we moved down to Cincinnati where I had a happy life, two loving parents with good jobs, and two older brothers. I was a smart kid; I was in jazz band; I wrote for the school paper; I went to a good college where I majored in journalism and minored in jazz and law. These are all ordinary things.

Me, age seven.
Me, age seven.

I’m sure you’re thinking college is where it all started, what, with the stereotypical party lifestyle. Like many of my peers, I indulged back then, but it was never out of hand. Sure, I was always the last to leave the parties, but that was also because I had such a high tolerance. Yet even with my tolerance, I was responsible about drinking if I was the driver. I always knew my limit.

After college, I jumped into my career in radio and eventually worked my way up to a cushy job in Washington DC with NBC Radio News. I had a great house, a brand-new Mercedes, and I’d come home from work to mull it all over with a nice bottle of wine. Sure, the refills became more frequent over time, but it was no big deal. I had limits. Boundaries. Like any young and single adult in the ’90s, I attended clubs and get-togethers to meet people and would try a few different party drugs here and there out of curiosity. Trust me, those late nights with friends and colleagues are not where my story begins.

On the job, summer of ’84.
On the job, summer of ’84.

It does begin, however, on President’s Day weekend, February 2001.

Section Break-Mountains

If you’re not familiar, President’s Day weekend is like a DC Mardi Gras. With four days off in a row, all the ties are loosened and all the pant-suit people fill the bars like goldfish to a bowl. And naturally, I swam that way too. After I left work on Sunday at 11:30pm, I joined the festivities. Now, at the network, my days off were Monday and Tuesday, so this government-issued holiday made me feel like a college student on a Saturday night. I wasn’t, of course. I was 38, well-established in my field, and had, you know, responsibilities.

A couple of drinks later, one of my friends invited me to his place (an after-party, if you will) for a little cocaine. Some of you are probably thinking, it’s very hard to have just a little cocaine, don’t you think? Well, you’re right. One minute, my friend and I began smoking, and in the blink of a bloodshot eye, the weekend was over. I stumbled off his porch steps on Tuesday afternoon in a satisfied daze.

Two weeks went by, and on Sunday, my friend offered to do a “little more” cocaine with me on my days off. Out I went. Then a week went by. Another offer. Out I went. Another week. Another offer. He just had to say the word and I was out the door. Every Tuesday afternoon, I shuffled back home and willed myself to wake up on Wednesday morning for work. In the beginning, I would. After a few binges, however, my responsibilities seemed a little more casual, and I began to get home later and call in sick.

Then my friend called on a Tuesday. For a second, I let the temptation linger. Could I make it work? Could I have one more night out? No. I shook my head. “I can’t man, I’ve gotta work.”

I hung up the phone and started getting ready for bed. Sure, I had said no. But my mind raced around the idea of another hit and the sensation of feeling high and mighty and fearless. I couldn’t get to sleep after that. I half-listened for the phone to ring again with another invitation that never came. That night, I was in trouble and I had no idea. Well, maybe I did. It wouldn’t have mattered either way.

Me, 2001.
Me, 2001.

By July, I had fallen completely into my crack addiction, sometimes taking it six days in a row and still going to work. That new doubled salary? Almost all of it went to coke. I smoked up a new car, a new house, I lost my job because I called off one too many times, and (despite a hefty severance check) my house was being foreclosed.

Section Break-Mountains

In July 2002, a friend of mine was planning to come over to help me move my stuff out. The night before, I smoked crack like usual, felt kind of funny, and passed out. I woke up to the sound of my doorbell. I felt strange and my legs felt like pins and needles. Hearing the doorbell again, I hopped out of bed. Except instead of landing on my feet, I collapsed to the ground. Fear splintered through me as I tried to will my legs to move. Oh god, what’s happening to me? I didn’t know, but I knew I needed help. I crawled to the door as fast as I could, terrified my friend would leave before I got to him. Finally, I reached the door and used all my strength to reach the doorknob and pull it open. The moment my friend saw me, he burst into action and called 911.

Given that I’d felt strange from the crack the night before, I thought it was a bad batch. It wasn’t though. The doctors thought that I’d had a stroke, but it wasn’t quite that. They never distinctly determined what had happened, but they did know that the drugs hadn’t caused it. Although it may not have helped. My legs were running with dead nerves and I was told that I’d have to learn to walk again. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I could have died. To keep an eye on my progress, I was in the hospital for two weeks.

My family was informed of what had happened including what was in my blood. My parents never knew about my vices. Whenever I called, I’d lie about how great I was doing. I was such a good son all my life they had no reason to not believe me. Now their trust and image of me were tainted forever.

One of my friends offered to take me in if I promised not to use. I kept that promise the first few days, but when he went back to work, I was hobbling down to the corner to meet my dealer. After a week, my friend couldn’t take it anymore. I was like a child; I couldn’t be left alone. With no other option, I had to return to Cincinnati to live with my parents.