June 8th 2006. The Dallas Mavericks have just gone through the NBA championship for the very first time. My older brother, Mark, had purchased the team in January of 2001. It is a very exciting time for my family although I had never been a huge basketball fan prior to that.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, NBA basketball was not something I gravitated towards. We had the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL, we had the Pirates in baseball, and the Pittsburgh Penguins in hockey. All had captured multiple championships. Pittsburgh, however, had not had a professional basketball team since 1972 with the Pittsburgh Condors of the old ABA.
I had gone to a few Dallas Mavericks games over the years. Mark had pretty good seats down by the floor. Now that he owned the team, I had been sitting in a box he had for our family for the championship games at home. I also had the opportunity to get some tickets for friends. I obtained two of them for game one of the championship series. I thought about giving the tickets to my best friend and his wife. I also thought about selling them on EBay for drug money. I decided not to do that, as it would be incredibly disrespectful to my brother and family.
The Trading Starts
I picked up the phone. My call was not to my best friend. The call was to my cocaine dealer. I decided I would trade the two tickets to him for cocaine at scalper’s prices. Selling them on eBay was disrespectful in my mind but trading them to my drug dealer was perfectly acceptable. This is thought process of a drug addict who did his first line of cocaine in a restaurant bathroom in Dallas, Texas in 1986 and was immediately addicted.
My dealer, eager to see the Mavs play in a championship showed up at my door in record time. (He delivered). I handed him two very good seats to the game and he handed me one thousand dollar worth of cocaine in a zip-lock baggy. More than enough to send me to prison but that thought never entered my mind. I chopped up the cocaine on my desk and stared at the pile in front of my Al Pacino character, Tony Montana in Scarface.
As I contemplated the cocaine kingdom in front of me, I heard cars outside, saw the flashing blue and red lights of the Dallas PD, maybe the DEA? I ran to the office window. There was no one out there – the paranoia of addiction. The dark and silence of my front yard only fueled the paranoia. I hid my cocaine, got in my car, and headed to Home Depot. I purchased several electrical outlet faceplates and a drill. I returned home. I went to 3 different closets around my house and cut through the drywall. I put the cocaine in baggies and placed each behind the drywall and fake electrical outlet. As if the police, DEA and, drug dogs had never seen that before.
I, of course, had to sample the wares – chasing that high from that bathroom twenty years earlier. That high that allowed me to look in the mirror and finally love myself, if only for a few seconds. A long gone high that had been replaced by depression, shame, and the need to continue seeking what I could never find – self-love; without the need of an artificial way of getting there.
This line was no different. The shame and self-loathing overpowered me when I did not get those few seconds. I went to all the fake electrical outlets, gathered up all the cocaine back into one baggie. I ran to the upstairs bathroom, dropped to my knees as I had done so many times before, praying for someone or something unknown to me to take away my pain and shame. I flushed my one thousand dollars of cocaine down the toilet. I did not do it because I had an epiphany about my addiction. I had no clue I was a drug addict. I did it because for one moment, the shame became more powerful than my desire to do the next line. It became a vicious cycle of addiction that repeated itself for game two of the NBA championship - two more tickets, more cocaine, more paranoia and more hiding it in the drywall. Chase the high. Don’t get it. Drop to me knees once more and flush. If addiction was “insane”, which it is not, that might define the clichéd “insanity of addiction”. It was, however, nothing more than addiction and nothing less. We all have a story.
My Day of Sobriety
I finally got sober on April 8th 2007 after a near suicide attempt and two trips to a psychiatric facility. I walked into a twelve-step group initially as a way to placate my shrink and my family. I accepted my desire chip. Like the Michael Keaton character in “Clean and Sober”, I thought that if I could put on an act I would be left alone. As I sat in that first meeting however, I heard my story over and over. Not Mavs tickets, just stories of addiction and recovery. I realized I wanted that. I realized that I just might be an addict.
Recovery was a slow process.
I was also dealing with alcohol, an eating disorder, and body Dysmorphic disorder (BDD). 12-step was not my only tool of recovery but there but there was also my medication to control my depression and the obsessive-compulsive aspect of BDD. There have also been different types of therapy so that I could begin to love who I was and begin to deal with life on its own terms, good, bad, and tragic – whatever comes. I still see a psychiatrist weekly.
Today I look back at that Mavs tickets episode with some humor, as I have to find humor in where I have been. I combine that with the living amends to my family and friends for such conduct. We all have stories. That is addiction. My recovery is being able to chuckle about it over nine years later without being triggered, with a mind towards what I have learned from it, and with the knowledge that my sobriety is only as good as today.
I was not Scarface. I was not insane. I was just an addict. Today I can add “in long term recovery” to that.