In the summer of 2014 I had got myself into a pretty lowly existence. At the time, of course, the misery of my life was definitely not my fault, but the fault of all other parties and authorities involved. I was so derailed by my own self-loathing that it was impossible for me to see that this pitiful place I was in was solely of my own making.
After my son was born on Mother’s Day 2014, I lost all care for myself and really for living in general. The shame of who I had become and my inability to take the role of being a father was crushing me down to nothing. So I did what I always did, I ran, ran away to be clear of anything that would convict me of my faults. Hoping to disappear into the streets of Southern California and never be seen again. I could go on with heroin, my closest friend. And if I died on those streets, that was okay too.
Recently I was engaged in a deep conversation about faith and spirituality, which brought me back to this summer in 2014 that I write to you about. Because it was during this summer that something happened to me that would open up my mind to the idea of some kind of non human Power existing in this world.
For years I did not believe in God. The values and beliefs I had attained through the environment around me and people I hung out with stood against religion and faith in God. I openly owned my disbelief. I drew upside down crosses everywhere and laughed and spit in the face of those affiliated with any religious denomination. I did not need God. I did not need faith or surrender to something I could not see or feel. I scoffed at those who prayed. I did not want peace I wanted to destroy, I did not want love I wanted to hate, I did not want to surrender I wanted to be in control.
Some time right before July 4th of that summer in 2014, I was knelt down behind some bushes up against a wall at Lincoln Park in Corona, CA. I had been up on a methamphetamine run for about 3 days, no sleep, nothing to eat and probably no water either. I leaned up against that wall in broad daylight thinking I was hidden by the bushes in front of me and dug around my arms with a dull needle looking to register in the first vein I could find. When you’ve been up for that long without food or water, and it’s the middle of summer in Riverside County, you aren’t in the best state of mind. My eyes were shaky and my vision was blurry. I was hyper-focused on my task at hand, which is not a good thing sometimes for an IV drug user searching for a vein. After some time I was pouring sweat, there were ants crawling all over me and I caught a glimpse of the amount of blood covering my arms and clothes. It was running all over, out of all the holes I had been poking in myself, and then I looked up over the bush and saw a mom and her child staring at me.
What a piece of shit I had become, look at what I am doing, I thought to myself. Realizing the threat of the now disgusted and awestruck onlookers in front of me, I shot the amphetamines quickly into some muscle on my upper left arm. Oh how I hated the burning and stinging of the muscle shot, but I needed the medication. That was the last of my poison so I buried the needle, which now had a point in the shape of a lightning bolt and I staggered out from behind those bushes. It was hot, I was sweating profusely, dehydrated, malnourished, arms covered in dripping blood and track marks, I was dirty and extremely high on methamphetamine.
In this state, the decisions and activities of a person are very unpredictable. I had an idea to get on the metro link train and try and get to Covina to connect with the mother of my child. We had been separated over the months after our son’s birth and she also had a problem with the poison. Surely I could show up at her grandparents house where she was and they would not notice that I had been seeing shadow people, talking to myself, and wearing the same clothes for the past week without a shower. Maybe they would welcome me in to reunite with their granddaughter, how delusional I was! I hadn’t had a phone in years, but I knew how to get to their house and I would just figure it out when I got there. This had become a common theme for me, bad decisions based in delusion and then just deal with the consequences as they arise.
I could sneak on the metro link trains in those days because they did not check tickets. Every once in awhile the LA or Riverside County sheriffs would be on board to check tickets but even then it would just be a citation. I got it down to where I would just go from bathroom to bathroom and stay out of sight until it was time for me to get off the train, surprisingly this strategy worked well for me most of the time. The only problem was that I had to switch trains in San Bernardino and the security was a lot heavier there. They checked tickets at the gate, so usually I would have to walk around and ask someone if they could be so kind as to buy me a ticket to Covina, it was like $11. It always worked out, or the security would be cool and just let me through. If I had to wait for the train, I would walk down to the Superior grocery store and steal some food, usually a half pound of potato wedges.
This particular day everything in regards to the train travel was going fine. I was starting to come down from the amphetamines and the heroin withdrawal was beginning to set in. Luckily I had one and a half Suboxone strips on me for emergency withdrawal situations, this was one of those situations. I got off the train in Covina and dragged myself to a Target nearby to use one of their display iPads to send my son’s mother a message on Facebook. With no phone, and her not having a phone either, this was my only means of trying to reach her to let her know I was there. It’s interesting to walk into a store like Target when your 60 pounds underweight, dirty, sunburned, unshowered and coming down off a 3 day IV methamphetamine run. She was not replying to my message, and I could only stand by that iPad so long before it was going to become an issue with the employees, not to mention my hyper paranoia was off the charts.
So I decided to leave before she replied, the Suboxone was kicking in and I was getting extremely tired anyways. I walked around that shopping center digging through ash trays for half remainders of cigarettes and got myself a nice little handful, found a bench to sit on and began smoking the snipes. The undeniable and overwhelming fatigue hit me, my body was done and I couldn’t stop myself from turning horizontally on that bench in broad daylight in front of many passerby’s and falling asleep.
Some hours later I was awoken by two men holding some Folgers coffee cans taped up with paper that said something about donations in Spanish. My body and mind needed that rest desperately, so when I came back to reality I was a little more grounded than before I had fallen asleep, but still in a Suboxone/Meth induced haze. One of the men asked me what my name was, I sat up and said, “I’m sorry what’s up?” He said, “What’s your name brother?. “I’m Dillon”, I told him. He asked me what I was doing there and if I was okay, I really didn’t know, or have the answer to either one of those questions. I told him I traveled to Covina to try and connect with my son’s mother but was having no luck and that I was tired so I fell asleep on this bench. It’s funny when you are in the state I was in, you think that people don’t question your appearance or situation, like, I could tell this guy I was just tired and fell asleep here and he would think, oh yeah that makes sense. But people know.
I lit one of the half cigarettes I had found and started smoking it, nothing better than a cigarette upon awakening on a public bench. Now being a little more awake I asked the two men before me what exactly they were doing walking around that shopping center. I assumed they were from a church or something. I had seen this kind of thing before. One of them told me that they lived in a Christian based recovery home in Baldwin Park and they were walking around trying to get donations for their home and the church that was right next door to this home. I had no interest in any of this, so I asked them if they knew where to get any heroin, or if there was a methadone clinic nearby. They said no, and then I wondered how much money was in each of those coffee cans. I thought if I could just hit one of them I could probably grab one of the cans and take off running, maybe the surprise would even allow me to snatch the other guy’s can. I assessed myself, I was too tired, I hadn’t eaten in days and the Suboxone had me feeling extremely tired. I hoped they would just go away because I had no interest in them or anything they had to say. I was a consumer and nothing more than that.
They weren’t leaving though. I asked them for money but they didn’t have any to give me. I asked them for a cigarette and they didn’t have that either, so finally I asked if they had any food or maybe they could buy me a beer. One of the men said, “Do you believe in God?”. Now, being a homeless drug addict roaming the streets you run into all kinds of different people. I had encountered many holy rollers who wanted to stop and pray over me and speak to me in tongues and shit like that. Those people were always so unappealing and annoying to me. I would usually yell the most obscene and explicit words I could at them or spit on them and tell them to leave me alone. I knew I was going to burn in hell and I didn’t care. As a matter of fact, if you could help me get there faster, please do, because I didn’t want to live that life anymore anyways. These guys were different though, they didn’t make me feel like they were trying to sell me anything or force anything on me, they felt like they genuinely had an interest in me and my situation.
I can’t remember exactly how I answered that question, but I think I said something like “I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyways, does it?”. And then this guy said, “Well that’s okay, if you’d like a place to stay, food and a shower, we have a house, we can take you there, but you have to get rid of all of your drugs, paraphernalia and even the cigarettes”. I was tired, dirty and very hungry. This offer actually sounded good to me. I didn’t have any needles or dope on me so I wasn’t worried about that, and I also knew I had that half Suboxone left, so I wouldn’t have to worry about the withdrawals for at least 36 hours. “Really?”, I said back to them, “I don’t have any money, I have nothing, and I have been up for a couple days”. They told me that wasn’t a problem, all they asked was that I did not bring any drugs into their home. I knew they wouldn’t have an idea about the Suboxone but I threw away the cigarettes in front of them and made a half ass effort to empty my pockets and go through my backpack. I followed them to their car, and we were off.
We arrived at a house in a neighborhood in Baldwin Park. I couldn’t tell you exactly where it was. I’ve tried so hard to remember, but I still don’t have the slightest clue exactly where it is or what the name of it was. On the drive over they had filled me in about the rules and day to day activities that went on in their house. I was tuned out, I was so tired and delirious. I remember it being something about morning devotional, breakfast, singing hymns, bible studies, weeknight church services and chores. If I would’ve been paying attention and really heard any of that shit I probably would have jumped out of the car at the next stop. I just wanted to eat, shower and sleep.
It was a cool California summer evening and I sat in the front room/office where I met an African american man who’s name I can’t remember. I told him of my situation and he listened, he told me I was welcome with his group in this home so long as I followed the rules and did not drink or use drugs. Again, if I was really listening and realizing that when the Suboxone wore off I would spin out of control, then I probably would have got up and walked out right then. I had no desire to change my life. I just wanted to take what I could get from anyone. I was a consumer. He showed me around the house and I met some of the residents. They were mostly Hispanic, ex gang members and convicts, they were all really welcoming and this was new to me. He showed me to my room and my top bunk, there was a kid in my room and I can’t remember his name. He was so kind to me, he was sitting at his desk reading the bible and he welcomed me. He told me to ask him any questions I had, and that he had extra food and hygiene if I needed anything. Amidst my haze I remember feeling cared about by this kid, he was a kind person and he made me feel like I mattered. My plan was to eat, take the rest of my Suboxone, take a shower, and as soon as I finished all of that the Suboxone would kick in and I could get some much needed sleep.
My roommate directed me out to the backyard and they had a big plate of enchiladas and a soda waiting for me. I can’t remember any of their names, but I could tell they were all out in the backyard, because I was the new arrival and there was something they wanted to do. After being up on a meth run for that long with no food or water the first thing you eat and drink always tastes like the greatest meal you’ve ever had, that was those enchiladas and Shasta cola. They took my dishes and asked me if I was okay, and then they asked if I would stand up so that they could pray over me before I went inside to shower and sleep. I had no problem with this, whatever they needed from me was fine, so long as I could shower and sleep. So I stood up and they placed hands on my shoulders and all gathered around.
Now, spirituality to me before this point was nothing more than rain dances, sweat lodges and LSD trips. Truly, I had no understanding of what faith in God was beyond the corruption of human religion and I didn’t have my own definition of what the spirit or the soul was. These guys had their hands on my shoulders, they were covered in tattoos, worn looking, like the people I ran the streets and got high with. One of them began to pray. He called out to a God who he said had the Power to heal my pain, the Power to rescue me from my misery and suffering, the grace to forgive me for everything I had done and allow me a second chance. This man spoke with a purpose, like he truly believed everything he was saying and the more he called out to his God the more I listened. I realized that all these guys were huddled around me out of their own care and concern, no one was forcing them to do this.
There I was, an underweight, homeless, hopeless, sleep deprived, self-centered, dirty junkie under the hands of these messengers of this Power. The fog of my sleep deprivation, meth induced delirium lifted for a moment, the man’s voice of prayer fell out of my ears and I began to see flashing images of my life. Silence, the fading sound of my life. My father, my mother, my newborn son and his heroin addicted mother, baseball fields, high school, elementary school, middle school, teachers, coaches, needles, pipes, more baseball fields and I began to cry. The man’s voice came back into my ears, he was asking his God to lay hands of protection on me that I may see the light that they see. I continued to cry, what had I become? Why had I not realized the true horrific state of my life until this moment? What was it about this setting that brought this shame up inside of me? Was their God really capable of the Power they spoke of? In this moment my prejudice fell to the side, the intangible became tangible, because I felt something that I could not access on my own up until that point. Something had sparked this inside of me.
About a day and a half later the Suboxone was gone, all of its effects had left my body and the sickness of withdrawal had come upon me. I must go, I was flopping around like a fish on my bed, restless and ready to punch a whole through the wall. I walked out into the backyard of that home in East LA and hopped the wall without even thinking twice about it. I made my way to a smart and final nearby, stole a pack of lighters so that I could light the half cigarettes I had found on the walk there. The sickness was ripping apart my stomach and my entire body ached all the way into my bones. I had become very knowledgeable of the southern California train system and I knew that I could catch the metro link out of Baldwin Park back to San Bernandino and then get a bus to Corona. I met a guy on the train who gave me $20 because he felt bad for me I guess. I’ll never forget those kind of interactions with those kinds of people.
I arrived back in Corona with nothing on my mind except using that $20 to buy some heroin to relieve myself of the sickness. I had completely forgotten about the prayer experience, and about feeling whatever that Power was during that moment. I continued with my active drug addiction for another year, progressively getting worse by the day, physically, mentally and emotionally. There were many cold nights on bus stop benches and in public restrooms where I called out to a God I wasn’t sure existed. That experience I had in the backyard of that house had a lasting effect on me. A couple of times in the county jail while I was puking my brains out and shaking from withdrawals I called out to that Power that I felt on that summer evening. I never knew if it was there, or if God heard me, but I kept calling out.
Eventually the call was answered. You can read my other entry “the hero’s journey: a tale of two lives” for a detailed account of how that call was answered, and where that Power led me. I will say this, I cannot in my right and sane mind deny that there is a Power that exists in and beyond this world which is not human. All of my prejudice and ignorance about God and spirituality has fallen to the side. I was rescued from a place where people don’t come back from, a place where 9 out of 10 are guaranteed to die or go to prison. I have laid lifeless, with a fading heartbeat and a needle sticking out of my neck in a park bathroom for hours, only to be woken up by the police and taken to the hospital. I cannot tell you how many instances as that one I have experienced, and somehow manged to live through. You can call it chance or coincidence, but I cannot. In my life today I have not only been gracefully granted a second chance, but I have been given the ability to go beyond just recovering from the illness of addiction. Again, the end of my entry “the hero’s journey: a tale of two lives” gives a more detailed account of my insights and skills that I have been given to help others.
Each time I look back at my journey and see the way the events unfolded in my life, I see the Power. I no longer believe in coincidence. Each time I think about cleaning my mother’s blood off the floor after her death and remembering that I didn’t have to drink or get high after that, I feel the Power. Each time I take a moment to realize I wake up in a warm bed every morning, in my own home 10 minutes from the beach, drive a car I bought on my own that is completely legal to drive, the fact that I have paid off nearly $15,000 in legal fees to the court system, have fallen in love with the most wonderful and beautiful girl of my dreams who treats me better than I could ever ask for, have a 3.87 cumulative college GPA with a California State Counseling Certification working in the field as an effective and competent counselor, surrounded, loved, trusted and respected by a group of friends and people after being alone and disowned for so long, each time I realize these things I feel that Power. I tried every other means possible, nothing worked, I always lost the fight and ended up worse off, every. single. time. I avoided the God idea at every cost, I tried only weed and alcohol, I moved to Alaska, I tried to get the right job, I thought the girl would save me, none of it worked. When I finally searched diligently within myself and cleared away everything that was handicapping me, I accessed the Power, the Power of love and goodness of my spirit, and my life finally began to change.
When I stop and think about myself as a human being and the complexity of my mind, consciousness, soul(whatever that is) and physiological makeup, I feel the Power. The same Power that moves the oceans and the tides is the same Power that dwells within me, it is this Power that I accessed that allowed me to feel what love really is. For me to say that nothing like this Power exists in the world would be preposterous based on my own life experience. When I no longer wanted to live, when I had given up, when I felt absolutely powerless over everything, something was there to answer my cry for help. It stays with me each day so long as I believe and seek its guidance, this Power gave me a way out..
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