Meet Me Half-Way
My name is Laura. I'm a recovering crack and heroine addict. I am now one year clean and just entered glorious thirties. Glorious as opposed to the shitstorm my life had been since I was fourteen and was introduced to hardcore drugs. If you ever heard about recovery, you must know that addiction is a progressive illness. Or course it was, it went from worst to "fuck me, I'm dying". But it didn't go from booze to weed to coke –and cock– to my drug of choice. It started with heroine. It became daily in a week. Ten years of it and then a light at the end of the line. Literally. It was either death of turning my life around. Unfortunately, I stopped dead and was not admitted to detox. I had to lock myself in what I called my flat, throw away the key from the third floor and the phones in the house. I nearly died from the withdrawal. Or thought I did. But I never used again (technically). And picked my first lock to get out because everybody had nicknamed me "The crazy Mexicunt fuck from the third floor" and nobody would come get me out when I yelled through the window. I guess I should probably not have tried to shit on the first guy who asked me what the hell was wrong with me. Also, you can't aim from the third floor. Especially when you have explosive diarrhoea.
But anyway, unlike my recovery, this is not all about me. This is about reaching out to using addicts in what I think is a ground-breaking method. People have called us a recovery mafia. That's one way to put it. I would rather call us "progressists" in the way that we are trying a new way to do things. We are in no way trying to replace rehab, detox or even Narcotics Anonymous (and all its branches). We intend to ease people from addiction to recovery by supplying drugs in a controlled environment. But rather than a long explanation, just follow me in one of my nightly duties. I am no vigilante. I am Laura. I am part of the underground movement called Meet Me Halfway. This is one of my stories. Yes, I know, it sounds like SVU.
Twice a week, I work the night shift for this not so secret organization. My job is simple, yet so complicated: I supply limited amount of drugs to drug addicts who wants to stop using but cannot or will not go to Narcotics Anonymous, shoot stations or detox.
We are not dealers but to prove our point to the world, we have to work closely with them. Not me directly though. But I will get to that. Tonight, I am meeting Canadian girl Abby. She has made several attempts at recovery and rehab but could not stay clean long enough to embrace the program. Since she last went to detox, twenty months ago, she reached out for me repeatedly. I had to keep her at arm's length because she was a danger to my own recovery. But that was until I joined Meet Me Halfway. She had gone through several phases, from pills to booze to pot to recently crystal meth. This is unusual for a UK girl to smoke "Tina" but that happens. She is living proof. This is also why she was paired with me. Our program relies on recovering addicts that are secure in their recovery. But since they are going to have to handle drugs, they cannot be in contact with their drug of choice. Hence me handling a tweaker. Or tweakerette.
This idea is simple: I go to her house at 8 pm. People have been coming every two hours since she requested to join the program day or night, until she goes to sleep and calls the whole thing off or the day. She wants to stop using Tina altogether but her attempts have failed. She was not admitted to rehab and there is no equivalent to a methadone program for meth. So what I do here is that I come at 8 pm, two hours after she got 0.05 g of meth to refill her pipe or inject or booty pump –put into her ass with an oral syringe- from the person before me. Following so far? She gets 0.05 g at 6 pm from some guy and then another 0.05 g from 8 pm. And so on and so forth, or whatever you Britons say. This is not nearly enough but she knows she will get the exact same amount every two hours and will not have a whole gram in her hands. She also will not have to do degrading things to pay for drugs with money she doesn't have.
How do I not just take the drugs for myself and just smoke them, you may ask? Because they are in a safe. I don't have the code. I will get the code by text from my area Handler in two hours time when it is time for her to get her next hit. In the meantime, I can stay indoors in a locked room where the addict cannot attack me for more drugs. If that cannot be done, I go for a walk or wait in my car with the safe. Once I get the code and the drugs are out, I will call the Handler and Abby will confirm she got the drugs and I did not touch them. If I do touch them, a substitute will come and replace me and I will be taken straight to a hearing where I will have to explain myself and it will be decided if I can stay in the program or go on a probation period. That's our legal bit, which has no legal foundation. Call it our HR book if you will.
Once I give Abby her drugs, my replacement will soon knock twice, wait two seconds then knock once again and take my place. He will be accompanied by what we came to call "the dealer by proxy" which is a senior member that went to get the drugs from one of our trusted dealers. He will place them in the safe and close it. He will reset the password and text it to the handler. The dealer by proxy, my replacement and I are not allowed to talk to each other in order not to leak the code of the safe. If that happens, the blabbermouth is also going on a disciplinary hearing.
Once that is done, I move on to the next person on my route and start this shit all over again. This is a rotation and you never go to the same person twice in the same day. This sounds like a lot of precautions but remember one thing: we are dealing with addicts. We are facing a disease that is like cancer. You can be in remission, but you will never be cured. The illness can come back at any time. The only thing you can do is pray that it does not take you away the next time it comes knocking.
Back to the story, your main concern right now is that we look like suppliers. Yes, we are. But what is 0.05 g every two hours was 0.15 g a week ago. Our only aim is to help them reduce their use of drugs until one day they are ready to stop completely. Unlike for example Subutex, we do not give them one hit every day they have to handle, we give them regular hits in tiniest amounts so we can control their using for them.
Why don't they just get the free drugs and go score some more? Because the drugs are free, for them at least, not for us. Yes, we are tricky bitches. We work with a lot of different dealers all over London. So we have an eye everywhere. We encourage denunciation, either from dealers, relative and even other addicts -that last part being the trickiest. If our "clients" are caught scoring drugs other than ours, they are out and have to pay a fee equivalent to the amount of drugs they took from us while they were using some more on the side. Where we are real cunts is that we will reward the tattletale in money (anyone) and sometimes in drugs (for dealers only) once it has been proven the addict did not respect the contract. This is why it is tricky to trust another addict's words as they would do anything to score.
This is also why we are so heavily criticized. We are breaking the law. We are starting to be featured in the media and while we get some good press, regular TV will take the legal system's side. So just like dealers, we get arrested a lot and get jailed. But we are sticking to it since it has proven to work. Another big criticism is that what we do is no different from "shooting rooms" that are starting to sprout all over the world. These are rooms where addicts are given needles and drugs and can go to safe rooms where they can use. This we do acknowledge and it works for some people. But most addicts will not go to a public place to get drugs and use with strangers. They are fearful that unlike Narcotics Anonymous, their anonymity is non-existent. So this is where we intervene. We provide something similar but we are not recognized by the law. Still we have to make things happen for those people that the system in place has failed so they can go onto the next step in their recovery.
We are not a substitute, we are a half-way house -hence our name. We are clean people, unlike our methods. This also explains a potential for abuse. Some of us will strive to make addicts fail and go score to get some more money for the organization. We do not condone that but have to deal with it. Similarly, people working with dealers will sometimes vanish with the drugs or just with the money. We do not condone that. We are not a militia; we cannot just go beat them up. Finally, and that is the main thorn in our collective thigh, we face the biggest criticism within recovery, from people from Narcotics Anonymous. Therefore, some of us will stay on the down-low and that will smash some people's recovery. In NA, we say: "Watch out for the newcomer. He might sponsor you one day." At Meet Me Halfway, we say: "Watch out for the strongest recovery. Tomorrow, he might be our best client." It is as harsh as it is true. Even I came close. All due to a mix-up in the drugs and to how the program was working a year ago.
In those days, we had no safe. We just had our Higher Power to help resist the temptation. We would hide the drugs in a room in the house that would be locked and then we would go away for two hours to not be tempted. But still, we had the key. Soon after my almost relapse, we would give the key to the handler, therefore reducing the risks. But before that, we were basically left on our own. And that's when it almost happened.
I was a little more than one year clean. Actually, I remember exactly. I wad one year and nine days clean. I was scheduled to go to Tony's at 2 pm -the shift ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the day shift, which is usually the one I would take on my day off. So I was to meet this Tony guy. And he is part of the reason I almost picked up using. The reason I joined Meet Me Halfway was to keep an eye on my ex, the last person I had been with in my last two years of using, namely Tony. Even to this day, he is my strongest resentment. And the love of my life. My only wish was that he found recovery but he was still out there, selling his body for ketamine and spreading HIV and Hep C. How I did not get infected is a mystery. I must be one of those persons with a resistance to it. And that's the worst. I kinda feel like I deserve the punishment for being such a bad person during my using and that if I caught this other disease, I could tell my HIV positive friends I do understand what they are going through. But I'm drifting. Again.
So I entered this programme because I knew my love Tony was in it and I wanted to keep an eye on him without having to use to do so. Of course I lied about having any friend, lover or relative in the program since you can imagine there is a rule against attending to such people. But there only is if you tell. And I did not. Pretty soon I ended up providing him with one his daily fixes. I had tried ketamine once with him and had gotten sick straight away for a whole day. I puked like twenty times so it was a good deterrent. But still, the mind of a user is so fucked up that I still would have tried it again if it meant shacking up with him and feel his huge cock inside of my pussy. This is addict Laura talking. But addict Laura is a part of me. I am light and I am darkness. And only by welcoming them both did I get true recovery. Also, that story I am dragging along because it is such a bad memory was a great step towards securing my recovery.
So I lied and I ended up having Tony on my route one night. I was over the moon. What did I think? That he was suddenly going to drop K and welcome his Lolita back and shag me senseless for the rest of our days. No. Mostly because when he saw me, he did not recognize me for three weeks. In the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is this story of the doctor who had seen a chronic alcoholic at his very worst and then saw him a year after, totally transformed, so much so that he did not physically recognize him and had to see his name on his file to believe it was him. Maybe it was the same for Tony. But saying my own name did not even bring a spark in his eyes. And that hurt. So very much. I felt like I was a stranger to him. I prayed and prayed to my Higher Power, begging Her to make him see the light. But deep down, I was lying. I was praying for him to recognize me and say something, even a big loud old "Fuck you cunt for leaving me!". But that did not happen. So, three weeks in, I surrendered and took it as a sign not to reconnect with him. For both our sakes. Nevertheless, that's when it happened. I got the safe code two hours after my arrival and opened it to get his fix. And it was obvious. It was not ketamine. It was heroin. Then it all spiralled down. I dipped my finger in it and brought it close to my nose. Tony was raging and threatening to hit me if I stole his drugs.
"Fuck you, An'. This is heroin. That's my fixer upper. I'm tired of this. This is too much."
Believe it or not, that's when I sneezed very loudly and covered his face in heroin and mucus.
"OK, God, I see the sign. I'm not relapsing. Fucking hell."
And then it got worse. The Handler, that we never normally see, barged in.
"I'm the Handler. I got a call that there had been a mix-up in the deliveries. This is not ket… Oh I see you realized it already. Miss Laura Valleja, will you follow me to HQ? You are now suspended, pending your hearing. Any refusal to comply will lead to your dismissal from the program. Your NA sponsor will be contacted within an hour and he will be informed of your relapse."
"I did not relapse. Actually, I…
"I would recommend staying silent until you get sober again and get your hearing. Please hand me the bag."
I handed him the bag. I looked at Tony who seemed completely phased out.
"Is that you, Lolita?"
"Yes. And thanks for remembering who I was after three weeks, at this exact moment, when I'm basically being tried for almost relapsing and sneezing heroin in your insanely hot face."
He rushed towards me only to meet the handler's arm.
"You are not allowed any physical contact with the Provider. Please step back. That will be added to your file, Miss Valleja."
"Yeah, yeah. Also add that he is the sole reason why I joined."
I stepped on his feet with all my strength concentrated in my stiletto hell. He grunted and stepped back. Then I abandoned myself into Tony's arms.
"An', I missed you so much."
"Me too, Lolita."
"Don't talk. Let me finish. This is breaking my heart but I can never see you again. I thought we were going to reconnect while I was your Provider but it only made things worse and endangered my recovery to the point where I almost relapsed. So, if I'm not fired from this organization, I will never see you again, neither here nor anywhere. Don't contact me or try to find me. For we would destroy each other."
"I… I wanna go to detox."
He turned to the Handler.
"Can you help me do that?"
The Handler had the wet eyes of those moved to tears.
"Of course, we can. We will arrange a meeting with a key-worker as soon as possible and discuss your options. In the meantime, you should consider going to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. There is one in one hour in Bank. I can drive you there and escort you in. This is not normally my job but I can see when somebody is calling out for help."
"Please do. If Lolita can bear to be in the same car as me."
I nodded silently.
In a way, I really didn't do anything like I was supposed to because the Handler had to cancel the substitute since the "client" did not want to take part in the program anymore and sought recovery.
The ride was painful. The little ungrateful bitch did not even give me a single look. Being so close yet so far from him was tearing me apart. How I wished I had not sneezed. Or that I had licked his face. For many different reasons. Before I moved to his penis. Seeing him, in the back seat, behind the Handler, already withdrawing for lack of fix, was echoing my own story.
And then I saw myself suffering from crippling pains, wanting to die rather than withdraw. And then taking another hit but only after I had sex with my carpet muncher of a dealer. Don't mistaken me, I love lesbians. But she is the worst human being on the planet for she acts on the power she has over addicts to make them do whatever the fuck she wants for a tiny free score.
Even remembering that, I still wished I had relapsed. For months on end, on any fucking drug if it could make me forget him and all that we put each other through. And of course, I also wanted him to slide his cock inside in all my holes. And tell me I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. In a nutshell, everything and its contrary.
Which is exactly what happened as I saw myself next to him in the back seat. The me in addiction. And I literally had a conversation with her. Call her the Devil as I understand it. Or my Lower Power. Or the voice that feeds the bullshit. That little prick of a cunt that will tell you you're better on drugs than you are now, that drugs are a blast and that you should experience them for a few more years, just to be sure.
"See what you're missing on? The biggest dick in London. And God knows you like dick, especially when you slam heroin. Am I right or am I right, bitch?"
"Shut up. I sneezed for a reason earlier. I don't want to go back out there. You're the evil me. The darkness that took over and prevented me from living to my full potential."
"Bullshit. So living to your full potential is serving greasy burgers to greasy blue collars at Mac Donald's? And to be Mac Broke by the 15th of each month 'cause you're still unmanageable around money? So broke that the one time you became treasurer of one of your silly Narcotics Anonymous reunion of narcissists, you spent the rent money and got your lot kicked out of the venue the next month as you were not able to reimburse the meeting. You're a joke. Your life is a joke. You belong right here, sitting on him. Or in a back alley mugging some old fart for a fix. That's the life. The real one. The one that you're meant for."
"I'm not that girl anymore. I'm not you."
"Fuck me. You are me. You've always been me and you'll always be. Just smash his head on the window and steal the drugs. Don't subject poor ol' Tony to that crap. You saw what it does to people. It breaks them. Sucks all the joy in their life. Embrace the shadow and finally become one with it."
"You know what? I am darkness and I am light. I acknowledge you. And I'm keeping you confined for the time being cause you do my head in all the time. This doesn't mean I will never let you out but I know that you are part of me forever. Like the Yin and the Yang.
"Crap on top of lies on top of bullshit. You're the little whore on the corner that will never spread her wings but will open her legs to anyone."
"Enough, you fucking cunt."
And then I punched her. I proceeded to the back seat and grabbed her head. She was kicking a screaming and telling I wasn't even worth dying in the gutter but I was stronger. Because she was an addict, she was weak, she was out of breath, she had body dysmorphia. And I was fucking pissed. Never will I go back to that mess. So I bashed her head against the window, like a guy that paid for fucking me did once. There was blood everywhere, even on Tony. But then she finally disappeared. And my Higher Power took over. She wasn't proud of this play I had unfolded in my mind but she did not judge. We all have violent thoughts. We play them in our minds but we don't act on them. That's what makes us humans, not animals. Anymore.
In comparison, the hearing was like your first hit of crack. All was fine until I started coming down. And realized I was out of the program for a month and then on a probationary period for three months where I could be assessed at any moment without prior warning. And that I had to make a decision about my clean time. That wasn't said clearly by my sponsor –that was at the hearing- but strongly hinted at. I had to decide if my episode with heroin was a relapse or not. Sure I had sneezed and some might argue I would have totally had the time to take some before the Handler would have snatched it away from me and that I had not. But still, has he not been there, it is obvious I would have shove it done my nose or chased the hell out of that dragon.
So I had to make a choice. I decided to go a meeting the very next day and decide as I was sharing. But the World had decided otherwise as I was about to face the after effect of working for Meet Me Half-Way. So I went to the 12:30 p.m. meeting in Soho where I had taken my first commitment six moths ago and was in charge of literature. That meant I was handing pamphlets and Narcotics Anonymous books to newcomers or recovering addicts further down recovery lane. So I hugged Anna that was running the meeting at the time and sat next to who I thought was a friend. She was somewhat nice to me but I felt something was off. The atmosphere, the looks, nobody asked me if I wanted tea, nobody gave me literature to read before we started sharing even though I was like the first one there, even before Anna. Anyhoo, I knew a storm of some kind was brewing. But little did they that their gossiping would come to my ears, or in the present case, to my hands.
So the meeting started, we read the literature –well, they did, I just listened- and then general sharing began. When I was a newcomer, and even after that, I used to share in newcomer's time, i.e. during the ten minutes reserved for late bloomers who had just got clean or wanted to be because nobody else dared to speak so it was easy to kick yourself in the crotch to do so. But after a year clean, I knew how to bypass people. You just had to be blunt or just downright rude and speak louder than other people trying to speak at the same time. So I jumped into the pool, unaware so-called friends were ready to keep my head under water.
"Hi, I'm Laura and I'm a addict."
"I'm here today because I have a choice to make. To make it short, I almost relapsed on my drug of choice but didn't. Not because I wanted to but because I sneezed loudly into my ex's face. Don't misunderstand me. In writing, it's not a relapse. But in practice, I only didn't take some more to shove it god knows where because a third party was involved."
Somebody coughed a "slut". That's when the train started to derail. You just do not fucking do that at a meeting, however much you hate the person. And I did not know that person. I therefore just ignored him. Probably a newcomer. Or just a cunt.
"So, the thing is I was forced not to pick up, morally speaking. If the Handler had not been here…"
Oh crap. Now the shit was going to hit the fan. And it was diarrhoea.
"If my friend had not been there, I would have relapsed. So my sponsor, who I met like an hour after –and that disapproved of what I was doing; duh.- made that abundantly clear. But he never said the words and let me get to that conclusion myself. So here I am, less than eight hours after, at this meeting. And I don't have a fucking clue what to do about it. Am I too hard on myself? Should I go back to day one… I just don't know."
I had seen my friend Mary typing for quite a while. When she hit "send", I received a text. She went livid when my phone rang. Somehow, I knew her text was in sync with this weird mood in the room. So I grabbed my phone and read it. Then I read it out loud.
"So I guess Mary was texting Laurie, not Laura. Let's see what my dear dear friend, the one that I admire as my role model in recovery, has to say that cannot wait for me to finish sharing."
I cleared my throat and marked a pause before I started reading.
"She got burnt for being in that recovery mafia and came close to relapsing. And now she comes crawling back to NA asking for guidance. She is just a fuck-up playing God with drugs. Let her hit the gutter to get proper recovery and dump that shit of a sect."
I stood silent again, with a tear rolling down my cheek.
"Yes, I'm a fuck-up. When I was in the car with the Handler from Meet Me Half-Way and with my boyfriend…"
"Sorry, Laura, we are not supposed to mention other fellowships."
"Fuck you Anna, you were with us three months ago when you had your relapse. I supplied you cocaine and weed. Yes, she relapsed and she's been lying her way through ever since. Mary, and y'all, if you're dumping shit on me without trying to know what happened, I'm doing the same. I joined Meet Me Half-Way to save my boyfriend. And tonight, I did. He went to a meeting and said he wanted to go to detox. So I win. I'm day one again but I win. And you lose. All of you. Because you're as self-centered and closed to change as you were when you first arrive. Fuck you all. I saved a life today. And that feels great. For once, recovery was not about me. I'm Laura, I'm a fuck-up and I'm one day clean today. Thank you for listening."
After what, I went to Anna , grabbed my day one key ring and stormed out.
You're going to say: this flashback was great but what about now? Now is simple. I'm one year clean again and resumed my work for the organization after my one month out and never derailed again. Abby went to detox, came out, got clean for three months, relapsed, got clean for a month, and so on and so forth until she did not get clean anymore. And you know what? I still love her unconditionally because she is a lot more like me than I care to admit. And I acknowledge that.
Tony? Married with children and as dull as a whistle. Or whatever you're as boring as in English. Point is he got clean, really clean. Like he scrubbed off everything that made him Tony. I do get that a lot of our character is shaped by drugs and is not actually us. But with him, that's too much. He even got one tattoo removed that was pro-drugs. If there's one thing I'll never get rid off, it's my ink. Whatever message it shares, it defines me. And you can always alter it around to make it a new symbol. They are a momentum of the past and a beacon for the future. And it seems he lost part of his soul with it. Or maybe I'm just projecting my desires on him and what I would have liked to see, like when I almost relapsed with him just to find old Tony back. New Tony is happy, married with kids to a beautiful blonde dumbshit girl. Yes, I hate her. Yes, I barely know her. But she is a cunt. She stole him from me and achieved what I've always wanted. I'm fucking jealous but as they say, if you truly love them, set them free. That much I did, and it tore my heart into a million pieces.
Anyhoo, I know what you expect now. A big scheme involving NA and Meet Me Halfway. Some secret conspiracy aiming at saving the addicts worldwide. Sorry, this is not a pilot for a TV show, this is real life. We're still struggling with the media but nothing dark and secretive lurking behind our organization. I keep on doing my work. I shagged my new sponsor, a woman, so I had to find a new one. Which only wanted to rip my holes. So I found another one. And stuck to him ever since. I have a few sponsees, who are more or less OK with what I do. One of them was a "client" in Meet Me Half-Way and another one just recently requested to join the organization. All in all, it's not so bad. I now work as a paralegal for a law firm thanks to a recommendation from a friend in NA, a quite handsome gay muscle merry. But a muscle merry with brains and not with tiny testicles because he is not on steroids. He relapsed after seven years and it broke my heart when I saw him so fragile and vulnerable. But even then he had the others at heart and he guided me to that position when we talked about our job and how I hated to be a waitress.
What else to say? I'm still with the Meet Me Half-Way mafia, as they like to call it. I do an awesome thing with them and help save dozens of addicts a year. They might relapse and go back out there, but we know that once they have a foot into recovery, they will be back -if they don't die from their using.
I am confident in what I can do, in how I can give back to my community. I cannot say I am a hundred per cent happy but I'm working on it. Each day I stay clean and work the program and don't go off the script, I get one step closer. To what? I don't know exactly. But the chase is what my life is dedicated to. It's not about the end of the journey. It's about the way to get there. And the people you ride with. And the people you ride. Hee-haw.
I don't want a perfect Utopia of a life. What I have now is more than perfect because it is not perfect. I am content. And only by helping my fellow addicts will it become better.
I know the end of this tale is frustrating but sometimes life is frustrating. This is not a fairytale. This is life. Mine. Yours. Ours. I might pass by you in the street tomorrow. We might stay strangers. Or we might engage.
Who knows? I don't. But I can't wait to find out.