…I used to live with a guy who thought that deodorant was only for when you go outside and he only left the house once every two weeks…but I loooved him.
February 14, 2012 I woke up sober. My sobriety wasn’t by intention or design and it certainly didn’t come from desire. Instead it was a combination of a special person and being broke. Being broke tends to sober a person up or launch them into a new career of theft and prostitution, neither of which seemed like something I could do or be very good at.
Before my broke-dom phase I don’t think I was ever sober longer than 5 days and that was always under duress by either an improperly motivated drug dealer taking his sweet time finding me what I needed or EX2 threatening to leave me if I didn’t quit using and I would always make some fervent but fleeting attempt to abstain.
I ran out of most of my money in July 2011 but I moved in with a guy, we call him the Bore, who was a complete recluse and a bit agoraphobic and he let me use his ATM card to buy groceries and pay bills so I was able to take some money out here and there to feed my habit. At first the Bore didn’t care as long as the bills were paid. After several months of babysitting me while I was in a soma coma, peeing the bed, passing out and drowning in the bathtub and watching his saving dwindle he told me to move out.
I wasn’t functional enough to get any type of real job and I had let my State Bar license lapse so I used my impressive looking credentials and lying lawyer skills to convince a church that was trying to start up an outreach program for people who suffer from homelessness to hire me to organize the project and in return they gave me $700 a month and let me live in the old nursery that was no longer being used. It took about 3 months before busting lines and popping pills in the church nursery was disfavored by the pastor and I was asked to leave.
I begged the Bore to let me come back home and he said yes under two conditions: (1)I didn’t have to stay sober but I couldn’t get high there and (2) none of his money could be used for drugs. These “rules” were the perfect motivators for me. I hated the thought of being away from him (I really did love him very much) and I hated the thought of telling him that I wouldn’t be home that night because I wanted to get high and I had no money without him. So I laid in bed all day, everyday, feeling sorry for myself and thinking of schemes to get money or drugs.
On February 14, 2011 the Bore asked me “When was the last time you got high? It seems like it’s been awhile.”
I though about it for a while and realized that it had been at least a week. He told me that he was really proud of me. My heart melted. No one ever told me that they were proud of me before. So from that point on, every Wednesday that I stayed sober he told me that he was proud of me and gave me a big hug. It was a special thing that I could count on each week and that belonged to only me.
I was willing to stay sober day after day because I looked forward to that feeling of him being proud of me and those few moments of attention and affection that belonged to only me.
And now on February 14, 2014 I celebrated 2 years of sobriety. This year instead of the Bore telling me he was proud of me, my father came to the meeting to watch me get my 2 year chip and told me that he was proud of me.
Often in my writing I may refer to a person as a psychopath. I feel it’s important to let everyone know what I mean by this. So many times people use the term psychopath in the colloquial sense to refer to anyone that displeases them, or acts like a selfish jerk. When I use the term psychopath I am not using it this way, instead I am referring to a person who shows a specific set of personality traits. While there is no consensus in the field of psychology about what a psychopath is or if it is even an appropriate diagnosis, the Psychopathy Checklist is widely used to evaluate individuals that may be psychopathic. The Psychopathy Checklist was developed by Dr. Hare who is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of psychopathy.
The Psychopathy Checklist consists of 20 items. Each item is scored on a scale of 0-1-2, with 0 indicating that the trait is not present, and 2 indicating that the trait is very present. Special training is required to use this measure for diagnostic purposes, so don’t diagnose you husband as a psychopath during your next fight, run to the courthouse and file for divorce.
Having said all that here’s the checklist:
- glib and superficial charm
- need for stimulation
- pathological lying
- cunning and manipulating
- lack of remorse callousness
- poor behavior controls
- denial parasitic lifestyle
- sexual promiscuity
- early behavior problems
- early behavior problems
- lack of realistic long-term goals
- failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- many short-term marital relationships
- juvenile delinquencies
- revocation of conditional release
- criminal versatility
An estimated 1% of the United States population qualifies as a psychopath and not all of them are criminals. Remember all serial killers are psychopaths but not all psychopaths are serial killers. There are plenty of psychopaths in the workplace, in church, on the bus and even walking down the street.
I lifted this from a court file, and just couldn’t stop laughing…
Dumbass Defendant: I’m really scared that I am going to test dirty for marijuana.
Attorney: Why is that?
Dumbass Defendant: Because my doctor prescribed a poppy seed bagel diet so that I can lose weight.
Attorney: Ummm, wrong drug, wrong excuse moron.
When I was growing up my daddy was a cop. As a child I was told that my father’s job was to put dirt bags in jail. These criminals were dangerous and had no conscience or remorse. These criminals were waiting to hurt me, everyone I loved, and other innocent people. This is what I knew; my father drove around in a patrol car, risking his life to protect innocents. He would leave us, he would put his protection of me on hold and leave to protect others. Needless to say I feared these criminals. They could hurt me at anytime when my daddy was gone and they could take my daddy’s life and leave me vulnerable to danger. So I learned to hate them. I was scared and so hated. I hated and so I wanted them to suffer
Starting around 5 years old I began to fantasize about shooting child molesters in the knee caps and elbow and leaving them in the desert to die. When Pelican Bay opened in 1989 I rejoiced. I was 14 years old and I took comfort in knowing that these despicable criminals were locked away. I enjoyed knowing that they would have zero human contact. Why should they have contact with their prey? All these people do sit and contemplate how to make people like me suffer. They put my daddy’s life at risk because they are evil.
Fast forward 20 years…I’m sitting in the visiting area, on a level 4 yard at Folsom State Prison. I am surrounded by about 50 inmates, most serving life sentences, all criminals that I had been taught to fear and learned to hate. But my criminal, my soul mate was a low level thief with a life-long drug problem.
I had known my soul mate since I was 14 years old. He was the first boy I kissed, my first love. At 28 years old I had know this man half of my life. We had officially broken up when I was 19 years old. He was barely coherent and slightly psychotic in those days from week long runs. I was a firefighter. He sat me down in a moment of clarity and told me that I was smart and pretty and I could actually BE something, BUT, if I stayed with him, eventually I would just become a useless drug addict like him. He said he couldn’t live with me wasting my potential for him. He couldn’t ruin my life. He sent me away. And he did it for my own good. And here he came out, in prison blues to a visiting area. I would learn that the contact visits we enjoyed were a luxury among the prisons. And as I sat in that room, talking to my friend I saw humanity in that prison. As I looked around I saw men enjoying popcorn, ice cream and chicken wings from over priced vending machine. I saw kids coloring pictures and presenting them to their daddies with hope and having that hope fulfilled with a prideful smile from their daddies. I saw humanity in that room and immediately it was taken away. I was hit with inhumanity as I was quickly surrounded by correctional officers asking my soul mate to “come with them.” He was returned to me about 5 minutes later and I was told not to show so much affection. What are they talking about? I think I had my hand on your knee or was holding your hand, I thought that was allowed? He laughed and said, “they say that they have you on video giving me a hand job.”
”WHAT THE FUCK?” I was outraged, humiliated and SCARED. For the first time in my life I feared the cops more than the criminals. I realized their power. They could say or do anything and the truth didn’t matter. But they didn’t remove me or even talk to me directly. Allegedly, I had just committed a crime, they stated they had the recording of me doing it, yet I just needed to mind my manners and I could stay. That’s not logical.
”Which of those guards did you piss of this morning?” I joked
”Probably all of them, why?”
”Because they are using my humiliation to get even. And I know you. Thanks smart-ass.”
I was outraged but there wasn’t shit I could do about it but joke about it. In fact, any effort I could make to defend myself would make it worse. So I sucked it up, got through the visit, got through the snickering and whispering from the officers as I left the premises. And I went back home. Home to my kids, home to my husband, home to the middle of my first year of law school and home to my new commitment to become a public defender.
I became that public defender and my soul mate became a lifetime guest of various penal institutions for very predictable and very boring crimes associated with drug addiction. As I write this he is sitting in solitary confinement in prison. His crime is irrelevant. His punishment extreme. The last time we spoke was a year ago when he committed the crime of disobeying a correctional officer and sneaking to a phone instead of the shower to hear my voice, any familiar voice. Our last contact was a letter 6 months ago. I don’t know how he is doing, but I imagine it isn’t well. I wonder each day how being locked-up without human contact has destroyed his mind, I wonder if that box has destroyed my soul mate. When I was young I hated because I was scared. But I was young and ignorant. Ignorant of the suffering a human can be subjected to. Ignorant that losing human contact completely can literally makes you insane. I do know this, you don’t have to love an inmate to want them not to suffer this way, you just don’t have to hate. Ignorance and fear caused me to hate and hate made me endorse the destruction incarcerated individuals mind at all costs. Whatever your thoughts on punishment I implore you, is inducing extreme mental illness by continuous solitary confinement ever the proper punishment? Because that type of hate is worse than any crime.
My Nubian Prince: My grandpa always told me “a hustle ain’t guaranteed unless you gotta ho-bitch”
Translation: drug deals don’t always work out but you can always make one of your prostitutes sell a piece of ass.
Now if you can ignore the obvious disregard for women in this statement then maybe you can consider why our youth are leading criminal lives in high numbers. It is because they are being taught this lifestyle from their families. All parents admire success, and want successful kids but success looks different depending on where you come from. A mainstream family’s version of success may include a good job, high pay, or owning your own business, or follow in mom or dad’s footsteps. In the ghetto success may mean that you are a good drug dealer, a pimp with several prostitutes that make you money, a high-ranking member of a gang, or taking over the family chop shop. Success looks different depending on where you come from.
No matter what success looks like, all parents give their children advice on how to get ahead. Mainstream parents advice their children to get good grades in school, get involved in sports, get a higher education. Parents in the ghetto give advice like the statement above. I am a transplant from mainstream to the ghetto and I have been making observations instead of judging. Children grow up seeing, watching, and eventually engaging in the behaviors that seem to give them the most success in their environment. So the next time you sit and wonder why don’t these people know any better, consider that they don’t in fact know any different than to follow the path their parent showed them. Maybe people don’t have as much control over the path they have been given.
…I don’t know why people say that kids have it so easy and shouldn’t complain because they don’t have bills to pay. The most amount of suffering we ever endure is the suffering we endure as children. No one escapes childhood without trauma. The scares left behind will effect every decision we make for the rest of our lives.
…All I know of love is suffering. I have loved 3 men in my life: my high school boyfriend; my 2nd husband; and my ex-fiance that left me last year. I loved all those men, deeply and sincerely but each of those relationships involved great suffering. I suffered daily trying to be good enough for them. I suffered in silence, waiting for them to offer me the tiniest morsel of attention, affection or love. When they did show me love it was always enough to get me by for awhile
I used to think that I couldn’t survive without love. That I couldn’t make it alone. Now that I am alone I don’t think I could survive another relationship. I miss love, but I don’t miss the suffering. I would rather be alone than suffer again.
Got up to pee. Staggered to the bathroom. *CRACK* Jesus fucking christ! Was that fireworks or a gun shot? I thought to myself. Not knowing that this was going to be a debate for the rest of the night. I was more annoyed than concerned and I felt no sense of urgency since both were likely and I almost went back to bed, but instead I staggered to the window to check on things. ALL my neighbors were gathered outside in the glow of the hot red light of several black and whites. So I joined them…
“what the fuck is all this about?” I queried to Roach, who is generally the most useful source of information.
“the guys upstairs got robbed.”
“so that pop I heard was actually a gun this time?”
“naw, that was just fireworks”
“ya, I don’t think so, but whatever”
Then I looked down at the ground and saw a puddle of blood and puke at the same time I heard the very distinctive sound of a shotgun shell being kicked on the ground.
“Look over there” as I pointed to the shell on the ground. “I do believe that’s a spent 20-gauge shotgun shell that the cop just kicked and didn’t notice was evidence” I laughed, because I was right and because the cop walked right on by an important piece of evidence.
then I sighed as I got the run down of what happened…
The drug dealers who live upstairs were all asleep. Their girlfriend was still awake celebrating her 18th birthday with her friend. They heard a knock at the door and sensing no danger one of them opened the door. Immediately the door was kicked into her face, bloodying her nose. They tied up the 2 girls and went into one of the bedrooms and woke up a guy with the butt of a gun to his head, leaving a nasty 3 inch gash. They demanded to know where the drugs were. That was about as far as the robbers got before the other 4 guys in the house woke up and overtook the robbers with an air soft gun and brute force. They started whaling on one while the other ran like a bitch. The bitch fired off a shot from his 20-gauge shotgun to create a a distraction. (I told Roach it wasn’t fucking fireworks!!) Both robbers took off running down the street while the girls managed to get themselves untied and ran down stairs bleeding, puking and pounding on everyone’s door screaming for someone to call 911.
Fortunately, the cops caught one of the incompetent robbers a few blocks down the street and the other turned himself in the next day.
The whole thing made me so sad. I tended to the young girls and cursed the mother that lets their high school girls basically live in the Ghetto with drug dealers, all while my young daughter slept in illusive peace and safety. Not sensing the hypocrisy in my indignation. Roach and I agreed that we needed to gather all the young neighbors who were terrified and anxious and smoke some weed and let them talk, decompress and hopefully calm the mass hysteria. So we did. We gathered together and had a moment of community that was so desperately needed.
Community is the most important component to survival in the Ghetto. It’s important to have others looking out for your safety but it’s also important for emotional survival. Having others to share your experience with, to soothe each other, to know that you are not alone. Realizing our interdependence and shared experience helps us deal with even the most dangerous situations. Had this happened when I lived upper-class everyone would have walked back into their homes and stayed up all night, alone, stressed, drinking a beer and watching infomercials. They would have carried the threat with them and stuffed it into the part of your memory where you hide fear from yourself.
Once again, I’m glad I am here.
I told my mom the other day that I don’t mind living in the Ghetto. “It’s a bit like living in a impoverished country only everyone speaks English” I told her. Granted it’s not where I had expected to find myself when I graduated law school and passed the bar. No one aspires to live in the Ghetto but now that I’m here I find myself fascinated and humbled more often than I find myself scared or embarrassed. The culture here is different than any I have experienced. My neighbors all share with each other. Food, smokes, weed, money, drugs it doesn’t matter, if someone has something to share they are almost excited to offer it. For the first time in my life I feel like I fit in. Maybe it’s because I need just as much as I give and for the first time in my life I can accept that. And I really like that being myself is so acceptable here. I also like that I can help people who can’t get reliable answers anywhere else. In fact, my nubian prince knocked on my door last night. He’s a little gangster and a bit of a hustler. He had a friend with him and he said that his friend had a question if I wouldn’t mind answering it. Always polite, always needing something.
His friend was only about 19 years old and was holding a folded piece of paper.
“Show her the paper” my nubian prince said
“umm…well…I got this in the mail and I wondered what it was. I mean…is this my tax return?”
I took a look at it and it was a 1099 from the State for unemployment. I explained the document to him and explained how to file his taxes and explained that he will probably get a sizable tax return due to the Earned Income Credit.
Then my nubian prince told him to give me a smoke for my trouble. He did. We smoked together and talked about nothing in particular.
It was in that moment that I realized that I was infinitely more useful as a washed up attorney living down in the Ghetto than I ever could have been in private practice. Here, I am a person of respect, but not because I have a fancy diploma on a fancy wall behind a fancy desk but because I can solve people’s problems reliably and without being a haughty cunt.
I like it here, I have purpose here, I have learned humility here. I am both important and irrelevant. I just am.